Overcoming our phobia

When I was learning to overcome my driving phobia, Mike Weatherstone’s book, “How to Successfully Treat and Overcome Driving Phobia by Yourself”, helped me to understand and treat my phobia. I believe the insights he has offered in this book are applicable to phobia in many other forms.

According to Weatherstone, “A phobia is…a fear of something…Fear is a perfectly natural and necessary part of life, without which humans (and most other species) simply would not have survived long enough to evolve…We accept therefore that fear is an essential part of living…Humans are quite adept at learning how to cope with fear by evaluating and minimizing risk and training for the task in hand…A phobia is what happens when that normal protective instinct gets out of control and becomes a fear of something which is, to all intents and purposes unjustified…A phobia on the other than is an irrational fear of something which ordinarily should not cause us to be afraid…It’s as though the irrational part of our brain completely overwhelms the rational part. “

In addition, Weatherstone points out that “…fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of the dark – and of course…- a fear of some aspect of driving. All of these things can cause us real hard and a fear of them is perfectly normal. We are usually able to manage and control this fear so we can do certain necessary things like flying, climbing a ladder or driving.”

For Weatherstone, people with a phobia will experience “the ‘fight or flight’ reaction…one is our fear pushing us away from the situation and the other the pull of the strong desire to experience the relief of not having to face it”.

“The exact cause of driving related phobia is often difficult to determine. It can develop over many years …However, sooner or later unless addressed, the phobia is likely to become worse and extend to other situations. It is usually a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.”

Weatherstone believes CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a great tool for us to cope with our phobia. For Weatherstone, CBT is “designed to achieve two main objectives – to change the way we perceive things to be more positive, and to alter behavior to create a more beneficial outcome”.

“By definition, if you are suffering from a driving related phobia then your perception of danger has become distorted. In other words, your mind is causing you to react in full threat mode where no actual (or at least very little) threat exists….CBT seeks to re-balance or ‘re-set’ the way your mind perceives the danger so that you no longer react in this way to dangers which do not in fact exist. This is done by a very gradual step-by-step process…Keep in mind that your phobia probably developed over some considerable time. Accept that it may take some time to reverse the process and be content to take it slowly…over a period of time the mind gradually starts to believe what it is seeing. At that point we are well on the way to altering the way we perceive the threat and our goal is in sight.”

Currently, I am still on my journey of altering the way I have been perceiving the threat. Most importantly, I feel hopeful and have no pressure on myself.

Normal Enjoyment or Addiction?

As a priest/pastor, I need and hope to help people to conquer their addictions, for example, alcohol. At first, we need to distinguish what might be considered normal use of alcohol, for example, from dependent or addictive use of alcohol (and a variety of other substances and “things”).

In his book, “Addiction and Pastoral Care”, Nicholas Roberts quotes different experts’ definitions of addiction, addiction “is a syndrome in which a reward seeking behaviour has become out of control” and “an excessive desire for the consumption of a variety of drugs and difficulties in giving up their use…”

According to these definitions, I do not think my normal enjoyment of coffee should not be considered an addiction. At least, I can have my days without coffee, but what about my cell phone? Are there any harms if I have been addicted to the cell phone?