Phobias are surprisingly easy to acquire and surprisingly easy to lose. And whilst they may seem strange or bizarre, they are quite common and easily explained.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE A PHOBIA
Most people with a phobia are normal, happy, intelligent and well-balanced.
They have just got this phobia, this thing they feel powerless to do anything to change. So it's very frustrating because a part of them (the rational thinking part) knows that it does not make sense, that they are okay and probably quite safe with that thing or in that situation. But they soon find that when they are exposed to that thing or situation, or even just thinking about it, another part of them (the irrational unconscious part) drives out rational thought and anxiety and panic floods in.
Have a can read through the science of phobias to see exactly how and why this happens.
Phobias will often start to affect self-confidence and self-esteem. Sufferers feel they are not understood, that others think they are stupid. And it can make them feel embarrassed and stupid. Like a slur on their sanity.
But phobias are a very human thing. It's to do with the way we are wired. And they rarely go any deeper than that: they are usually just a simple pattern-matching process rather than some dark Freudian psychosexual thing from childhood.
HOW PHOBIAS BEGIN
There are several ways to get a phobia. We may:
Learn it as a child from a parent (typically our mother) because we model their behavior and thinking styles so sturdy.
Suffer a traumatic incident or very emotionally upsetting event.
Learn it vicariously by being traumatized by someone else's trauma. For example, if a survivor of traffic accident records their ordeal very vividly, a listener with a very powerful imagination may develop a phobia.
Build it up slowly in our minds. Sometimes there is no specific event that sets up a phobia. Instead, there's a slow build-up of ideas reinforced by a series of small relatively minor incidents. Driving phobia and fear of flying can be slow-builds with something mild (like being stuck in a traffic jam or a bumpy flight) which normally would have been okay but at the time the individual was perhaps a little more stressed that normal (background stress levels) raised by other things like relationships or work) and this tipped them into a mild panic attack. This builds into a phobia.
At the start, it may take some time for people to recognize that they have a phobia. But then the panic starts to occur more frequently and consistently and a pattern emerges.
It's important to understand that anyone can get a phobia.
HOW PHOBIAS CONTINUE
The response that drives our phobias is our most instinctive survival response – the ancient “fight or flight” response. So when we are in danger we either prepare to stand and fight or to run away.
Sometimes the unconscious mind – which is responsible for survival – overdoes it and gets an idea that a particular things or situation is life-threatening and attaches the fight or flight response to it.
So it attaches feelings of discomfort, anxiety or terror to that object or situation to make the individual avoid it in future, so keeping them “safe”. And it is usually very successful at doing this so the phobic quickly finds themselves engaged in all kinds of avoidance behaviors.
So the phobic response is simply a protection mechanism that got glued to the wrong kind of thing – something that in reality may not be life-threatening at all. In fact, with another part of their mind – the conscious mind – the phobic will have always known this. But that has not helped because this is not about being logical and rational – if it was then no-one would have a phobia.
No, this is about the irrational, illogical and creative unconscious mind which is a great virtual reality simulator – creating monsters in the mind which, of course, do not exist in the real world. Imagining things beyond the reality of probability, possibility or likelihood even.
When the protection mechanism gets glued to the phobic trigger, the unconscious mind creates a very strong pattern around that thing. And after that, whenever it recognizes a match to that thing – and it does not have to be a precise match – it will trigger those same feelings of anxiety and panic. This is why phobia tend to spread out and generalize – particularly agoraphobia and claustrophobia – as more more situations are approximately matched, creating more and more reference templates for “life-threatening” situations. And every time panic occurs it just reinforces the idea the mind has got that this is “dangerous” or “life-threatening”. This is why phobias get naturally worse over time rather than better.
SAFETY & AVOIDANCE STRATEGIES
Safety and avoidance behaviors are used by the sufferer to reduce the “threat” and to manage and conceal their distress and embarrassment.
As more and more situations are avoided, the sufferer's world starts to shrink. Resources, time and energy are used in planning and avoiding the particular things or situations around their phobia. Partners and friends may have to be heavily relied upon. Excuses are made to avoid certain activities. Situations and people may be manipulated. Jobs, invitations and trips may be turned down. And there is a loss of freedom and independence as the comfort zone shrinks.
Sometimes these “solutions” become part of the problem: the avoidance and control behaviors become the handicap on living. Professional help is often thought as this point.
HOW PHOBIAS ARE CURED: THE FAST PHOBIA CURE
The key to curing phobias is to work with, rather than against the unconscious part of the mind that created the phobia, allowing it to re-evaluate these objects or situations as non-life threatening. And it can be given this opportunity by engaging the very same imagination and creativity that it used to create the phobia in the first place. A bit like a Sumo wrestler using his opponent's own weight to overcome him.
This is what a remarkable treatment called the Fast Phobia Cure does: it allows the mind to review the trigger object or situation from a position of calm detachment so that the thinking mind can go to work on these things and re-evaluate them as non- threatening. This de-conditions the pattern that deve the phobia. So it will not trigger again. The phobia will not work anymore. The cause – the pattern – is gone. And without the cause there are no symptoms.