How to Decrease Your Fear with “Desensitisation”

In spite of his enormous initial fear, Gideon eventually accomplishes the supernatural in the power of God because he believes in the promises of God … and acts on them in faith. At first, he sees himself as a weak thresher, but God sees him as a “mighty warrior.” Then, as Gideon takes God at His word and acts out of faith rather than out of fear, his faith in God grows, his courage as a warrior grows, and finally he comes to see himself as God sees him. With each progressively more fearful situation, God’s reassurance helps Gideon to choose, as an act of his will, to trust God and move forward in victory. With each new step, Gideon’s fear becomes weaker while his faith becomes stronger.

Identifying your fear and its “triggers” will help deprive those triggers of their power. Your regular, repeated exposure to a trigger (something that initiates a sense of fear or danger) can help to desensitise you to it. If your fear is situational or if you are under medical care for panic attacks, you can move toward victory as you walk through the following process:

“Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” (1 Peter 1:13)

If you are overly sensitive to an object or situation, “desensitisation” can be the key to open the door to freedom. Systematically repeat each of the following steps one at a time. After repeating one individual step day after day for a week or 2, or until you no longer have a strong emotional reaction, move on to the next step. A slight reaction is expected and permissible before moving to the next step.

·         Gradually increase your exposure to the fear – like in the case of a Specific Phobia for example: fear of elevators:

Stand near an elevator and watch people get on and off. Push the button AS IF you are getting ready to step inside. Step inside (when other people are not around), hold the “Door Open” button, count to 5 and step out. Step inside, (again, when others are not around), hold the “Door Open” button, count to 10 and step out. Step inside, ride to only one floor and exit. Ride to 2 floors … 3 … eventually all the way up and down for 10 minutes. A supportive person can be present for each step – initially also doing the activity – then later not participating, but being present to encourage and praise.

·         Practice facing your fear – like in Social Phobia – for example: fear of initiating conversation:

Initiate by simply saying “hello” with a smile. Practice being genuinely interested in each person you speak with. Think: What is truly meaningful to this person? – then mention it or ask about it. Listen carefully to what is said by others. Ask follow-up questions. Ask simple, open-ended questions of others about themselves  – questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no.” Intentionally use “you” and “yours” more in conversations than you use “I” and “my.” Make brief comments about yourself. Practice by asking a salesperson questions. Every day practice saying general questions you could ask anyone: “Who has been the most influential person in your life?” “What was your favorite subject in school?” “What do you enjoy doing more than anything else?” “What has brought you the greatest satisfaction in anything that you have done?”

·         Repeat each step over and over again until it evokes little reaction – like in Agoraphobia – for example: fear of a panic attack (fear in open spaces):

Open your front door and leave it open. Stand in the open door for as long as possible. Go out the door and stand on the porch – breathe deeply. Walk down the sidewalk to the edge of your property. Walk around the outside of the house. Sit in the car while it is in the driveway. Have someone drive you around the block. Drive yourself around the block. Go to the mall and sit in your car in the parking lot. Go to the mall when it will not be too crowded and walk around. Go into a store and greet a sales clerk. Make a small purchase. Each step of the way, say, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 118:6). “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

For serious phobic reactions, the process of desensitisation is almost always used in combination with professional medical help.