Help With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Phobias - A Brief Introduction
The same process causes all fears, phobias and PTSD. Phobias and PTSD used to be thought of as different. The treatment offered for these was also different. The process that creates these problems is the same.
The process that creates these is designed to protect you from harm. It can be a form of one time learning. You can experience an event once (like having a spider, jump on you as a child) and if the emotion of fear is strong enough that is all it takes to create a phobia. The same as PTSD – you only have to be involved in one scary car crash to be traumatised by it for life (getting flashbacks etc…)
This process works by being very general, linking a highly emotional event with the environmental stimuli present at the time. This then allows those stimuli to trigger the same high emotion in the future. For example if you got bad news whilst at a party you may have seen balloons at the time so you may get a phobia of balloons. Or if a mugger wore a black shirt when they mugged you, you may get a phobia for black shirts or even for black. The same process causes fetishes. For example, having sex on the floor by some Wellington boots and the high emotion gets linked to the sight of the boots then after that you get aroused by the sight of Wellington boots.
To treat this is now very simple and can usually be done within one session using the rewind technique. It involves viewing the traumatic memory as if on a TV screen from before the ‘scary’ part began and through to after the ‘scary’ part ends. You start by relaxing, creating a ‘special calm place’ in your mind. Then watching you sitting in a chair watching the screen as that you watches the memory through to the end. Then drifting into the ‘you’ in the screen and rewinding through the experience really fast back to the beginning before the event began, seeing everything going backwards, hearing everything going backwards. Then drifting out of the screen to the ‘you’ on the seat, relaxing deeply into this position and watching the old memory in very fast forward to the end. Then again drifting and relaxing into the ‘you’ in the screen at the end of that old memory and experiencing it in rewind again even faster this time. Then drifting and relaxing back into the ‘you’ in the chair and watching the memory in even faster fast forward. This process is repeated until the memory can be experienced comfortably.
If there is more than one memory that needs this process then it can be done on all the relevant memories. For example: in cases of abuse or bullying. Usually it only needs to be done on one to three memories. After this if necessary you clients can imagine vividly, future times when they may be in similar situations and notice how relaxed they can remain. If it makes it easier you can put this memory on a scale of 1-10 with the client and then if it starts as a 10 you can track how quickly it goes down to a 2 or 3. Sometimes it is good not to completely remove the fear; for example a slight wariness to some spiders is natural and sensible.