Psychology for Dummies #1: Overcoming fears

in life •  2 years ago 

Psychology is always a very heavy topic... I know 😅. When I am asked about my job and I am telling the person I am a psychotherapist...the first reaction I get is always Oh!😳

In my opinion psychology has to be understandable and it has to be easy and practical, even if it's not! Then I think it's my job to make it easy to understand for my patients.

It's my interest to get you as a reader interested...into psychology and into yourself, because to be honest psychology is a great topic! So come on, give it a try 😉 and of course...ask me any questions you like!

In my work I often have to help people overcoming their fears.

Many people suffer from anxiety disorders and one of the most effective treatments in cognitive behavioural psychology is the exposure to the situation causing the fear.

There are different kinds of exposure. You can go gradually facing the worst situation in steps. The *get a toe into the water first...then the feet...then the leg, and so on" type of method 😉. You can do this either in reality or imaginative. Yes, sometimes even imaginative 😲. Or you can get fully into the worst situation. This is called flooding. This is the *oh, my god Version 😅!

For most of my patients this feels like a life threatening thing to do! Actually when I would explain it to one of my patients in the beginning of the treatment like that...I guess most of them would run away immediately!

As a psychotherapist you first have to earn the trust of your patients, get to know them very well and be the most reliable person for them. You have to respect them and their feelings, so that you are the person they can tell everything, without feeling ashamed or feeling discomfortable.

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After that, the person needs to fully understand the logic behind the fear, the thoughts following each other and the body's behaviour as the body is reacting to fear. There is a logic behind fear and you can actually learn to understand it!

It is important to understand that the anxiety these persons suffer from I am talking about is believed as unnormal or irrational from the person itself. It often hinders the person to live a normal life and becomes unbearable.

While I am explaining the theory in the sessions, the exposure technique and the habituation process, my patients often ask me a lot of questions. That's perfect!

But I remember this one patient asking me a question that is stuck in my head because I couldn't really answer it.

She was asking me about my own worst fear situation. I told her that I would never dare to go skydiving...like never! She was really clever because she asked me (really annoyed about herself at that time) 😅"so, what on earth would motivate YOU to expose yourself to go skydiving?!"! Then she watched my reaction, as I felt completely foolish and we then both laughed for about 10 minutes about ourselves!
It didn't really matter at that moment what would motivate me because the whole situation was about her, but she had a point and this question kept me busy thinking for a long long time!

After treating a lot of anxiety disorders I know that this question is marking something like a turning point in the therapy and that it is one of the most important moments in the treatment. Because now the person is actually considering of throwing himself or herself into the fearful situation. The only thing missing for him or her is the answer to the question "why should I do this?"
"Why should I bring myself into such a stressful situation on purpose, when I could also just get away from it as fast as I can?!"

This leads me to the most important point in preparation of the exposure and in preparation of changing any behaviour, it's the motivation!

The trans-theoretical model of change (Prochaska and Di Clemente) is describing this "changing behaviour process".

The stages described in this theory are the following:

  1. Pre-contemplation
    The person is not conscious of a certain behaviour that would be better for him/her to change.
    Example: The person is riding a bike without a helmet and does not even think of wearing a helmet or about the threat of not wearing a helmet.

  2. Contemplation
    The person is getting aware of a behaviour that he/she could change, but the person is not yet considering to change it.
    Example: He/she is riding a bike without a helmet and knows about the risk and might think about better using one.

  3. Preparation
    The person decides to change a behaviour. At this stage the person is preparing for getting started.
    Example: The person is buying a helmet.

  4. Action
    The person decides to change. It's the stage of actually showing the new behaviour.
    Example: The person is wearing the helmet while riding the bike.

  5. Maintenance
    The person carries on showing the new behaviour.
    Example: The person is always wearing the helmet when riding a bike also months later after the change of behaviour.

The stages are flexible, this means it is possible that a person can go back and forth in the stages. For example when the helmet isn't sitting right, the person could stop wearing it (back to contemplation) and could decide to buy a new one (preparation).

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This means that if you have the heart to do something you are already in the third stage: the preparation stage! Taking this step you already went more than half way in the process! The question is what is motivating you to do this?! Think about this really careful because this is the most important thing to know! It keeps you on going, even when you are struggling, when you are tired or when you are afraid. Your motivation is essential!

If you want something you never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. (Thomas Jefferson)

When you are feeling stuck in your changing process you have to think about this over and over again, because your motivation is keeping you going! If you feel like quitting then maybe your motivation wasn't powerful enough. That's not a potty, just go back to stage 3 (preparation) and think over it again.
I am very sure you will find the perfect motivation for you. Always remember it has to be just for you and it has to be very powerful, very strong. You need to know what you are doing this for!

After this, I can tell you the following stages will get easier for you. I can always see and feel this turning point in my patients. When they have found their motivation they feel more peaceful and self-confident. The goal they want to achieve at the end is more powerful than fear.

It's one of the most worth living moments in therapy...when one of my patients goes beyond the fear and feels the relief, peace and happiness at the end of the session or treatment. It's always an honour to be with them, sharing this special moment!

To all of you interested in changing a behaviour and also to those struggling with changing a behaviour, have a closer look at your motivation, it's the key!

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Thank you very much! Yes it's hard sometimes but the moment afterwards is so rewarding 😉! Additionally the people I met already have something inside of them that wants to change and get rid of the fear so I just have to help them find a way and the right motivation. They are doing the most of the work!

Congratulations @travellove!
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Very interesting post. I hope you will post more of this kind of articles! Is it hard for you to make people do what they like the least?

Thank you! Did you check out the new ones 😉? Yes, it is hard work but it's worth it! The moment afterwards is so special for them and for me too! And to be honest there is something inside of them that wants to get rid of the fear, so I just have to help them finding their way and motivation.

Thank you very much! Yes it's hard sometimes but the moment afterwards is so rewarding 😉! Additionally the people I met already have something inside of them that wants to change and get rid of the fear so I just have to help them find a way and the right motivation. They are doing the most of the work!

thanks for a good article, lots to consider.