It’s Time to Fire Fear as Your Hypnotist

In the simplest terms hypnosis is focus. Whoever or whatever powerfully captivates our attention could therefore be called a hypnotist. Also, a deep focus on any given subject brings about a certain suggestibility. For instance, when we’re deeply engrossed in a movie the suggestions, in the form of things like scenery, acting, and plot affect our emotions. This rollercoaster would not have an effect on us if a) we didn’t give it our attention, and b) we weren’t suggestible to it. Without this kind of engagement our books, movies, and music would hold no spell, and none of them would be any fun. Our favorite speakers, nature scenes, hobbies, work, and people would also leave us dry. Having the ability to be hypnotized by the magic of life allows us to experience positive emotions like joy, awe, love, interest, and gratitude that make life worth living.

On the other hand, it’s all too easy for people to get hypnotized by things that ultimately leave them hollow:

  • Advertising
  • Over-shopping on Amazon.
  • Binge watching on Netflix.
  • Doom scrolling on Facebook.
  • Junk food.
  • Alcohol & drugs.
  • Peer pressure.
  • Pornography.
  • The news

It’s been well established that humans have a negativity bias. As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it, our brains are life velcro for the negative and teflon for the positive. We all know the feeling of when something has us in its grip, as opposed to the feeling of being free to choose. When fear captivates our attention for too long, it sucks us dry as it draws us in. It enthralls and empties us.

It’s not that any of the above are evil mind-controllers in themselves. It is, however, that we have collectively proven vulnerable to their charms, and that too much attention to any or all of the above can leave us feeling empty and desperate, which then leaves us wanting more distraction, which is never the solution.

When we take away the various appearances that both enthrall and empty us, fear is unveiled as the master hypnotist behind them all. We distract because we fear what is beyond the distraction. Of course, fear never wants to be seen so clearly. It would rather tantalize us with ever-shifting siren calls and keep us jumping from one illusion to the other. For example, a person might:

  • Quit drinking and start eating too much junk food.
  • Stop binge-watching on Netflix and start buying too many things on Amazon.
  • Stop looking at porn and become involved in a co-dependent relationship.
  • Quit smoking but can’t stop watching horrifying stories on the news.

It’s fear that holds you captive in life-defeating habits, conditions, and ways of being that will keep you away from experiencing authentic and sustainable freedom, mastery, motivation, autonomy, and love.

Fear is why we eat too much, drink too much, smoke when we know it’s killing us, get caught in negative thinking and feeling patterns, distract too much, avoid meaningful adventures, avoid intimacy, numb ourselves to life, put off what we’ve always been longing to do, and generally betray our best interests. Fear is often why our legs shake uncontrollably or why our gut is overly sensitive to whatever we eat. Chronic fear compromises our immune system, breaks down our heart and lung capacity, and wears out our joints prematurely. Fear leaves us feeling dead even as we live. Fear does all this while promising to keep you safe.


While all of the above may be true, it would not be wise to demonize fear even as it makes a horrific master. The basic intent of fear is to keep us alive. At this point it might be helpful to look at the biology of fear more closely. What exactly are the mechanisms that hold such sway over our mind and body?

Our autonomic nervous system has three basic functions:

  • Connect. Authentic relating to both ourselves and others happens when we’re regulating in connect. It’s the antidote of fear: a place of safety that allows us to have and be motivated by feelings such as joy, curiosity, excitement, love, gratitude, appreciation, awe, inspiration, and peace. There is a natural longing to be in connect when we’re not there because being in connection feels good. When we’re in connect, fear is either minimally present or not noticed at all. Connect is the most sustainable and nourishing state for our body’s systems.
  • Mobilize. This is the fight or flight part of our nervous system. Fear is present here as a motivational force. We are motivated to survive. Our blood flows into our muscles, draws away from our skin to lessen bleeding, and away from our digestive system because eating is not a priority at the moment. Our lungs dilate, our heart beats faster, and our focus narrows. In addition, our ears tune into lower frequencies to detect predators. None of these changes are sustainable for our body, but they are designed to get us out of a pinch. Mobilize is characterized by feelings such as anger, suspicion, frustration, irritation, worry, and panic.
  • Freeze. Fear becomes present as an amotivational force. It keeps us still because, in freeze, there seems to be no escape. We can’t run. We can’t fight. There’s nowhere to go. In freeze, our body prepares to wait it out, or to die. All functions are minimized. Freeze is characterized by feelings such as hopelessness, helplessness, depression, overwhelm and dissociation. As with mobilize, freeze is designed to help us deal with emergencies and is not biologically sustainable.

