(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/.