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What, exactly, is a phobia? A phobia is an intense fear of an object, person, or a situation. Usually the sufferer recognizes that there is no real danger or that he is exaggerating the danger. Nevertheless he may experience faintness, fatigue, perspiration, palpitations, nausea, tremors, or panic.
Because of the debilitating reaction, phobias often seriously interfere in people's daily functioning. Generally NLP works relatively quickly and effectively in curing phobias, as is described below.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of phobias, some of them quite exotic. For example, imagine going through life with Heliophobia (fear of sunlight)... Or, how about participating in a Passover Seder with Tetraphobia (fear of the number 4)... Or, driving a car with Xanthophobia (fear of the color yellow).
To understand more about phobias, we could classify them into three categories. The first group is fear of specific things or people: water, thunder and lightning, dentists, injections, animals (such as spiders, snakes, and dogs), terrorists, bridges, elevators, germs, etc.
The second group is fear of specific situations such as heights, open spaces, closed spaces, travelling in a plane or a car, being in the dark, etc.
The third category is fear of life situations. These include fear of being successful, marriage, interacting with people, speaking in public, growing old, being touched, etc. Phobias of life situations are different than groups 1 and 2 and typically take longer to cure. These phobias may not have the strong reactions listed above but rather a more generalized, constant feeling of fear. On the other hand, phobias in this category are often more devastating because they can interfere with the person's daily functioning. Cases #5 and #6 below are examples of this category.
How do phobias develop and how does the NLP Phobia Model eliminate them? People are not born with their phobias; their minds "learn" to have a phobic response through experiences they have. For example, a person gets locked in a dark room and begins to panic when no one answers his calls for help. An experience like this could create a phobia of being in the dark.
The NLP Phobia Model is a visualization technique. It works by undoing the "learned" phobic reaction so that the person will respond in a neutral way toward the stimulus that had been triggering the phobic response.
Here is the way I typically work with phobias of the first two categories. Since each person's phobia is somewhat different, the first step is to understand your unique phobic reaction. The next step is to do the NLP Phobia Model in a manner that is tailored to your particular version of the phobia. Finally, we follow up within the next few days reinforcing the Phobia Model, and sometimes with other NLP techniques (such as the "Swish" pattern) to strengthen the work. With most phobias, that's it.
When the phobic reaction is severe additional sessions are sometimes necessary. However, I have never needed more than 5 sessions to eliminate a phobia. Both Cases #1 and #2 described below required 5 sessions. Probably because of the history of abuse in Case #1, and the on going emotional difficulties in Case #2, these two people required the additional sessions.
The way I work with phobias of life situations is different than with the first two categories. We have to understand and work through the specific personal issues that are triggering the fear. With social phobias the person usually has dysfunctional ways of interacting with people and has to learn more acceptable ways of social interaction in order to overcome the phobia.
How effective is the NLP Phobia Model? I can personally testify to the effectiveness of the NLP Phobia Model. Here are cases of people I have helped and see occasionally. Their phobias are still gone--even years after I worked with them. In the first 4 cases below, a major part of the cure came from using the Phobia model.
---#1: A man in his early twenties with a severe phobia of heights. The phobia developed in his childhood from two sources. One was that over a period of several years his father would force him to jump off a high diving board even though he was absolutely terrified to do so. Then, when he was 11 years old he was in an elevator on the 86th floor when the power failed and the elevator went dark and began to plunge downwards. Eventually it got stuck on the 33rd floor where technicians forced open the door and rescued the people inside. Before we eliminated his phobia this young man could not even climb up a step ladder.
---#2: A middle aged woman with a severe phobia of going outside. The phobia developed at the same time as problems in her family started to develop. However, we did the phobia work without going into the details of those problems or how they were connected to the development of the phobia. Before we eliminated her phobia, she was unable to step outside without being physically supported in order to stand up and walk. Since she had her phobia reaction on busses, she could travel to work only by taxi.
---#3: My own experience with the NLP Phobia Model. I developed a phobia of travelling in cars because of a car accident when I was 25 years old. I was in England on the way to the airport when there was some kind of mechanical failure and the driver could not steer the car. I was sitting in the front seat and the car began to swerve. Then we turned around 180 degrees. We were driving backwards and I watched in fright as a truck (in England, a "lorry") hit us head on and propelled us off the highway where we spun around--and stopped. Miraculously, no one was hurt physically. However, from then on I was unable to sit in the front seat of a car and had to push myself to sit in the back seat. Even then, if the driver would go too fast or tailgate I would feel those overwhelming feelings of fright. About 15 years later when I took my first NLP course (practitioner level) we learned and practiced the NLP Phobia Model. The course participant who was paired up with me practiced on my phobia of driving in cars... I did not realize that the phobia had been completely eliminated until I arrived back in Israel. After disembarking the plane I headed for a "Nesher" taxi which shuttles people from the airport to Jerusalem. I was the first one to enter the taxi and for some reason chose to sit in the front seat. After sitting down I realized that I was in a seat that was impossible for me to sit in. Yet, I felt no urge to change to the back seat. Then, when we started driving I noticed that I no longer felt any phobic reaction. And, that is how it has been ever since 1997.
---#4: An 11 year old girl with a phobia of travelling on busses. Her phobia developed during a time when there were many terrorist attacks on busses in Jerusalem where she lived. In addition, her mother reacted very emotionally to the bombings and would constantly talk about the deaths and casualties which frightened her even more. Before we eliminated her phobia she would not board a bus.
---#5: A middle aged man with a social phobia. His phobia was characterized by a strong fear of interacting with people, especially whenever there was a possibility of a disagreement. As a result he was very shy and socially inept. His phobia resulted from growing up in a home where he was constantly scolded and belittled by his father and, to a lesser extent, by his mother. He viewed himself as an inferior human being, a misfit, an outcast. He was given the message that his feelings and opinions did not matter. Although he was able to make some friends in school, he was never really part of the scene and was often teased and rejected by his peers. Right into adulthood he felt insecure and uncomfortable around people. His phobia was greatly reduced by helping him appreciate his true self-worth, learning how to communicate effectively with people, and learning how to make friends and maintain healthy relationships. It is hard to completely eliminate social phobias because the person develops patterns of behavior in his interactions with other people as well as attitudes towards them. However, the phobia can be reduced so that the person can interact effectively and comfortably with people.
---#6: A middle aged man with a phobia of career advancement. He was a successful video photographer who was very afraid of doing weddings. This was frustrating for him since he was missing out on many lucrative opportunities. His phobia was eliminated by working through the two main issues that were triggering his fear. One was the responsibility involved when doing a wedding video since if he made a mistake, there was really no way to correct it. By contrast if he made a mistake with the video of a corporation or educational institution, he would be able to go back and fix it. The other was his lack of self-confidence even though he was very experienced and considered among the top people in his area.
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