I was recently asked by a schoolboy who is doing a school project, “What is a phobia?“.
I publish my answer as others have asked similar questions, and it may help you with my way of explaining what phobias are.
I have written other articles on the subject within the blog, and you can see a list of phobias by clicking on this links
Phobias D – J
Phobias K – N
Phobias O – Z
What are phobias?
Phobias are irrational fears that have got out of hand, and in most cases are learned.
There are only two fears that the human is naturally fearful of, the fear of load noises and falling, everything else is learned.
The brain, may be given a situation that it has experienced before, maybe a sound, a vision, a feeling, and it then it searches in its’ memory bank for previous experiences to make an understanding of what is happening. We call this a “transderivational search”.
If you like, a transderivational search is something like this. All that you have learned during your life is placed in a filing cabinet, be learnings or experiences, visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory, (V,A,K,O or G) you have a filing cabinet in your brain, it is your memory.
Now if you experience something, the information you are experiencing, say a photograph of me, the eyes pass this image from the eyes to your visual cortex at the back of the brain.
At this stage you have no conscious knowledge of what is being seen, the processing is at a subconscious level. The visual cortex says “what is this I see, I do not know what it is”, so it goes on a transderivational search, looking into the memory banks the filing cabinet, looking for a match, the new image is has just received and one that it has stored.
Perhaps finds a visual memory of say an elephant, does it match? No. Perhaps a gorilla, does it match? No. It goes on searching until it finds a near match, and then says, “It is this”. The brain makes a generalisation. This generalised match is most likely is a near fit, not an exact to that you are experiencing, after all nothing is the same twice.
Now, when a person goes into a situation, the brain does a transderivational search, finds the nearest match in the memory banks, and says this happened last time, this is what I experienced before, therefore the same outcome will happen again.
That last subconscious outcome, what happen before will happen again we can agree is not true, as nothing needs to happen the same way twice.
So a person stands on a tall building, the brain takes in all the stimulus, all the information from what is happening, does the transderivational search, and says, “I was not happy last time, therefore I will not be happy this time”.
If the last situation or activity produced the state of not being happy, the brain could now go into what is called a “fight or flight ” state, something that is a hangover from our caveman days, and the brain issues the instruction for the body to produce chemicals to either fight the situation or run away from the situation. Such drugs as adrenaline.
The drugs gives us certain feelings as they wash through our body, and some people do not like these feelings, so the brain goes further into the “flight or flight”, and creates a phobia.
The next time we have or do the same experience, the last feeling created by the “fight of flight” will be remember whilst going on the transderivational search, and will build on top of that last bad feeling, that last fear, making it worse.
So a phobia is a learned state, and it is “anchored ” to fire the response once a situation or stimulus is presented. The more the response or state of the phobia is recreated or happens, the more the brain says it will always happen. This is called “conditioning”, as with Pavlov and his dogs.
Why do we get them?
We get phobias and fears to protect us. It is a natural state, some people love the adrenaline rush, some people hate them, it is how our brains are wired.
It is good to have a fear, say if standing on top of a high rise tower block, and there are no safety barriers, it would be stupid to hang off the edge. But, if there is a safety barrier, why have a fear?
If that natural fear gets out of hand, it becomes a phobia.
What effect do they have on us?
A phobia will stop a person doing something, enter into a situation. There will be a panic feeling, fainting, a state of having to get away from the situation. A “flaming phobic” will often have a high pulse rate, go red in the face, hyper ventilate, and sweat.
A phobia is very debilitating, stopping people doing things, perhaps leaving their house, maybe going shopping, and driving a car.
What are the common phobias?
There are so many phobias that I have come across whilst teaching how to remove phobias around the world, the fear of spiders, snakes, flying, open spaces, closed spaces, public speaking, meeting people.
All these can be treated.
Common treatments are such as “Flooding”. This is where a phobic person is gradually introduced to the situation or the item, that they are phobic about. For example, a person was shown on TV with a fear of heights. They were slowly taken up higher and higher structures, until they were desensitised; actually they were not cured as they were only taken up to half the height the fire engines’ reach of its snorkel. Flooding takes a long time, and the client experiences horrid feelings as they learn to control the phobia.
There is “hypnotherapy”, where hypnosis is used, often to go back to recover the initial cause of the phobia, and change the outcome, the memory. Many sessions are required.
There are many more “cures” for phobias.
I use a method called NLP , which is very quick, re-patterning the brain, the outcome. I can and have taken phobias away in minutes. And, it is long lasting, forever.
There are many ways of dealing with phobias. Which one is correct? Who knows, they all work. I think it is down to the belief system of the client and the ability of the practitioner dealing with the client.
What often upsets me is that a person, who treats people, the practitioner, perhaps with flooding or hypnotherapy, will often dismiss any other forms of treatment as being hogwash, not any good. This is stupid.
I say, use whatever works, and if it does work, good.
But I still say, my system is the best, as I use whatever works.
Click here to read about some of the clients I have worked with, and references. Should you wish to see me, we will have one session only, for as long as it takes, and I will come to you, as long as you cover my travel.