by Lynn Ward
Don’t let “One trial learning condemn you to a life sentence”
It’s that time of year again, nights are drawing in, Strictly is back and shops are full of oversized pumpkins.
As a child, Halloween meant bobbing for apples and ghost stories in the dark. Today it’s all about dressing up in scary costumes to go ‘trick or treating’
As a species we have a fascination with fear, finding the adrenaline fuelled rush of terror from a horror film strangely thrilling; we can’t bear to look, but neither can we look away! Perhaps this love/hate relationship exists because it’s the most primitive of emotions, hard wired into our physiology, underpinning all of our negative feelings.
Fear is a basic survival mechanism triggered by a threat, real or imaginary. If the brain ‘perceives’ a threat, a chemical reaction occurs triggering rapid heartbeat, dry mouth and the overwhelming desire to run.
Although fear has kept us alive for millennia, it has been responsible for a huge range of anxieties and phobias. Babies are born with only two inherent fears: loud noises and falling. All the rest are learnt, and unlike Algebra, it’s a lesson we don’t easily forget, Burn your fingers once and you’ll always remember that fire hurts!
In evolutionary terms this ‘one trial learning’ makes sense. However, in our stress filled world, this tendency to perceive a threat where none exists can lead to problems. A child nipped by a poodle may develop a fear of dogs. The child then avoids all Dogs, giving rise to a Phobia. The brain, ever quick to match one scary hairy animal with another, may soon classify cats under the “scary animals” category and soon, that child is avoiding all animals. Fear breeds fear, and avoidance means that fears remain unchallenged.
Often, the most effective way to overcome fear is to face it. My nephew avoided bedtimes, believing monsters were hiding under his bed, so my sister armed him with a flashlight so that he could see for himself monsters didn’t exist!
We can use this same metaphorical flashlight to help us face our fears. If we cast some logical light on those doubts and worries that keep us awake, we will probably find that most are just dark specters we have conjured up and projected into our imaginary future, envisaging the worst possible case scenario! By simply focusing on the reality of the situation we can begin to find ways of dealing with problems instead of obsessing about them. By trusting ourselves and our innate ability to adapt and survive, we can eradicate fear, because at the root of all fears is the belief that we won’t be able to cope. Once we recognise that we can cope with just about anything, fear evaporates and we can take positive action.
Sometimes however, fears morph into phobias so deeply embedded inside our subconscious that even the most powerful flashlight can’t help us see a way out. That’s when hypnotherapy can be the perfect tool to use. As our brains don’t differentiate from what is imagined and what is real, in trance we can confront our phobias whilst remaining safe and relaxed.
So this Halloween, why not try facing those fears? You may find that those monsters under the bed were only dust bunnies after all!
Clinical hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner, based in Somerset, UK
If you would like more information about this topic, or to arrange an interview please contact Glen Bennett at +44 (0) 1278 760003 or email at [email protected]