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Fears and Phobias: Are they all in your head?
By Jane Wilkens Michael
Do you remember when you were a child and you couldn’t walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night because you were afraid of the dark? Or you insisted that the closet door be tightly closed lest the ‘boogey man’ escape and … well, happily no one ever found out just what he was going to do. Yes, when you were younger, chances are something scared you. It might have been entirely made up, or much more real such as spiders and snakes. My personal phobia was lobster eyes. (To this day, I have no idea why.) Knowing that, my brother reveled in the psychic damage they might cause his little sister and would gleefully save them up in a glass jar. Pouncing on the opportune moment, he would then strategically place it in my bed — until he went too far and put an actual eye on my soap dish so it stared at me in the middle of the night. When my shrieks woke up my father, his evil ways were immediately ended.
Even without such parental intervention, most kids outgrow their phobias and function just fine by the time they’re adults. However, according to StatisticBrain.com, 6.3 million Americans adults suffer with a diagnosed phobia, everything from a fear of public speaking and heights, to a fear of social situations or confined spaces. The physical symptoms of any phobia are often unpleasant and can include trembling, shortness of breath, racing heart, dizziness, the urge to run, hot flashes or chills, negative thoughts – and more.
Phobias are a real problem for those who suffer from them because they can severely interfere with life’s activities. And while many therapists recommend some form of exposure therapy to overcome unaccounted for fears, it’s often a painful process. Getting to the core of the problem also requires changing the way one perceives the phobia – and this is easier said than done. However, an increasingly potent aid to overcome these challenges is hypnosis.
True, the word hypnosis evokes images of swinging watches, losing control of your mind and being forced to flap your arms like a chicken, or getting stuck in some zombie-like netherworld. But what I am referring to is completely different; it involves working one-on-one with a clinical hypnotherapist who helps to find the underlying cause of the phobia and eliminate the conditioned response to the stimulus. And many notables are reportedly turning to this form of holistic healing: Kate Middleton, for example, for the unpleasant side effects of her pregnancy, Adele to deal with her stage fright, and even Tiger Woods to help him achieve his phenomenal achievements … in golf. (Let’s leave it at that.)
“I’ve had one success after another helping my patients overcome all sorts of fears, anxiety and phobias,” says Colin Christopher, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of the bestselling book Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make or Break You. “Hypnosis is a very powerful tool in treating phobias because we can get right to the core of the problem located in the subconscious mind, and in just a few sessions we often see dramatic results.”
Case in point: Christopher recently worked with one woman who needed to get to Hawaii for her brother’s wedding, but she was afraid to fly. She had tried many different therapies but had little luck. “Under hypnosis, I took this woman back to a time when she experienced severe turbulence on a flight as a kid, and the man sitting next to her said he thought the plane would crash and everyone was going to die,” he recounts. “I had her visualize a conversation with her ‘younger self’ to look at how silly it was to give authority to this man and take on his beliefs.”
Apparently, her younger self agreed; and together they decided it was time to get rid of that man’s transferred terror. “I had her visualize herself putting the terror and panic in a box, and then I had her discard the box,” he continues, and I finally took her back through the flight and performed some relaxation techniques. A few days later, she was able to enjoy the flight to Hawaii.”
Specific to phobias, one little secret that Colin Christopher let me in on is that he also treats macho men. “It’s documented that more women suffer with fears and phobias than men, but I see plenty of guys for these problems, too,” he said. “It’s usually a fear of public speaking, claustrophobia or a fear of heights, but every once in a while it will be something you would never expect. The strangest one by far was a fear of clowns.” (My apologies to Bozo.)
Of course, hypnosis doesn’t have a perfect success rate, and it’s not for everyone. But it can be highly effective for treating these fears and phobias. Just make sure you work with a hypnotherapist who has the training and experience and is certified by an organization such as the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners. There’s also plenty of information available online at websites such as http://alwaysafraid.com/
The good news for me? I will only need a very small box to hold all those lobster eyes!