What do people fear most? There are about 500 documented phobias and the list is growing.
The following phobias are the most common fear-objects that lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness. In some cases, these symptoms escalate into a full-blown panic attack.
Social Phobias, The fear of social situations. In many cases, these phobias can become so severe that people avoid events, places, and people that are likely to trigger an anxiety attack.
Arachnophobia, The fear of spiders. Ophidiophobia, The fear of snakes. Acrophobia, The fear of heights. Agoraphobia, The fear of situations in which escape is difficult this may include crowded areas, open spaces. Approximately one third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia. And by the time you’ve read this far you might even have Phobophobia, the fear of phobias.
But let’s talk about Glossophobia, a social phobia, the fear of public speaking. This fear is ranked higher on the scale of fears than death. Some people are more afraid of speaking, out loud, in public than dying. That’s a pretty heavy duty fear.
So, let’s see what happens; you’ve been asked to give a presentation, just a little talk at the office or for your local club. You’ve prepared for several days going over all the details; you know exactly what you’re going to say. The big day arrives and you’re ready. Then, you remember that time when you were in school and made a small mistake, you miss-pronounced a word or got tongue tied. Your classmates all laughed and you felt horrible, you got real nervous and started to sweat, you couldn’t breathe, you just stood there, frozen with fear. It happens now every time you step in front of a group of people numbering more than two and in truth you might not even remember the school incident, you’re just scared to death of speaking in public.
To better understand how this happens let’s look at how we know the brain works. First it’s important that you imagine the brain as having several compartments or areas of expertise. Now some of these areas work well together and some…not so well. But, it’s not their fault, it’s how we’ve evolved, beginning with the fight or flight response.
We have four key players or experts in our drama: The amygdala, the sensory thalamus, the sensory cortex and the hippocampus. It’s not necessary for you to know where these players reside specifically in the brain just that they do
The amygdala – did you ever see the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”? In the scene where the trio of escaped convicts is hold up in the loft of a barn and the law has found them, Everett scurries around saying, “Damn, we’re in a tight spot!” Well, the amygdala is that character! It is the scaredy-cat part of the brain; always monitoring what’s happening around you to see if you should be afraid or not! But it doesn’t do that alone, it needs some help. This is where the sensory thalamus comes along.
The sensory thalamus – this part of the brain sends information to the amygdala about what’s happening around you, but it does it in a very child-like way, leaving out much of the detail and consequently the full picture of what’s happening isn’t conveyed. The detail is left to the sensory cortex.
The sensory cortex – The amygdala needs help in processing the information that it gets, so it sends information to its friend, the sensory cortex, to shed some light on what’s happening around it. The sensory cortex works out in detail what exactly the information means to the body and then sends the answer back to the amygdala.
The hippocampus -This is where, in simple terms, the memory camps out. When any information comes to the amygdala, it asks the hippocampus if it remembers it; have we seen this before, is it a threat or not? The hippocampus, being a good friend, tells the amygdala all it knows. It also cross-checks with the sensory thalamus to make sure it is getting its facts right. But as we’ve already seen, that can be very unreliable!
So, you might ask, “Can phobias be cured?” Yes, yes they can, and very quickly. Enter Hypnosis, and NLP. The American Medical Association in 1958 recognized hypnosis and hypnotherapy as a viable scientific modality, and a useful and powerful complimentary therapy. And in 1962 the American Psychiatric Association recognized that hypnosis was a viable modality for effective change. The types of phobias that can be treated with hypnosis therapy are limitless.
Most people who undergo hypnosis for phobic disorders will experience a diminished or non-reactive response to the stimuli. Without paralyzing fear, life once again becomes a joy to experience. So, again I ask; “Phobias, what’s there to be afraid of?”