There is an old saw that “speaking in front of others” is the second most terrifying thing a person has to do in his or her life. If it is the second, then what is the first? Some say death, and some say burning alive. What is it about performing that would make it almost as frightening as dying by fire?
For the majority of the population, it is hard to imagine standing in front of an audience without feeling one’s throat go dry, knees become weak and wobbly, and the stomach churn. Whether at work, in school or in a large performance hall, stage fright can take such a firm hold on people, that they can become temporarily immobilized and unable to respond. For many, the very thought of even having to offer their name in a group, or to make a brief announcement is so overwhelming that they will do anything possible to avoid being in such a situation. In many cases, performance fear can affect some people’s normal and necessary activities to such an extent that they are unable to succeed in the work they have been given to do.
The fact that the greater part of our population experiences being in front of a group, or having everyone’s eyes upon them, as terrifying, should not be surprising. After all, most of us have experienced the stress of having to perform “properly” from the time we entered school and had to correctly answer the teacher’s questions in front of all of our peers. Just the strain of having to “get it right,” suffering the responses of our teacher, or even our classmates, is often enough to make most people nervous about being “in front’ for the rest of their lives.
There are other causes of performance phobias that can stay with people for the rest of their lives:
? Repressed severe stress that can surface in the form of irrational fear, typical, for instance, of people on a job where there is a lot of pressure to succeed, or at home, where a family member tries hard to please.
? Another person’s reactions to having to perform before others may inadvertently serve as a role model.
? More than one negative experience many have built up fear to the point that just the anticipation of being in a performance situation can cause a phobic response.
? A seemingly unrelated issue may be involved, in which the inability to speak before the public without terror may be a symbol of the inability to speak up for oneself in other life situations.
? Continuous ridicule, depreciation, or dissatisfaction, especially by a parent, can lower a person’s self esteem to the point where they believe they have nothing worthwhile to say, or that whatever they say may be “wrong”. A painful emotional experience in the past can produce an unreasonable fear of the same or similar situation either at a conscious or subconscious level.
This leads us to the question of what to do about it. Telling oneself to simply “get over it” doesn’t work. And, for many people, just doing it more often does not lessen the fear. Such a fear can seem impossible to unlock, or even to understand. However, the competent hypnotherapist can help trace the majority of such performance phobias, and help the client release them forever.
Working at the subconscious level, where the fear has “hooked in”, is the most effective and quickest way to help a person through any fear, even if at a phobic stage. Hypnosis can do what will power alone cannot. Hypnosis can help a person achieve the relaxed, focused, and receptive state of mind that is necessary to change the negative programming that lies in the levels of the mind that we call the “unconscious” or “subconscious” self.
The problem with surmounting stage fright is that the conscious mind can come up with many justifications to support it. It can argue, however irrationally, that the fear is a real thing, and that one is quite powerless to change it. But hypnotherapy side steps that. In a sports metaphor, it is like a football player who makes an end-run around the other team’s guards in order to score a touchdown. The hypnotist makes an “end run’ around the conscious mind’s objections. By doing so, the client is more receptive to helpful suggestions and to accessing his or her own inner resources.
Often just giving suggestions that calms a person and encourages self confidence in performing situations is all it takes to help a conquer this fear. By “reprogramming” one’s subconscious mind, stage fright can be laid aside, and the client is freed to “step into the spotlight” with far more confidence. What you think becomes what you now can do, instead of what you did before.
Also, a trained hypnotherapist can act as a guide to help a person identify the specific event or person that caused the fear, and to sever its emotional ties. In a hypnotized stage of mind, the person confronts the fear, yet feels it now as a non-threatening experience. Once a “demon” is unmasked, it no longer has power.
Hypnosis is a remarkably effective tool for helping people conquer all kinds of fears and anxieties, not just stage fright. It can expose the root of one’s fear. The anxiety diminishes because the fear has been brought out of the dark of the past, into the light of the present. Releasing the fear and desensitizing one’s reactions brings the psyche back into balance. Once worked through in the subconscious mind, the conscious mind can take it and accept this new “memory.”
Del Hunter Morrill, M.S., Counseling Hypnotherapist Author of the GREAT ESCAPES script books and the NEW BEGINNINGS recording series
TRANSITIONS, a Center for Counseling & Hypnosis and home of New Beginnings Publishing Located in Tacoma, Washington USA
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