Why do you think we have emotions? Wouldn’t life be a lot simpler without them? Do we have emotions to give middle class society something to talk about or to provide soap opera writers with material for their scripts?

Of course not. As with everything else in life, emotions exist to keep us safe and able to thrive. Hypnosis can cure your social anxiety.

Emotions motivate movement

Embedded in the word “emotion” is another word: “motion”. Emotions are there to make us move. Either towards something or away from it.

We all have basic needs for warmth, security, love and, of course, food and shelter. We have needs for status, significance, attention and the need to feel safe. We need stimulation, to enhance our creativity, to learn and produce in the world. Some emotions drive us toward experiences that would help meet these needs and ensure our survival. And other emotions serve to drive us away from experiences or circumstances which, we feel, would prevent us meeting our essential needs and causes our social anxiety.

But what happens when we get directed in the wrong direction by our feelings?

You are pulled towards social contact by your needs, and away from it by social anxiety

The “motion” in “emotion” has us moving either towards what we feel we need or away from what we feel we don’t want. Think love, anger, greed, hunger – all feelings that motivate us towards an experience. And also think about the feelings that drive us away from something – fear, terror, disgust, etc.

Hopefully, our emotions get it right and drive us towards what is good for us and away from what is bad for , but sometimes they don’t.

The social phobic that suffers anxiety both wants and doesn’t want social contact. They are pushed and tugged in different directions by their feelings. If social contact was bad for us, it would be great to be terrified of social events because it would be a lifesaver. But a socially anxious person instinctively knows they need social contact at the same time as fearing it; they are pushed and pulled at the same time by their emotions.

We avoid what we fear – but also fear what we avoid

One problem is that the more you avoid something, the more the fear around it increases. It’s as if your “emotional brain” draws conclusions from your behaviour: “She’s avoiding this situation all the time, so it must be genuinely dangerous. So your subconcious decides; I’ll increase her fear of this situation even more to make sure she won’t go near it.”

On the other hand, people can overcome their fear around situations they should fear simply because they have made themselves face up to it. The point is that even dangerous acts like these can start to feel “normal” to your emotional brain if you voluntarily and repeatedly do them (the “emotional brain” concludes “This must be safe, or else why would we be doing it?”).

A number of approaches have been tried over the centuries to overcome the difficulties this presents. None are as successful as hypnotherapy. Consider, for instance, what happens with “exposure therapy” and “cognitive therapy” in the context of dealing with fears like shyness and social anxiety.

Exposure therapy: A step too far?

The understanding that emotions are physical drivers away from or towards something is extensively used in exposure therapy. (1) This approach typically has you gradually having more and more contact with what scares you. So the spider phobic might on week one see a drawing of a spider, on week two see a photo of a spider, on week three see a toy spider, on week four touch the toy spider, week five has them seeing a movie of a spider and week six an actual live spider. This can be very effective if the person can be induced to remain calm through the gradual exposure (sometimes known as “systematic desensitisation”). (It would be much easier and quicker to use the hypnosis rewind technique.)

The idea is that spiders need to start to feel like a “normal” part of the experience, and this is done by forcing oneself to go towards rather than away from the situation; classic behavioural therapy.

Another type of exposure therapy takes a less gradual approach and is known as “flooding”. This might see the poor spider phobic being put straight in a room full of spiders, with the idea that fully experiencing your worst fear – and surviving it – will put an end to that fear.

So does it work?

Therapy for the therapy

Yes, it can work, provided the person undergoing the therapy is taught to relax deeply. But, I can’t tell you the number of clients I’ve had to treat to help them recover from the effects of this kind of therapy when it’s gone wrong. These are the people who didn’t get better, the ones who couldn’t get past the photo of the spider on week two, the ones who were deeply traumatised by being thrown in at the deep end of having to speak in front of a room full of people when they were still chronically shy.

But, fortunately, there is another way.

The beauty of hypnosis when treating your fears

Hypnosis is the perfect way to expose someone in a safe and relaxed way to a topic they had been avoiding. As far as your emotional brain is concerned, if you have relaxed deeply and feel spontaneous at a party a few times while in a hypnotic state, this is a sufficiently strong indication to your subconscious that this situation is not dangerous, and can give you the confidence to overcome your shyness gradually. This kind of social event can now be “retagged” as something you can potentially go on safely towards - even before you have been to an actual party. Someone who hasn’t left the house for years can “leave their house” in a hypnosis state and “experience it” before they actually go out the door in real life. This exposure therapy is fully within their own self control, in sync with a relaxed mind and body.

When they then actually “do it for real”, it will already feel more familiar to them and therefore not as threatening a situation. The previously dreaded social event may even turn out to be relaxing and fun.

It’s important to understand that we are talking about more than just what a person believes.

Feelings and thoughts can be at odds

You can fully believe something is good for you and still fearfully flee from it. You can believe something or someone is bad for you but still be emotionally driven towards it or them. Cognitive approaches to dealing with fears often come unstuck over this, as fears aren’t driven so much by “faulty thinking”,as much as by more primitive emotional conditioning geared towards your survival. It is much easier to access and modify these primitive drivers through the use of hypnosis rather than through reasoning.

When we help someone with a social phobia it’s generally obvious the phobia is gone the moment they open their eyes, because a calm, disassociated hypnotic exposure to the previously feared trigger while feeling completely relaxed has transformed their response to it. They now know it wasn’t “real” , nonetheless a new positive blueprint for responding with calmness and being in flow when in social situations has been imprinted on their subconscious mind. Being socially relaxed will be the new “normal”.

The new 10 steps to overcome social anxiety course, like all of our ten steps courses, has a hypnotic download session for each step of the way. This is partly because social skills can be developed during hypnotic rehearsal but also because we want people to experience hypnotic “safe” social experiences before they go into these situations for real. In this way the horrible away from feelings of fear can gently be replaced with the happier toward feelings of pleasure and a positive expectation when it comes to socializing and meeting with new people.


  1. See: Wikipedia entry: Exposure therapy
  2. See: Wikipedia entry: Flooding

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