3 pointed ways to help you relax with needles
"I have a needle phobia." Like all people with phobias, David was very hypnotic (hypnotic ability makes people both susceptible to and easily cured of phobias).
It was that part of the hypnosis workshop in which I was to demonstrate the Rewind Technique - a fast and comfortable way to lift phobias. David had volunteered. He had a delightful Australian accent and explained to me how he'd been traumatized at school when having inoculations. More recently, he'd tried to overcome his needle phobia by attempting to give blood (something he felt morally he should do). The terror had been so intense, he'd ripped out the needle and fainted (bruising his head and causing a swelling).
How raw is your needle phobia?
Memory itself is a hypnotic phenomenon. If you need to test how intense a phobia is, one way is to see how 'raw' phobic memories feel to talk about. Phobic memories are 'hypnotic' in that they can start to feel more real than the here and now. David began to look anxious just talking about times he'd experienced his needle phobia, so I quickly calmed him down. He even reported feeling a slight pain in the back of his head just recalling the time he'd fainted!
We needed to get him relaxed around those needle memories and fast.
What is a needle phobia?
A phobia is simply a fear reaction to something that isn't as threatening (or at all threatening) as our reaction warrants. I've treated people who were as terrified of a plastic bag as people have been of witnessing death. The mind wrongly tags something as 'terrifying' when it doesn't need to be. At some point, the phobic learned their phobia - often within just a few seconds. It's also true that they can unlearn very quickly.
If you have a needle phobia, I recommend you see someone trained in the Rewind Technique. But some people do manage to treat themselves, so here are a few pointers (sorry).
1) Relax already
That's right, relax. Forget about needles or injections. Just take a few weeks to get really good at relaxing. Listen to relaxation CDs and downloads. Focus on relaxing one part of your body at a time. Focus on vividly recalling or imagining being somewhere calming, beautiful - maybe by the sea with sun-kissed waves gently lapping or perhaps in a forest or anywhere that, for you, is restful. The more you practice getting relaxed, the easier and quicker you'll be able to relax.
2) 'Anchor' those feelings
Some people are very good at quickly summoning up bad feelings. They don't do this consciously, but something in their environment starts to act as an automatic cue to feel anxious, afraid, or depressed. It might be a poster showing a needle, a particular song on the radio, or, in fact, anything at all. Depressed people have been found to have much better recall for negative events and be less able to recall more positive ones. But we can all learn to produce positive feelings more easily.
Before treating David's needle phobia, I asked him to "forget all about those memories" and tell me about a time when he'd felt fantastic. I encouraged him to focus on that time as he closed his eyes and relaxed. A smile spread across his face and as it did, I suggested he bring his thumb and forefinger together. After a few moments, I asked him to release his fingers and drift back into a physically relaxed state. Then two or three more times, I asked him to bring his fingers back together until he found that just bringing his fingers together was enough to make him have the positive feelings he'd had during his enjoyable time.
You can do this self-hypnotically. To get a taste of this exercise, click on this free audio session.
3) Gently does it
David left the workshop free of his needle phobia. But phobias can be overcome other ways; sometimes gradual exposure to the phobic trigger can ease your mind into re-tagging that situation as non-threatening. Look at pictures of needles whilst focussing on your 'good feelings anchor'. If you can watch video footage of needles or people having injections, all the while accessing those good, calm feelings, all the better. Whilst holding your thumb and forefinger together and accessing those good feelings, watch yourself, in your mind's eye, looking relaxed whilst having an injection.
Overcoming phobias can improve other areas of your life in unforeseen ways. David now regularly gives blood and is proud to do so.