Plan for Self-Exposure
Welcome back! Have you tried any body-based exercises we talked about yesterday?
Today, you will work out the action plan to place yourself in the fear-causing situation in a structured way. This will be the session plan for your self-treatment.
Do you remember the goals you set in Lesson 2? Our task here is to aim for your goals and arrange reasonable steps between what you can handle now and what you want to be able to do.
Take Small Steps
Start with something that you can do with a tiny challenge; for example, the first step can be staying in a phobic situation for just a little longer. I will give you my example. My first goal was, “I want to be able to stay in the same room with a cat or dog for one hour,” so I crafted the following steps:
Step 1. Stay in the same room with a cat in a playpen, with the cat’s owner and helper in the room.
Step 2. Stay in the same room with a cat in a playpen, with the cat’s owner and helper in the room, moving five steps closer to the playpen.
Step 3. Stay in the same room with a cat in a playpen, with the owner and helper waiting outside but keeping the door open.
Step 4. Stay in the same room with a cat in a playpen, without the owner and helper.
Step 5. Stay in the same room with a cat, with the owner holding the cat.
Always trust in yourself that you can do more than what you are doing now. If you find a step is too huge, break it down into smaller steps again. Don’t create ambitious plans to get yourself discouraged at the early stage. But also be cautious not to stay in each step for too long. You don’t have to wait until all phobic response disappears to move on to the next step.
In his book, The Buddha’s Brain, psychologist Rick Hanson tells us that brain has a negativity bias: It detects negative information faster than positive information. It takes five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one. Remember, each time we get closer to handling a step, we are adding positive experience to the brain.
Now, look at your goals. Write down your first goal as “Step final.” And write down what you can manage now as “Step 1.” Leaving enough space on the paper, start drafting the steps in between.
Once you have finished the steps, create a new column and think about how you would celebrate a small success. Write down a reward for each step.
Although you may not believe you have achieved much in each step, you must learn to cheer your victories, however small they seem. Rewards are the best way to enhance your motivation.
By now, you should have a draft like this:
Healing from Phobia — Goal #1
In the following two lessons, we will talk about two preliminary steps to prepare for the implementation of your action plan. The first step is activating the power of imagination: visualizing yourself in phobic situations. The second step is using mindfulness meditation to observe your fear. See you then!
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