Vivid Imagery

0.0 Introduction
0.22 Progressive desensitisation
0.45 Example of progressive desensitisation
1.41 The importance of relaxation in the process
2.10 Associating relaxation with various steps in the process
2.56 What if time is an issue – introducing hypnotherapy to the desensitisation process
4.00 The brain, vivid imagination and reality…the secret of the Olympic athletes
4.42 THE concept of an ‘anchor’

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Alan Patching, back with you with another edition of Transforming Minds and this time we are going to talk, as promised last time,about ‘progressive desensitisation’.

Okay, there are basically two ways this can be done. We mentioned flooding in the last blog, so we won’t re-address that, but desensitisation is quite the opposite of flooding.

Flooding is simply exposing the person who has a problem to the very cause of the problem until the brain learns not to react to it; rough going, but very effective when done.

Now, progressive desensitisation is about breaking up the thing that concerns the person into little steps, so that they address it one step at a time. For example, someone who might have a fear of flying. They might break up their steps, it doesn’t matter how many steps, but let’s just say they’ve got 10 steps, and the first one might be thinking about taking a flight. The next thing might be booking the flight on the internet. The next thing might be confirming the flight a few days before they go, followed by packing their bags. Next might be moving out to the car, next arriving at the airport. Next, you’re going through the check-in procedures and so on, and so on, until they are on the flight taking off comfortably.

Having decided the steps and the processes the idea now is to get rid of the automatic mental reaction through the Limbic Hypothalamic System of the brain, but we will talk about that later. To the thought of flying and having an anxiety response … and the way that happens is we get the person to feel really relaxed in each of those steps.

So, if we were doing this in reality, in real time, we would say, ‘okay, what we want you to do is to think about going on a holiday looking at the positive sides of the holiday … being calm about it. Be on the internet; don’t make the booking until you are very relaxed. Just allow yourself to relax, think something nice and calm and relax and then make your booking. And if you get excited during it, just stop for a while and think of something calm’.

So we try to associate relaxation with the steps and the process, starting at the smallest and moving up to the largest, and indeed there are many organisations who offer around the world flying preparation for flights to help people with phobias by taking them to the airports and watching the planes and doing exactly what I am saying in this broken down matter. But any psychotherapist or psychologist can help you through that process. … physically associating relaxation with the various steps that you put together leading from a very low level of anxiety associated with flying in the particular instance up to the highest level.

So as you collapse the lower levels of anxiety the levels become less of a problem. Now, all well and good. The problem with that is that it can take a fair bit of time and you may not have time before you need to travel for a family or business experience. So this is where the world of hypnotherapy comes in.

Hypnotherapy fast-tracks the progressive desensitisation process. Hypnotherapy puts us into a very relaxed state and we’ve visualised things in our mind so once again the process is the same in terms of looking at the steps from a very low level of anxiety associated with air travel in this instance, to a very high level of anxiety associated with it, and you put them in a hierarchy.

Hypnotherapy puts you into a very relaxed state and has you visualising and clearly imagining going through broader steps and the higher order steps … right through to whatever your highest order step is, in a very relaxed state.

So, by associating relaxation with the act of flying and preparing to fly rather than anxiety, hypnotherapy allows desensitisation quickly, and it relies on a couple of things: first thing it relies on is the fact that the brain in general can’t tell the difference between vivid imagination and reality. Athletes have been using that for ages. Athletes know what their personal best is and yet they vividly imagine doing better than that and the brain clears any blockages (if there’s no threat associated with that) and if it’s within the realms of human possibility to allow them to achieve higher.

So this principle that the brain can’t tell the difference between vivid imagination and reality is very much at play in the hypnotherapeutic approach to progressive desensitisation.

Associated with hypnotherapy is the prevision of what we call an anchor. Now we all have anchors in our life and we’re going to talk about them in another blog post. But I’ll give you an example. You come to a stop sign … you just stop instantly. You don’t think about it, because you’re conditioned to do so.

So we are going to talk in our next post about how you can combine an anchor with the hypnotherapeutic approach or any other approach to dealing with a phobia such as flying or a phobia of speaking.

So don’t miss that post. I’ll be back with you in the next couple of days. Thanks for watching, I’m Alan Patching.

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