NLP Applications: Overcoming Phobic Fear

By Jason Pasquet

I recently just found out that I had a minor case of sciophobia, the fear of shadows, while I was enjoying a refreshing sunny afternoon outdoors on a reclining chair. It just hit me, that as a small shadow passed by me, that my physiological reaction was very abrupt to the point where I became extremely fearful, flailing my left arm frantically in a vain attempt stop whatever was causing the shadow. Needless to say, it was just a fragile autumn leaf sailing in the breeze that spooked me. Inadvertently, this instance has prompted a curiosity in me to discuss briefly this type of motivational response, known as phobia, and how NLP tackles the issue.

Phobias are defined in the Encyclopedia of NLP as “an irrational, obsessive, and intense fear that is focused on a specific circumstance, idea or thing”. The word “phobia” is derived from the Greek word “phobos,” meaning fear. There are quite a number of different and specific types of phobias that have been independently defined. See if you can scout out any that pertain to you.

Neuro linguistic programming identifies these phobic responses as verifiable experiences that are difficult to fully understand because of our conditioning from our past, distorted views in our maps, and basic cognitive processes. These as well as our belief systems about the world greatly influence the kind of choices we exercise as a result of the fear. We will focus on a specific technique on how to respond to a phobia, and to cope with the fearful feelings spawning from it.

It is crucial first to realize the impairment of communication between reality and our “maps” that NLP describes, and how the phobic fear is engendered within this relationship. I hope to help widen a person’s maps by sharing the awareness of the golden presupposition that the maps we hold are not the territory–meaning that the limitation fear imposes can be understood as a product of our map. And in this light we can broaden our choices to facilitate powerful change when dealing with these mind-racking phobias.

Previously, I spoke of, in NLP: On Motivation, the nature of representational systems, i.e. visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, and the finer distinctions that elicit how we code our experiences known as submodalities. With regard to this knowledge, I want to share a special submodality that can greatly assist someone in overcoming phobias known as dissociation/association. Association basically involves the usual perspective of our everyday, firsthand reality that is experienced through the senses. When you’re associated with the stimulus of a phobia, it’s hard to analyze your behavior and to find a more resourceful state of mind. However, dissociation promotes a dispassionate view by distancing ourselves from the intensity of the emotions caused by the phobic incident. Allowing us to relax and have better clarity about the situation. Romilla Ready and Kate Burton in their book Neuro-Linguistic Programming for Dummies show an exercise involving this submodality principle to overcome the fear, known as the NLP Fast Phobia Cure. Using the V-K dissociation method in the exercise will give one a feeling of safety, and hopefully at least some respite from the phobia.

I’m happy to say that I’m cured of sciophobia from applying the instructions, and I know what to do if ever I find another bothersome phobia! Remember to have someone with you, a good friend or family member, to work this exercise out with you since phobias can range from simple to complex in terms of the emotional intensity experienced. Good luck!

Jason Pasquet is a Customer Service Specialist for Howard County Library System.

He is aspiring in the fields of psychology, life-coaching, NLP therapy, and counseling.