How to Cure a Phobia
Self Help Treatment
With a Step by Step Guide to Remove your Fear of Public Speaking
Phobias are without a doubt one of the most common and influential forms of psychological issues likely to affect the mainstream of all human population. Simple phobias are fears about specific objects, animals, situations or activities, a according to practitioners of subconscious modalities of therapy – one of the easiest and quickest to treat. Let’s examine exactly how to do this.
What is a Phobia?
A phobia comes from Greek, Phóbos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”, and is categorized as a type of anxiety disorder when used in the context of clinical psychology. Typically defined as ..
a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.
There are many different phobias, which can be divided into two main categories:
- Simple phobias
- Complex phobias
Simple phobias are fears about specific animals, objects, situations or activities. Simple phobias, such as a fear of spiders, usually start during early childhood, and often disappear on their own as the child gets older and usually do not cause problems in adulthood.
For example: dogs, spiders, snakes, enclosed spaces, flying, doctors or dentists
Complex phobias tend to be more disabling in adults than a simple phobias because they are often associated with a fear or anxiety about a particular circumstance or situation. They usually start later in life. Social phobias often begin during puberty and agoraphobia in the late teens to early twenties. Sometimes, complex phobias continue for many years. Two common examples of complex phobias are agoraphobia and social phobia.
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong.
For Example: traveling on public transport, visiting a shopping center, and in the most severe cases – leaving home
Social phobia is a fear of social situations, such as weddings, or performing in social situations, such as public speaking. People with a social phobia have a fear of embarrassing themselves or of being humiliated in public.
How common are phobias?
Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. Phobias can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex and social background. The exact number of suffers is difficult to determine as many people tend to avoid the situations that cause an issue rather than report or address it directly.
Phobias tend to start around the age of 10, and are twice as likely to occur in women, rather than men. A phobic response can be created for almost any type of stimuli, usually triggered by life events (either remembered or not), and also run in families and influenced by culture we live in. Some phobias (such as Agoraphobia) often coexists with panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders.
When left untreated, a phobia may worsen and start to affect the enjoyment of a person’s life as they are constantly attempting to avoid or conceal it. This leads to problems with personal health, family and friends, failures in social situations (social and work) as they struggle to cope and modify their lives around the fears.
How to Treat and Cure Phobias
There are many different types and forms of treatment of phobias both within the clinical/counseling and cultural context of the environments people live. The various types of treatment for phobias are usually created and associated with the modal of causation.
If, for example, the cause of a spider phobia is non determined, the exposure and flooding method might be applied (where you are gradually exposed to spiders, first by looking at images then handling them). If the phobia is associated with a panic or anxiety attack, medication to treat the anxiety might be applied. If the phobia is likely to have an evolutionary cause then cognitive behavioral approach and counseling might be used.
We will examine in the following the subconscious modalities of treatment as these seem to provide the quickest and most successful forms of treatment. Even better you can apply many of the methods yourself.
The Subconscious Causes of Phobias.
The cause and creation of phobias, is not known with any certainty, there are in fact many different ways in which we can develop a fear of something. Generally within the Subconscious therapy modalities (such as Hypnosis and NLP) the cause of the phobia is not really the issue – rather the purpose of therapy is to change or eliminate the reaction we have about a particular stimulus.
A subconscious approach to treating a phobic response is to find the mechanism that is creating the emotional reaction (fear stress anxiety etc) to whatever stimulus is presented and change the way in which we automatically respond at the unconscious level.
In this therapy model, your subconscious mind is attempting to give you what you want automatically so that you can process and respond to your world without having to put too much conscious effort into what you do. [For more information read ‘What is the Subconscious Mind’]. Somewhere along the lines, either through past experience, or culture or parenting (it does not matter what the cause) your unconscious has made certain associations with the phobic stimulus and created your automatic response.
By making this unconscious process conscious, it can be understood and more importantly manipulated and changed to get a different reaction. In order to do for yourself you will need to learn how to make conscious the unconscious patterns of response and this is done via the phobic icon.
The Unconscious Phobia Icon
A phobia is the irrational emotional experience and the consequence behavior to deal with the stress of the intensity of the feelings. For most people this is where their awareness stops. They are presented with a phobic stimulus (either thinking about or in the presence of a situation, event or object) and then the rush of emotional and physical reactions follow.
This phobic icon in your unconscious mind, can be thought of along the exact same lines as a program icon that sits on your computer desk or mobile device.
It is an image that represents a series of code and programming that produces automatically an end result. In the case of the computer program or App icon, you activate it, and it runs a word processor or a game and all that you are aware of is you press the icon and you get a result.
