The book Phobias, Disappointments and Grief: A Fast Remedy written by the well-known Russian psychotherapist Andrey Ermoshin presents Psychocatalysis, his own method which has helped thousands of patients to recover from the consequences of psychological traumas. The work is illustrated with detailed examples of working through different kinds of phobias, from the fear of flight to the fear of sudden death. It also provides examples of how Psychocatalysis can efficiently relieve the pain caused by disappointment, betrayal, infidelity or loss of a loved one. Psychocatalysis is an original method based on bringing special attention to one’s inner sensations. After 30 years of working with this method the author offers the readers this step-by-step guide to self-regulation which can be useful for everyone who needs help with his or her problems or is going to help others.
The method and the working algorithms, are described in a highly intelligible manner, including reference materials and artwork.
This book, that you have in your hands, will help you to overcome phobias and other kinds of traumas in a fast and effective way. It will give you the necessary tools for a fresh start and will help you move towards health and success.
Everybody can face psychologically challenging and traumatizing life situations. We have to resolve these situations in order to remain healthy, happy and successful. And we have to learn a way to overcome these obstacles and to move on. This book is about how to use self-regulation to easily and naturally get through the effects of stressful events, including not only phobias but also betrayal, frustration, and grief. Here you will find many examples of how people managed to purify their body and mind of the destructive and paralysing build-up of negative experiences using the resource of their own inner sensations. Thousands of patients have already used Psychocatalysis and have been able to acquire new strength and knowledge to become healthy and to bring their projects to life. These cases show that it’s possible to overcome phobias and other psychological traumas if you follow a simple algorithm which only requires tuning in to your own sensations.
Psychocatalysis, a method which I have developed, has been in use for decades by myself, my colleagues and my patients in Russia and abroad, and is based on the body’s fundamental resource of self-healing. It is actually an acceleration of the processes which should be happening in the body naturally, but which are delayed for various reasons and need now only to be activated.
In my first book, Objects inside the Body (Moscow, 1999, 2004, Riga, 2007, Kiev, 2013), based on years of practice as a psychotherapist, I described the positive effects of Psychocatalysis in the most complex cases. The book had a significant response, and my new friends, colleagues, patients and other interested people have kept on discovering the potential of the method. I am very grateful for their support.
The second book, Geometry of Emotion (Moscow, 2008, Kiev, 2013), shows how emotional charges accumulated in the body can be easily diagnosed through a simple drawing test, and how this approach can help us to work through problems, one by one.
The third book, A Nice and Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Self-Regulation as A Method of Quick Acquisition of Knowledge (Moscow, 2014), describes a very comfortable and light manner of learning foreign languages, as well as a quick way to grasp new things. The book offers the reader a series of self-regulatory exercises based on the method of Psychocatalysis, which will not only make your learning process more efficient and help you find an easier way to learn but will also contribute to the overall health of the body.
The three books I have mentioned above can become a good supplement to this volume, but you don’t have to read them before this book. I have tried to make it simple and clear so that you could get the maximum benefit from this book and save your time. My goal is to share my experience and to provide you with a convenient technique of healing traumas. Whether you are a professional psychotherapist or you want to work through your own problems, this book and method will help you.
The book consists of three parts relating to the three most frequent types of problems.
The first part is about overcoming phobias, these are obsessional fears which are formed in a situation when a person couldn’t generate an adequate response to a stressful situation. I will explain what is going on in our mind when it goes through unexpected stress. However, it’s not only about determining a diagnosis. The main goal is to heal the wound, to restore the integrity of the body and to learn how to react calmly and rationally to what used to cause fear.
A good example is always better than long and complex explanations; that is why the first part of the book contains a lot of actual cases from my work with patients. They provide details of how one can overcome the effects of traumas starting from slight intimidation to multiple phobias, and from fear of aggression to fear of enclosed spaces. In this part I will also offer some algorithms, designed to help you adjust and maintain the results you have obtained. The “method of diagnostic phrases” and the method of “guiding the knowledge to the body” will help you to reinforce your success.
