“If I continue my journey on this earth with my eyes closed, I’m bound to bruise or break. But my phobias are tearing me up, and I feel so much safer with ’em shut.”
Come on, open those eyes. I know phobias can be crippling, but you know what? There are things you can do to overcome them, so we need to talk.
So let’s get to the best part of all – treatment.
Two Specific Phobia Treatment Realities
Before we move on, I want to emphasize two very important specific phobia treatment realities…
- Treatment likely isn’t indicated unless your normal routine is being interrupted.
- It’s quite possible your specific phobia won’t fully disappear.
As unpleasant as my fear of heights (acrophobia) and bridges (gephyrophobia) are, I haven’t sought treatment. Why? Because successful completion of my normal routine doesn’t require enduring heights or bridges.
Now, regarding #2. That statement doesn’t equate to hopelessness. Where does it say that when taking action in the face of a severe phobia one has to perform flawlessly – as if the phobia didn’t exist?
Always remember, symptom management and accomplishment are the goals, not “symptomless” perfection!
Overcoming a Specific Phobia
No matter how you slice it, overcoming a specific phobia takes planning, practice, and patience. And the first order of biz is truly becoming willing to face the object of your fear.
When you’re ready to do that, you need to take the journey one small step at a time. See, the key is gradual and repetitive exposure – all along maintaining a sense of comfort and safety.
And as time ensues, you’ll learn to manage and conquer.
There are all sorts of tools available to help you approach and overcome your phobia. I’ll give you three…
- Fear Ladder: This is a technique that helps you gradually approach the object of your fear. Let’s say you share my fear of bridges. As you work toward your crossing, begin with pictures of bridges. Then maybe it’s on to YouTube videos and driving by a bridge – and more until you’re ready to smack it head-on. Do you see the progression here?
- Relaxation Exercises and Techniques: They’re so effective for most any anxiety situation, and approaching a phobia is no different. Name it – breathing work, muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, guided imagery – they’re all useful as you gradually prepare and real-time face your phobia.
- Challenging Negative Thoughts: Without a doubt, your patterns of thought and belief play a major role in your phobic presentation. And so it’s a mission of gaining insight into what you repeat mentally (and its inaccuracy) and learning to make positive (and accurate) adjustments.
A Real-Life Specific Phobia Management Replay
In wrapping-up the article, I want to share a story with you that brings to life some of the tools we just discussed…
Ten years ago I was handling some business in Green Bay, WI. I decided to do some solo-exploring and noticed a sizable bridge in the distance. In all of my gephyrophobia glory, I decided to find and cross it.
Turns out the bridge was on I-43, spanning the Fox River. To the northeast was a bay flowing out of Lake Michigan. If the bridge wasn’t nasty enough, there were signs as I started the incline warning of the potential for gusty winds.
Okay, here are some of the techniques I used to pull-off the crossing…
- I turned off the radio and tuned in my most intense powers of focus.
- I repeated to myself that no matter what happened, my truck was in no way going to fall off the bridge and, certainly, the bridge wasn’t going to crumble as I crossed it.
- I made an intense effort to manage my breathing and the tension in my upper abdomen by taking very slow and efficient abdominal breaths.
- As the anxiety built, I continued my intense focus upon my breathing, making sure I slowly pushed the air out of my mouth with a “shhhhh” kind of sound.
- I continued on with a very intense sense of focus, telling myself there’s logically nothing about which to be afraid, visualizing myself happily cruising along the highway (not the bridge) in a very calm and relaxed manner.
- I focused upon how I was interpreting, and reacting to, my second-to-second environment.
- I reminded myself that just as my mind created a sense of impending doom, it could also create something even more powerful to assure me all will be fine.
- I stayed in the left lane and kept my eyes forward.
Absolutely, that took one heckuva’ lot of effort. But you know what? I made it. Furthermore, I got off at the first exit, turned around, and crossed it again. And, yes, it was easier.
Well, that’s a wrap on the series. I enjoyed bringing it your way. Certainly it isn’t going to cure you of your specific phobias in one reading. But it is going to provide you with a ton of education and ideas.
And whether you choose to go it alone, or grab some professional help, the next move is yours. Elect to move forward and feel better, okay?
You’ll be proud of yourself!