Phobias all have one big thing in common – fear. I’m pondering this as I hear a ping, the sound of a text arriving, heralding the date of my next dental check up. Immediately my heart begins racing and, in my head, hundreds of plausible excuses start to crowd in as to why I really can’t make this appointment … I’m at work, I’m picking my daughter up from an activity, I’m on a course, and isn’t there supposed to be a terrible earthquake happening on that day?? (which, bizarrely, wouldn’t even come close, in the fear stakes, to sitting in that BIG, SCARY chair and opening my mouth wide ….)
That was me prior to undergoing some hypnotherapy a few years ago – ironically my fear of dentists led me to tactically ignoring some of those helpful texts … and probably led to a couple of fillings which I wouldn’t have needed otherwise…. because fear is restricting and immobilising, it can stop you doing sensible things (like attending dental appointments), necessary things (plane rides if you need to get somewhere) and even TASTY things, like eating cheese!
My daughter (yes, I’m shamelessly exploiting family for this blog..!) had a phobia about what she described as ‘characters’ for many years – people dressed up as different characters, in sweaty costumes with hugely ill-proportioned heads. This fear, known as masklophobia, is actually quite common – largely because it’s important for us to infer different things from facial expression – and can be anxiety-inducing and even slightly creepy, when that is denied to us. Appealing to the logic is not always helpful with phobias … yes, my daughter could see that a man went into the gents with a duck costume and papier mache head under his arm and then emerged as Donald Duck … it was clear that Donald was actually an ordinary man dressed up ….. BUT, phobias don’t work like that … they transcend the logical, the intellect, they are embedded within our sub-conscious and they don’t take too lightly to being told to go away. They are rooted in a previous experience….. this initial experience is often forgotten but the feelings of terror remain. And terror is not an exaggeration for anyone who actually has a true phobia will know. Because having a phobia isn’t the same as being nervous or anxious – feeling anxiety on starting a new job is a natural response to a new situation (not a phobia of offices!). Feeling petrified and immobile at the sight of a tiny house spider is a phobia … there’s a difference (a bit like the difference between a headache and a blinding migraine!).
So how can hypnotherapy help?
Well hypnotherapy allows the therapist to get right into your sub-conscious and have a root around. Counselling can be great too … but sometimes you really can’t remember that initial experience so it’s difficult to try and ‘unpick it’ simply by talking. Hypnotherapy can use regression whereby we go back to that initial trigger and explore it, putting things into perspective and laying it to rest. I can remember where my dental phobia started – a horrible experience of four teeth taken out under gas, where I can still vividly recall a frightening dream mixed up with a close up of the dentist’s nasal hair and a pair of ‘pliers’ coming towards me. Actually, to get all this in perspective, I needed those teeth out since my mouth was too full, the gas alleviated the pain and I simply had a bad dream. Simply telling me all that never worked but, under hypnosis, amazing things really can happen … your sub-conscious is much more open to suggestion, for example, and the whole episode can be ‘re-framed’ and, in effect, ‘re-lived’ – this time in a relaxed way, therefore removing the fear. This can be done by watching back a memory on a ‘screen’ – removing or reducing its emotional proximity. I was then taken through the whole process of going to the dentist, from receiving the reminder, to entering the waiting room to actually sitting in the chair with my mouth open, all the while feeling relaxed and happy … and that is now how I feel about regular check-ups. I don’t LOVE going to the dentist (it would be weird if I did, right?) but I’m ok with it.
I wonder what scares you? These are the ten most common phobias:
- Social Phobia: fear of interacting with other people
- Agrophobia: fear of public spaces
- Emetophobia: fear of vomiting
- Erythrophobia: fear of blushing
- Driving phobia: fear of driving
- Hypochrondria: fear of illness
- Aerophobia: fear of flying
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Zoophobia: fear of animals
- Claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces
And something a little more unusual:
- Xanthophobia: fear of the colour yellow
- Turbophobia: fear of cheese
- Omphalophobia: fear of the naval
- Papaphobia: fear of the pope
- And the ultimate modern-day phobia ….Nomophobia: fear of being without mobile phone coverage.
Life is way too short to be afraid of cheese … seek help today!