In the second part we will get a broader perspective. Here we will talk about overcoming the whole range of psychological traumas: disappointment, unjust accusations, and loss of loved ones. How can we live through grief, betrayal of a friend or infidelity of a partner? How can we get rid of recurring dreams which reveal a deep emotional strain? How can we react properly to abuse and insults? Using real life examples, I show how to master the impacts of such trying events.
I dedicate special attention to the most difficult cases when the psychological trauma results from the consequences of brain damage, such as when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen or other complications. Psychocatalysis also proves to be useful in these cases.
My method is all about making decisions and starting to act. The goal of this book is to help you to get rid of the dead weight of the old stressful feelings, to recover and to move on. If you focus on helping the inner wisdom of your body, a miraculous renovation of your life will happen. You will experience personal growth and develop such qualities as integrity, balance, and competence. This will bring your spirit to the next level and create a basis for your personal fulfilment in all areas of life.
Please, feel free to ask any questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are always welcome to visit my websites:
I will be grateful to get feedback from you or to meet you during one of the self-regulation trainings which we organise!
A human being is born already having a wealth of knowledge about the world, just like a wasp which doesn’t need a university degree to build its nest. The information on how to live is written in our bodies and accessed as soon as we need it. Plato said that while studying we merely recall things rather than learning something new. However, even if we have the biggest of experiences, there will be things we won’t be able to recall… Life is always changing, and there will be situations that we haven’t experienced before.
I like the Italian word “aggiornamento”, which is connected to “giorno” (a day); it means updating knowledge and making it closer to the current situation. We can also refer to it as the refinement of knowledge. The goal of such basic training is to get to know how to interpret the contemporary world. The values transmitted by our families and schools provide us with behaviour strategies for modern situations, which we may face without having any information about them in our genetics. Culture makes an update to nature, and the level of our competence rises.
Even with a good upbringing, every person and every generation has to acquire some life experience on his or her own, without parents or teachers by their side. If the intellect accompanied by the cultural resource doesn’t manage to deal with some situation, it can result in adaptive stress or even a trauma. A trauma is followed by an engagement of the primitive strategies of survival, written in our genes “just in case”.
It’s cool to be at school
Even the situations we don’t consider extreme can potentially be stressful: the first time in a nursery, the first day of primary school, having a brother or a sister and other similar events which are quite natural.
Going to school is presented to children as something joyful but trying to get along with rough children and dealing with a strict teacher can cause dramatic emotions for a sensitive child. Having a newborn brings happiness to the family. Yet when the attention of the parents shifts from the older child to the baby, the older child may be in a situation that can bring about a mixture of positive feelings and those emotions that can be hard to bear.
The list of such potentially stressful situations also includes tension in the family, moving to a new place, going to a new class at school, etc.
In life a person faces many experiences: changes in the body during adolescence, passing entrance examinations for college, looking for a job, getting married, having children, climbing the career ladder at the office, overcoming the death of loved ones, resolving social tempests, learning how to take care of his or her health, losing a job, entering retirement. All these events are natural parts of our life, but every single one of them requires adaptation. In many cases this adaptation is obtained through strain and can even lead to a feeling of defeat.
The problem is that the consequences of what we have been through leave their print on our psychosomatic profile.
Time of change
A constructive drawing of a person, a simple test, can prove this. Draw an image of a person using rectangles, round-shaped elements and triangles. There should be 10 elements in the drawing. Now specify the age of the character.
It is most likely that the age of the character will point back to some crucial moment in your life. Body proportions in the drawing that are unusually bigger and wider than the rest of the body can indicate areas of strain. Other parts of the body, which are often the limbs, are designated by triangles, which means they are in state of “desolation”. We’ll turn back to this test further on in this book. It is also described in detail in my book Geometry of Emotion (A. Ermoshin, 2008).
The situations described are connected mostly with adaptive stress. Yet as we have mentioned before, some cases do not only cause strain but significantly alter the state of health of a person. They catch the person off-guard and are so hard to embrace that they end up causing trauma.
It’s hard to go through it without getting wounded
It is hard to find a person who hasn’t experienced disloyalty of friends, disappointment in people who seemed to be ideal or aggression from other people for no reason at all…
Life isn’t all a bed of roses, says the proverb.
