As Cathy Breslin, hypnotist will tell you, most of us have phobias. There are ones we admit to and ones we don’t. Most of us will go through our life avoiding our phobias, even when they affect our life. For some of us we have phobias that appear ridiculous to everyone else – like encountering a snake on the way to work or meeting a llama down an alleyway (I had a flatmate who was mortally afraid of courgettes, so much so that we were under strict instructions not to have any in the fridge.) Either way, it is no joke to the sufferer.
A shark may not end up in your bath like a spider, but it can still affect your life.
I know how the life of a spider phobic person goes. You’re confidently going about your business like say driving, eating, brushing your teeth, or trying to sleep. And then bam, your internal world is sent into mortal chaos when you notice a spider the size of a small child nearby. So you do what any normal person would do. You jump, bang your knee on the basin, crash the car, jump on the chair or flee your bedroom. You’re not prepared for it, and the shock was almost the worst part. Panicking, you work up the courage to do something, anything, to prove you’re not a baby. So you venture back into the room to survey the situation rationally. No, you won’t be getting a glass for this one.
He’s watching you from the corner waiting for you to go back into bed and go asleep so he can crawl on your face (his main goal in life). He is motionless but you don’t trust him. He got there didn’t he? He might crawl on you in the night, or bite you, or worse, lay eggs in your brain. Fighting tears you go and get a newspaper, or a cup, or the Hoover. Staring at it, and wishing it would just go away you spend several minutes, or even several hours bringing yourself to go near it. No, you just can’t. If you have a designated spider catcher person handy you are lucky. If you are very unlucky the designated spider catcher ‘loses’ the spider while trying to trap it and throw it out the window. Any mention of ‘it’s gone’ is met with violent sighs. “It’s not gone. It’s lost. Now we don’t know where it is!” At this point the phobia sufferer will most likely, slouch exasperated from the room carrying a duvet and pillows, and spend the night on the couch.
Being one of these people myself, I went to see Cathy Breslin, who specialises in Hypnotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Archetypal programming training (APT) and coaching. I expect her to be a stern woman. I expect to have to lie on a couch. But instead she meets me with a warm smile and I am brought into her lovely calm, cool room where I sit perfectly upright on one of her chairs. She asks me to start the session. I am confused. “Well, I don’t know,” I say, after a pause. “I’m afraid of spiders,” I tell her. It feels like confessing to alcoholism. She nods. “What don’t you like about them?” she asks. “I don’t like anything about them,” I reply. “So imagine there is a spider over there,” she says. I look around the room suspiciously. Oh no, I did not sign up for a surprise spider visit. “How would you feel?” she asked “Could you touch it?” I shake my head vigorously. “Not for a thousand Euros,” I affirm.
After talking to Cathy for a bit longer, it emerges that my worst fear is being locked in somewhere with a spider, which nicely combines my fear of enclosed spaces, and my fear of spiders together. Cathy makes me go back and find out where this fear came from. I remember being locked in a box as a child with three other children, an older boy sitting on the lid as we pleaded to be let out. One boy even wet himself at the time out of fear. An altogether enjoyable experience for all involved. “This is good,” says Cathy, reminding me that figuring out the cause of my phobia is important. She draws me a diagram of how she will change my reactions. Instead of seeing the thing I am scared of and reacting one way, I will train my brain to react another way to the stimulus. She explains, or rather makes me discover myself, that my phobia, like almost all phobias, stems from a fear of losing control.
