One of the key skills of a professional NLP Master Practitioner is the ability to help people overcome phobias. In our NLP training courses we teach our  students a series of techniques that are time proven to eliminate phobias.

Phobias are essentially mind habits that we get into and that cause extreme fear and at the very least are very inconvenient. We condition or programme our brains to respond in a really negative way to some kinds of stimulus. Usually our phobias are created unconsciously, as in, we don’t mean to create a phobia and often they are created with a good intention at heart.

Our bodies have an in-built protection mechanism which is part of our fight or flight response. When we feel under threat our body generally responds accordingly and we feel fear. Phobias often result from a single event or series of events where we have felt seriously under threat. The mind and body reaction to the event or events is that of extreme fear. We can now trigger the same level of fear by experiencing or just thinking about an event that might be similar to the original.

Typical phobias are fears associated with flying, spiders, snakes, wasps, the dark, and being under water. However there are all sorts of other phobias that we may suffer from. All of these can be eliminated using NLP.


An example from a student on our NLP Master Practitioner course: A fear of Manikins.

A friend of mine had a very interesting phobia, she was afraid of manikins. When she was a little child she went to a waxwork museum. What she didn’t know before she arrived at the museum was that there was a live performance planned and one of the manikins was actually an actor made up as a manikin. As she was in the museum she walked past the manikin and to her horror it came to life and whispered “boo!” From that moment on she has been afraid of manikins.

After she explained the story to me I start to use the technique from NLP called logical levels of therapy. Since the problem was already well defined I start with the step three of the process and began to elicit the strategy of getting the phobia by asking her “how do you do it?”

As she was explaining the strategy to me I was making sure she was totally associated into the problem (checking out for words like  “I am…” etc) After she explained everything to me and we had established how the phobia presented itself to her in her head, the steps that she went through to create the phobia,  I ask her if she could teach me how she did it (as per the instructions in the NLP Logical Levels process). I pretended that I was from a temping agency and if needed I could replace her for a day or two in having her phobia.

As she was trying to teach how to get the phobia I was intentionally goofing around and deliberately misunderstood pretty much everything she said. We were having great fun and there was a lot of laughter, this seemed to loosen the problem. I also sneaked in a few embedded commands as I was telling her what to “remember”.

After the logical levels of therapy process I decided to finish of with the NLP Phobia cure process. So I invited her to go back in time in her mind, to a time before this event happened and imagine that she’s sitting in a cinema watching at the white screen. On that screen she looks at the movie of herself, in black and white, of this particular event from start to the end. When she comes to the end of the movie she freezes the frame and whites out the screen. Then she jumps into the screen, makes the movie into full color, and runs it backwards, associated, and she watches the movie in her head as if seeing it through her own eyes.

She repeated the process of watching herself on the screen and then running it back associated for six or seven times until she couldn’t get the feeling back. It looked like the phobia had gone.

At that moment I performed the test by asking her to remember a recent event that when she thought about it before used to frighten her. She confirmed the feeling of fear and phobic response had gone. Then I future paced it using three different possible events and again she felt fine.

Learnings? Seeing those tools work in real life was amazing. This was the first time that I had done it and it worked perfectly. I believe the thing that I learned the most from this exercise was how to maintain rapport. Because once you start goofing around you really need to be focused and watch for all those cues to be sure that you do not break rapport.


And a fear of cats

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly” – Richard Bach

For this part of my training I decided upon the implementation of a phobia cure for my friend; who had a debilitating fear of cats. It is fair to say that the problem was severe as she was unable to even share the same building as a domestic cat and would mutter in fright whenever she either saw a cat outside in a public area…or even on television.

I found this reaction fascinating and decided that she would serve as an excellent case study for an NLP phobia cure. Any phobia is certainly a habit that is based to some degree upon a person’s natural fight, flight or freeze response to some extent. As has been discussed previously the unconscious mind does not differentiate between good and bad habits…a habit is a habit regardless by virtue of repetition. Therefore the unconscious mind protects the phobia because it is a previously formed habit in its capacity as the subservient, unquestioning mind. The phobia is still be re-run continually for the very reasons that the individual started the problem in the first place! The conscious mind may realise that the phobia is not a logical response…and therefore the two parts of the mind end up in conflict and therefore misaligned – which, as the most powerful influence…the unconscious will always win.

With regard to this particular exercise I was to uncover that this particular case was rooted within a historical startled response to an unexpected situation. For this exercise to be a success I was required to find the significant emotional experience as the phobia was certainly based upon a memory.

Following the obligatory establishment of rapport (easy as we have a close relationship and trust) I began by eliciting my clients timeline, this being an important aspect of laying the foundations of a successful phobia cure.

I will refer to my subject as the client throughout the transcription and description that follows;

Jeff – “Thanks for agreeing to help me to help you help you as part of my ongoing training…I really appreciate it. Please feel free to become comfortable…and relax. Is it okay with your unconscious mind for us to go ahead and… remove the phobia… that is no longer needed?”

Client – “I will…yes.”

Jeff – “That’s great. This process of change is easy straightforward and pretty quick…you can even enjoyit. Do you remember when you were just a little girl?”

Client – “Yes…I do.”

Jeff – “That’s good. What direction did that memory come from then?”

Client – “Erm…here” (vague pointing leftish)

Jeff – “Okay. Behind you?”

Client – “No… on this side of me” (points to left side)

Jeff – “Okay, thanks, that’s great… on that left side of you. Is that were your memories of the past are?

Client – “Yes”

Jeff – “Good, so I now know that your past is on your left…where’s the future then?”

Client  -“Over here (points to the right)”

Jeff – “Good, thank you. Is that where your future memories are located …there, on the right?”

