Far too many people suffer from fears and anxieties. Their experiences can range from a chronic, mild nervous feeling to a full blown panic attack. Ask anyone who has struggled through an episode of panic; the reactions are real and horrifying. In the extreme, these feelings can be debilitating to life itself.

People who seek hypnotherapy for resolving a fear, an anxiety or a phobia, usually find they can be successful in controlling this seemingly automatic reaction. The fears, anxieties or panic attacks which appear to hit them from out of nowhere actually do have subconscious roots, patterns and associations which can be changed.

Whether the person is dealing with a fear of flying, claustrophobia, performance anxiety, nervous feelings, or any other stress-induced reaction, they learn how to influence and change the way they feel and how they respond. When the subconscious associations are explored, understood and changed, people not only learn to control their own body, but the problem often goes away. Many people work with their doctor and decrease or even eliminate their anti-anxiety medications altogether.

I worked with a fifty year old business manager who was worried about an upcoming presentation. In the past "Betsy" felt anxious, incompetent and scared. Her palms would sweat profusely, her heart would race, her throat would tighten, her voice and body would shake. Regardless of her "self talk," regardless of her intellectual knowing, no matter how hard she tried to convince herself otherwise, she was absolutely terrified of what would happen.

She wanted to feel confident and self-assured but instead she felt scared, helpless and out of touch with her own body. She really did not trust herself to function the way she wanted to. After all, her body had failed her before and the feelings of shame and embarrassment were almost unbearable. How could anyone take her seriously as the professional she was, when she was obviously such an emotional wreck? Her story went like this:

Betsy and Anxiety
Betsy grew up on a big farm. She was lucky enough to have a horse and it was Betsy's responsibility to feed and care for him. Across the field she went, every morning and each night, giving her horse his food and water. When she had the time, she enjoyed brushing him.

The family farm was down the road from a drug rehabilitation center for teenaged kids. Betsy was secretly terrified of being out alone at night, crossing the field in the dark. Once, on an especially blustery winter's night, the snow was falling under a full moon and the shadows were everywhere. Betsy's hands were wet and cold from the water she had given her horse. She reached for the handle to close the stable door behind her when her hand froze to the cold metal.

Betsy stood there for about fifteen minutes in absolute fear, outside alone in the dark, her mind racing with horrible scenes of "what if?" She was also concerned about what everyone would think of her once they found out what happened. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, her mother came to see why she was taking so long. Her mother used warm water to release Betsy's hand. Betsy stuffed her fears away. She continued to care for her horse and never let anyone know how scared she really was.

This was the initial experience which was stored in her memory bank. Each time she recalled her experience and triggered her fear, it strengthened the pattern. Years later, when Betsy felt scared or threatened (real or perceived), it triggered her body's fight or flight response. Each time this happened, the feelings grew stronger. They linked to this childhood memory which had threatened her very survival, if only through her imagination. Remember, the subconscious mind doesn't distinguish between fantasy and reality; it responds to the incoming perceptions.

At the time of our first meeting, as Betsy talked about giving her presentation, she could feel the fear. Her palms began to sweat and her hands began to shake. Through hypnotherapy, she was able to become aware of and to understand a subconscious link that went like this: "My hand is wet. It is frozen to the handle and I am afraid." The realization of her predicament caused her to feel more fear. The more afraid she felt, the more aware she was that her hand was wet and frozen to the metal handle. "If I had dried my hand this wouldn't have happened." Wet hands and feeling afraid became subconsciously linked. "Fear means having wet hands. Therefore, when I feel afraid, my palms sweat."

These experiences were reviewed. New information that nothing bad happened back then and she is still alive, was integrated on a feeling level. Betsy was able to give her presentation with confidence and ease. She was aware of her body's reactions and she felt calm throughout.

Fear of Flying
"Megan" came in for hypnotherapy. She was terribly afraid of flying, but had to travel by airplane in order to attend a family reunion. She really wanted to go, but felt anxious every time she thought about flying. The last time she tried to fly, she had to get off the plane and was deeply embarrassed by the situation. Megan remembered the flight was delayed and all eyes were on her as she was escorted off the plane just before take-off. She never made it to her destination and was frustrated with herself.

In hypnosis, I learned Megan had a history of surgeries. On two separate occasions, just after surgery, she remembered being in an anesthesia-induced stupor, still aware yet feeling completely out of control. She was really scared and unable to do anything about it. She thought she was going to die. This was not the first time Megan felt nervous and frightened. In fact, she had felt this way most of her life.

In Megan's situation, these patterns went back into childhood when her father had some serious health problems. She remembered he stayed in a bed in the middle of the living room. Doctors would come and go. Her mother would cry. Megan recalled feeling really scared, since she didn't know what to do or what would happen. She was afraid he was going to die. Megan's initial subconscious link went like this: "Dad might die and I feel scared. I don't know what to expect."

This was the first occurrence of her fear. This pattern got triggered and repeated and was reinforced each time she felt this way. From the moment she'd awaken to the brink of sleep, the impression of her ailing father along with her fears were with her. Sometimes she'd even have nightmares about it. The daily occurrence of these events made a deep subconscious impression since they were continuous for four months. It felt like an eternity. Fortunately, Megan's father recovered and life went on.

Many years later, Megan's father had some heart problems, and on several occasions Megan had to be the one to rush him to the emergency room. Each time she witnessed her father's own panicked state, she experienced a fear of death, for her ailing father. Each of these experiences served to reinforce her earlier ones.

Megan's father died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-three. After her father's passing, the build-up of fear inside of Megan grew even stronger. She knew she had a fear about death but considered this to be how most people felt. Eventually, Megan experienced her first panic attack, which happened to take place on an airplane.

Her subconscious link was: "I don't know what to expect therefore, I feel scared. (sitting on plane)—I feel scared. Someone else might die." (like dad)

Flying and feeling panicked became a new association, a way for the suppressed anxiety energy to find release. As these memories were reviewed, Megan learned to control the fear chemicals created in her own body. She went to her family reunion and stayed calm while flying.

With these examples you can see these kinds of associations occur naturally through the neural network our body based on our experiences. This automatic part of learning determines what we believe to be true and how we then perceive and respond to life. When we explore these subconscious interpretations they can be understood and changed. New associations release different chemicals into the body which creates new feelings and new behaviors.

Rather than relying on medications to mask the fearful feelings, hypnotherapy deals with the cause behind the problem often creating results that are life affirming and permanent.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Swartz has worked as a clinical hypnotherapist for over 28 years. She is currently seeking opportunities to help organizations and businesses to improve their productivity through stress management and mind agility workshops and presentations.

Roberta's new self-health book, Me, Myself and Mind is receiving great reviews from hundreds of readers who are now learning to reclaim their health and their life through skills of self-hypnosis and self-hypnotherapy.

This article includes excerpts from Me, Myself and Mind®.