Updated: May 6
Think back to your years in school - were you the first to put your hand up; the first to volunteer; the enthusiastic lead on stage in the school play? Or were you, like millions of other people, terrified to speak up in class; too shy to join the choir; always the quiet angel or shepherd at the back of the Christmas nativity?
Public speaking phobia (or glossophobia) can have a massively detrimental effect on our lives and often determines our ability to take opportunities and push ourselves. If the thought of having to hold meetings and presentations at work prevents you from applying for that promotion, for example, or the prospect of having to introduce yourself aloud to a group of people stops you from joining a club, maybe it's time to make some changes.
Glossophobia can appear in many forms; from stuttering when speaking casually to a few people on Zoom to having a panic attack at the thought of having to role play at the office ‘teambuilding’ day, there are many examples of triggers - but there are many examples of phobic response, too.
These can include palpitations, sweating, shaking, dry mouth, increased blood pressure, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, loss of voice, choking sensation, shortness of breath, a need to go to the toilet, muscle weakness, tics, confusion or disorientation, muscle spasms, lightheadedness, pain or tightness in the chest, hot flushes or chills, numbness or pins and needles and a ringing in your ears.
There are many, many symptoms but none particularly pleasant or enviable.
Anyone who has suffered with this crippling fear will recount kindly people trying to offer comfort with 'helpful' tips: picture them naked or in their underwear; only look at one person; don't look at anyone directly; focus on one spot at the back of the room; imagine you're talking to friends... Most of these don't work. And that's because your phobia is basically a template in your mind, if you will. It is a reaction to a stimulus that your brain decided, at one time in the past, is harmful to you. Now, that may not actually be the case but the brain is a complicated thing and it does get it wrong sometimes. Logically, you may understand that there is no physical threat from merely standing in front of a number of people and talking, but your limbic system - the most primitive part of your brain - sees this action as extremely dangerous and acts accordingly. And the way the limbic system reacts? Well, in the same way it would if you were faced with a starving tiger - it panics! As soon as we face something our brain perceives as threatening, our amygdala goes into the fight/flight/freeze response, our heartrate increases, our stomachs churn and, if we can, we run for the hills! And that's great if we are in a situation where we can excuse ourselves but not so great if we are on a podium in a lecture theatre with 60 pairs of eyes staring down at us. Thinking about the person in the front row in their underpants doesn't really cut it in that instance, I think you'd agree?
You might find yourself asking "why can't I be more confident like Bob*? Bob never gets nervous!" Well, for a start, how do you know Bob doesn't get nervous? Has Bob actually told you that? We have a habit of assuming that everyone else around us is coping, despite not actually knowing if it is the case. And if Bob doesn't get nervous about public speaking? Then you can bet that Bob has a phobia or habit that you don't have - maybe Bob is terrified by the sight of lightbulbs, or can't stop picking his toenails. My point? That none of us are perfect and we all have our own fears, phobias and habits. And all these characteristics that make us who we are have been building up and upgrading constantly for your entire life. Every experience you have, every encounter and interaction, is logged and 'updates' the previous data. So, if you previously enjoyed flying but then had an awful flight with horrendous turbulence, then the update means you might well be a little more apprehensive next time you fly. And it's the same with public speaking; you weren't born with this fear, it is a learned behaviour. And, if a behaviour is learned then, theoretically, it can be 'un-learned'. And that, dear friends, is where Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy for public speaking phobias can be an incredibly useful tool.
As well as fundamentally changing our thinking habits and thought processes, we can begin to alter our mindset from a negative to a more positive one. This naturally reduces stress levels and the anxiety surrounding public speaking. However, by also utilising what we know about the brain and its functions, we can consciously and deliberately update the data with new, positive information. And this can be done in a number of ways. For example, by using direct and indirect suggestion and visualisation while in a nice, relaxed state (the brain learns better and easier when relaxed), we can update the data with positive experiences. And because the subconscious part of our brain cannot tell the difference between something real and something imagined, it logs every one of these as having happened. So, if you imagine yourself absolutely storming that presentation 10 times, by the time you come to do it for real, you should have a higher expectation of achievement. Clever, huh?
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a very gentle, positive way to make changes to your confidence levels and to the way you view certain situations. We make subtle suggestions to your subconscious about how to make those positive changes, while you relax calmly in a lovely hypnotic trance. And, by using neuroscience to explain what is happening physiologically in your brain to cause the fear of public speaking and providing you with tangible coping strategies to use, we naturally lower the fear level which it makes it so much easier to make the necessary changes… Enabling you to conquer that public speaking phobia for good!
If you feel you need help with Public Speaking anxiety then please get in touch now to see what we can do to help