Phobias can make our lives a misery. To the outsider these fears appear - and indeed are - utterly illogical and irrational. To the person with the phobia however, the fear is all to real. There are many, many different phobias; infact, a person can have a phobia about almost anything. Common ones include fear of flying, fear of rodents, fear of heights, fear of insects, fear of open spaces, and fear of confined spaces. Others include a fear of crossing the road, oceans, computers, cats, dogs, snakes - the list goes on and on. very often the phobia is obscure enough that we don't have to worry too much about it. For example, if you have a morbid fear of mountains but spend your life on the coast, this phobia is unlikely to cause you many problems. similarly, having an irrational fear of cows is not going to be a big handicap to your life if you live in the city of london. But very often phobias such as fear of flying, fear of elevators, and fear of open spaces, can be major obstacles to living a normal life. In most cases, hypnosis is a very effective tool for removing these irrational fears, and more and more people are turning to the treatment for help.
The object of the fear
One technique used by hypnotherapists is to get clients to come to terms, step by step, with the object of their fear. During a trance, clients will be asked to imagine or visualize the object of their fear at a safe distance. For example, someone with a cat phobia might be asked to imagine a cat on the other side of town, far enough away so they can visualize it without distress. Gradually, and over a few sessions, the client would visualize the cat closer and closer to them, without it causing them any distress. Hypnotic suggestions would reassure them that they had no problem with cats, that the cat was no threat to them, in fact that they were fond of cats. Eventually, the client would visualize themself close to the animal, touching it, and feeling no anxiety. The phobia would be defeated.
Another approach is to take the client back, through regression, to the time when the phobia first developed. Sometimes, though not invariably, a phobia was caused by a trigger event from earlier in our lives, which we may have forgotten. We may have been bitten by a dog or been shut up in a closet by older siblings. During a trance the hypnotist will take the client back before to before this trigger event and make them aware of what it felt like before they had the phobia. The hypnotist will then use this feeling to replace the clients phobia with a more positive frame of mind. Just being consciously aware of the trigger event can sometimes be enough to remove the phobia.
Hypnotists do have to be careful how they tackle phobias. For example, someone with with a phobia about snakes does not want to have all inhibitions about them removed to the extent that that they would cheerfully pick up a rattlesnake. This is why therapists take care to listen to clients. A client will not perhaps want to enjoy the company of poisonous snakes but want simply not to have an unreasonablr fear about them.
Similarly hypnosis can be used to help treat a variety of disorders, including panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post - traumatic stress disorder.
The Case of the Gerbil phobia
The hypnosis method for dealing with phobias does not always have to be gradual. In one case a young women went to a hypnotist worried because she had been asked to look after a young relative's pet gerbil during a holiday break. The problem was, the women had a morbid fear of gerbils and other rodents. Even worse, the holiday began the next day, so there was no time for a lengthy series of sessions. Undeterred, the hypnotist put his client into a trance and suggested to her unconscious that she actually quite liked gerbils, and moreover she was even looking forward to caring for her relative's pet. her mind seems to have been successfully programmed - the gerbilsitting continued for many years to come. This case illustrates how successful hypnosis can be in dealing with phobias.
Fear of Vegetables
One therapist had a 30 year old client who suffered from lachanophobia - fear of vegetables. Not only could she not eat vegetables, but she was upset because she could not even prepare them for her children. the very smell of vegetables brought on a panic attack. Under hypnosis, she spontaneously recalled that, when she was about six, her mother was giving all her attention to her new baby; she apparently fought her mother on the issue of eating vegetables in order to regain her mothers attention. Part of her felt that if she ate vegetables without a fuss, she would lose her mother's love. With the use of suggestion, the therapist was able to get her first to buy carrots, then to eat them. Eventually, the therapy created a normal approach to vegetables.
("Hypnosis Secrets of the mind" by Micheal Streeter. Published by Barron's)