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Why Positive Thinking Alone Does Not Work Against a Phobia

Updated on May 19, 2013

There's nothing wrong with thinking positive. However, studies suggest that phobias go deeper than our conscious mind.

One of the greatest cliches is the saying, "we fear change". Maybe it's so cliched because it's so true. Almost everyone DOES fear change in some way. Many people fear change a whole lot.

In fact, some fear it so much they compulsively avoid situations the rest of us take for granted. When you avoid something to the point that it negatively impacts your life, you've developed a phobia - a persistent fear of an object or situation which you go to great lengths in avoiding. Your fear of the danger posed by that thing is typically disproportional to the actual danger.

This isn't a big deal if you're afraid of snakes or clowns. How often do we come into contact with either? Not very, unless you work at the circus - in which case, may I suggest a significant career change?

Fear of clowns is called "coulrophobia".
Fear of clowns is called "coulrophobia".

But what if you have driving phobia (fear of driving)? Or social phobia (fear of other people)? Or agoraphobia (fear of open spaces)?

Some people are so afraid of these common situations, they literally can't do them. They can't drive. They can't socialize or be around strangers or anyone but family members. In some cases, they can't leave the house. This is when phobias become crippling.

Truly Phobic People Can't Just "Think" Their Way Out of It

When you have a phobia, you have a pattern within your brain; a linkage between certain thoughts, certain feelings, and certain physical reactions. This is why phobias tend to be resistant to simply "thinking good thoughts". Exposing you to your triggering object or situation unleashes a cascade of intense emotion and physical sensations of fear. This is very hard to "think" your way out of when you're in the middle of it.

What you need is a method to create new patterns that link to different emotions and different reactions. The idea is to change the way you processes the stimuli of the phobic trigger. To take the sting out of it, and eventually associate new emotions and reactions to the situation.

Stage hypnosis is NOT hypnotherapy.
Stage hypnosis is NOT hypnotherapy.

Can Hypnosis Help Phobias?

Hypnosis has been much maligned in pop culture. Everyone's seen the image of the man waving a watch and chanting, "You are getting veeeeeeeery sleepy". He then proceeds to make the people under his "spell" do all sorts of embarrassing things while bending them to his will.

This image of hypnosis is a holdover from 19th century sideshows and stage hypnosis. Modern hypnosis bears about as much relation to this as psychology does to the "science" of alchemy. Hypnosis is NOT about tricks, magic, manipulation, or being under a spell. Instead, it's a way to bypass the conscious, thinking mind and speak directly to the unconscious.

The unconscious mind is where most of our feelings, reactions, and attitudes about the world reside, beyond conscious awareness. That's why it's so hard to change how we react just by changing our thinking. Our reactions, particularly ones based in fear, are buried in the unconscious mind, a dreamlike place we're mostly unaware of. Hypnosis reaches past our conscious awareness and reprograms our "instinctual" reactions.

Hypnosis induces a state of calm relaxation in which the unconscious mind becomes open to new suggestions about its perceptions. It's akin to being in a dream state, yet the hypnotized person is completely aware and retains free will. Hypnosis is not about manipulation, it's about putting the unconscious into a state of suggestibility so that its reality can change.

How Does Hypnosis Work With Phobias?

Answers to Common Questions About Hypnotherapy

It's been clinically proven that hypnosis provides medical and therapeutic benefits, especially in the reduction of pain and anxiety. Hypnosis lets us see previously scary situations, objects or circumstances in a new and non threatening light, through a new lens as it were.

If you have a phobia, you need help with your trigger situation(s), to see them with an adult maturity and understanding. Your mind can be reprogrammed to see things in a different way and to accept situations as normal that would previously have been viewed as threatening. Hypnosis is a great tool for you to begin to achieve this new reality.

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