Imagine the scene, you have had a busy year and are badly in need of a break. A nice family holiday by the sea where you can put your feet up and relax for a week or two, maybe Cornwall or Devon, because it is easy to drive there from where you live. As you ponder on this dream vacation, your visualization is disrupted by the sound of the front door opening. As you look up, you see your partner standing there with an expression of excitement on his / her face. You ask why the excited look and your partner says, “I have won an all inclusive holiday to Disneyland in Florida.” The words do not entirely sink in, you immediately feel that rush through your body, and your breath becomes low and your heart races. As the panic sets in, the thought of flying activates that inappropriate feeling and once again that phobic response takes hold.
Does that sound familiar?
Well, it does not have to be that way, there is a way forward and as you read every word of this article you may be pleasantly surprised.
So what is a Phobia?
A phobia has been described as an irrational fear of a particular situation or being placed in a specific context without sufficient resources to deal with that situation. I particularly like the following brief definition of a phobia:
Marks (2005, p 10) states:
“A phobia is a special kind of fear which excludes claims of the situation, can not be taken away, is beyond voluntary control, and leads to avoidance of the feared situation.”
A person who is overwhelmed with a phobia knows consciously that it is irrational and is often unnecessary. However, when faced with the phobic situation the body goes into an almost involuntary response and oftentimes results in a form of panic attack.
When the person experiences this, they will extricate themselves from the situation, which in turn, further embeds the fear into the brain. Essentially creating a vicious cycle that may seem beyond the control of the sufferer.
This is why a person with a phobia will avoid the phobic situation at any cost. So, if your phobia is a fear of flying, you can pretty much live your life without too much disruption, it just means that you limit yourself to non flying activities. However, if you have a family, then they also become somewhat limited in relation to travel. I have known of people who would rather drive across Europe and take two or three days to get to their destination rather than fly for two hours. Not a good option if you have young children!
Phobias are generally classified into three types:
• Social Phobia (Fear of social situations one or many)
• Agoraphobia (Panic Disorder)
• Specific phobia (Animals, Objects, Specific Contexts)
The fear of flying fits into the category of a Specific Phobia. Each of the above Phobia Types also has sub-categories, which are beyond the space for this article.
Symptoms of a Phobic Response:
• An overpowering fear of the object or situation.
• Irregular heartbeat.
• Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear.
• Fight – Flight response, wanting to run away from the situation.
• Worrying constantly about approaching events that involve the phobia.
Now, you may be thinking, “That's all well and good but how do I get over it?”
Well, let me tell you, there is a way through the worst effects of most phobias, certainly to bring them down significantly to a manageable level.
Thanks to recent developments in the fields of Clinical Hypnosis, Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) professionally trained and qualified therapists now have an eclectic and multi-faceted approach to assist their clients to overcome their phobias, anxieties and fears, quickly, safely and easily. Often in as few as three sessions, some therapists, me included have developed an approach wheree I work with a client over a four hour period to address the present problem at the deepest level of the unconscious mind, which in turn creates rapid results on most occasions. The first part of the session will be carried out in a clinical setting (In vitro).
The sessions will involuntarily finish with the client facing and working through the phobia using “Graded Exposure” in the situation feared, (In vivo). The therapist will be there to guide, support and secure the client that they will be ok. This will prove to the client that he / she is indeed over the phobia and now has more freedom in their life.
What is involved in the therapy session?
Typically you will contact your therapist by telephone and at that time you will be able to ask many questions of him / her relating to their structure of treatment, techniques used and maybe even their training. This conversation will give you an opportunity to gauge if there is a sense of rapport between you both. I believe that this is an important stage in your treatment; you need to know that this person will do their best for you.
Strangely enough it is at this point that I am determining if I want to work with the client. Some people want the magic pill and unfortunately there is none. To get results from any change work, you have to be prepared to step up to the line and do whatever it takes to make it happen, with the guidance of your therapist of course! When you have that attitude, change is definitely possible.
When you have your first session, your therapist will take a detailed case history in relation to your phobia and together you agree on a set of outputs that you would like to realize realistically as a result of your treatment. This outlet setting process is almost like a beacon for you. It gives you a clear and realistic possibility for change; it also acts as a benchmark that allows you to track your progress objectively.
In my own practice I will use tools from NLP, TFT, and Clinical Hypnosis to give my clients the best possible chance for success. I will teach them how to apply these techniques for themselves in many situations not just the phobic one.
I believe that it is important that clients are empowered to use the appropriate techniques for themselves with my guidance. This means that they will become independent and able to cope out in the world and not be totally dependent on me.
A very important aspect of the treatment is “Graded Exposure” to the scared thing to ensure that they work in the clinical setting carries over into the systematic setting. Initially, this may be very challenging for the client and it is not uncommon for them to scream, shout and maybe even swear. This is where both the therapist and the client need to remain resolute in their commitment to the process. It is vitally important that the client remains in the situation until the physiological responses calm down, and they will. During the “Exposure Phase” I will have my client using anchors (An NLP Technique) and tapping from TFT, while facing their fear until it subsides.
I have had people with an extreme reaction to house spiders hold one in their hand after the treatment and comment, “This is bizarre.” I am not saying you are going to want to do that and fall in love with spiders, snakes or whatever, just that you will be able to have a more appropriate response if faced with those situations. I taught some People with a fear of heights to use TFT and we did the process at the “Go Ape” course in Suffolk. There are many other conditions, including someone with a fear of belly buttons! But that's another story.
How can this work for you?
Well, the first step would be to make that decision and contact a suitably qualified therapist with experience in this area. Give yourself permission to accept that you are ok and very normal and you are. People who do not have a phobia find it difficult to comprehend the impact of sufferers and how it can sometimes debilitate their lives. However, it does not have to be that way. These days we have moved away from delving into your past to find a hidden meaning for your phobia. Phobias are often the result of what psychologists call “One trial learning” or classical condition, just like Pavlov's dogs. This “One Trial Learning” is good news for you really, because you can unlearn the response just as quickly with the support of a good therapist.
Of course there are many theories in relation to phobias and their formation and some make evolutionary sense, such as a fear of snakes, spiders and flying things which may be deep rooted in our unconscious mind.
Three Steps to overcoming your phobia
1. Decide that now is the time for change.
2. Find a qualified therapist to work with and book your session.
3. Commit to do whatever it takes to get back control.
Do not let your fears, phobias or anxieties prevent you from enjoying life. There is a way through and when you breakthrough, a whole new world awaits you.