Client – “Yes”

Jeff – “Right. So your memories from the past are located on the left and the future events are located on the right in a line that goes left to right. This is your timeline.” (Client has been identified as being “Through Time”)

Client – “Oh right”

Jeff – (pause) “I would like you to remember a time…a long time ago that you had remembered to forgetfully forget but can now remember…when you were small. Can you …do that now?

Client – “Yes”

Jeff – “That’s right…good…can you …tell me about it… now please?”

Client – “I am a small girl…about 5 or 6 sitting in my old school classroom”

Jeff – “Thank you…can you see yourself or are you looking through your eyes…where is the picture on your internal screen…is it coloured, black and white…bright or dim…large or small?”

Client – “I can see myself… (pause) …the picture is large, colourful, bright and in the centre of the screen” (Disassociated – in keeping with majority of through time people)

Jeff – “Oh, that’s really good. Thank you. Now, I know that you now can see so many things in that picture…colours, brightness…fine detail. I also know that you can also hear and feel things…even taste and smell things. Isn’t your mind amazing? You can alter any of those things too…if you want to change them! How do you feel in the scene?”

Client – (Displaying physiological signs of altered state of awareness) “It is amazing…I never really thought about it before. I feel good…it’s a summers day”

Jeff – “That’s right…you are really good at doing this! Now…blank out that screen please …and come back to now for me…that’s right”

Client breaks state.

Jeff – “Is it okay if we discover together …all of us together…me and you two…the original situation that caused your phobia problem?”

Client – “Yes…that is okay”

Jeff – “Thank you. I would like you to now float up above your timeline… now for me please…good…now I want you to travel back along your timeline into the past…floating easilyeffortlessly….safein the comfort that you are safe and detached from what happened…to the earliest time that you can recall that event… when the thing happened that began your phobia of cats…can you remember that thing that was forgetfully forgotten …but now remembered…look down on the younger you from above…what happened?”

Client – “I was young…about 7 or 8 years old. I was in bed at my grannies house because I was staying for the night while my parents were out. I fell asleep but woke up in the middle of the night…I found it hard to breath. I suddenly realised that my grannies black cat had lay down on the bed to sleep near to my head and was partially covering my mouth…I screamed and jumped out of bed and threw the cat out of the way. I have been terrified of cats ever since”

Jeff – “Thank you…you have done ever so well…and you are safe up there on high. Please float…effortlesslyeasily and safely back to now and blank the screen. That’s right…well done”

Client breaks state.

Jeff – “Well done. Now that we have discovered the basis of the… redundantphobic response…we are now going to do a phobia cure exercise to permanentlyremove your phobia…does… that sounds good to you?”

Client – “I would love that”

Jeff – “Fantastic. It is a quick and easy process for… change. Just relax…and imagine yourself sitting in a cinema, watching you upon the movie screen. You can …do that?

Client – “Yes”

Jeff – “That’s good…great! Now I want you to float out of your body which is sitting in the seat and take up a position within the projection booth. You can now see the other you in the seat watching the other you on the screen. you are safe in that projection booth, seat and screen…I want you to now watch yourself watching you on that screen from the very beginning until the end…in black and white…involved in the event that you described to me about the young you climbing into the bed at your grannies… falling asleep…and the cat climbing onto it near to your face…and preventing you breathing properly…and you waking up in fear. At that point I want you to freeze the film…then black out the screen. Can you do that now please? Let me know once you have done it.”

Client – (pause) “I have done it”

Jeff – “Well done…you are doing so well…I now want you to place yourself into the movie…make it in full colour…see it through your own eyes…and rewind it backwards from end to beginning in super fast time…about a second or two….now! Tell me once you have done this”

Client – “I have done it”

I now repeated the process described a further three times to reinforce the change.

Jeff – “I would like you to now think about the situation…and think about future situations…tell me how comfortable are you now with it on a scale of 1 -10?”

Client – (pause) “It’s really strange…but I would say about a 8 or 9! I am a bit surprised to say the least!”

Jeff – That’s really great…you can get rid of that old memoryyou don’t need it anymore…and never actually did. Thank you so much for helping me to help you help you”

Client – “No, thank you…it was really good”

Jeff – “No worries…no problems!”

At this point I carried out a swish pattern exercise with the client– whereupon I replaced a picture of how the client used to react in the old phobia situation with a new picture of how she would now react. I implemented this ten times until the client felt comfortable. At this point I, quite spontaneously, gave consideration to uncovering her old strategy of reacting to the visual trigger of seeing a cat; however decided at this stage to conclude the session as I had not made consideration for strategy work.

To surmise; I felt that the session went really well – this because my friend was visibly quite moved by the experience and stated that it had been highly effective. It had a flow to it that pleased me greatly on a personal level; I was able to blend and combine various NLP skills and techniques in a seamless manner. Yet again my initial nervousness was quickly dispelled as the session commenced…my confidence and faith in these techniques has yet again increased and been yet further bolstered. I felt in control throughout and was able to adapt and remain flexible with regard to the individual sitting in front of me.

I felt that I had perhaps missed an opportunity to really finish of this session with aplomb by the utilisation of strategies …that is, removal of the clients old strategy upon sight of the old phobic trigger (cat) and replacing it with a new, more beneficial and benevolent reaction – however I am now able to utilise this experience with future clients and plan for this eventuality. The principal learning for me following this exercise is that quite often there is no substitute for experience.

For future reference this self reflection was born of a proliferation of words that came on the back of my first experience of what can only be described as writers block…a drought of words. Importantly, my old pre NLP self would have found this highly stressful, disconcerting and detrimentally impactive…however I simply relaxed into a period of floatation safe in the knowledge that when my unconscious mind was ready the words would flow and my fingers would move freely once more.