Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Phobias, Fears, and Other Strong Emotions - How a Snake Can Help Us Find Emotional Freedom

What can we learn from snakes about emotional well-being? It turns out we can learn a lot.

While out for my morning walk today I noticed four lawn care workers digging up some shrubs. New plants were at the ready.

As I walked past the men, one of the group, the team leader as I learned later, jumped back and screamed, “snake, snake, snake, oh my God, it’s a snake!” 

The other men all stepped back, each frozen in place. They seemed to be taking their behavior cue from the leader.

After about 10-seconds passed, the team leader in a quivering voice told one of the other men to “kill it! Get it out of here!”. He then took five steps backward waiting for the worker to carry out the order.

When the man who had been told to kill the snake walked back to where the snake had been, it wasn’t there. A couple of other workers cautiously looked at the ground trying to see the snake; the snake, at least for that moment, had saved it’s own life by moving.

I walked up to the team leader and said, “My gracious, it seems you are afraid of snakes”. Sometimes stating the obvious is a reasonably good way to open a conversation.

“Oh my God, yes!”, he said. “I am terrified of snakes. Look at my arms.”

When I looked at his arms, I saw the hairs were standing up. The man was still hyper breathing and his voice still quivered when he spoke.

As I turned my attention back to where the workers were standing, one of the men said in Spanish, “Here it is! He raised the shovel and readied himself to dispatch the snake. 

When I looked at the ground directly beneath where the shovel was about to fall, I saw the slithering serpent who was about to be killed. I stepped closer and raised my voice, saying in Spanish, “Stop!”. I then turned to the leader and said, “I’ll take care of the snake”.

I bent down, picked up the four-inch garter snake, carried it to a wooded area about 40 feet away, and placed the snake on the ground. It first curled up, but then quickly unfurled itself and moved deeper into the dense wooded area. 

The snake was saved and the men returned to work. But why did the snake trigger such a fearful reaction in the team leader? Are there lessons in this experience for those of us who have no phobic reaction to living creatures who slither about the countryside?

What is a Phobia?

Phobias are by definition an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something. That something can be any object, person, place, animal, or perceived situation.

About four to five percent of the U.S. Population has at least one clinically significant fear in a given year. Social phobia responses typically appear in people between 15 - 20 years of age, although they can appear in younger and older people.

While the team leader’s reaction to seeing a four-inch garter snake was almost laughable, it certainly wasn’t laughable to him. The truth is we all have and react to irrational fears. Holding onto to those irrational fears is a choice, although it may not feel that way when we're triggered.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his famous 1933 Presidential Inaugural Address, said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Roosevelt was so right. Let us keep in mind the person, place, or thing that triggers our fear response is exactly that: a trigger. The trigger itself is simply what it is. It is our reactions to the triggering object, person, place, or situation that creates our felt sense of fear.

Fears Can Control and Limit Us

While fear can be a life saving emotion, for far too many people the emotion shows up in situations where it is unneeded and limiting. Worse still, for those people who have full on phobias, extreme fear can turn into terror that causes them to literally freeze in place. A good example of this is the common fear of public speaking. Numerous surveys show this is the number one fear, even greater than the fear of death.

Can Irrational Fears be Released?

Are we destined to be controlled by irrational fear throughout life? The good news is the vast majority of people suffering from phobias and lessor fear reactions can be freed from their emotional prison. They are literally holding the prison door key in the palms of their hands.

In future posts, I’ll share a variety of ways to release irrational fear responses. As a starting point, I suggest the following steps to begin your journey to emotional freedom:

  • Recognize that fear is an emotional and physical reaction to the triggering stimulus. It is a feeling - strong or weak - that you are creating in the moment. 
  • If you know how to apply Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), or other tapping / Energy Psychology protocol, begin tapping or applying the protocol immediately as you’re experiencing the fear / phobia reaction. Keep tapping until the reaction subsides and ultimately dissolves.
  • If you don’t know how to apply EFT, TFT, or other tapping / Energy Psychology protocol, click HERE to download the 1-page CenterPoint Release (CPR) guide. It's simple to remember and easy to use whenever you are triggered. As you apply the CPR protocol, you will likely experience a significant reduction in the intensity of the fear response. After one or two applications your fear reactions may be completely gone.
To learn more about how EFT / TFT and Energy Psychology can help with phobias and other challenging emotions, visit our Stress Solutions, LLC website at www.EFT-MD.com.



Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC

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