However, even the situations which are not so dramatic from the point of view of an adult could be traumatizing. For example, when entering an elevator, a person expects to go out at a certain floor in a minute or two. But all of a sudden, this device designed to save people’s energy, stops, and the light goes off. This is just a temporary stop. Somebody will certainly come to help, because people need the elevators and their functionality is monitored. It is enough just to press the emergency button if the person wants the help come sooner. Alternatively, the person could knock loudly on the doors to get somebody’s attention. Also usually it’s possible to use a mobile phone which almost everyone has in his or her pocket, or the person could just have a rest, think about things or even meditate. Is there any difference between a person at home and the same person inside an elevator? Usually there isn’t. All the power stays with this person, all the inner self-regulation mechanisms, which have been forming for thousands of years, work the same way!
This is how an adult, a self-assured person understands the situation. Yet a boy or a girl could imagine that he or she would never go out of this unfortunate elevator or see his or her parents ever again…
That isn’t true, of course, and soon everything will be fine but because of this loss of self-confidence, even if it’s just for a moment, a child’s mind might “catch” this fright, and it “settles down” somewhere inside and begins to control the state of mind even after the child gets out of the elevator. (This is exactly what happened to my patient Julia; you will read her story later in this book). The fright generates the fear. Even the thought of the unpleasant experience.
Enthusiasm of a bouncy dog brings no joy
Psychological traumas can be caused by the situations when a person encounters circumstances which are threatening for their life or for their honour and dignity, and which he or she is not ready to face. A large dog decided to play with a three-year-old girl, kicked her down and tore her dress. How will she react? Would she be able to sympathize with the dog’s enthusiasm and feel the joy of life? It is unlikely, as she definitely doesn’t have enough self-confidence. Instead, she feels afraid.
A person who has enough “resources” reacts differently. Serge has just got out of a suburban train and suddenly he gets gripped by the neck from behind by a large man from a crowd of drunken friends. It’s a do-or-die situation. These guys have been recently discharged from the army, there’s no way he can beat them. Serge tries to loosen the grip a bit and asks the aggressor: “Wanna become friends?” — “Yeah!” answers the bully suddenly. The bully then loosens the grip, they get acquainted and in a minute the jolly crowd decides to walk Serge home so that nobody could bother him. The shocking gesture of the bully masked a clumsy attempt to make friends. Serge helped him to understand this and was rewarded for it.
There is a bright feeling of assertion growing in Serge’s body from his capacity to answer life’s challenges. And in the girl’s mind there is a dark strain.
The goals of this book include presenting a solution for such tension resulting from a trauma. We will begin with fears, as this kind of problem is particularly frequent. All of my observations are based on a large medical practice and are verified by the work done with a number of patients.
Part 1. Work through Phobias and Panic Attacks
I’d like to point out that in many cases five or ten minutes can be enough to work through the fear and improve the life of the patient.
As an introduction, I’ll tell you a story of a successful recovery from a fear of spiders. This is a story which I personally like to recall from time to time.
One day in Paris
There’s a cafe called “L’Apostrophe” in Paris, on Colonel Fabien Street. Once a month it becomes a rendezvous point for local hypnologists and turns into a “Hypnocafé”. Professionals from the psychotherapy world gather there to learn about foreign specialists’ methods or just have a cup of coffee together.
This time on the second Tuesday of the month it was my turn to present at the meeting. My precursors were Jeffrey Zeig and Betty Erickson so I was in good company. I was invited by Jean Becchio, a brilliant specialist in “nouvelle hypnose”.
I was surrounded by a dozen colleagues, and we stumbled into the cafe a little late, slightly wet from the November rain: it turned out that a taxi in Paris is rather unpredictable, and sometimes it doesn’t arrive even if you call beforehand.
It also was a kind of a stressful test for mental equilibrium, but we managed to pass it. People were expecting us, and after a short presentation we could proceed to work.
