Phobias are irrational fears of situations, places or things that in reality do not pose the threat we perceive. We know that our fear is irrational but we have no control over the feeling. People can go to great lengths to avoid their fears and when they cannot avoid the fear they will suffer enormous stress or even panic. Sometimes this can happen even just thinking about the fear. People will then often start to avoid or steer clear of any anything that could trigger this response. So why do we have phobias? The answer is that it is linked to the evolution of our brain. In pre-history we would have roamed wild plains and open spaces and would have been open to attack. Our original primitive brain was all about survival and was wired up to perceive such life threatening situations. Instant hormonal and physiological changes took place to put as on high alert and give us a sudden burst of energy to respond and give us the best chance of surviving the potential attack. Our pulse rate and blood pressure speeded up to get more blood round the body, our senses became sharper and we could breathe more rapidly. All these changes happened so fast that we were not even aware of it happening; before we have even registered what we are looking at! The brain then stored this potentially deadly event and when we encountered the same or a similar threat In the future we retrieved that same memory and the body reacted as if there was a recurrence. We felt the same fear. However as our brain has developed throughout evolution, our ability to think abstractly and use imagination also developed. With this development our “fight or flight” response also became more sophisticated. This presented more problems for us. With these new thinking abilities not only did we feel fear in response to actual threats but we could now feel fear to our imagined threats. While we may consciously know that we are thinking of an imagined threat the sympathetic nervous system does not and responds as if it was real. We will feel the “fight or flight” response to our imagination. Phobias are irrational; the brain has overreacted to a stimulus. The brain areas that deal with stress and fear will keep retrieving the frightening event inappropriately. Hypnotherapy can help the brain to replace that memory and reaction with something more rational so life can be experienced with more balance.

2016-01-21