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The condition of phobias gets its name from “Phobos”, the mischievous Greek God of Fright.
A phobia is a fear which is precipitated by an event or perception of a “thing” or event. There may however be no logical connection between the event and the feeling of fear.
Phobia sufferers often realise that their fear is not reasonable, yet this gives little comfort or control. The response is a deep seated and unconscious response.
The feeling of the phobic response or experience may of course be physically similar to that of extreme anxiety which is in itself a fear response.
The main difference between phobia and anxiety is that the client believes that the response is linked to a thing or an event. Frequently the “anchor” which now triggers the phobic response is illogical and although the client realizes this, they are powerless to do anything about it.
Some researchers claim that phobias involve guilt about the experience of being frightened,(Berne et al).
When triggered by an external event, the “intensity of the phobia” does not allow for the conscious “knowing and feeling” about the original event. With hypnotherapy, the client will be able to rediscover the initial event and release the emotions associated with it, including the guilt. The client should be able to know his true fear and not feel guilty about it. Analytical hypnotherapy will also allow the client to reinterpret and reframe the initial incident.
Phobias tend to develop from intensely frightening experiences, and the fearful experience can be attached to a totally irrelevant object or one that is associated to the terror in some way.
Phobias can be modelled from a parent, and some researchers have discovered statistically significant links in terms of hereditary causes. (Kendler KS, Walters EE, Truett KR, et al, 1995)
S.J Rachman proposed three ways in which phobias can be acquired, (The conditioning theory of fear acquisition: a critical examination. )
Direct conditioning. This is where I would place the conflict causality mentioned in the text. Even if the phobia trigger is “illogical” it still develops from a perceived traumatic situation.
Vicarious learning including modelling of parents and imprinting.
Information/instruction. This would include being taught about certain dangers.
This has often been referred to as the “Three Pathway Theory”. According to the theory, intense phobic responses are acquired directly by an intense event as opposed to the common day fears which are acquired indirectly (Vicarious and Instruction) according to the theory.
There is also a convincing separation of phobias which may indicate different causes; such as
evolutionary relevant versus (An example would be snakes (which has an evolutionary significance)
non evolutionally relevant phobias such as balloons (a seemingly innocuous and pointless phobia which has no evolutionary link). (Mineka, S and Ohma, A. 2002)
Harald Merckelbach, et al. (1995) From Limberg university states;
“specific fears are highly prevalent among young children. In most children, these fears represent transitory phenomena. However, in a small subgroup of children, specific fears become chronic due to classical conditioning, modelling, and/or negative information transmission”.
Roy Hunter further differentiates phobias into
I don’t feel that Merklebach has drawn and exhaustively precise inference that normal childhood phobias linger due to “classical conditioning, modelling, and/or negative information transmission”.
There is some evidence that indicates that people who suffer from intense phobias make exceptional hypnotic subjects. (Crawford, Helen J.; Barabasz, Arreed F et al 1993) This could explain why some people develop terrible phobias and some don’t react as badly to a traumatic event.
The premise being that, people suffering from intense phobias have an exceptional ability to imagine and create outcomes. These outcomes become difficult to differentiate from reality.
These people have a habit or “strategy” of making big colourful pictures and internal movies of what might happen.
It would therefore follow that it would be useful to have some indication of the hypnotisability of the client; as it may indicate whether the phobia or disturbance was a result of self hypnosis.
Many measurements of hypnotisability were made with the following accepted and standardized instruments.
- The Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale
- The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility
- The Hypnotic Induction Profile, (HIP)
Positive relationships were found between hypnotisability on these scales and reaction to hypnotic techniques in dealing with phobias.
The relevance of this point is that although there may be an initial cause of the phobia, there is a highly efficient reinforcing strategy running at the same time.
In effect, do some sufferers of phobias anxieties just self hypnotise themselves so effectively that they become convinced of the threat? Is this why hypnosis as an intervention is frequently so effective?
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