In an earlier article Phobias - A Description I told you about the way Jane reacted when confronted with a snake. What follows is a brief introduction to the model I use to explain phobic reactions and why they are so very real for the individuals that experience them.

All phobias are apparently irrational, but in truth they are not. They are based upon primitive self survival knowledge / instinct. In order to stay safe we must be aware of dangers in our environment. Natural dangers are:-
Heights - you could fall off
spiders - some spiders are poisonous
snakes - some are poisonous
being enclosed - the cave roof could fall down or you might be trapped in a confined space
dogs or other animals - could savage you
Vomiting - a sign of possible dangerous disease or just plain unpleasant
darkness - not possible to see dangers
open spaces - there are dangers all around in the World.
etc.etc..

The list is extensive. All these phobias have one common element, possible threats to life. Other phobias may be connected to life threatening or fear inducing situations. Fears of such things as buttons, birds, touching, nakedness, etc. all are linked emotionally to some situation in which a sense of fear or panic was induced.

For instance the fear of buttons could well stem from an early childhood experience of having a button tangled in long hair. Or of being unable to remove a coat or cardigan causing a young child to panic.

All phobias seem to stem from some significant experience. This significant event is linked to our basic, primitive, fears and fixed permanently in the mind. Many people are unable to recall the event as it is back in very early childhood.

Another factor of phobias is that they can grow just like snowballs, each time the phobic reaction occurs it strengthens the fear. This is because each experience is linked emotionally to the previous one.

If you have a phobia when the reaction is triggered you are reacting mentally to all previous feelings of fear in the same context. Your mind has created a structure to deal with the fear and each time you go through a similar experience the structure grows larger and stronger.

Imagine it this way.

The mind stores all experiences good, bad and indifferent with the emotion experienced at the time. The first experience of a fear is linked to the second and subsequent events of the same kind. Thus the phobia can grow and grow becoming more powerful with age. Phobias are emotional events and our brain is set up to react to fears before logic can assists us.

In a computer programme when you have finished a new piece of work you create a new file to store it. Each similar piece of work is stored in the same location or file.

When the mind experiences something new it carries out a similar operation. It creates a new mental folder to store connected experiences. Each subsequent experience of a similar type is linked to the first so they chain together. The difference between our minds and the computer is that we store emotions with our memories.

If the experiences that we have are positive then positive memories are linked together and our recollections are pleasant. If the memories are linked to negative emotions then the recollections are unpleasant.

I often describe what my phobic clients do as "400 simultaneous horror movies." This is because when confronted with their trigger they are re-experiencing all the bad experiences from the past in one sudden burst! As each incident is linked emotionally to the previous one then they sense each of the past occasions simultaneously. For the person with the phobia it is a powerful and overwhelming moment.

Also at an underlying level there can be a continual fear of having the reaction triggered again. This can lead to serious anxiety problems. Some form of treatment is essential in these cases.

Author's Bio: 

Ian Bracegirdle is a teacher, course leader and therapist. He uses methods drawn from Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis and other areas to help people lead more fulfilled lives. He live in East Morton in West Yorkshire in the UK. He currently works from home and looks forward to helping you with any personal concerns. The web site to visit is http://www.designingchange.co.uk