A colleague from France volunteered to talk with me in front of the group. She was about 45 and quite skinny. Such people often describe themselves as being indifferent to life. “I don’t care if I’m free or I’m in captivity,” says the Russian proverb. But Regina turned out to be quite cheerful. The only problem she did have was her fear of spiders. One would wonder if there were any spiders in Paris at all. There are no tarantulas, no dreadful black widows or steppe spiders, no scorpions either.
“Yes, there are!” Regina objected. “They’re everywhere!”
“But you know that you are big, and they are small. They can do you no harm.”
“No, it’s me who is tiny, and they are giant!” Regina said and told me that when spiders are mentioned she freezes, begins to tremble, and her hands become cold.
“Your hands become cold, so where does the heat go?” — I asked. The tension and the heat happened to be in her stomach.
I wondered if she was aware of any ways to counteract spiders. One could use shaving foam, or just throw a towel over the spider and then throw it out of a window. Regina shook her head and made it clear that was not her way. It doesn’t work for her.
The black spider flew away with his web
That’s when we begin the active part of our work.
The first working phase. We try to find out where in the body is the thing that frightens her. Regina closes her eyes: “In my stomach.” What is there? “There is a black spider.” Regina makes a decision to let it go away. Regina is observing the process. The “spider” goes out through the top of her head together with its web.
The second working phase. “Where is the knowledge of how to deal with spiders?” The patient finds it to be somewhere at a distance in shape of a small sun. The decision is to let the sun settle inside the body. The patient is watching it going inside through the top of her head and settling in the solar plexus area.
Regina experiences warmth and peace.
We make a test. The patient imagines that she has a run in with a spider. She keeps calm, she knows several effective ways of action and easily imagines what her behaviour will be like if she actually meets a spider.
Before the session the patient felt cold, and now she feels warm. A phobia which had been haunting her all her life finally disappeared as a bad dream. At the end of the meeting Regina came over to thank me and confirmed that she was still feeling the warmth in her body.
My French colleagues felt puzzled: “We usually need ten years to analyse phobias, and here it takes ten minutes… This seems weird.” “You can spend ten years, but if you wish to have the time to live without phobias, I’d recommend you my method,” I said. I also found the reaction of my German friend interesting; his wife Tatiana told me about it. Uwe Pertz is a wise man so his words are even more valuable: “Why hasn’t it occurred to anyone else to do it? It seems so simple!”
Fast facts about developing phobias
When a person finds him or herself in some unexpected situation and is unsure how to act in order to save themselves or their family, he or she feels lost. This person feels like his or her body has absorbed some toxic substance which poisons everything around it. This substance has penetrated the body and reached the stomach, so there arises an unpleasant tension at every thought of the frightening situation. Let alone the discomfort which affects the head or triggers the feeling of anxiety in the chest. Those layers of disorder are more superficial.
At the moment of confusion, the body was open and defenceless, so the inner vacuum got filled with darkness. This moment has passed, and the body has closed but it is not the same any more: it’s “poisoned” by fear. That’s how a phobia develops.
It is not enough just to understand
Most of the actual systems of phobia treatments are based on the fact that people can understand that their fears are illogical. Curing the neurotic fear using Psychocatalysis also begins with realizing that “you shouldn’t be afraid,” but it doesn’t end there.
It is essential to work with the deeper layers of irrational fear. We need to trigger a process which reverses the original process that took place at the moment when the phobia developed, that is: to find something that got inside the body without an invitation, and remove it. Then there comes the phase of getting experience out of the situation, elaborating a sensible attitude to the fact that life sometimes challenges us…
Phobias can be cured fast but it is essential to pass both the phase of “the darkness getting out” and that of “the light coming in”. If this happens then a fear that has lasted for years can be treated within one session.
The active role of a patient
In many popular systems that work with fears, the patient is often just an extra player. But in Psychocatalysis the work is executed by the patient himself and the patient’s body in self-regulation mode. The task of the specialist is to make the patient do this work.
Within generally accepted therapeutic approaches certain manipulations are performed with the patient on the assumption that a recovery may occur. Psychocatalysis engages the patient in the whole process: that is why it is clear that you know you are actually cured, and not just hoping that you are.
