A phobia is any persistent fear of a specific stimulus object or situation. Phobia is from the Greek meaning to fear or dread. It is more than a simple fear, or being afraid. It is to be totally terrified of the stimulus. When presented with a phobia problem by a client, I always begin by finding out if it is a fear they have, or a phobia. If their problem is spiders for instance, then can they imagine themselves holding a spider on their hand if they are rewarded with £100? What about £500, and so on. If they could bear the spider for a large amount of money, even just for a few seconds, they do not have a phobia, but rather a fear. The person with a phobia of spiders would not be able to bear to touch one for any amount of money or any other reward. Some people are obsessive with their phobia. This means, they can’t even bear to think of the stimulus and it will likely be totally controlling their lives.
Another complication is that a client can present with a fear/phobia, of flying for example. However, the skilled therapist, on exploring this fear/phobia with the client, may find the fear/phobia is actually about being enclosed, or locked in. Perhaps it might be a fear/phobia of dying, not being able to breath on an aircraft, or something else connected with the aircraft or leaving their own area/country etc, but not actually the flying itself.
A client will often say that nothing has caused the phobia, it just started, they’ve always been afraid of dogs, etc. If one person is afraid of dogs and another isn’t, then clearly there is a difference between the two. One person has either been exposed to some causal event which has been repressed in the subconscious mind, or has learned to be afraid from a parent or other authority figure at some time earlier in life. The causal event may not have been very traumatic at the time, but the young mind will have seen it out of the context that would be understood by a more mature mind in later years. It may have caused an emotional response and/or motor actions to be locked away, repressed, and the emotional and possible motor responses will have been locked away and anchored to the event. The subconscious mind can often set up a kind of false instinct, whereby any sign of the stimulus, or even something resembling it, or associated with it, may cause a phobic reaction, and then the body’s flight or fight response will kick in and the individual may begin to panic – a panic attack.
The first thing the skilled hypnotherapist will do, is to work with the client to discover the extent of the phobia and how it manifests itself, and once found, desensitise the client from it. Once this has been achieved, then hypnotic suggestion, metaphor and possibly Neuro-Linguistic Programming will be used to create a new template for the client so they can see the previously feared situation, object or circumstance in a new and non threatening light, through a new lens as it were. The mind can be reprogrammed to see things in a different way and to accept situations as normal that would previously have been viewed as threatening.