Many people have problems that they know with certainty, yet still the problems cannot be removed. That is, even though the problems are consciously known, they still continue to assert a negative influence on an individual's life. An example, common with many people, is fear of insects such as spiders. They are fully aware of this fear for whenever they see an insect they immediately suffer an emotional upset, sometimes great, sometimes small, depending on the nature of the confrontation. That is, if the individual is in a state of tension, or if the spider is seen suddenly or under particularly unexpected circumstances, the intensity of the emotional shock will be greater.
The real cause of this fear lies, of course, in the subconscious mind and will no doubt be eventually thrown out by meditational techniques. But there is a more direct method of neutralizing conscious fears, which is very simple and yet very effective. It is called desensitization. The method is as follows: first of all, you must relax yourself as much as possible. This can be achieved by practising your normal daily yoga program, or by practising a meditational technique or shav-asana for some time.
Choose a convenient method that you think will induce the greatest relaxation. When you are relaxed, you must try to visualize yourself confronting the object of your fear. In other words, mentally create a picture of the object. Let us take fear of mice, as an example. Try to visualize a picture of a mouse or mice; the clearer the image the better. If you have difficulty in visualizing a mouse then try to relive and revive memories of your past, perhaps uncomfortable and unpleasant ones, in which you interacted with a mouse. Do this as intensely as you can. At first you may experience great fear. If the fear becomes too great then of course discontinue the practice. But if possible face the problem and totally confront the object of your fear. Do this for a tew minutes if possible and then rest. The following day repeat the process, making sure that you are relaxed as much as possible prior to the practice. You should find that your emotional reaction to the object of your fear is reduced. Confront yourself with all aspects of the mouse (or whatever your fear is) - a big mouse, many mice, mice in disturbing surroundings. Confront yourself with as many associations of mice that your mind can think of or visualize.
You should repeat the procedure on a daily basis until such time as you experience absolutely no emotional response whatsoever. When you can create images and thoughts of a mouse and remain detached, a witness, then you have essentially exhausted your fear. If you wish you can test whether or not the fear still remains by actually facing the object in the outside world. This is your choice. Ifthe fear is still there, then of course you must continue with the practice until the object is no longer a disturbance in your life. The same procedure can and should be repeated with any fear that is known to you. It can be fear of the opposite sex, of heights, of darkness or any phobia in fact that you can think of.
The rationale of this technique is simple, namely that people are less likely to react emotionally to objects that are normally objects of fear, if the objects are confronted in states of relaxation. In everyday life one would jump when confronted with the frightening object, but during relaxation the emotional reaction is either lessened or nullified. In a sense the fear is overcome and the ability to face the object during a period of relaxation carries over into daily life. This technique is commonly used by psychiatrists in the following manner.
A patient acknowledges that he is afraid of something, perhaps lizards. The psychiatrist systematically relaxes the patient. Then the psychiatrist shows the patient a picture that illustrates the fear, in this example a photograph or drawing of a lizard, or describes a vivid picture of a lizard, which the patient tries to visualize. Instead of reacting with fear the patient is calmer and is shown that the lizard can be faced and that it need not always be an object of dread. From this, the patient eventually becomes able to face lizards in the outside world. The system in yoga is the same but the individual must be his own psychiatrist.
This method is an excellent tool in exhausting mental problems and their accompanying emotions, and is a good supplement for meditational techniques. The reader is recommended to use it widely to combat the more obvious, conscious fears.
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