The process is very calm and fast and doesn’t aggravate the patient’s state with any hysteria or mystification.
Psychocatalysis provides a fast and effective work-through of all the components of the background connected with phobias.
Before starting to give detailed practical suggestions, I’d like first to briefly describe the factors which can trigger the development of fears and explain what is going on in our brain at the moment when we are experiencing danger. I mention it in order to show how important it is to involve our inner sensations and not only the reason for the tension. I will also give a short description of other methods of phobia treatment and explain why they are less efficient than my method of Psychocatalysis. Those readers who are not that interested in these details can go straight to the part containing practical advice.
1.2. What is a phobia: general remarks
According to population studies, the majority of healthy individuals (60.7% of men and 51.2% of women) at some moment of their lives get serious psychological traumas accompanied by fear, desolation, or a feeling of helplessness.
On average, in a quarter of all cases the traumas take root and become chronic. (See.: В. Н. Краснов с соавт., 2007).
I’ve tried to find out how many people feel uncomfortable in their everyday life because of their fears.
The situation according to a survey taken on my site Psychocatalysis.ru, in 2011—2012, is the following:
— 59.2% of the surveyed admitted “feeling uncomfortable about certain aspects of reality”,
— 33.8% of people declared “having a certain phobia”.
The option “I’m not afraid of anything” was chosen by just 7%.
The most frequent fears of the modern metropolitan population are connected with health, traffic, and means of transportation. In addition to this short list, there is a long list of more exotic and rare fears.
For example, one can develop the fear of feathers after hearing the news about the bird flu.
It’s worth saying that mankind has experienced phobias since the dawn of time.
In the works by Areteus of Cappadocea (latter half 1st century B.C.) there’s a description of a case in which you can easily recognize what today would be called agoraphobia.
“Some patients don’t show anything unusual at home, but in less familiar atmosphere, you can notice at once the incapacity of their mind. One carpenter was like this. He measured the planks carefully, was a skilled woodworker, made reasonable arrangements with the customers, but all this was only when he was within his usual scope of activity. But every time he was going to the square, to the market or baths he put down his tools with a deep sigh, bent his back, started to shake and went into a state of sad agitation as he was losing sight of his workshop and his apprentices. After he turned back home, he calmed down and went about work again.”
(Каннабих Ю. 1994. p. 45).
Felix Platter (1537—1614) describes obsessive-compulsive disorders amongst other mental diseases:
“One woman, a correspondence clerk’s wife, can’t dismiss a fear of killing her husband, whom she loves very much by the way. Another woman, a cantiniere, feels the same kind of worry concerning her newborn baby; both of them would like to forget about these thoughts, but they can’t”
(Ibid., p. 93—94).
The number of phobias is almost immeasurable. There are people who try to classify fears and add new exotic names to the list… This list called the doctrine of fears, was named by one specialist as “the garden of Greek roots” (You can see it at Appendix I). In my opinion, such classification is more philological than bearing any practical value. The keys to working through these unpleasant states is the knowledge about the processes which go on in the mind when a person is afraid, rather than the terms used to name various conditions.
There are several important factors which affect the chances of a person developing a phobia.
1. Natural factor: the nature of a person. There are people who are naturally resistant to changes in their surroundings and those who feel at a loss even if there’s a slightest confusion in their life. Some people worry and are frightened even when the reason for it is insignificant. Their body type is in most cases elongated: a narrow face, a thin neck, comparatively long arms and legs. This constitution type (phenotype) is called asthenic or gracile.
People with fine skin and soft hair often worry too much about their family. These peculiarities are typical of so called “pyknic”, or sumptuous body type.
There is another phenotype that falls within the danger area. These people are inclined to day-dreaming and exaggerating reality. They have deep-set eyes, a narrow nose and a chiselled face: their body type is “bony” and lean.
2. The memory of generations. According to the ideas of some researchers (B. Hellinger, V. Dokuchaev, L. Dokuchaeva), the information from the precedent generations can be transmitted to their succession through the family spiritual field, through the “big soul” which all of us belong to. Sometimes my patients notice that the positive experience and support comes from “the roots” or “from the back”. But the memory of stressful situation which the ancestors had gone through can also be inherited. In this case a person experiences fears which cannot be explained by his or her own life or the contemporary situation.
