Overcoming a fear of public speaking

by Katherine Zimmerman

Darcy, an attractive woman in her mid-30s, came to me to overcome her fear of public speaking, specifically in her French class. She reported that even though she knew the proper words her mind would go blank, she would cry, feel flustered, and her face became red. Although speaking up in French was a huge problem she said that she is fine with coaching basketball and volleyball for grade school kids but felt that adults were judgmental. Her feelings of panic would begin before going to class and, once, there, meeting the people and having them stare it her when she presented increased her anxiety dramatically. Not only was this behavior affecting her French grade, she wanted to return to college and become a teacher. In her own words she stated that, “I can’t stand myself”.

Her problem improved in front of class if she avoided making eye contact with the other students and she made it worse by thinking about it too much. Darcy also reported that she isn=t comfortable shopping alone, meeting new people and has occasional problems sleeping.

The goal for her first session was to be able to relax in class, to find that center of peace that we all have. Even though Darcy had never been hypnotized before, she went into hypnosis easily and achieved a medium trance state. We started the work of her session in her sanctuary. There was a waterfall in Darcy’s sanctuary and it was very relaxing. Described as an object, her relaxation was a lavender circle, solid inside, smooth on the outside which “lived” in her left hand.

I asked Darcy to imagine herself with this relaxation in bed, while out shopping, in a social setting and finally, in French class. She did this easily.

Darcy left with a handout for several acupressure techniques for relaxation and a self hypnosis tape for reinforcement. As you will see when you read on, this very simple process made a significant change for Darcy.

Second session, progress report: Darcy reported that she is doing much better in French class. She received a B on her test, which is a big improvement; she is more comfortable in class and shopping was less stressful.

For this session we set a goal to start using what is in her brain in class. Darcy recognized that there is a part that resists answering questions in class. Our goal, then, is to converse with that part. The resistant part of Darcy turned out to be a nine-year-old part who had learned that you are “not supposed to talk in class”.

She learned this information from “mean people”. That nine-year-old part is still alive and well and influencing her life as a grown up. Grown up Darcy educated her younger part about talking and we encouraged that part to mature and integrate with her grown up self.

Darcy reported feeling “really different” at the end of the session.

Third session, progress report: Talking in French class now although she still gets flustered and loses vocabulary that she has learned.

She is not having panic attacks before class and is not stressing over tests now. Darcy is “having fun with French”.

Our goal for this session is for Darcy to be able to respond more competently in French, recall vocabulary in the right form. This time we addressed the part that was flustered and thought that it was easy for everyone else. We helped this part create a magical place of learning and in that place Darcy tuned into a French learning channel. While connected to this channel the client understands and speaks French perfectly. She locked this connection in place so that it was always accessible. While tuned in to this channel the words stay in place and she remembers how to say the words. The client can now hear herself speaking as well as her fellow students.

Fourth session, progress report: Darcy reports no particular improvement and has experienced a mini-panic attack over going to the teacher’s office. She feels “dumb, slow, behind because the teacher thinks she should be further along.”

Our goal for this session was to prepare Darcy for an upcoming presentation so we talked with the part that felt dumb, slow, behind and that she wasn’t good enough. This 12-year-old part said that she learned from mom that there’s no such thing as good enough. Initially this part did not support her goal to improve her presentation skills. She thought that it was a waste of time. However, with some negotiation between the client’s grown up self and this younger part, they came into agreement. I asked Darcy to move into the future and imagine making a presentation to see what was different. A six year old part still felt nervous and said that it was easier to chicken out.

Since Darcy feels confident about sports we borrowed that confidence and used it to make her presentation.

Fifth session, progress report: French class is better, she had two meetings with the instructor and did not feel nervous. She reported that she hardly has to study.

Her goal for this session is to easily keep her place during her upcoming presentation, feel calm and have fun with it. The part accessed this session was worried about what others think and that part wants to stay away from other people. This is a 4 year old part that believes that “nothing works”. Darcy educates this part and integrates her into her grown up self. She is able to imagine presenting well.

Several weeks later Darcy said that her presentation went well. She was not nervous “before, during or after. Everything that could go wrong, did but I remained calm and carried on. It was a complete success.”

I heard from her again three weeks later. “Everything is still going well, the sessions with you have sure helped me in a lot of different areas that still surprise me every other day. The French is still getting better! It is weird how things start to change, for example at work I’ve been selected to head a committee – and give little presentations – one was thrown at me in a meeting to talk to everyone in the company about this new committee – and in the past I would have totally frozen – but with all your help it was easy! I didn’t have a panic attack or freeze just jumped in and gave a little impromptu intro. Sure makes me feel a lot more confident in talking in general and especially to a whole group of people I don’t really know. I have one more presentation in French, I have doubts about doing it but, in weird sort of way, my subconscious won’t let me back out of it – even though I have moments of not wanting to complete it.”
One of the reasons that Darcy was so successful is that she was willing to take the time to deal with every aspect of her issue. She gained so much more than just overcoming her fear of public speaking. This continues to filter into other areas of her life.

Submitted by:
Katherine Zimmerman
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
2110 K Street, Ste. 18
Sacramento, CA 95816
[email protected]

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