My fear of falling is so old I'm not even sure how it began. My mom says I happily rode a tricycle as a toddler, but I had zero interest in moving on to a two-wheeler. By grade school I'd grown terrified of doing anything that meant I could topple over. Looking back, I wonder if it was a learned response; my dad and late grandmother were both afraid of heights.
Whatever the reason, the fear persisted well into adulthood. I panicked when I had to scale a short ladder to grab suitcases from my apartment's storage space. On a dream trip to the Eiffel Tower, I was too scared to climb the stairs with other tourists, and more than once I backed out of weekend plans with friends because I thought my fear might be triggered. Five years ago, I tried to get brave: I enrolled in adult bike-riding classes. But it took me a few sessions just to work up the courage to try pedaling, and I quit soon after. My confidence: shaken. My fear? Stubbornly intact.
So when a buddy who'd read up on hypnosis suggested I use it to get past my phobia, I listened, and though part of me was skeptical, I signed up for five weekly sessions with Kazi Anam, a health coach and hypnotist in New York. He explained how it works: Through repetition and visual imagery, the hypnosis would bring on a deep relaxation, helping me become more focused and open to suggestion — namely, that I was no longer afraid of falling. Each session, I lay in a reclining chair and drifted in and out of sleep while Anam gently talked me through my fear. (For example, what were the odds that I would seriously hurt myself if I did fall off a bike? Not very high, I admitted.) He had me visualize doing the tasks that scared me and also taught me a trick: to touch my thumb and index finger together while thinking of happy, funny memories. Whenever my fear of falling surfaced, I could use this to push it away.
I was shocked to find that the techniques actually made a difference, mostly helping me to harness greater calm and confidence. I've been climbing the ladder in my apartment to snap cool aerial shots of meals for my food blog. And just recently, my boyfriend and I rented and actually rode bikes. I still feel a little weird on one, but having visualized it for so long, I'm not so scared. I've used what I've learned to nix other fears, too. After a car accident in college, I avoided busy highways, but now I've started driving on them again. Fear had been a constant companion, but I'm done giving it a free ride.
Is Hypnosis a Solution?
Hypnosis isn't all hype. Though it still has its doubters, studies have found that it can help some people curb anxiety, sleep better, or even find pain relief, among other things. In fact, Stanford University researchers were able to pinpoint neurological changes in the brains of people who'd been hypnotized. Curious? Look for a licensed hypnotist with ties to professional organizations like the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists, and the National Guild of Hypnotists.
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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