3. Early childhood impressions. It often happens that the beginning of life creates a base for phobias and other traumas. Lack of experience and support, high levels of sensibility; there aren’t many people who managed to avoid “childhood fears”. In many cases they transform and become a part of the adult life. Some of the authors also pay special attention to pregnancy and childbearing periods (O. Rank, S. Grof).
4. Type of education. It’s quite important what kind world view was received from the patient’s family. It’s great if the overall spirit was that every problem could be solved: “there’s a chance in every crisis, I see the goal and I don’t see any obstacles.” But it’s a different story if the mood of panic was predominant in the family and if every trouble is seen as apocalyptic. It’s one thing when the child was taught to lead a healthy lifestyle and to wash hands before eating. However, it’s a totally different thing if there was a constant “fight with germs” and if they suggested the idea of people being helpless as if the immune system didn’t exist at all. Of course the risk of development of stable fears is much higher in the latter case.
4. General level of education and life competence. The more you know about life and ways of solving the problems, the calmer and more self-assured you are. The calmer you are, the more adequate your actions are. The more adequately you act, the more self-assurance you get. And vice versa, the less experienced you are, the more nervous you get and it’s more likely that you won’t accept the challenge.
5. Situations when it’s really difficult to adapt. There are extreme cases which even a very reasonable person can find difficult to maintain his or her cool. Unexpected situations may arise at the time when one simply has no experience dealing with and feels completely helpless. Such situations can happen at any stage in our life: from infant to elderly.
6. Whether one enjoys or lacks the support of other people or of society in general. An active team member can find it easier to overcome challenges than a lonely person. Keeping one’s cool is much easier when everything is calm rather than when the situation is critical. A state with a well-established social programme facilitates the resolution of various emergency situations unlike a society where every man is for himself.
Other risk factors
There are other reasons that may cause fear. If one’s immune system is weak, it is easier to get an infection. In exactly the same way when the overall energy level of a person is low (or even when one hasn’t had enough sleep or has recently had the flu), then there is a chance that this person has lower self-esteem and might end up suffering from a phobia.
Our brain works consistently if it gets enough oxygen. In the case of painless ischaemia, that is in the case of insufficient blood supply, our brain’s energy “goes down”. In this situation a person is prone to “catching” a fear.
Lack of oxygen can also cause panic attacks. When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it tries to increase the blood flow and triggers an adrenalin rush. As a result, the blood flow increases, the heart rate increases, and blood pressure goes up, but this state is rather unpleasant. In this situation a person might think that he or she is losing their mind or dying.
Unfortunately, the majority of people who experience a sympathoadrenal episode don’t know that this is a sign of life and not a preview of death. It’s just a very awkward way our body regulates itself. Such episodes trigger our fears that something might be wrong with our health. If that is your case, you will find more information on it in part 1.15 where I will show several examples from practice and will offer you a step-by-step action plan.
Important information: some conditions can have different origins but are manifested through similar symptoms. It is very important to understand that not all these conditions have psychological grounds.
Anxiety and phobic disorders after chemical intoxication (delirium alcoholicum, for example) are to be treated with a complex approach. In such cases medication, and psychotherapy only wouldn’t be enough. More than that, relying exclusively on psychotherapy may lead to the death of the patient.
Phobias caused by endogenous psychosis such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, etc. which are usually accompanied by hallucinations and delusions are a separate case. In these situations, a patient would also need a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Organic lesion of the central nervous system (CNS) caused by oxygen deficiency during pregnancy or labour (asphyxia) or head injuries and brain tissue injuries, can also lead to phobias: nervous processes are characterized by lower degree of stability, and that is why failures such as micro epilepsy occur.
A vitamin D deficiency during childhood, which influences calcium uptake can lead to the conditions when a child becomes easily scared.
