A phobia can be defined as an extreme reaction to a fear triggered by a stimulus – the stimulus being a physical, anticipated or even imagined encounter with the thing/situation that is feared – in this sense phobia might be considered a ‘fear of feeling fear’.
By its nature such phobic fear is uncontrolled, tends to be persistent and appears irrational. It is normally accompanied by a compelling desire to avoid the object, activity, or situation that provokes the fear. The irrational nature of phobia’s can mean that an individual’s phobias can be dismissed, belittled, laughed at or accompanied with the instruction to “just face it.” Just it rarely is.
Whilst there is some merit to some of the exposure techniques associated with ‘just facing it’, the individual is unlikely to see it so simply and is unlikely to thank anyone who simply manufactures a phobic situation for them to face, indeed that very approach may make matters far worse. This is because some psychologists argue that phobias are a learned response (in which case a gentle approach to unlearning might be considerate) and some argue that it is the result of trauma.
As far as the Human Givens approach is concerned the brain is concerned it is no different from PTSD, often provoking anxiety attacks. This is because the same neuronal pathways are involved and therefore the same considerate, gentle and empathetic approach is essential.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy advocates ‘fighting your fear’ using the acronym “FEAR – Face Everything And Recover” by gently and carefully adopting exposure opportunities in ways that stand up (preferred by the writer to ‘challenge’) to the phobic fear in manageable ways, slowly and carefully. With each successive exposure the sufferer learns how to respond calmly and effectively. This is, therefore, a great way to address the unlearning process, proving that the discomfort can be borne and survived. The capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn is a human given resource, one that all good counselling should encourage in the client.
The Human Givens approach to phobias works by addressing the neuronal pathways directly, turning the phobic associations, traumatic memories into ordinary memories. This is by means of a very simple counselling approach called the ‘Rewind Technique’ and another wonderful human given resource, called the ‘observing self’, which is the ability all humans have to observe their behaviour, self report it in counselling and calm the response to a phobia down.
The sooner the sufferer faces and resolves their fears, the sooner they will be in a place to get all of their needs met healthily.
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