Help for Phobias with Cognitive Hypnotherapy - Change Your Perspective

Sometimes we’re very aware of the influence of our past when we have memories spring to mind during our day. Perhaps when you hear a certain song, smell something distinctive or you hear a certain phrase and it can take you straight back to a certain time and place.

That can be lovely if it’s a positive memory. Clients don’t come to see me about that though. They come to see me for help when their past gets in the way of who they can be, serving up fear to stop them from doing what they want and ultimately stopping them enjoying everything they can be.

Memories are like a rear view mirror in the car, reflecting past experience as you look at something ahead in the present. Our minds work like that most of the time. Interpreting the present based on your past experiences and using the meanings it has made out of those and stored to help you predict what’s most likely to happen. If your past experience about something has been good related to what your brain has matched up, then fear doesn’t get served up. It’s not what’s there in front of you that is scary in of it’s itself; your brain decides that for you. Everything you become aware of is based on interpretation, so perspective is everything. That’s why some people can breeze through a presentation and others are petrified.

Due to experiences they’ve had, some people don’t just react in this way to a particular stimulus, it can become an approach to life more generally. You may know people like this who seem like they are stuck in the past.

When you think of your perception acting like a rear view mirror, would you drive a car looking through it all the time? Hopefully not. A look at what’s behind every now and again is useful. To get to your destination in one piece, you need spend most of your time observing what's in front and to make the most of it it's nice to take in the surroundings too when you can.

This takes me back to a client I helped who had a height phobia. It was great to receive a message from her after a holiday about how she’d managed to cross a bridge over the Grand Canyon. She’d been petrified about doing this and worrying might ruin a trip of a lifetime before she met me.

Before she left for her trip we did some work together on reframing where her mind got the idea that fear about height was useful (to keep her ‘safe’). A bit like updating her operating system. I also helped her learn a few techniques to help her manage ‘in the moment’ on her trip and gave her a personalised hypnosis MP3 to listen to before and during her trip.

What was really great about her feedback was not just she was able to change her rear view mirror and get the most out of her experience. She began to look forward, like a lot of people when one fear changes, to what she could do next.

With her permission to share her words and photograph, this is what she said, “The whole hike and stay was amazing and I have to say a big thank you for your part in making it so fantastic. The first bridge in these pictures was towards the end of the down hike and when I first saw the bridge I was actually really excited to know the moment was coming. I got your voice in my head, took a couple of deep breaths and set out with my selfie stick on the 450ft bridge, 70ft above the Colorado River. I was a bit wobbly towards the end as it was a bit of an optical illusion that you were walking into a sheer cliff as the path wasn’t visible from the bridge but I got to the far side feeling very emotional that I had been able to walk across it with minimal fear and even stopped to take photos (albeit rather amateur ones).

Here’s the second bridge that I had to cross to get back out of the Canyon, slightly shorter and not as high as the first one. I let my husband take photos as I was more apprehensive because of the open mesh walkway but again gathered my thoughts and walked across, I even managed to look down half way along, and actually found this easier than the first one. You were there with me every step of the way and I used both the visualisation techniques and phrases from your recordings to dispel my fears.

The final photo is from a very steep climb within the canyon looking back at the route we had walked the day before. This was also quite challenging for me but absolutely exhilarating that I could do it without completely losing my nerve.

I wouldn’t say I am completely ‘cured’ but the more I do the easier it becomes and who knows what the future holds”.

Not being completely ‘cured’ is ok. I’m there to help people find solutions from resources they already have. Fear is there to keep us safe, so if she has a tiny bit left that’s useful, that can be ok. If she was totally blasé about heights then that could be dangerous. We need just enough of a feeling to prime us to be ready for experiences and aware of danger to manage the best we can but not so much that we flip into a stress response. Being relaxed is good, but you also need to be reasonably ‘excited’ in some situations to be at your best and to find something an achievement.

I hope this helps you to understand how you might be working with your rear view mirror and to appreciate what’s there that's not helpful can change. Also, how a bit like dominoes falling on each other in a line, when you change one thing, what else might be possible for you and fall into line.

Helping Height Phobia With Hypnotherapy