Nowadays, being public facing is an important part of many roles and professions. No longer simply the domain of lecturers and entertainers, speaking in public can be required at various different points of their lives. Glossophobia is a phobia of public speaking and is a common phenomenon, experienced by many people throughout their lives. Thought to be experienced by around 75% of the world’s population, a phobia of public speaking can impact upon one’s ability to seize opportunities that may help them to advance in their careers, their ability to speak out in public about matters that are important to them, and their capacity to enjoy special occasions where they may find themselves at the centre of attention.
Some clients come to me to overcome their anxiety surrounding public speaking before a big event such as a wedding or special birthday where they might be expected to make a speech. Others realise over time that they are missing out on opportunities and promotions at work as their lack of confidence in public speaking leads them to avoid taking centre stage when it comes to big meetings and presentations. Some find that their inability to speak in public has a negative effect on their confidence. Whatever the reason, a fear of public speaking should be taken seriously as soon as it starts to have a noticeable impact on your life. For many, seeing a hypnotherapist is the first port of call when thinking about how to combat this phobia, as the success of hypnotherapy in cases of glossophobia (and many other phobias) is well documented. Famously, Princess Diana had hypnotherapy to help her with her phobia of public speaking, as did Bruce Willis, who struggled with a stutter and an anxiety surrounding public speaking early in his acting career.
Phobias and anxieties relating to public speaking can manifest in a variety of ways, and can cause sufferers to avoid occasions where public speaking may be necessary; worry about the judgment of others; and feel extreme anxiety and stress when they are forced to speak in public. In a person’s personal life, this may lead to shyness and further anxiety as well as withdrawal and avoidance of social occasions. Many become overly reliant on alcohol or other substances to help them deal with certain situations, which can lead to further problems of addiction and substance abuse. Some find that their fear can manifest in the form of a stammer, which can cause even more embarrassment and anxiety.
Why do some people fear public speaking?
Because anxiety and phobias of public speaking are so common, many consider the reasons behind it to be rational and self-explanatory. If we look closer at what this phobia entails, however, we may realise that it is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Fear is an impulse designed to help us avoid dangerous of life-threatening situations, often triggering our ‘fight or flight’ response when something dangerous appears in our path, therefore allowing us to defend against or flee from the danger. In our modern lives, however, it is highly unlikely that speaking in public may result in us being physically harmed or killed.
Our ancient ancestors would, however, have learned to develop a strong sense of anxiety towards public humiliation as early civilisations were made up of groups or tribes of people heavily reliant upon one another for survival both in terms of combat, and in the provision of food and other items necessary to stay alive. Therefore, those with the more acute fear of public humiliation would be more likely to survive by remaining in favour with their group or tribe, and would pass this fear gene on to further generations.
Glossophobia is often triggered in people who have had an early experience of public humiliation or a memorable experience of having been criticised in front of others early in their lives. Some may even find that these memories are buried within the subconscious, and it is in these situations that regression hypnotherapy (in which the therapist places the client into the relaxed state of hypnosis and leads them to delve into their subconscious to retrieve repressed memories from the very early years of their lives) can be extremely effective in uncovering the reason behind a person’s fear of public speaking.
In early civilisation, if one of our ancestors had happened upon a lion in the forest, they would have felt a feeling of intense fear, and their adrenaline response for ‘fight or flight’ would have been triggered. Following on from this event, any sight, sound or smell that reminded them of the experience with the lion would likely set off the same ‘fight or flight’ response. Just as we learn to recognise danger and react to it quickly so that we can fight or escape more efficiently in future, our body and brain learn to react quickly to situations which resemble frightening or traumatic moments from our personal histories. In this way, our fears can be magnified and can become phobias.
Many believe that this is the cause of glossophobia; a combination of our ingrained response to instances of negative judgment from our social tribe, and a magnification of fears triggered in us from our early experiences.
How can hypnotherapy help with a fear of public speaking?
Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to help manage anxiety around public speaking and to help build confidence and overcome glossophobia and other phobias.
As mentioned previously, regression hypnotherapy in particular can help clients to discover the reason behind their fear of public speaking. The hypnotherapist places the client into a state of hypnosis and helps them to explore early memories hidden in their subconscious. The hypnotherapist can then help the client to reframe the way in which they experience this memory in their subconscious mind, perhaps by helping them to imagine that the embarrassing or frightening incident ended in a different way, or guiding them to feel new and more pleasant emotions surrounding the event.
A similar technique can be used for clients whose glossophobia stems from a more recent trauma or difficult event. Whilst in the relaxed and focused state of hypnosis, clients can be encouraged to visualise difficult memories in a new light. The hypnotherapist can help the client to attach new mantras, ideas and even physical feelings to an idea, thought or memory.
Although fear of public speaking is incredibly common, it is also important to remember that each person who experiences it is a unique individual, and a good hypnotherapist should always treat their client as such- exploring their own individual relationship to public speaking and helping them to overcome it in a personalised way.
If you feel that a fear of public speaking, or any other phobia, is having a negative impact on your life, consider getting in touch to find out if hypnotherapy could be a suitable option for you.
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