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How Do Phobias Occur?

A large part of Neuro Linguistic Programming is about ‘modelling’ excellence, i.e. examining in the greatest of detail what it is that makes people excellent at what they do. The ‘doing’ is usually not done on purpose, but unconsciously. So we just do it automatically, without even noticing. 

We do many things unconsciously. For example we don’t consciously go through the steps needed to simply open a door. We don’t consider the following: “I need to get to the other side of the door. I will take some steps towards the door, I will lift my arm up, I will move the door handle, I will activate my arm muscles to pull the door towards me, etc.” What we do instead is to just open the door.  We consciously learned at one point, very early on in life, that to get from one part of the house to another you go through a number of actions and then the door is open, just like that. We have stored that skill away in the part of us that NLP calls ‘the unconscious mind’, so that we can now open the door unconsciously.  This is how we manage most of our lives. The unconscious mind has a long memory. It will remember all experiences and information that you have gathered in your life. 

NLP for PhobiasThe system or programme that the unconscious mind uses to remember something scary is always the same for absolutely everyone. When you think or experience anything that you have a phobia about the following occurs: You will have a visual memory and a negative kinaesthetic reaction. 

The above is a full-blown, jargon-laden, NLP explanation! In plain English, when you think of whatever it is that you are phobic about you will get a mental picture of it (whatever ‘it’ is) and immediately  experience a negative feeling. This feeling is more than just unease or discomfort somewhere in your body; it is a full-on feeling of anxiety and panic.  The reaction is immediate and happens in a flash.  Phobics experience a profound fear and an urgent “fight or flight response”. 

Phobias do not make sense to non-phobics. How could anyone that doesn’t have a phobic reaction to velvet, for example, understand the reason behind this illogical fear? To most people, the experience of being in an enclosed space holds no fear, but to claustrophobics, the fear of enclosed spaces is extremely limiting and keeps them away from everyday places like theatres, planes, lifts, trains, tunnels and other forms of transport.  In the UK, almost all spiders and snakes are harmless, yet those with a relevant phobia, limit their experiences by avoiding places where they might encounter them. Even by going as far as banning TV in case it shows an image of their phobia. 

This brings us back to the unconscious mind. One of its tasks is to protect us. At some stage the unconscious has decided that a person really has to be very careful of something, be it spiders, snakes, birds, vomiting, open or enclosed spaces, velvet, buttons or anything at all. This overreaction usually starts when someone goes through a period of stress, but this is not always the case. Often a person can’t even remember when the phobia started, but explains that they’ve had the phobia all of their lives. 

So how come it is so easy and painless to get rid of phobias with Neuro Linguistic Programming? 

I began this article by explaining that NLP is largely about ‘modelling’ excellence. In relation to phobias you could say that a phobic person is excellent at being scared of something; phobics are not just excellent, they are outstanding at experiencing specific fears. 

Early developers of NLP ‘modelled’ the phobic’s excellence.  They discovered that to be exceptional at being phobic, you need to see a picture or pictures of what you fear and immediately get a negative feeling.  In turn, this acts as a warning and prompts you to remove yourself from the perceived danger, fast, or in some cases, avoid putting yourself in it in the first place! 

By experimentation they concluded that it is usual for a phobia to be ‘installed’ or learned in one easy step. They called this one-step learning. This means that something happened to an individual, which they found scary. The unconscious mind overreacted and labelled it as dangerous. From that point, every time the same or similar thing comes to mind, the unconscious mind recognises the ‘label’ and fires a message in the shape of a negative feeling and extreme phobic reaction. This will then keep the person safe from perceived danger. 

A person can just as easily unlearn in one step as they can learn in one step.  Through experimentation, the developers of NLP discovered that when phobics were taught to take a ‘different view’ of their phobia, literally, the fear they normally experienced had left them.  For maximum benefit it is essential that this technique is applied under guidance of a fully qualified NLP practitioner.  Even long standing phobias can be eliminated with the NLP phobia cure. 

How many sessions does it take to remove a phobia and what happens during the sessions? 

  • It is not uncommon to help people to let go of phobias after one to three one-hour sessions.
  • Sometimes clients who travel for a long distance will book an extended session to maximise their time spent.
  • The phobia cure is effective when you see the NLP practitioner in person or it can be done by telephone consultation.

Antonia Boyle often uses the NLP Phobia Cure as a demonstration model when she engages in public speaking or NLP training. In those cases she does not take personal histories but simply uses the technique. Even though this is certainly not the ideal way of working with a client, more often than not it is still successful. However she likes to get a detailed personal history to be sure that she is going to be successful. Sometimes a phobia is linked to other traumas and then the NLP Practitioner might have to deal with these before the phobia will shift. 

During the initial session Antonia will ask you many questions about the phobia, such as how long you have had it, does it relate to other areas in your life, etc. She will then teach you a technique, which is a mental exercise that you need to be familiar with, before you can actually do the full technique. Finally she guides you through the NLP Phobia Cure technique. It is a mental exercise which everybody can do easily. 

At the end of the session, you will have left the phobia behind and be free to get on with your life and be a happier person. You don’t have to love the things you were fearful of, but you won’t have the phobic reaction. You won’t have to start touching snakes, frogs, and spiders, but you will be able to be calm in their presence.  You will be able to travel on any form of transport that you choose and visit the Theatre! 

You will be able to make new choices in your life and live life to the fullest.

Please contact us if you want to be free of your phobia or would like further information.


What some of our NLP Phobia Cure clients have said: 

"I would like to thank you for helping me with my fear of flying. I have tested this once since our session on a return flight to N.Y. I felt different immediately after the session, much lighter and I felt like my old self, as in actually looking forward to the flight and feeling excited about it rather than the dread I had been feeling before."
Linda Walker. 30/10/08. 

"I saw Antonia in November 1995 after being claustrophobia sufferer for 4 years, which was brought on by a panic attack whilst travelling on the London Underground. After trying hypnotherapy, which failed miserably, I was resigned that I would not be able to use lifts, trains, etc. After Antonia used NLP I did not believe that my claustrophobia had gone. She assured me it had, but it all seemed so easy. The following week I started travelling to work on the train and after a few initial feelings of anxiety I found that NLP had worked. Since then my confidence has grown and not just with lifts and trains, but in other aspects of my life. I am no longer restricted in my everyday living as I was even before the claustrophobia."
Gillian Cowlishaw. January 1996.

"I managed it! Don’t know how Antonia does it! I was telling the air hostess about I’d been cured of my phobia and she told the pilot who invited me on the flight deck to discuss NLP as he wanted smoking cessation. He said: “Let’s see how good you are.” And invited me up the flight deck to help him land his plane!!! I sat behind 2 pilots with headphones and listened to traffic control talk us down. Mind you I did burst into tears when it was all over!! Tears of liberation. I FEEL AS IF I HAD OPEN MIND SURGERY."
Gill Thurgood 08/12/2000 (Gill has since completed her NLP Foundation training with Alpha Waves and is now a Practitioner of NLP).

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