Where do irrational fears and phobias come from? Do they mean that something is wrong with you? And most importantly, how do you get rid of them?
Reprogramming Your Autopilot
The human mind can be thought of as having many semi-independent units that work without much need of communication from one to the other. This is just as well, because if everything were single-tracked, you’d have to stop breathing whenever you needed to concentrate! But you can do both at the same time, and this extends beyond automatic functions and includes learned skills like walking and chewing gum at the same time.
This separation has its benefits, but it can interfere with internal communication. When it’s time to change, parts of you may not get the memo! You try to change, but the autopilot is still set for the same old course. This is always frustrating, and with fears it’s particularly painful.
Phobias: A Somewhat Silly Example
People with phobias are sometimes so sensitive that even naming the thing they’re afraid of makes them nervous. And I have an unfortunate ability to guess right and name people’s actual phobias even when I don’t mean to, so instead of naming a common phobia, I’m going to make up a silly one to get everyone off the hook.
Suppose you have a morbid fear of cupcakes. You don’t call it a phobia because you can white-knuckle it when there are cupcakes around, though you no longer even pretend to eat them. But recently you’ve noticed that even pictures of cupcakes bother you, and you recently winced when a daddy called his daughter “cupcake.”
This would be funny if it weren’t so unpleasant, and it’s concerning that the issue is getting worse instead of better. What’s going on here?
Frankly, we don’t really know how the mind works, exactly. But most irrational fears fade away on their own. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Once in a while, an irrational fear sticks around and maybe even gets stronger.
People have lots of theories and explanations about why this might be so, but let’s not go there. Instead, let’s simply observe:
- Anyone can acquire irrational fears or phobias. It’s a natural human ability.
- Sometimes they fade away on their own. This, too, is a natural human ability.
- Sometimes they don’t fade away on their own. That’s when you could use a little help.
- If you have fears or phobias, it’s not a moral failing, a lack of willpower, bad genes, or flawed brain chemistry. It’s just bad luck: something that could happen to anybody.
So what are we going to do about it?
The Protective Value of Fear
Mark Twain said this about learning from experience:
“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
In short, Twain’s cat developed a stove-lid phobia! But this is not foolish or meaningless: the cat doesn’t understand stoves, and the fright she got with her first encounter with a stove lid taught her to stay away. That’s fine: that keeps her safe.
And that’s what fear is all about: it gives us a shot of adrenaline, focuses our attention, and alerts us to the idea that something bad might happen unless we do something about it. For example, moving away from the stove lid. Or the cupcake.
Unlike cats, humans often start out afraid of stoves, after burning a finger at two or three years of age, but then later gain an understanding of stoves and learn how to use them safely. At which point the fear is no longer useful and is supposed to fade away, but sometimes it gets stuck.
So fear isn’t all bad. It’s a useful way of altering you that something bad is about to happen. It’s only harmful if the threat isn’t based in current reality.
Resolving Fears and Phobias With Hypnosis
The whole point of hypnosis is to get in touch with the unconscious mind. This makes it easy to reprogram the autopilot.
As a hypnotist, I find that the best thing about fear is that you find it so horribly unpleasant! There’s a tremendous built-in incentive on every level to make the fear stop, to get relief, to stop being anxious and tense and jangled. Every part of your mind and body want relief. It’s just a matter of finding the way.
Hypnosis helps you find the path, and taking it is so rewarding that the results tend to be dramatic and long-lasting. Not only that, but it usually takes only a few sessions.
Do Phobias Have Deep Hidden Inner Meanings?
Usually they don’t, but sometimes they do. When you have an intense fear, it’s like playing music with the volume up far too high, to the point where the din and distortion prevent you from even recognizing the song, let alone enjoying it. When we turn the volume down through hypnosis, the music emerges. It was there all along, but now you can understand and appreciate it.
If you’re in the Corvallis area, please contact me. I’d love to help you.