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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More on Repressed Fear and Phobias

The following was a comment and question on yesterday's blog. I repeat it here with my answer.

"I can see how I'm at the point where I can recognize/acknowledge that feelings are being triggered by old neural patterns. However, in the case of irrational fear for example, fears I experience while driving, or while being yelled at in my case, those feelings are hard to ignore in the moment as they produce a disturbing physical reaction. My heart starts pounding like it's going to burst through my chest! I get very shaky too. This makes the event seem more "real," the feelings seem "valid," & renders me less capable of dealing effectively with what's in front of me. In the case of driving, that could be dangerous, which is why I stay stuck in a limited driving "territory" & never venture beyond it. Have wondered if driving school would help, or if the repressed fear would still get in the way.

"Would Price's book help with managing the physiological reactions? His book sounds like one I need to read anyway, since I deal with chronic back & more recently, arm pain. I somatize a lot of fear, I believe, & have done so for years."


Yes, I think Price's book would help with physiological pain. But even better would be to take a course in hypnosis for yourself.

As for irrational fear of driving or being yelled at. These fears are like any phobia. You focus on the phobia rather than addressing your repressed fear in order to make some sense out of your daily life because, usually, you are not in touch with your repressed fear and therefore can't attach your fear to any rational cause in order for your mind to make sense out what is happening to you. So the mind makes sense by focusing on the event rather than your irrational fear. And always remember, too, that blame is the way we avoid feeling our fear. It is easier to blame the event as causing the fear rather than understanding that you're needing to avoid the pain of your repressed fear by focusing on the event that supposedly caused the fear.

You can cure any phobia by accepting the fear engendered by the phobia, relaxing into the fear, surrendering to it, without continuing to focus your thinking on the actual phobia itself (which would engender more fear), and insisting on maintaining rational behavior at the same time at the same time the phobic event is occurring.

As a treatment for phobia and post traumatic stress syndrome (a type of phobia) some people use soothing music, or relaxing videos, introduced at the same time the phobic symbol is introduced to make a neural connection between them, thus lessening the next fearful impact of the phobic symbol by associating it with a soothing symbol. This way, when the phobia pops up, like it does with post traumatic stress syndrome, the soothing image pops in the brain at the same time to help neutralize the phobia.

Sometimes repetition of a supportive thought can be used (this is one of the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy) at the same time the phobic symbol is introduced which also, by association, tends to lessen the fearful impact of the phobia over time by dividing your one attention between the phobia and the support you are giving yourself. Such as when someone is yelling at you, you repetitively remind yourself that "I am okay and what can I do right now to take care of myself in this adverse situation." Or in the case of driving, remind yourself over and over that "I am okay and perfectly capable of driving safely."

We always have to remember that fear is produced in the the subcortex which is an instinct and triggers by itself. Your cognitive thinking is produced in the neocortex which may or may not be triggered by some learned association. So to be sure your rational faculties come to your aid under stressful circumstances, you must ask your brain "what can I do to help myself." You can pre-plan some supportive thoughts that will immediately provide support for yourself when they pop up through learned association whenever the chronic stressful event pops up.

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Thank you very much. I can see how the supportive thoughts you suggest are quite different from the ones I usually employ.

When being yelled at I think,"This shouldn't be happening to a nice person like me...I don't deserve this." That just perpetuates my victim role. When driving I think, "Accidents happen to even the best drivers...anything can happen anytime...what if I get lost, what if my car breaks down, what if I do something stupid, what if I make a wrong turn & end up on the highway? (my worst fear) Driving, I've convinced myself, is quite dangerous business. Surely, it is, but I also realize that people no smarter than me travel long distances & get on the highway every day.

Is post traumatic stress syndrome the same thing as post traumatic stress disorder? There are so many soldiers returning from Iraq/Afghanistan with PTSD. I've wondered what your recommendations would be for them.