What doesn’t have to be treated
We have to note that one has to distinguish between manifestations of phobias or neuroses and a natural activation of energy sources which takes place before crucial moments in our lives. For an actor who is about to go on stage or for an athlete getting ready for a competition feeling nervous is absolutely natural. There is a special term for it: stage fright. It is characterized by an increase of the heartbeat and hurried breathing. However, this is a healthy reaction if it doesn’t reach any extreme manifestations. Many people would experience the same feeling before public speaking or before an important meeting. The reason why we have to go through these physiological changes is to get some additional strength. It is a way the body prepares itself for a challenge, thus it’s a preparatory stage and not some traumatic consequences.
Lack of confidence, however uncomfortable it may be, cannot be considered as a traumatic consequence either. What one might find there is the lack of competence and a feeling of one’s vulnerability but there is no psychological wound.
It is the reaction to psychotrauma that we would like to talk about in this book. According to the clinical scale “psychosis — psychopathy — neurosis,” we will focus our attention on the disorders of the neurotic level.
A phobia is an information trauma
A phobia is a result of an injury inflicted by frightening information at the moment of one’s confusion. This process triggers old survival strategies characterised by stereotypic simulation of defence mechanisms caused by any sign of danger, however distant and associative it may be.
In other words, a phobia is the state of a body when it experiences tension, feels traumatized by this encounter for the first time, and then tries to avoid this aspect of one’s life in subsequent situations.
When a physical trauma takes place, it means that a foreign object enters the tissue of the body. Trauma impedes the normal functioning of the body. In this case there is something that disrupts the integrity of the body and gets stuck in it (like a splinter, for example), and then there’s a reaction to this intrusion. The body cannot feel good unless this foreign object is removed. When our mind is traumatized, then it means that the “splinters” get into the body of our mind.
The signal of danger is like a splinter in this case. Our intellect fails to find an answer to an important question, and the body goes into emergency response based on the ancient strategies of survival. The trick is that this ancient reaction function in a single-shot mode. Having been activated once, it reappears every time when there’s even the slightest reminder of possible danger. This happens even in the situations when a new encounter doesn’t actually bear any harm but there’s just a hint of danger.
A phobia is similar to an allergy
Just like pollen might seem as a virus to a perturbed immune system, to a person suffering from a phobia some life circumstances are perceived as a threat which require an aggressive reaction, when in fact this problem can be resolved without panic.
Allergies are the state of heightened sensitivity, that is: excessive reaction of the immune system to the environment. A phobia has the same mechanism but at the psychological level. A phobia leads to the distortion of reality and to an inadequate energy-consuming response to a certain aspect of life.
What do our sensations reveal to us?
Fortunately, we are able to observe the processes that cause tension with the help of our internal vision. Our sensations function as a detector.
I have thoroughly studied the sensations of my patients suffering from phobias and discovered that there are two components in this feeling that one should learn to distinguish:
1. Fright as a trauma;
2. Fear as a reaction.
In the case of fright, we are talking about the information which our intellect failed to process and sent to the autonomic depths of our mind. If the intellectual response cannot be produced, then the body will provide an energetic one.
The signal that triggers autonomic reactions usually looks like greyness, darkness or blackness. When a person is frightened, it feels as if some black powder is poured through the top of the head to the solar plexus where it forms a lump of fear.
Ways to react
Fear leads to an increased heart rate and hyperventilation; it increases blood pressure, a person feels hot, there’s tension in the muscles, the pupils are dilated, and all the senses are heightened. When this happens, other functions, such as those responsible for digestion, rest and sexual interest are slowed down or upset. This is done in order to prepare the body for an attack or retreat. Mobilization effects are connected with the active work of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system.
The opposite reaction is a collapse: blood pressure falls, and a person feels cool and close to fainting.
This reaction can be compared to the one of a bug that got touched: it keeps still and doesn’t make a single move.
There have been cases when people froze as if they were dead when meeting a bear, and the bear walked away.
We can see the similar reaction in the painting “The Nightmare” by Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741—1825). Fear is sitting on the stomach, while the mind is “switched off”.
Such reaction can be justified at the moment of danger but the problem is that the person remains in this state even after the danger has passed. The body seems to find it hard to return from the extreme mode to a normal state.