In much the same way, within your subconscious is an icon that represents the automatic programming associated with it. When activated it produces a phobic response and it does not matter who created it, or when, or why – you activate the icon (by a thought or experience) and the program runs itself.
Your Phobic icon is your unconscious symbol of the entire experience. It was created by your unconscious as an automatic response to a certain situation, a process that was designed to make life easier for you because it can bypass your conscious awareness. This is one of the reasons why at a conscious level you might know all there is to know about spiders or snakes or driving – but the idea of these things still triggers your reaction.
But unlike a computer icon, when you identify, and then manipulate that icon, by changing what it visually and spatially looks and feels like – it also changes the reaction you have.
How to Guide to Treat Phobias – How it works!
The following process is adapted from the phobia treatment used in Neuro Linguistic programming (What is NLP?). This process focuses on first identifying your Phobic icon and the changing the characteristics on how you perceive it personally. The end result is very quickly a change in how your will experience your reaction to the real life phobia stimulus.
The types of mental manipulations of this icon are referred to as the modalities. The Modalities are Kinesthetic (Feeling) Visual, Auditory and Spatial location. Within each modality are various elements (called sub-modalities) which when changed in your mental awareness create a responding change in your emotional response.
For example, If you were to imagine yourself at a movie theater, you are watching a 3-D horror movie. You are sitting in your chair, and you can hear each and every little sound. Footsteps in the distance getting closer and closer, the music volume rising as the danger gets higher, with that final loud noise that makes you jump.
The movie that you are watching is larger than life. The screen takes up more of your vision than you are able to see. You can see the victims trembling lips and bulging eyes of fear. You can see the look of terror at that exact moment when the music made you jump as the movie zooms in and the image is huge, in your face .. close enough for you to touch.
Now imagine …
You are watching the same movie. But this time you are out somewhere and it is on a little old portable black and white television. Everybody needs to be able to see it so the television is put on a shelf in the front of the room. You want to watch this movie, but you can hardly make out the actual image. The TV is too far away, and you notice that separation between you and the small image. Whats more the reception is bad and what you can see, is full of snow.
Worst still, the sound on the old TV fades in and out. Even when you are able to hear something, the noise of chairs moving or the kids in the room in their own world and talking makes it impossible to figure out what is going on.
Now ask yourself ….. Which one of these experiences is going to produce a higher intensity emotional experience for you?
The same type of modality manipulation on your phobic icon will produce the same results. You will through this guide to treat your own phobia – become your own director and producer of your mind movie .. your phobic icon. When you change aspects of the modalities such as size, clarity, heaviness, distance, volume, brightness, and so on; it produces a change in the type and intensity of the emotional reaction you will have as an automatic response.
Because I have already provided a link to a Spider Phobia Cure above, in the following example I will use the Fear of Public Speaking as an example. Public Speaking is an activity that 74% of people have a difficult time with, and if you can benefit from this information – all the better.
Step One: Label your Phobic Icon
Take a moment to allow yourself to think about the phobic stimulus (thing or event) that causes you to feel in this certain way, and notice how you feel. Really allow yourself to take this time and place to notice the feeling that you associate with your phobia. Now as you imagine yourself in this situation or about to be in the situation I want you to notice how you imagine it. Now give your phobic icon a name. In this example that name would be ‘Public Speaking‘
Step Two: Identify the Phobic Sub-Modalities
As you notice how you would feel, and are feeling as you imagine this thing you are fearful of, notice the characteristics of how you are imagining the situation. Maybe you can write down
- How large or small is the phobic icon?
- How much of the visual screen of your mind does it occupy?
- Can you see all or just part of the icon?
- How close or far away is it from you in your mind?
- Is it in your face? or off in the distance?
- How close does it appear to be? (it maybe a distance image – but does it feel closer than it looks? or further away)
- How clearly can you see the phobic icon? (is it crisp and clear, or fuzzy? is it bright or dull?)
- Is there any sounds associated to the icon? (are they loud or soft? close or distance? fuzzy or clear? words or noise? encouraging or nasty?)
Fear of Speaking: In my experience when someone is afraid of public speaking their personal icon has some of the following attributes
They are small and insignificant or not even there, the faces of the crowd are huge and close and suffocating them. They can see in the faces disappointment and/or malice, and/or contempt, and/or that look and sense and feeling that they think you have no idea what you are talking about. If they can hear their own voice over the crowd who is not at all interested in what you have to say, your voice cracks and is weak and small. You forget your words, maybe naked, certainly feeling weak and uncomfortable. Maybe there is too much noise, you can not hear yourself, or the crowd is never ready and the murmurs do not stop even when you start.
