A phobia expert shares her 3 top tips for overcoming any fear, from spiders to public speaking – NBC New York

Phobias come in many forms: some are afraid of spiders, others are afraid of flying.

But one thing they all have in common is that they’re irrational, says a phobia expert.

„A phobia is an irrational response to an innocuous object,” Christopher Paul Jones, a London-based phobia specialist with a clinic on London’s Harley Street, told CNBC Make It.

„As humans, when we encounter danger, our amygdala fires up, and then we do one of several things. Usually fight, flight, or freeze. So, we get angry and punch the thing, or we run from the thing, or we hide from the thing,” he said. The amygdala is a part of the brain that processes emotions such as fear or motivation.

This trigger is handy when we’re fighting saber-toothed tigers or in real danger, Jones said. However, a fear is when that response is to something that is not dangerous.

The Jones Clinic has treated a variety of phobias, from fear of water, fear of heights, fear of germs, fear of needles and fear of failure.

He explained that fears are formed through a conditioned response, like Pavlov’s dog experiment. That famous experiment was carried out by Russian neurologist Ivan Pavlov, who rang a bell every time he fed his dogs. The dogs eventually started salivating when they heard the bell because they associated it with food.

„Humans do the same thing,” Jones explained. „Usually with a phobia, at some point in your past, your brain has associated the danger with something that happened … and then whenever you think about that thing again in the future, it triggers the old response.”

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Jones’ recently published book „Face Your Fears” guides readers through exercises to overcome fear. He shared his top three tips with CNBC Make It to overcome any fear.

Challenge your perception of the material

A simple technique for challenging your fear is to think differently about the object of your fear, Jones said.

He calls it the „Harry Potter” effect, referring to a scene in „Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” where students face their fears.

„So when you think of that spider, people often make it bigger and closer. If you imagine it small, black and white … or imagine it on roller skates, smoking a little cigar, doing a little hand dance … you’re very You’re going to feel different,” Jones said.

He suggests using the same technique in your internal dialogue.

„Oh my God, I’m going to be scared’ or 'This is going to make me jump’ or 'What if I embarrass myself?’ „If you imagine Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck having internal conversations, it’s going to take all the power out of the squeaky voice,” he said.

During this time, it can change how you perceive fear, Jones said, because it seems „chillier and less realistic.”

Hug yourself

One of the simplest ways to comfort yourself when facing the source of your fear is to hug yourself, Jones said.

„Basically if you cross your arms and go up and down your shoulders, it releases the same chemicals as when you hug yourself, when you hug someone else or when someone else hugs you,” she explained.

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„It releases oxytocin and different chemicals and what happens is, when you try to picture the thing you’re afraid of, and if you do anything relaxing or self-calming, the brain is fighting to control two emotions at once. The feeling of fear goes down.”

Rewire your brain

Jones referred back to Pavlo’s experiment with dogs and said that just as the brain can be conditioned to fear something, it can also be rewired to remove that fear.

If you go to times when you’re really happy, calm, or can’t stop laughing, and visualize what’s on your mind, you’re doing something unique, like thinking, clenching your fist at the peak of emotion, when you visualize those moments. „By thinking about happy times, clenching your fist, thinking about happy times and clenching your fist, you’re creating an artificial Pavlovian response conditioning,” Jones explained.

Squeezing your wrists when faced with a particular fear, he said, takes you back to those happy memories and takes out the emotional intensity of the fear.

„Those are very quick things you can do to disrupt that old system,” he added.

„If you think about Reddit or YouTube, people take a horror movie and turn it into a funny movie because they change the music and the pace, and we can do that with our inner images, our inner dialogue and our inner feelings.” he added.

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