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Archive for the ‘Phobias’ Category

On my blog entry entitled Healing Metaphor: Riding on an Airplane, a reader posted the following comment:

With all deference to your metaphor (it was wonderful, btw!), as someone with a crippling phobia of flying, I am asking you to please do a blog post soon on how you overcame this fear. ~ Karen

I am not saying this will work for anyone else, but this completely cured me of my fear of flying…

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time in yoga and meditation as I explored what it feels like to stay present. I encountered different people who believed in past lives and reincarnation, which I thought was a bunch of bunk for two reasons: 1. I had been raised Protestant and was taught that this life is my only shot; and 2. As someone who was struggling with suicidal urges as I healed from child abuse, I didn’t even want to complete THIS life much less come back for more!

I was going to be flying soon and was COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT about it. I decided I had enough with my fear of flying and just wanted to understand why – Was I abused on an airplane? Was I dropped as a baby? Was an airplane a metaphor for being out of control of where I was going? (The last one was the explanation I was leaning toward.) I prayed that G*d would show me why so I could work on healing it, and this is what happened…

I began my meditation with the intention of dismantling my reason for being afraid to fly and regressed into flashes of memories from a past life (what I suspect was my last life). I was in a man’s body and saying goodbye to the woman I loved as I boarded the plane. The plane was over water (I was always more fearful of flying over water) when it began to shake and started going down. Other people were screaming, but I knew there was nothing I could do. I saw her face as the land came rapidly toward the window.

Then, I was floating away from the wreckage, and I was completely OK. I was slowly returning to wherever souls come from – floating upward as I looked at the wreckage in a detached way. I was calm and peaceful. The best way I can describe the feeling is knowing at a heart level that I am OK.

I was a bit freaked out by this meditation because it forced me to question everything I had ever been taught about my faith. I wasn’t sure if I could believe it. I figured that my upcoming plane trip would answer some questions, and I was right. The next time I flew, which included flying over water, I was 100% calm and OK. Just like that – in an instant – a lifetime phobia of flying was simply GONE.

Even more important than losing the phobia of flying was losing the fear of death. More on that topic tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*****trigger warning — ritual and sibling abuse*****

S instilled a phobia in both my sister and me, but she made sure they were two separate and unusual phobias. She instilled a phobia of trolls in my sister. My sister was so frightened of trolls that my mother had to get rid of the book “The Billy Goat Gruff” because she would go berserk at the mention of a troll. I have no idea what object S used, but I am sure her method was similar to what she did to me.

I was drawn to S’s Russian nesting dolls, which was a very expensive, authentic set. I suspect I was Russian in a prior life because I am very drawn to Russian architecture, Faberge eggs, stories of Russian history, etc. Regardless of why, I loved those Russian nesting dolls, so she used them to instill a phobia in me.

She showed me how each doll opened to reveal another … and another … and another. When she got to the smallest one, she told me that, if I ever told anyone about the abuse, she would shove the smallest doll down my sister’s throat and kill her with it. Considering that S had already suffocated me with a pillow, I knew she was quite capable of doing this. I was too young to understand that she could not easily just kill a kid and get away with it. From my perspective as an abused 6 or 7-year-old child, this woman had complete power, and I had no hope of being saved from her power.

She then did things to me that I cannot as yet remember. They were so bad that I have continued to repress them. I just know that it was bad enough for me to become severely triggered by the presence of a Russian nesting doll, doubly so if it is displayed with the smaller dolls out.

From this day forward, S and the cult would use the Russian nesting dolls to frighten me. They would dramatically remove an inner doll, and then another, and then another, and I would become more and more fearful because the one I feared was the smallest one, which I believed had the power to kill my sister.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry Ritual Abuse and Programming, Simon posted the following question:

Theres a question ive always wanted to ask you but ive forgotten. If you have time id really appreciate a response! Here it is :-

***Could be triggering***

I trigger massively when i get water on my face. So basically i trigger when ive had a face wash or shower, or even when i go out and theres rain on my face. I can even be playing sports and ill sweat and it will run onto my face and its a MASSIVE trigger. This is less-so now ive worked through alot of memories, but ive always wondered why it is.Someone has said that maybe its because the abusers washed me after they abused me but i keep thinking it something else.

