Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP to overcome fears and phobias is a long recognised and proven treatment. In the hands of an expert it can work extremely well and very quickly – often after just a few sessions.
In a nutshell it works by taking a specific fear or phobia and disassociating and reframing the experience.
Wikipedia describe it as “a pseudoscientific approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States, in the 1970s.” Sounds complicated I know but read on – we’ve tried to explain what it’s all about in simple terms.
NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, in short, combines neurology and linguistics and creates a sort of programming that helps people change their thinking habits, help them deal with anxiety, stress, depression, overcome problems like lack of self-esteem, and overcome fears and phobias, among many other things. It started in California with the experimentations of a group of university students trying to put Fritz Perls’ (father of Gestalt therapy) into a different perspective by analyzing the language patterns used during Gestalt therapy sessions.
NLP focuses on the effects of our thoughts and how they dominate our life. Thoughts create our reality and it is important to reprogram our brain to gain more mental and emotional freedom and to take back control of our lives. Getting rid of bad habits and negative thought patterns take about a month and with the right approach, we can achieve anything in a short amount of time.
A phobia is a deep fear that is most of the time baseless. Meaning, you don’t have to experience something drastically negative to end up with a phobia. It could simply be because of something you heard from someone, something you saw on TV or read online. However, sometimes phobias and fears do have their bases in negative and horrifying past experiences. Whatever the case might be, living with this kind of fear keeps us hostage, turns us into slaves and stops us from enjoying our life to the fullest. We feel embarrassed, we feel low self-esteem and it is not easy to talk about it.
Professional and licensed NLP practitioners can help you overcome your fears and phobias and help you regain your freedom and serenity. Neuro-linguistic programming helps in a few major steps.
NLP helps you focus on your fear or phobia in a meditative state so you can closely experience that feeling and describe it as closely as possible. During this process, individuals might also discover many details related to this fear. This might be a traumatic event in the past that they had forgotten about, or they perhaps witnessed something that triggered this fear in them and they blocked the memory. Hypno-therapy works well to help resurfacing blocked memories.
The aim is to re-experience the feeling of fear and the phobia by imagining it and learning to associate it with positive, or simple, ordinary thought. What happens in this process is that the memory is moved to the neocortex from the amygdala. Amygdala is associated with the body’s defense process when a dangerous or frightening event occurs, it releases the adrenaline to make us act and either run away from the source of danger or fight it. The neocortex is responsible for conscious thoughts, it makes sense of our thoughts, and it is also responsible for the brain’s sensory perception.
This technique is called the Rewind Technique. It was developed by Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP. There are two key elements to this technique which aims to dissociate the individual from their traumatic experience. One key element is the visualization and the second element is the kinaesthetic phase, which controls the feelings. In a relaxed state, the individual learns how to restore this memory as an ordinary experience and in the kinaesthetic phase, they learn how to turn the traumatic feelings into calmer, relaxed, and positive ones.
The amount of time needed for the session depends on the severity and the density of one’s phobia. Sometimes it might take a few sessions to completely cure it, sometimes it might be cured in one single session. In many ways, fears and phobias are similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Another technique used to cure phobias is the anchoring technique. This technique aims to expose the individual to their fears mentally. Once exposed, it reprograms the brain to think of the fears in a different way. Usually, certain hand gestures or a physical movement is used to help the individual snap out of the fear state and get into a more balanced state. For instance, if you are scared of snakes, you imagine yourself in that state, then develop a gesture such as a hand or leg movement, maybe with a certain significant rhythm, or a tap on the shoulder, or squeezing your hand into a fist, etc.
At this point, the individual learns to think of positive thoughts. It can be words like “relaxed”, “happy”, “calm”, any positive word, all the while running positive images through their minds. Like petting a dog or a cat, sailing on the ocean, walking in nature.
Swish Pattern is another technique frequently used to overcome phobias and fears. It aims to replace the negative feeling with a more useful, positive feeling. Each of our memories represents a certain emotion. These emotions can be positive or negative. Our brains give tags to each memory when they store them. These are called emotional tags.
Imagine you are going to a job interview and you feel nervous, you are panicked. Anxiety and panic are the tags your brain assigned to this experience. What you need to do at this moment is to change these tags and replace them with “excitement” , “self-confidence”, to give an example.
Think of a memory associated with these tags, a time when you felt excited and confident. Imagine that moment, then quickly swish this image with the one that gives you anxiety and fear. And associate excitement and self-confidence quickly into this image.
Once you feel like the anxiety and fear are coming back, quickly swish back to the positive memory, and repeat as long as you need it. Each time, your positive thoughts will become stronger and stronger until the negative thoughts disappear for good.
Always make sure you work with a licensed professional to get the best results, and the help you need. The length of the process depends on how well you respond, as well as how determined you are to overcome your phobias and fears.