Step Three: Minimize your Phobic Icon
Take a snapshot of your icon, like a photo, and do the following
- Make it Black and White
- Make it smaller and at the same time further away – until it is about the size of a postal stamp 10 feet/meters away
- Make the image fuzzy and unclear
- Shut off any sound if there is any
- Move it around a little – up to the top left corner, down to the bottom right, put it in the middle
- Roll or Flip the photo around, so that you can barely see it even if you wanted to, through the back of the photo
Now notice your Subconscious Icon that you labelled. Notice the sense of separation from who you are as a person, and at the same time notice the distance. Look at this thing that once controlled your life, and give yourself permission to feel pretty amazing about what you have done. You have taken a feeling, something that used to control you, then you found your subconscious representation of this image and all that it represents. Give yourself a pat on the back. Then
- For now anyway, own the icon, turn it into something else …. maybe a cartoon character or what used to be, perhaps a happy smile face.
- Make your own Sound track, circus music is always a good way to think and feel about something that used to bother or scare you
Fear of Speaking: Make your unconscious symbol of public speaking into a happy face. Why not! it is a much healthier way of looking at it than you used too.
Step Four: Modify your Phobic Icon
Understand that this image and feeling is your subconscious symbol of the phobia you labelled (spiders, snakes, public speaking, being sociable etc). And that your subconscious mind wants to give you what you want. It created the phobia because it was left to its own devices and it did the best it could for you without knowing what your intention was. But you control these programs through your mental associations and You Can Change Them! By changing your icon you change the responding emotions attached to the icon.
- Make the icon a cute image, something that represents how you would rather the situation seems for you.
- Add a sound track to your Icon. (a Spider could try to threaten you with a cartoon voice making it funny and cute,)
- Move the location of your icon from in front of you to behind you. Keep looking ahead in your mind’s eye, as the image moves to the side and around behind you at the same distance away you made it. You will at some point be unable to see the icon but you can sense where it is ‘out there’ somewhere
- Once the Phobia is behind you, create some distance, the past is the past, move it back and smaller. You are still looking ahead, looking into your future without the phobia – but you get the idea, the sense the impression that the icon is far far back in the past – much further back than is possible in reality – but it is there anyway.
- Take a moment now … and make the decision. The phobic icon is so far away, so small, so insignificant that even if you could be bothered, even if you wanted to try – it would be too difficult and too much effort to try to find it. Even if you did try, you are within your mind pulled back to the present which is looking at the future. Create a sensation around your head like a coiled spring. Feel and sense the tension as you attempt to look back, but it is much easier to allow the spring to bounced you back to looking ahead
Fear of Speaking: Removing any phobia is more or less the same process. Within your mind take your changed Phobic Icon, the way you used to represent public speaking to you, Maybe you choose a funny laughing happy face, maybe you choose something that is more meaningful for you. You still place the icon of the phobia behind you, and distance and separate from yourself.
Step Five: Review and Repeat
After you have completed step 4, shake yourself off, bring yourself back into the current time and place, bringing your mind back from within to an awareness of your current situation. Maybe make yourself a coffee, or make the bed, do something for a couple of minutes that give a little time for your unconscious to integrate the new phobic icon.
Now … Try if you can to find the intensity of emotional feelings you used to have over the old phobic icon. When you attempt to find it, you will notice that even if you can, the feelings are diminished. It should be almost an effort to try to find these old feelings, so stop trying, really add to your attitude that it is just too much effort to be bothered trying.
For some people, doing this process just once will result in the removal of the old fear and phobia. For others it might need to be repeated a few times – and this is normal and OK. After all, we are dealing with something that once control a lot of your time and resources to avoid or cope with. Your Icon will have changed, so you repeat the process the next day taking the changed icon (sometimes the icon will redefine itself – but it will not be the same – always reduced in intensity) and go through the steps again.
This treatment method to cure or remove your fears and phobia works very well as it addresses the unconscious processors that provoke a physical reaction. As a Life Coach and therapist using hypnosis and NLP, I have used the method hundreds of times successfully. Most people report that they had no idea that feelings could be defined in the form of images, they had never taken the time to go past the emotions previously.
The method will change your fears, it will give you a blank canvas to start over, for some phobias this is all that is required. For others – it gives a blank canvass to learn new skills and traits that are empowering now the past is no longer an influence. For Example, removing your fear of Public Speaking will not make you a good Public Speaker – you still need to learn how. But you are now in a position where this new skill can be acquired without the fear hindering the process.