Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Different Therapeutic Approaches to Treat Fears vs. Phobias

(This blog was originally posted on September 19, 2016)

Fears and phobias/anxiety may reflect similar feelings, but they are actually separate conditions that require different treatments. According to Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D., when you have a fear of something, you can attribute the reaction to the memory of a specific incident—usually one that occurred during childhood. Conversely, the phobia is typically associated with a sudden drop in blood-sugar that triggers physiological symptoms including shaking, weakness, confusion, anxiety and even paranoia that have nothing to do with what a specific environmental trigger. However, the resulting subconscious fear of loss of control or even death becomes attributed to that trigger (e.g., fear of flying, insects) because that is the only explicable source of anxiety, according to the conscious mind. 

Both therapies entail educating the individual about the role of nutrition in exacerbating or even triggering the initial fear/phobic response during the cognitive/alert portion of the session. Most important, the hypnotherapist must help the client realize and believe that the person is able to control this reaction. Having said that, each response (fear versus phobia) requires a different hypnotherapeutic approach to achieve this outcome.

Circle therapy enables the person to progressively experience more intense fear reactions during hypnosis and then “pass” through it (relax) to a deeper state of hypnosis. Post-hypnotic suggestions reinforce that the individual is able to control this fear in this way and that the fear response is no longer a necessary part of his or her life. The best way to face a fear is to face it down, Dr. Kappas advised. “Face it by realizing you yourself can create it. You’re not facing the fear, you’re facing the feeling,” he explained. 

Conversely, phobias start from physiological feelings that the person fears will result in loss of control or even death. While this reaction can be triggered by dreams or stress, it’s generally an illogical fear response and not based on personal experience. The best way to treat a phobia is by using systematic desensitization and double-bind techniques that work together to gradually reduce the negative association/response while making the response increasingly difficult to experience. Circle therapy is not used to work through a phobia because the technique can reinforce or even exacerbate the negative response.

However, a long-held fear can also morph into agoraphobia, or a fear of open spaces, Dr. Kappas warned. It is possible to manage agoraphobia through diet/nutrition, a therapeutic approach that is recommended and effective to control other phobias. It is important to deal with any relapse of the original fear right away and then start dealing with anticipatory anxiety about experiencing that fear, which has likely developed through the agoraphobic response.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
© 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts of the Day

Photo by Sara Fogan

     Every now and then I like (and need) to take a few moments and remind myself about what is really important to me, in my life. If you follow me on my Calminsense Hypnotherapy Facebook page you may have seen some of these quotes before on this page, or will in the future. Many of these Quotes of the Day are beautiful examples and illustrations of the work I do as a hypnotherapist, so I will probably draw on them in future essays.

  • “If you’re unhappy with yesterday, do something today to change it. Don’t stay stuck!” – Natalie Palombi

  • “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

  • “Getting knocked down is a given. Getting up and moving forward is a choice.” – Zig Ziglar

  • “The way we see the problem is the problem.” – Stephen Covey

  • “As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

  • “Ability without determination is futile.” – Lolly Daskal

  • “One can write, think and pray exclusively of others; dreams are all egocentric.” – Evelyn Waugh

  • “Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them.” – Anonymous

  • “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
© 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Different Way to Look at Performance Anxiety

(This blog was originally posted on September 15, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Performance anxiety, or the fear of performing some task or behavior in front of other people, is a common phenomenon. Indeed, a majority of my hypnotherapy practice centers on helping clients overcome performance anxiety to some extent. Whether the person wants to increase confidence to speak or play an instrument in public, or overcome a “nervous stomach” before taking the field at a big game or horse show, performance anxiety is the culprit. Many people who come in to quit a tobacco habit or lose weight are initially surprised to learn that smoking/chewing tobacco or over-eating are replacement behaviors their subconscious mind uses to repress or stuff down this anxiety

What if the source of your performance anxiety has less to do with the specific activity you are about to do and is more about being evaluated for that performance? In her book titled The Power of the Herd, A Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership, and Innovation1, Linda Kohanov theorizes that the source of this stress has more to do with the evaluation than the task. The Eponaquest LLC founder calls this phenomenon “evaluation apprehension,” and describes various physiological symptoms of anxiety that we associate with performance anxiety including increased blood pressure and pulse/heart-rate and rapid speech pattern. Above all else is that overwhelming fear that everyone in the room is hyper-critical of and negatively rating everything we do. She even explains that the most deleterious effect of evaluation apprehension is the way it inhibits our desire to learn or try something new for fear of receiving this negative response from others. 

When I read Kohanov’s take on performance anxiety, her concept of evaluation apprehension being the cause of this phenomenon really resonated with me. For example, it seems incongruous to hear that our favorite actor or dancer experiences severe “stage fright” before each performance despite having received the highest accolades for his or her work. What do they have to be afraid of when they have won every award there is for what they do? And yet, time and again they insist how much easier and preferable it is to do the work than to see the movie or a video of the performance, hear or read reviews about it later.

Her recognition of the “fear of the unknown” as a source of a person’s anxiety to try something new also dovetails with the Theory of Mind2 that John Kappas, Ph.D., referenced in so much of his hypnotherapy work. According to the Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder, the subconscious part of the mind is uncomfortable about and resistant to doing new or different things even when the conscious mind (logic, reason, will-power/free-will and reasoning) says that it’s okay to do so. This resistance comes from the “knowns” (familiar stimuli) and that subconscious mental script we all carry around to protect us from real and perceived threats. If you have a subconscious mental script that keeps reinforcing the message that everyone really is judging and evaluating you—and you believe that this judgment is negative—of course you will avoid that situation at all costs. Since the subconscious mind works on expectation and imagination, over time, we learn to expect others to respond to and interact with us in a particular way based on that previous experience. 

With that in mind, I would suggest looking at the phenomenon of performance anxiety in the context of “evaluation apprehension.” In fact, I really already do that in my hypnotherapy practice as I teach clients various breathing techniques to increase their relaxation and imagery exercises so they can focus on all the things that can and will go right during the task. I also encourage clients to use memories of positive experiences/outcomes in similar situations to increase their self-confidence and self-esteem. Ultimately, when we are confident and relaxed doing the behavior, it is easier and even enjoyable to do the task and not even think about, let alone worry, what other people may think about our performance.

1.        Kohanov, Linda. The Power of the Herd: A Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership, and Innovation. New World Library: Novato, California. 2013. pp. 188-189
2.        Kappas, Ph.D., John G. Professional Hypnotism Manual: A Practical Approach for Modern Times (4th Edition). Panorama Publishing Company: Tarzana, CA. 2001. pp. 10-13

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
© 2017