After the counselling, it is time for the hypnosis. I had always wondered what it would be like to be hypnotised, and I was not disappointed. It is slightly scary, as it feels like going under anaesthetic, just slower. There was a moment where I panicked and opened my eyes but Cathy is very good at reassuring you. When you finally go under it is a deeply relaxing experience, almost like being conscious but asleep at the same time. Cathy talks to my subconscious, telling parts of my body to relax one by one. I can feel my body doing what she is asking without having to tell my body to do it myself. Then she brings you back, talks to you some more and then puts you under again. That was when she talked to me about spiders. I leave feeling thoroughly relaxed and with a totally different state of mind. She persuaded me to worry less, and my stress levels felt ten times lower already. She gives me a CD and tells me to practice self-hypnosis at home. I go home in a dream-like state. When I get home, I go looking for a spider out the back garden to see if I am still afraid. I find a middle-sized one eventually and put my finger right up to it, about a centimetre away. I don’t touch it as I don’t want it to move suddenly. I am not cured but definitely have come a long way. It is recommended to do more then one session with Cathy. Now, when I see a spider I still jump a little, but I don’t run away. Best of all, I reckon my midnight sleepovers on the sofa are a thing of the past.
- What causes my phobia?
- Main causes of phobias inlude past traumas and generally develop in late adolescence or early adulthood. Phobias tend to affect more women than men. Phobias are treatable and it is never too late to reclaim a panic-free life.
- What will I experience?
- People with phobias experience many anxiety-related symptoms when they’re exposed to the object or situation they fear. The symptoms are both emotional and physical. The symptoms of anxiety and fear can range from mild feelings of apprehension to a full-blown panic attack.
- What type of phobia do I have?
- There are four general types of common phobias and fears:
- Animal phobias – fears caused by an animal or insect. Examples include fear of snakes, fear of spiders, rodents, cats and dogs.
- Natural environment phobias – fears cued by objects found in nature such as fear of heights, storms, water and the dark.
- Situational phobias – fears triggered by a specific situation. Examples include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of elevators, fear of flying, fear of dentists, fear of driving and fear of bridges.
- Medical phobia – involves fear of blood, fear or injury, or a fear of medical procedures.
- How can I cure it?
Phobias can typically be cured by using Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Hypnosis or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Tips for coping with a phobia:
- Take small steps towards overcoming phobias. If you attempt to rush into it, you may feel over-whelmed and discouraged. Similarly, if you avoid taking any steps, you may never conquer your fear!
- Learn relaxation techniques to help you manage your anxiety and fear. This can be done by consulting a psychologist or by the use of a self help CD, especially designed for this purpose.
- Positive thinking. Keep optimistic when facing your fears by reminding yourself that you have the power of overcoming phobias and that there is no real danger.
- Take steps to empower yourself in other areas of your life. Take up a hobby or sport, join a club or take a self-help course.
- Read as much as you can about your condition. There are many self help books with valuable tips, facts about phobias, and advice on overcoming phobias.
Top Ten Phobias:
1. Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.
2. Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes.
3. Acrophobia: Fear of heights.
4. Agoraphobia: Fear of situations in which escape is difficult.
5. Cynophobia: Fear of dogs.
6. Astraphobia: Fear of thunder and lightening. .
7. Trypanophobia: Fear of injections.
8. Social Phobias: Fear of social situations.
9. Pteromerhanophobia: Fear of flying. .
- Mysophobia: Fear of germs or dirt.
What is NLP, CBT and Hypnotherapy?
- Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a system of alternative therapy which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour. It helps to change the connection between brain processes, language and behaviour that have been learned through experience (‘programming’).
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) involves gradual exposure to the feared object or situation at a gentle and understanding pace. If you are afraid of dogs, this therapy will encourage you to speak about dogs, look at pictures of them, be in the same room as one and eventually touch one.
- Cathy says: “During the hypnotherapy session you actually become more aware of your surroundings especially smells, sensations and sounds around you. On the odd occasion people might fall asleep and wake up on their own or not. There is no such thing that you will get stuck in a trance and never come out of it or that the hypnothereapist has full control over you.”
- “Treatment varies considerably from client to client, and depends to a great extent upon what sort of treatments the client responds to best. In other words, whilst there are a large number of techniques, there isn’t an off-the-shelf trick that works in the same way for everyone. The practitioner will establish, quite quickly, the best sorts of methods for you during the initial stages of your session. For further information regarding treatment contact Cathy Breslin on Ph. +353 45 876755, Mobile. +353 86 859 5917 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cathybreslin.com