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Hypnosis and the Elimination of Fears


Many Consulting Hypnotists/Hypnotherapists find that weight reduction, smoking cessation, and stress management make up the bulk of their practice. After that, their next biggest focus may well be on overcoming debilitating fears. I'm referring to abnormal fears of such things as flying, heights, snakes, deep water, etc. To overcome these fears, the hypnotist has two primary approaches: The first is to discover the root cause of the fear and eliminate it, and the second is to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the fear.

The first approach is by far the more interesting and effective. Here the client must allow himself/herself to be hypnotized into a deep state where the subconscious mind is very much in the fore and the conscious mind drifts away. When in this state, the hypnotist can ask if there was an event or a time when this fear first occurred - we call this the initial sensitizing event (ISE). The subconscious mind knows, remembers, and can recall everything, so it will usually identify and describe the ISE.

Here's an example: A client is afraid of mice, and in hypnosis, reveals that it was at age four when his older sister went into hysterics upon seeing a mouse in her tent, while on a family camping trip. The children's mother screamed and the mouse scurried away. Up until then, the client was more or less indifferent towards mice and actually thought they were "sort of cute." In hypnosis, the subconscious mind of the client can realize that today's fear of mice is based on his sister's hysteria, which has no relevance for him today and certainly no basis in mice themselves. With this realization, the client can then drop the fear and replace it with a balanced view of mice, and return to the feeling that they are "sort of cute."

When the client is unable to recall the ISE, usually because he/she cannot achieve a deep enough hypnotic state, the hypnotist is left with the task of mitigating the feelings that accompany the experience of fear. There are techniques for doing this such as substituting a positive feeling for a negative one, or suggesting that the fear is illogical and that the client actually enjoys aspects of whatever it is they fear. For example, if they fear flying, then suggesting that they really love the roar of the plane's engines as they sit on the runway and start the run towards takeoff, that they feel great comfort in sinking down into the comfortable seat as the plane lifts off and gravity pulls them gently and safely into the wonderful chair, etc.

As you can imagine this latter approach is not likely to be as effective as removing the cause of the fear. It can mitigate the negative feelings but often the new, positive feelings don't reconcile in the mind of the client and they eventually wear off, with the old anxiety returning.

On the other hand, the ISE approach demonstrates convincingly that the original belief (that mice are to be feared) is false and inappropriate. That old belief is replaced with a new belief (that mice are OK), and normal life goes on. This can often be done in a single hypnosis session and it can replace months or years of conventional therapy, especially if the client cannot consciously recall when the fear first began.