Fear of public speaking
Today's client was very nervous and fidgety when she sat down. She told me she's got a new job, and hates it when they all sit around and everyone has to introduce themselves and say who they are. So it seems that she has a simple fear of public speaking. That is usually easy to clear, and very quick.
Finding a feeling to work with
I explained about metaphor replacement therapy and how it works. I told her what I was going to do. Because I expected this to be a very short session, I treated this is a bit of an experiment in getting people to go into trance without formal induction. I used a breathing induction to settle her down. Got her to take two big deep breaths and then on the third told her to close her eyes. I told her to think about being in a large room with many people It was slowly coming round to her turn to speak. The start of the sort of therapy is to try to get the client to move into the feeling. Once the client is fully experiencing the feeling, they are pretty much in trance. It is then easy to manipulate images in the unconscious mind.
In this case she said she was feeling the anxiety. But it was very difficult to get her to say anything. I kept prompting her about the introduction ceremony, checking that she was feeling the anxiety and she just wasn't speaking at all. I wasn't getting any feedback from her.
Finding a different scenario to recreate her fear of public speaking
So I decided to offer her a different scenario that would generate her fear of public speaking. I asked her to imagine being the bridesmaid at a wedding. She had to stand up and address the whole audience. To increase the fear I said "everyone is looking at you". "You are the center of attention, the success of the whole wedding depends on you getting it right". "It will be remembered forever".
I asked what she was feeling. She said "a little nervousness, tenseness". I asked her where she was feeling it, and she indicated it was in her chest. So I went on with that and after a lot of prodding, persuasion and encouragement, she finally said "it's like a cloud".
I asked her what she would like to have happen to the cloud and she said "go away". Then I asked "what would that mean for you", and she replied "no fear". And finally, I asked her "what could you do then?" And she replied "anything". This set up the logical link between her actions and the outcome.
Reluctance to speak = reluctance to change?
I tried to get her to make the cloud bigger. After a lot of prodding she could get it to become a little bigger, but she could not get it to go any smaller. I explored the properties of the cloud with her. It was a black cloud, heavy, floating in front of her, it was round. I asked her to look at it from the back. After a long, long silence she said " it is just the same". I asked if she could move it to one side of the other. "No." I suggested the cloud might rain. it might shrink. it might get thinner, it might change colour. all the things I could think of. Still she sat there absolutely silent. Eventually in desperation I said just imagine that you could push that cloud. That seemed to work. She eventually said, it's much further away. I kept persuading her to push it away more, but was getting no response. "How are you experiencing that cloud now?" "What does it look like now?" After another long silence she finally said "It's disappeared".
Clearing her fear of public speaking
Something that usually takes two minutes took over forty. This woman seriously did not want to talk about her problem even in the metaphor. However, I tested her by making her think about the whole wedding thing again, and she said "the feeling has gone, just not there". I tested her again later on, and she said "no is definitely gone". "I usually get the feeling of tension in my chest. That just isn't happening now".
My feeling is that the fear of public speaking was actually linked to a much earlier fear from somewhere deep in her childhood. I think that she was afraid of something very much deeper, and was not going to allow me to get anywhere near that feeling. When I put that to her, she agreed. She couldn't say how she knew, she just felt that that felt right.
Her experience of trance was interesting
That would have been the end of the session, but I was anxious that she did not leave with the idea that she had not been hypnotized. So I told her that what we had done was a form of hypnosis. And she said something very interesting. She said "when we were getting rid of the cloud I felt that I had gone inside myself. That I was very small and my body was very large. In particular I felt my hands were huge".
I commented "you're a very unusual client, this usually doesn't take very long, and the client talks all the way through it. You seemed very reluctant to speak?" She said that she wasn't speaking because she felt she was not sure what to say or what was wanted. I wonder if that had anything to do with her reluctance to speak in public. Although I did not pursue it.
Given that I was trying out ways of inducing trance without a formal induction, her reaction was very interesting.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community. He is Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (NZAPH).
He is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.