I was 20 and cowering in the corner of the room while an acquaintance, who had come to my house to study with me for my final exams, removed the object of my fear. I felt paralysed and panicked at the same time. I could not be in the same room as this thing and I was too frightened to leave. I was mortified as I knew this creature was no danger to me but I couldn’t get my feelings under control. Mercifully, my fellow student removed the butterfly and I slowly recovered. I felt terrible as I couldn’t explain my behaviour to myself let alone anyone else.
This was a classic case of a specific phobia/fear. Thankfully, I no longer am afraid of butterflies and moths and have actually done identification courses on them. I also have a wildlife garden with flowers to specifically encourage them!
Fear can be very exhausting and embarrassing. It can also be hard to understand. Today, I’m going to talk about specific things that can cause us to feel very afraid. We might feel our anxiety level shoot up, heart racing, feel out of breath and our bodies getting ready to run for your lives. Essentially, we are losing intellectual control and are in full flight/flight/freeze mode. Our intellectual brains are saying ‘hold on, you can handle this’ but our primitive brain is taking over and we can’t control our response.
Sound familiar? There are quite a few common specific fears/phobias such as spiders, rodents, snakes, heights etc but we can have a specific fear/phobia about pretty much anything. I have seen clients for fears of holes, choking, frogs, going to the toilet alone and many other less well known phobias. The thing they all have in common is that they produce anxiety and panic in the people who suffer with this. So how do phobias start and what can we do about it?
Our primitive brains are all about keeping us safe and if some reason our primitive brain thinks we are in danger (real or not) then it will step into help with a fight/flight/freeze response which can look very much like a panic attack. Fears and phobias are often created when we are children and do not really understand the impact of danger of a situation. They can also be learned from people around us. For example, if someone we know/trust is frightened of spiders and we see their response then we may learn they are an object of fear as well.
Our brains love routines and patterns. That way our brains can work more efficiently. If jumping on a chair when we saw a spider worked for us and we did not die then our primitive brains will store this pattern of behaviour for use next time. Don’t forget that the primitive brain overrides the intellectual brain as it is all about keeping us alive and safe in perceived danger. Of course, eventually our intellectual brains regain control but we can end up repeating these unsuitable protective behaviour patterns every time we encounter the object of our phobia.
Fortunately, there is a way to retrain our brains to break this inappropriate behaviour pattern. I use a technique called rewind/reframe combined with hypnotherapy to change the way you react when faced with your fear or phobia. It is a simple process that involves creating a different scenario for when you encounter the object of your phobia and rewriting your response to it. It normally takes 4 sessions for most people.
I see people for phobia treatment in Whitstable, Kent and Harley Street, London or online if you prefer. Give me a call to find out more at 07548799367