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Fears & Phobias? Time to leave them behind in the clouds!

08. June. 2018 by Valerie Walker

Silhouette of a man and a plane taking off. Photo: Dan Belitsky

You know that feeling.  Your well-deserved holiday was booked months ago. Your passport has been dusted off, currency bought, case packed, hand luggage stuffed with all those in-flight essentials. All you need to do now is get to the airport and get on that flight to the sun.   Excited, can't wait...or terrified witless?  It's perfectly normal to feel a bit anxious before a trip, most of us do, but you need to recognise when your fear has become so irrational it is getting in the way of your life. If that is the case for you, then it's time you took back control and got rid of that unnecessary, overbearing fear once and for all.

What is a fear or phobia?
Flying is just one of the many irrational fears and phobias that are just all too common. Others include performance anxiety, heights, animals, insects, food types, objects...the list goes on.  

A fear or phobia is a form of anxiety and, as with any other form of anxiety, exposure to or even thinking about your fear triggers the ‘flight-fight’ response.  Which is why you want to run away from your holiday or flatten that teensy weeny spider!   Physical symptoms you may experience include: shaking, palpitations, shortness of breath, upset stomach and nausea.

Why do some people have fears and others don't?
As a baby you are born with just two fears; one is the fear of falling the other is the fear of loud noises, the rest are all learned behaviours.  Some fears can be traced back to a specific trigger or event such as a stressful flight or being bitten by a dog.  However, for many the origin of the fear is unknown, but each time you are exposed to, or even think about your fear, it becomes even stronger.

Put in simple terms, it's a bit like having a faulty programme in your computer that you can't seem to delete.  Your brain is full of very helpful programmes or patterns that it can repeat without any conscious thought from you, many of which are designed to keep you alive and safe.  These actions or behaviours are set off in what is often called your unconscious brain.  The beating of your heart, your lungs filling with oxygen, walking and talking are activities your unconscious brain is carrying out with no conscious thought from you.  All good stuff! The unconscious triggering of the fight or flight response can also be extremely helpful, especially if you are just about to step out in front of a speeding car!

Some of these stored programmes you learn instinctively, others you are taught, and many are adopted through observation or by modelling the behaviours of others around you.  The problem is your unconscious brain doesn't differentiate between helpful patterns and unhelpful ones.  Rather, it merely repeats behaviours and actions you have acquired.  Additionally, the more emotion you attach to a behaviour or action (e.g. fear, anger, joy) the stronger it is, likewise the more you repeat it, the more intense it gets and the more likely you are to unconsciously repeat it.  Good for the helpful stuff, but not so good for the unhelpful programmes!

Using the power of the unconscious brain
Your unconscious brain is recognised as being much more powerful than your conscious brain, which is why no matter how hard you try to argue yourself out of your fear of flying or keep telling yourself you will be fine up on that stage, it just doesn't seem to work.   

It seems logical therefore, that if you want to overcome your fear or phobia you need to eliminate or remove that negative unhelpful programme from your unconscious mind and replace it with a more helpful one.

Sounds simple enough, surely you can just tell yourself to stop, that there's nothing to worry about? Unfortunately, your unconscious mind doesn't always pay attention to logic.  This is where therapies such as Hypnotherapy, NLP and BWRT can help.  They work by helping you by-pass your conscious mind and work directly with your unconscious mind, allowing you to desensitise your reaction to your phobic trigger and to replace that old outdated, unhelpful response with a much more positive behaviour or action.  One that allows you to get on with your life.  

So, what are you waiting for?  Grab back control and get that flight to the sun booked or step out onto that stage with confidence!