Fears and phobias can have so much influence over our lives that they restrict us from actually experiencing life as demonstrated by Trina Braxton on the hit reality television show Braxton Family Values. As Trina’s hypnotherapist, I helped her conquer her fear of birds. However, the most common phobia of all is the fear of public speaking. That’s right—what we’re most afraid of is each other. Specifically, others’ opinions of us.
Glossophobia, also known as the fear of public speaking, is a form of communication anxiety. It’s closely related to performance anxiety since it is based on how others will judge you in a public setting where the focus is on you. Symptoms can range from a little apprehension to overwhelming panic. Let us explore the essential difference between fear and phobia. If you are able to manage your speaking engagements with mild symptoms such as nervousness or over preparation, you are experiencing fear. However, if you are suffering symptoms such as sweating, increased heart rate, dry mouth, difficulty breathing, or feelings of extreme dread—like you are about to die—you are experiencing a phobia.
Fear of public speaking is often linked to low self-esteem and low self-confidence and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as it holds you back and causes you to miss opportunities. Some common examples are refusing to give a speech, demonstration or presentation that would benefit you; not voicing your opinion when you have the correct answer at school or a good idea at work; declining a job opportunity because it would mean presenting in front of others. Long-term outcomes can include a diminished career, frustration, depression, and even unemployment.
Fortunately, there is a solution that can help minimize your panic.
Systematic Desensitization is a hierarchy technique used to treat fears/phobias based on behavior modification. This is the method that I successfully used to help Trina Braxton conquer her phobia. This therapeutic technique can drastically reduce anxiety and enable you to do that which you dreadfully fear. The first step in overcoming is to establish a list consisting of three panic scenarios. Next, rank the anxiety from least to most fearful.
An example of a Glossophobia hierarchy might be:
- I practice for my speech at work by talking into my mirror with tranquility and confidence.
- I practice for my speech at work in front of family or friends with tranquility and confidence.
- I present my speech at work with the tranquility and confidence that I have demonstrated through rehearsal.
As a counselor and hypnotherapist specializing in the field of clinical and metaphysical hypnosis, I can tell you that the panic you are experiencing in regards to your fear has been conditioned by the conscious mind and believed by the unconscious mind. “Conditioned” means that we have learned it through repetition. The more you tell yourself that you are afraid of speaking in public, the more you will believe it.
Fortunately, there is a way to reverse the process by counter-conditioning through systematic desensitization using the hierarchy that you have created.
Systematic Desensitization consists of three important procedures:
- Progressive relaxation
- Realistic anxiety hierarchy
- Combining relaxation such as meditation or hypnosis with the situations described in your anxiety hierarchy
I always encourage my clients to create an affirmation and visualization of empowerment to use while completing the desensitization process in meditation or hypnosis. Affirmations and visualizations are also a form of conditioning, meaning the conscious mind is telling the unconscious mind what to believe. Coping mechanisms such as hypnosis or meditation to induce relaxation must be used in conjunction with desensitization since it is impossible to experience anxiety and relaxation at the same time.
Begin your relaxation process by finding a quiet, comfortable place to sit, recline or lie down. Close your eyes and focus on peace flowing throughout your body. State your affirmation and keep your thoughts on it. Focus on particular muscles within your body. Begin with the toes—telling them to relax and slowly move up your body, giving each muscle group permission to let go of tension until you have reached the scalp. By now, your affirmation will be fading, sinking into your unconscious mind.
Hold onto this tranquility and begin introducing your least fearful scenario from your hierarchy:
- See yourself practicing your speech in front of the mirror. Once the dread peaks, bring back the affirmation and visualization. Wait until the process works and you are calm and confident, then go on to the next level of the hierarchy.
- See yourself presenting the speech in front of friends or family, once the dead peaks, bring back the affirmation and visualization. Wait until you are calm and confident then go to the most fearful level of the hierarchy.
- See yourself arriving at the building with your notes in hand; walking to the podium; looking out at the audience of dozens of people who have come to hear a self-possessed, bright and engaging person speak. Use the exact same process—let the fear peak, then relax yourself and bring back the affirmation and visualization.
Once you have completed the desensitization process, allow yourself to remain in a calm, safe emotional state for a moment before counting from 1-5 to bring yourself to full alertness.
Now that the desensitization process has concluded, it’s time to introduce exposure therapy. Exposure therapy means just that—you expose yourself to the real world, doing some of the things that frighten you. It’s therapy because you do it by choice. Once you have a little practice, such as your mirror, you can begin doing this at work. The important things are to make the decision that you will take control of your fear, to start small and gradually increase exposure, and to always remember to use your affirmation and visualization for empowerment as you find yourself needing the comfort.
Whatever your fear may be, take your power back from the panic that is holding you hostage. Reclaim self-esteem and self-confidence and let everyone hear what you have to say…
Speak Up—Speak Out—Expose Yourself!