In this week’s post Hypnotherapist Malminder Gill discusses setting goals to overcome your fear and stresses the importance of taking small achievable steps without overwhelming yourself. Malminder shares some example steps for various phobias such as researching spiders, looking at photos, looking at a real spider under a container, looking at a spider without the container and so on. By Malminder Gill, published online by Hypnosis In London blog on 31st December 2014.
Fear affects everybody in different ways. One person might watch a horror film and not jump at all while the rest of the theater screams. Other people can’t leave the house or look at the word ‘clown’ or ‘spider’ without feeling sick. To many people, their phobias and fears can be extremely debilitating and prevent them from achieving any normal quality of life. It’s easy to avoid every situation but it’s also easy to become isolated and develop other mental health issues such as depression. The positive news is that most fears and phobias can be overcome with a little effort and time.
The absolute most important thing is to take small steps. If you push yourself too hard too soon you’re only going to increase your fear and make your phobia worse. Be realistic about what you can really cope with whilst still taking those small steps forward. Break your goals down in to steps. You could use the idea of SMART goals to do this. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timeable. By specific it needs to be something like ‘Look at a photograph of a spider’ not just ‘Get over fear of spiders’. To be measurable you might instead say ‘Look at a photograph of a spider for ten seconds each day for the next week’ which would also make it timeable. It is going to be relevant because the purpose of your goal is to overcome a fear but once again, it has to be achievable.
The first goal will be to research your fear. Find numerical statistics proving why you shouldn’t be afraid. For example, if you are afraid of mirrors, you can research the fact they have been around since before 6000BC and if they were evil or scary, we would probably be aware of it by now. If your fear is snakes, find statistics on how many people actually die from snake bites and how harmless they actually are. Once you’ve collected some information, put it all together on a piece of paper that you can carry around with you so when you are confronted with your fear, you can remind yourself of these facts. As humans, we are afraid of things that we don’t understand. Many of us fear spiders because of their angular legs and unpredictability – we can empthasize with dogs and cats as they react in more similar ways to us but spiders don’t, so make it your business to understand them.
After researching, your next goal might be to look at a photograph of your fear. If you researched it, you probably would have come across pictures anyway but you might have scrolled down the page quickly or closed your eyes. Get a picture or range of pictures and practice looking at it. You can follow the SMART ruling and if you’re finding the task difficult, practice looking for five seconds, then ten seconds then one minute and you can aim to increase the time length once every day or week.
When you think you can cope with looking at a photograph, look at your fear briefly in real life. This could be difficult for some things so if it isn’t easily accessible, there might be a movie online or on TV that you can practice watching instead, although definitely not a horror film related to it! If you look for a video, pick something plain, light-hearted or scientific. If you have a fear of something like a spider, ask a family member or friend to catch one under a container such as a glass and simply watch it. See how close you can stand to the container and if you can only look at it from across the room, slowly work up towards getting closer. If you have a fear of mirrors you might have one in the room with you and see how long you can stay in there. If you have a fear of heights you might look up at heights to begin with before looking down them.
The next steps depend on your phobia and your own anxiety. If your phobia is spiders, the next small step might be to remove the container and from a safe distance watch how the spider moves around the room. Again you might slowly work up towards moving closer to the spider. There’s nothing wrong with stepping backwards if it moves towards you, you need to stay at the level you feel comfortable with. Remember, you only need to get to the point that your fear doesn’t overwhelm your life. If you want to progress to picking the spider or touching it, that’s great, but if you don’t feel you need to do that, you’ve already done incredibly well just looking and being near it. If you have a fear of heights, you should practice looking downwards from various heights but do it in small increments, start from looking down the stairs or looking down from a window that is shut. Remember, you don’t need to do a life-threatening stunt off the roof to prove you have overcome your fear. If you have a fear of mirrors, you might touch the mirror and increase the time you can hold your hand there or stare at yourself in the mirror and increase this time.
It is your decision how far you want to push yourself. Ultimately your aim should be to stop your fear from preventing you living a normal life. Don’t forget to make your goals SMART and small. Push yourself but don’t push yourself over the edge. Anxiety is a natural response to a dangerous or stressful situation but a phobia is irrational and you can overcome it.
Malminder is a Clinical Hypnotherapist in London’s Harley Street, helping people to overcome and manage personal challenges. Read more about Malminder’s London Hypnotherapy Practice and how she can help you here.
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