Terrorising thoughts?

    "Wow, you’re good! And I know that if you keep talking to me I'm going to change" 

    The woman I was speaking to was the wife of my friend who had a life long phobia of dogs. 

    Her husband joked the situation was so bad that she was afraid to go out by herself    
    in case she meet on the street. 

    “What would happen then?” I asked. 

    “Panic. I become terrified as soon as I see one and have to run!” 

    I could see the colour drain away in her face. 

    She wasn’t making this up. She had dropped into a well worn FEAR response… 

    A terror trance

    Filled with imaginings of vicious dogs snarling at her, two to three dogs pouncing and being unable to get away. 

    Before she went deeper I interrupted her and asked her if she would like to be able to respond a different way. 

    “That would be great, but I don’t think it is possible! I’ve tried many times before and failed.” 

    Her shoulders dropped and she looked away, indicating what appeared to be a shame response. 

    How interesting I thought. 

    “Really? How remarkable is it that you’re ready to change, when you have tried so many things before. Let me see how I can help.” 

    Generating the change wasn’t hard work. 

    I wasn’t trying to change reality. 

    I was focused on changing her reality. 

    Fear had been educated in to her. As a child her mum was terrified of dogs, so it was no surprise that a phobic response had imprinted on to her. 

    Like a dog that gets a collar shock every time it tries to get outside it’s electrocuted fence, her nervous system got a jolt every time she saw a dog. 

    Didn’t matter how big or small. How adorable or lovely. 

    Dog = Danger, is what her nervous system had been conditioned to believe. 

    For years she had tried to change this response herself. 

    Yet each time she “failed miserably” because she concluded “I don’t have a strong enough will to not be afraid.” 

    Will was not her problem. It wasn’t the solution either. 

    The error she mad was trying to control her response after her body had gone into full flight response. 

    Which was too late. 

    Every emotional response had a pattern and it’s much easier to take a run away emotion off course before it reaches full momentum. 

    Her event driven brain had kicked in to autopilot and she found her feet running before her conscious mind had gotten it’s shoes on. 

    The leverage point was to change her thoughts. 

    Unbeknownst to her, she was completely unaware that she was actually feeling her    

    Her terror trance was actually terrorising thoughts. 

    For her - the sight of the dog generated a feeling which caused her to run. 

    But the fear was not out there - in the world - but was firmly wired up in her filters of perception and nervous system response. 

    Since she “always had been afraid” of dogs no one had taken the time to instruct her on how to read the signs of affection from a dog vs. a dog that is threatening and means to attack. 

    So I gave her some instruction and setup ideas for her to act on later about how her    
    friends and family would be amazed when she responded with calm around dogs. 

    We laughed and joked about how easy this experience was. I gave her some assignments to do around interacting with dogs and noticing for the tell-tell signs of a dog looking for affection. 

    A dog walked across the street about ten feet from our table and she noticed it but for the first time in as long as she could remember she didn’t feel any need to run. 

    She became curious, like something weird had just happened. 

    “Something has changed, Tom - I can’t quite put my finger on it.” 

    What had changed was her thought-feeling response. She no longer felt compelled to respond because she no longer had terrorising thoughts. 

    Making it practical: 

    Where has fear got it’s claws in to you? 

    Look for any area where you know you are holding back or not going for something that  you really want. 

    What thoughts have been playing in your mind that seem to cause a sense of fear? 

    Zoom out - see how this fear is impacting other areas of your life. 

    Zoom in - look for the lie - the false assumption(s) that you’ve accepted as    

    If you are familiar with the Meta Model use that to find a new perspective and break up the certainty you have around the response. 

    Get into the director’s chair… 

    Change the narrative - imagine yourself  behaving differently, exactly as you want.    
    Play the movie in your mind in vivid detail several times until it feels right. 

    Take a trip on your timeline 

    Go six months out in to the future from today. Imagine yourself there, looking back to the now. Notice what is different about how you behave. 

    Return to the present.    
    When you think about acting in this new way, what is different about how you feel now? 

    What new possibilities become open for you? 

    Write down 1 thing you will do differently as a result of this exercise. 

    When will you do this? 

    Get in to the habit of challenging your fears and you’ll discover there is so much more that you can do, when you change your thoughts - you change your feelings - new possibilities open up for you. 

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