Note that both mobilize and freeze systems are fear based, with freeze featuring the most severe states of fear. The more one of these systems are used, the easier they are to access. For example, if we are in situations that make us freeze earlier in life, we will be more prone to freeze later in life. Our bodies remember and reproduce successful strategies when reminded by external cues.

Given the number of human beings on the planet, our threat detection system must be working well. However, given the amount of unhappiness we collectively suffer, it might be worth re-examining our relationship with it.

Fear might be better seen as a somewhat over-reactive security consultant who is usually worth questioning, but you would never want to get rid of altogether. Fear’s central message is that something bad will happen. It operates on a better safe than sorry basis. For instance, it warns us that the stick in the path might be a snake. To its credit, fear helps us know when to cross the street, know which neighborhoods might be safe for a casual stroll, and know which foods to eat, and which animals are safe to approach. If we lacked the ability to consult with fear, we would all be dead. Fear can and should be our friend. But if we let fear hypnotize us, it ultimately leaves us frozen. We clearly need to fire fear as our primary focus.

How does fear come to control us?

There are three ways that come to mind:

Humans have a solid threat detection system. Given the number of human beings on the planet, it’s hard to argue with the results.

We collectively have a negativity bias. In order to survive, we tend to focus on the negative and dismiss the positive. Given the number of humans on the planet, one could say fear has served us well in this regard. But fear knows absolutely nothing about our long-term well-being. It may serve us well in the short term to fight or flee, or even to freeze in the case when all other strategies would be pointless. However, in the long run, it can become the very thing that robs us of our lives while having us believe it is our protector. Left to its own devices our threat detection system is often not sophisticated enough to know when the emergency is over. It stays switched on, creating a new layer of fear when a new danger arises.

We often don’t want to feel fear, because it is unpleasant, and suppress it. Once we do this, fear has the capacity to start making decisions for us in the background. The more we suppress it, the more power we give to it. The more powerful it becomes, the more we fear feeling it.

One way to counteract the negativity bias is to simply practice focusing on the positive. This practice is important, but often doesn’t set us completely free, because the fears which control us are not usually conscious. They lay under the surface and keep us guessing. Therefore, even with ardent and regular practice of positive focus there is often something else that seems to be controlling our actions, but we don’t know what it is. The fact that we can’t name it or recognize it can be frightening.

Some frightening ideas about facing your subconscious fears might be:

  • You won’t survive without them. This makes sense. We often adapt long-lasting fears in order to survive. However, the current situation has often changed enough that those initial fears are no longer adaptive. If the fears are adaptive, you can utilize them more intelligently, like a consultant, when they are conscious.
  • You’ll be a horrible person underneath it all. This is often because deep and long-lasting fears carry shame with them. For instance, many people take on harmful habits because of the initial belief, usually from childhood, that they are bad person. Kid’s minds are not very sophisticated. They often blame themselves for adults’ bad behaviors. However, as adults we can learn to replace pride and shame based behaviors with value-based behaviors that we can wholeheartedly endorse.
  • They don’t seem resolvable. No matter how much you sit with them, feel them, acknowledge them, love them, communicate about them, make art about them, your fears persist and make you feel even more hopeless about the idea of ever being truly free. Distraction seems to offer the only available way of coping.

How hypnotherapy helps

The genius of hypnotherapy is that it can help you access, understand, and resolve those unconscious fears in a way that is relatively quick and gentle. In this case I’m speaking of exploratory hypnotherapy, rather than purely suggestive hypnotherapy. Exploratory hypnotherapy helps you get to the root cause of your fear and remove it. What was unconscious becomes conscious. What was overwhelming fear becomes compassion, wisdom, and understanding.

In other words you quit fearing, you quit distracting, and you start living. It might look like you:

  • Quit drinking
  • Quit smoking
  • Quit eating too much
  • Quit picking at your nails, skin, or pulling your hair
  • Quit binging, porno-ing, and over-shopping

And then you are free to truly start:

  • Engaging in healthy relationships
  • Relating to yourself in positive ways
  • Doing what truly matters
  • Having healthy, life-giving habits
  • Feeling an increased sense of freedom, aliveness, and fulfillment
  • Having more fun
  • Being comfortable in your own skin

You feel more alive and engaged with what matters.

The term hypnosis sometimes spooks people. They equate the term with mind control. In a way, they are right! The truth is that anyone who knows how to play on your fears and insecurity can direct your focus with little effort and for their own benefit. The way out of being hypnotized by fear is to work through what is scaring you and to claim the freedom on the other side. Hypnotherapy is one effective way to do this. It tends to be quicker and more gentle than other forms of help.

Leave a Comment