Way 1: Re-train your subconscious mind not to panic - systematic desensitization
You know when your phobia kicks in you have no conscious control over your mind and body’s response. Your subconscious mind has decided that what you are phobic about is a danger to you and has responded before the rational, logical part of your mind can step in. You may consciously know your fear is irrational, but can’t currently do anything about it. You may feel anxious just in anticipation of being confronted by what you are afraid of. You may end up avoiding places and events that you want to go.
Your phobic response has become a subconscious habit and hypnotherapy can tackle it by breaking the habit with retraining at a subconscious level. You develop a new, better habit (called an adaptive habit) – i.e. a new response to whatever it is that triggers your phobia.
So how do we do that then? We need to re-train your subconscious mind to react in a different way to the triggers, but we need to do it in nice safe stages. Like getting up a ladder– we climb it slowly a rung at a time. Under hypnosis we start off dealing with a scenario which gives you a small amount of anxiety thinking about it, using subconscious relearning to replace the reaction and going up from there.
Tacking your phobia this way, via systematic desensitization is called a behavioural intervention because we are re-training a “behaviour”, by which I mean what you think, feel and do when you are confronted with a situation that would right now produce in you a phobic response.
But what if you can’t even bear to get near the ladder let alone on it? In that case let’s consider Way 2.
Way 2: Approach it from a safe place first - Dissociation
If you can’t even imagine getting on the first rung of the ladder then a characteristic of being in hypnosis is really useful here, it’s called dissociation. Dissociation allows you to hide away and peek at the problem with your mind without needing to force your mind to imagine getting in there and experiencing it. So we can start with you viewing whatever it is you are phobic about from a nice safe place which allows you to gain some insight and new perspectives and then move on from there.
The good thing about hypnotherapy is that you can do the re-training in your mind so that when you go out and practice in real life you are ready and your new more positive (or adaptive) response is already in place.
And if that doesn’t work, there are many other ways of tackling your phobia with hypnosis.
Way 3: Get rid of the negative emotions your mind has associated with this thing you fear - Rewind Technique
If you’re aware of the event that triggered the phobia for the first time we can work on changing the impact of that event by replaying the event whilst you watch it from a safe place, so you don’t need to relive it “as if you were there”. You do this whilst under hypnosis and are relaxed. It’s like watching yourself in a film whilst the film is played forwards and then played backwards.
This process allows the emotions from that event to be disconnected from the present and so the powerful link between your past fear response and present day situation is severed. You no longer get that automatic phobic response.
You may have spotted that The Rewind Technique uses dissociation (Way 2).
Way 4: Negotiate with the part of you holding onto the fear - Parts Therapy or Ego State Therapy
Alternatively we can look at the part of your subconscious that is working hard to protect you against coming to harm from whatever it is you are afraid of.
This part of your psyche is currently doing a great job of protecting you. However it isn’t aware that what it is protecting you from is not a real threat and so can’t do you any harm. We can work with this part of you, so it can understand there is no need for it to do that for you anymore.
Way 5: Go back to the first time that fear was created - Regression Therapy (or Hypnotic Age Regression)
If appropriate we can also work at a deeper level and go and find the long forgotten event that’s the root cause of the phobia. Re-living that experience within a safe environment allows you to gain new perspectives, and this insight can give you successful resolution.
So that’s 5 – what’s Way 5 1/2 then?
Way 5 1/2 is relaxation. Only listed as a half not because it’s half as good, just because it’s such a fundamental feature of the hypnotic state we get this one for free every time we experience hypnosis . A person in hypnosis is in a very relaxed state and when you’re relaxed your anxiety is reduced. So just by coming to hypnotherapy you are benefiting from your mind and body experiencing a deep relaxation.