Was just wondering if you had any idea?

I had a similar question for my therapist a few years ago. I knew that I had always had a phobia of Russian nesting dolls, but I did not know why. My therapist said it might have to do with feeling constricted, but I intuitively knew that wasn’t it. I did not get my answer for at least another year, when I recovered one of my most traumatizing memories.

My short answer is that (1) I do not know the origin; and (2) you will know the origin when you are ready to process it. Our deepest triggers are a result of our deepest traumas. It only makes sense that we heal the less severe stuff first and then, once we have the confidence that we can handle the heavier trauma, we turn our attention there.

I would caution you against going out and seeking the answer. Instead, trust your own intuition to reveal the origin when you are ready to face it. Once you recover the memory, you will be wigged out but, at the same time, have a major “aha” moment. It really does feel good to put the pieces of the puzzle together and understand yourself.

If it makes you feel any better, you are not alone in having this issue with water. Check out the Incest Survivor’s After Effects Checklist. Number two on the list is…

Swallowing and gagging sensitivity; repugnance to water on one’s face when bathing or swimming (suffocation feelings)

I had an issue with eating cereal because I would come unglued if any milk trickled down my chin. I have my suspicions about the origin of this for me, but this has been low on my list of concerns. It is easy enough simply not to eat cereal.

I hope this helped.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Statue (c) Lynda BernhardtI have some friends who are phobic of their children getting sick. They go through gallons of hand sanitizer in a frantic quest to prevent their children from getting sick. I have one friend who makes her child change clothes as soon as she walks in the door so she can wash away the germs from the outside world as soon as the child gets home. This level of obsession with preventing colds is not normal.

What really surprised me was when one friend was completely calm when her daughter had to have stitches in her chin. When the child gets so much as a sniffle, the mother goes into a complete panic, but she was 100% calm over her child getting stitches in her face. That’s not normal.

I know for a fact that three of my friends who are like this endured abuse as children. I suspect that their extreme need to keep their children “safe” from germs is really about their need to keep their inner child safe from abuse.

I wonder if these women suffered abuse whenever they were sick as children. Perhaps their abusers were the ones who were called to tend to the ailing child while the parents returned to work. That could explain the mothers’ phobia of the children getting sick. From childhood, being sick = being abused, so they try in vain to remove all germs from the child’s life in the hopes of preventing the child from being abused.

I don’t think any of these women see it on this level, but I have often wondered about this myself. My own personal experience with phobias has been that there is a logical cause. This could definitely be a logical cause for the phobia.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Overcoming Phobias

Snake (c) Lynda Bernhardt

As I shared last week, I did not post for several days because I took my son to Disney World. Boy, did we have a good time!

In addition to the fun of visiting an amusement park, I was able to celebrate an important phase of healing: I have overcome my phobia of airplanes! I am so relieved to finally put this behind me.

I have been phobic of riding in airplanes throughout my adult life. I do not remember it bothering me when I flew as a child, but I became anxious about it as an adult. I had recurring dreams about being in an airplane when it crashed. Just the thought of sitting in an airplane would cause me to feel deep anxiety.

I was obsessed with watching programs about airplane crashes. I remember watching a special called When Planes Go Down and memorizing all of the safety tips they shared. I wear jeans because they are more fire-resistant than other fabrics. I only wear sneakers because sandals could fly off my feet in a crash. I would count the number of seat backs from my row to the nearest emergency exit and commit the number to memory. That way, if I survived a crash, I could feel my way through the smoke to the exit.

I would tense up at lift-off and at landing because that it when most crashes happen. I would panic at any sign of turbulence. I was a complete wreck on an airplane, spending most of the time praying that I would be okay.

I did none of this on our flight down or back. I was completely calm. I was not worried a bit. Even when my son got concerned when we hit some turbulence, I was reassuring to him and truly did not worry about it. It is a miracle!

You might be asking how I got there. I did it through finally reaching a place where I know, at a heart level, that I am going to be okay. If I live, I will be okay, and if I die, I will be okay. I truly believe that the spirit lives on after death, so I have nothing to fear. Once you lose the fear of death, the rest is easy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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