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Doesn’t life present us with lessons fairly often? I had the misfortune to be in a car accident a few days before Christmas. Luckily no one was badly hurt. I was whiplashed and had internal bruising, as I’m sure the young man who ran into the back of me must have had also. It was all a bit upsetting at the time but nevertheless, things got sorted out as they do, and now I’m fine. However, what wasn’t so fine was my nerve for driving.

One morning, six weeks after the accident I was driving to work – the usual rush hour of start-stop start-stop - and suddenly a car came up behind me quickly and braked, in time and with no real cause for concern. However, my heart almost pounded out of my chest with fright and it took me quite a few minutes to calm down again. It made me realise how ‘on alert’ my nervous system was for trouble on the roads. A few days later I took myself through an NLP trauma process and am back to my relaxed driving self, which is great, and much more pleasant for enjoying trips – including rush hour!

It was a good reminder to me that even minor nerves like this can limit our choices, impede our performance and stop us from living a full life. And the fabulous news is that they can be changed.


What kind of fears are we talking about?

Phobia’s and fears can extend to almost anything you can name. Some of the issues I’ve come across in working with clients, or know are common include being near or swimming in water (pool or sea), flying, heights, speaking, spiders and other creepy crawlies, driving or driving on major roads/motorways, birds, dogs, open spaces (agoraphobia), confined spaces (claustrophobia), social situations and the list goes on!

Fears and phobias can cause the body to experience tightness in the chest, increased heart rate, shortness or speed of breath, major butterflies in the stomach, nausea, etc. Behaviourally, fears can show up as nervousness or anxiety, upset, irritability or intolerance, short temper and avoiding people or situations.



Some fear is normal – but not too much

Fears and phobias are essentially the result of our fight or flight response being activated; it’s our built-in protection system. It is a hard-wired response designed to preserve the body. Our body kicks into survival mode to help us be safe in dangerous situations (think tiger in the wild about to pounce).

However, is it normal to have this kind of response when we are preparing to talk to a group of people in a conference room? Or thinking about going for a drive somewhere? Or noticing a small spider on the wall? Are we in mortal danger? Does this state of fear help us to be resourceful and effective? No. No. No.

If we are so frightened of a spider we are paralysed, so nervous about speaking our mind goes blank, or so afraid of water we couldn’t jump in to rescue a child if we needed to, we are not our fully resourceful self. Our fight or flight response is simply getting carried away and ‘over doing’ its job of protecting us. Jeffrey Schwartz, an American psychiatrist and neuroscience researcher calls these “overactive brain circuits”.  I call it the Drama Queen response. Calm down, dear!

 Some years ago I read Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, which is an empowering book about not letting your fears and emotions stop you from doing what you want in your life. I found it uplifting and encouraging. I have also discovered there are more options available to us than simply pushing through our fears.

Why is this important? Sometimes pushing through our fear serves us well – such as when we go skydiving. We usually push through any nerves we might have and enjoy the thrill of the experience because we really want to do it. On the other hand, when someone has a morbid fear, often no amount of rational thinking will help them break through their fear. This is because by then the fear response is hard-wired in and runs automatically. It’s what you would call a ‘glitch’ if we were talking about the software on your computer. And yes, you can fix the glitches!


Following a stressful experience playing in India that had left Emily tense on the golf course, she is back on form. 

“Since our session my improvements have been unbelievable! I've just won the Tauranga Open … my lowest four round tournament score in about a year … I love what we did together!”    

Emily Perry, Golfer          


Your clever brain can change your phobia

We can change our unconscious programming because of what neuroscientists call neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means the brain is able to change and establish neural pathways for patterns of emotions, thoughts or behaviours.

NLP is one of the most effective ways known to make changes like this. The structure of the techniques creates change at the unconscious level of the brain so that new behaviours are able to run, such as feeling calm and relaxed in social situations, or enjoying the view from the top of a mountain. While neuroplasticity is not household knowledge yet, studies are providing more and more examples of how it works, and explain why techniques from modalities like NLP work so well.

Changing a pattern like this doesn’t mean we remove our fight or flight response - it’s very much a permanent feature of our brain. We are simply re-coding the particular situation or thing that is currently registered in the brain as very unsafe, to feeling normal again.


Getting in charge

Getting in charge of our responses and feeling relaxed and comfortable in any of these situations really is within reach. And it’s not just about getting away from our fears, it is very much about living a full, joyful life. I remember setting a goal with a business woman who wanted to be a more confident presenter. She looked at me in surprise when I asked her if she would like to be enjoying it – it hadn’t occurred to her that she could do more than just get through it. You can enjoy these things in your life, and it’s the very least you deserve.


Read the full article here.

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Karen Ross

Fresh Ways Forward – Transformational Coaching


helping you get the life you want

© Copyright aVara Consulting Ltd 2012. Fresh Ways Forward is a brand of aVara Consulting Ltd.

Submitted At: 1 March 2012 5:18pm | Last Modified At: 1 March 2012 5:18pm
Article Views: 2667

Karen Ross is a respected coach working with individuals to make sustained meaningful change. Discover fascinating new ways to achieve your goals and create the kind of life you want with transformational coaching. Learn practical strategies and skills that empower you to take control. Don't you owe it to yourself?!

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