How To Deal With Phobias, Fears and Anxieties
I’m often asked, “How do you deal with phobias, fears and anxieties?” And you know what? I think it’s an interesting question. The answer I give doesn’t usually satisfy people–but it’s the truth. My truth, anyway.
I can answer specifically and go down a list of techniques I might use. That’s what people usually seem to want to hear. But that’s not the way it works in my mind. In my mind, it doesn’t matter so much what the presenting issue is. I mean, you can make some generalities about fears, phobias and anxieties and work on that basis–and I’ll do that later in the article. But I find it far more productive to use another approach.
Thoughts Create Anxieties
The approach is to find out what each individual is doing to create their anxiety. Yes, I said create. Anxiety, fears and phobias are created by our thoughts. We think thoughts that scare us. For me, working with anxieties is is really about the process we use to scare ourselves and how to alter that process to make it work out better for us.
So, what is my approach to phobias, fears and anxieties? I ask the client what they are doing, inside their minds, right before they feel fear. We slow the thoughts down and discover the thoughts that trigger the fear. Then, depending on that particular client’s process, I choose a technique.
What Technique Do You Use?
Of course, you can use just about any tool to do the job. Six-step reframing can work for just about anything. I have a friend that likes to work with fear-based stuff conversationally. He asks a lot of questions and confuses the heck out of his clients. But when they’re done, they generally don’t have the fear anymore. I think one reason he’s so successful with this approach is that, in order to produce fear, we typically need to go through a specific set of steps in a specific way. Often, things that vary the patterns tends to break the patterns up.
When we know or can find out specific instances which created a fear, the NLP fast phobia cure can be a nice choice. When we scare ourselves with images–a visual swish pattern works well. Sounds–auditory swish. Sometimes, a lot of different techniques are called for. I’ve seen practitioners use multiple techniques in a single session. The good ones alter what they do based on what they discover is going on with the client.
More About Fear
Sometimes fear is very specific. Specific phobias tend to be quite simple because they’re not global fears. You see, when people have a negative experience, several things can happen.
1) The mind, after surviving a negative event, can build a belief that the person who survived it is resilient and resourceful. “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” In this case, that event or aftermath is often useful as a resource for them.
2) The mind can make little or no connection to the event–in other words, build no beliefs about the world or even specific situations.
3) The mind can make a belief that has to do with specific circumstances. In other words, a person could have a fear of snakes based on an incident with a snake (or even reading about or thinking about snakes). That might create a specific phobia about snakes.
4) A person could build a belief about the world based on an event or series of events. There might be an incident with a snake and it builds a belief that the world is a dangerous place and one must be vigilant at all times. That might create a more generalized anxiety.
More Technique Guidelines
These final two scenarios may require different approaches. Re-imprinting is a technique that helps when there’s a more global belief that’s causing a more generalized anxiety. The fast phobia cure usually works pretty darn well when you’ve got a specific phobia that’s not tied to a lot of secondary gain.
That being said, my advice is to do what makes sense to you based on the principles of various techniques. I often mix and match parts of different processes. We’ll talk about that more another time.