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          Facing Fears and Phobias

          September 05, 2002

          Fears of being the center of attention, flying, driving, snakes and spiders might be common, but if they become paralyzing, you could be suffering from a phobia. Symptoms may include a tight stomach, heavy breathing, dry mouth, sweaty palms, racing thoughts, a flushed face, and a feeling of being frozen. Although these intense fears might feel insurmountable, you do have some control over them. Dr. Phil explains:

          You need to differentiate between rational and irrational fears. In some situations, it’s completely appropriate to be afraid ” it’s a survival instinct. However, if you are suffering from a phobia, you probably know in your own mind that the intense fears you are experiencing are irrational.

          Understand that you have control
          Although many different types of fears exist, they all boil down to one phobia: the fear of either losing control or being out of control. The good news is that you control the “on/off” switch related to your fears. Because you turn it on with the internal dialogue that you create about a situation, you can turn it off by changing that same internal dialogue.

          Change your internal dialogue
          When you experience these intense and irrational fears, you aren’t responding to the world, you’re responding to what you say to yourself internally about the world. For example: “If I board a plane, it will crash and I will die.” You need to replace this negative, irrational dialogue with rational, fact-based dialogue. You can begin to form this new dialogue by challenging your fears.

          Challenge your fears
          You have to start testing what you say to yourself. Begin using some objective criteria and see if your fears meet that criteria. If you fear dying in a plane crash, look at the statistics. Armed with the facts, instead of creating catastrophic thoughts, you could tell yourself, “Out of the seven million flights in North America between 1992 and 2001, only 30 crashed. Statistically, I am safer flying than I am driving.”

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