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Top 10 steps to curing a phobia – using NLP

Updated on May 15, 2012


This article gives a powerful 10 step guide to curing a fear or phobia. It should ideally be performed with a partner or buddy.

WARNING: Do not attempt this exercise if the phobia is severe, extreme or overly traumatic. Seek advice from a trained physician in this case.

This pattern or NLP technique can help eliminate unfounded or habitual fears (such as the fear of flying) which can limit people's lives. In NLP, this is also known as the visual-kinaesthetic dissociation pattern.

The technique uses dissociation (or freeing yourself) - moving you from participant to spectator thereby helping to alter your reaction to the problem stimulus.

In this technique, you will use the third perceptual position, and some basic steps from time line therapy.

Third perceptual position

The third perceptual position is when you dissociate from yourself, as if you are watching yourself in a movie.

SECOND (AND FINAL) WARNING: Do not attempt this exercise if the phobia is severe, extreme or overly traumatic. Seek advice from a trained physician in this case. It is possible that in extreme cases, its focus on a negative memory could be re-traumatizing.

Overview of 10 steps

1. Select the stimulus or situation and go to the third (dissociated) perceptual position.
2. Run the movie once normal.
3. Run the movie backwards.
4. Run the movie again in black and white.
5. Move into 1st position.
6. Run the movie backwards in full colour.
7. Repeat until de-sensitised.
8. OPTIONAL: Enhance the procedure with strategies such as sub-modality modification.
9. Re-associate.
10. Perform an ecology check by future-pacing.

1. Select the stimulus or situation and go to the third (dissociated) perceptual position

Select a stimulus or situation that you react to with considerable anxiety or fear (but note the above WARNINGS).


Imagine sitting comfortably in a cinema (movie theatre), about to watch some movie of your life.

Imagine that the movie is searching backwards for a point just before your first experience of fear relating to the chosen situation.

The primary purpose of this step is to help you experience what it was like not to have the problem. This is the value of using the third perceptual position (dissociated, watching from the position of an objective observer).

Although it is not necessary, this step may also help you pinpoint how the reaction pattern began.

2. Run the movie once normal

Still in the third (dissociated) perceptual position, watch the situation play out in the movie.


3. Run the move backwards

Now run the movie backwards to the point where the fear / anxiety event started.

4. Run the movie again in black and white

Now change the movie from colour to black and white, and run it again. This time, when it ends, freeze the image and fade it to black, the way some movies end.

5. Move into 1st position

Now move into first position (seeing through your own eyes).

6. Run the movie backwards in full colour.

Experience the movie first-hand and in full colour, but backwards to the beginning of the clip.


7. Repeat until de-sensitised

Switch to black and white, and run the movie forwards.

Repeat these movie steps (running backwards in full colour; then forwards in black and white) until you no longer have the fearful reaction.

When completely de-sensitised, (still in first position with full colour) run the movie backwards to its starting point; freeze frame it and fade it to black.

8. OPTIONAL: Enhance the procedure with strategies such as sub-modality modification.

If this basic version of the method is not successful enough, you can modify it with strategies such as additional dissociation.

For example, you can move into the projection booth, and watch yourself sitting in the cinema, watching the movie.

Sub-modalities: These are sub-sets of our representational systems (visual / auditory / kinaesthetic). So a sub-modality for the visual rep system might be bright / dim or focussed / unfocussed.

Resourceful state: You might trigger the state by thinking of a time when you felt very secure and confident.

You can also use other sub-modalities. As you know, people vary as to which sub-modalities have the greatest impact. Another strategy with this pattern is to trigger a resourceful state and maintain it while watching the movie from a dissociated position.

If the memory or stimulus is very traumatic, you can "code" the memory, by turning elements of it into symbols or outlines, so that your body is not imagining the actual stimulus to respond to.

You can also "humorize" the memory, by changing elements to make them ridiculous (for example adding a funny hat and Marks Brothers glasses to an intimidating person).

Consider doing a swish pattern in addition to the phobia cure pattern if necessary.

9. Re-associate

Once the phobia is not strong when you think of the stimulus or situation, come back to the present day and become fully aware of your surroundings.

10. Perform an ecology check by future-pacing

Now that you know what it will be like to be unafraid of the particular event / item, how do you feel?

What images of the future can you see?

If you do not feel fully aligned with this success, you may need to come up with more effective and creative ways to live without this phobia. Think of positive things you are able to do or achieve without the phobia.


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    • usmlefacts profile image

      usmlefacts 5 years ago from US

      There are many avenues that can be taken in dealing with phobias. The important thing is to take a very thought out and step by step approach. Obviously, there are more intensive approaches that perhaps, may involve exposing the individual to the stimulus of concern almost immediately. For instance, an individual afraid of the dark is advised to be in the dark room suddenly wihout incremental exposure.

      However, I like your linear approach that allows the individual to tackle their fear in a gradual pace. Its probably easier to convince an individual as most phobias are sourced from the thoughts of the mind and past experiences. Great hub. Thanks for writing this hub.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is a very interesting article, about a very important topic - I think you've done a service to many people by publishing it. I like the step-by-step approach you outline, and the way you break the process into smaller actions.