Do you have a phobia? Do you experience that intense, uncomfortable rush of fear when you encounter spiders, snakes, mice, water, flying, tight spaces, or a host of other common phobia triggers? Do you know someone who is disabled by a phobia that makes it difficult to leave the house, be in a crowd, or have a normal relationship with a man or a woman?
A phobia is created by rapid association mechanisms in the brainstem. All sensory input comes into the brain through the brainstem, and the brainstem acts as a huge filtering system, stopping all of the mundane input and forwarding only that sensory information that is unique, changing, or is tied to strong emotional associations in the past. This keeps the conscious mind uncluttered and allows it to focus on what is more important.
In contrast, sensory input that is similar to something in the past that has caused a strong emotion is immediately forwarded. Such sensory input often creates an instantaneous physiological response in the brainstem itself. Such a response happens with reflex speed, before the conscious mind has a chance to react.
The most intense brainstem responses occur when a strong fear association is triggered. Fear emotions tend to be interpreted by the brainstem as essential to survival. Thus the unconscious reflex response is very intense, very physical and very rapid. Because this response happens at such a deep and primitive brain level, and happens before a sensation is consciously noticed, fear responses feel innate and unchangeable to an individual, even if they are irrational. Often fears are so strong that an individual with a phobia is afraid of even attempting therapy. Thus, the most difficult part of phobia recovery is just convincing an individual that recovery is actually possible.
Brainstem-based release techniques such as EFT, TFT, and EMDR are remarkably effective at releasing phobia associations. With a phobia caused by single-event trauma, (the easiest to resolve) this release is so impressive that it is often chosen for stage demonstrations in lectures and presentations, with such dramatic effect that lifetime severe phobia can frequently be resolved in one or two sessions. Activating the brainstem by getting it “busy” with sensory input, bilateral stimulation and association trigger words opens up access to the trauma associations and allows them to be “reprogrammed” with speed and permanence.
False fear associations can also be reprogrammed. For example, a common abuse association is “a man abused me as a child so I must be afraid my husband, doctor, etc. because he is a man.” Often a simple sequence of brain-stem-based therapy can change this association into “abusive men are dangerous, but my husband/doctor is safe.” This change can be effected long before the work of resolving all of the abuse trauma is completed. It is not a cognitive therapy process of changing beliefs; cognitive therapy approaches are much slower. This is a brain-stem-based process of changing the synaptic connections between neurons, and it is very physical, using sensory input that directly involves the brainstem such as tapping, eye movement, and even breathing exercises. The effect produced by these approaches can create tremendous relief for those burdened by phobia and fear associations.