Every time we experience the world, we do so through our 5 senses- see it, hear it, taste it, smell it or feel it. It is only once we have taken that information in and processed it, that we apply a meaning to it. Sometimes the meaning we apply will be based on our previous contact and experiences. So if we have had an experience which led to some negative emotions – such as fear (or if we have learned a negative response from someone else) it is likely that when we come into contact with that same stimuli again, we will have the same negative feelings each time. What this tells us however, is that it is not the stimuli that creates the negative emotion (because this is just sensory information) but the meaning that has been applied to the sensory information. So next time somebody tells you “It’s all in your head” you can agree with them!
In NLP we use a process called the logical levels of therapy to uncover the rules and strategies that a person uses to make their fear or phobia “work.” For example, if a person has a phobia of spiders, there will be certain things that they think about spiders, there will be certain ways they remember spiders, there will be pictures that they make in their minds and even certain beliefs that they have about spiders. When these rules and strategies are challenged, they will be unable to use the rules and strategies in the same way. This called a pattern interrupt that will prevent the person reaching the stage of feeling bad, which would usually be the end response to having experienced their phobic stimuli.
NLP also utilises a technique called the fast phobia cure. This is a process that works with the submodalities or codes that we have in our minds when we represent information to ourselves. These codes are made up of sensory related content and most commonly we work with the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic information. When this information is distorted, this again has the impact of changing the way we feel. This process is done after first ensuring that the client has a “resource anchor” which is a build up of positive emotions that they can access whenever they feel that they need to throughout the process. The Fast Phobia cure also desensitizes the feelings the client has by replaying their most significant experience with their phobic stimuli very fast (in their mind), forwards in Black and white and backwards in colour several times. This repetition has the impact of reducing the feelings associated with the event.
I also like to use Hypnotherapy and EFT when working with phobias. Hypnotherapy can work really well at the end of the fast phobia process to ensure the client is feeling calm (particularly if you want to test their recovery by exposing them to the stimuli that would have previously caused them to experience the phobic response) and also to install some positive suggestions for how they can react differently in the future.
EFT is a tapping technique that works on the meridian points (or acupuncture points) throughout the body.