Helping Someone Get Over Living with Agoraphobia
As a disclaimer, I’m not a psychologist nor do I diagnose others with mental disorders that are present in the DSM 5. If you or someone you know have an issue such as agoraphobia, you should get help from a competent professional.
One of my very first clients that came to see me was a women who all signs pointed to and one that I would say was clearly living with agoraphobia.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is generally categorized as the fear of being in public places. Dictionary.com goes further and states that it’s the extreme and irrational fear of being in public places. The DSM 5 would go even further to classify agoraphobia, but we don’t need any of that.
All we really need to know is that this woman is running a pattern of having a fear of being in public places or going to public places. Everything else I can go and figure out with her help.
I was in my office and the woman had arrived in the parking lot right around the time for our appointment. She didn’t talk much and was very brief in making her appointment on the phone. I watched as her old white pickup sat there in the parking lot for several minutes.
Looking on, I wondered if she would every come into my office for our session. At the time I didn’t know what her problem was or even the reason for her appointment. I was a bit nervous, but also still excited for the challenge that was ahead of me. I was still somewhat new to helping others with NLP.
Finally, I saw the rusty door open and a woman appeared from the driver’s side. Her head was down, but strongly she walked towards my office and through the front door. Once inside I greeted her warmly and I could tell that she was nervous. She talked rather fast and appeared to be glad to be there.
It’s usually a good sign when someone seems nervous when seeing you as a change practitioner. I was still starting my practice using neuro-linguistic programming, and knowing what I know now, a person who is nervous when coming to see you means that they are aware of how much such of a shift it could have for their life.
I directed her to the practitioners room and she sat down in the quiet, quaint room. It was a winter day, very cold outside, however in the comfortable room I was about to hear this woman’s story and what it was like living with agoraphobia.
Living with Agoraphobia
Let’s call her Maude. On the introductions she told me how she was doing and I could tell she was nervous. I relaxed in my chair and let her relax as well. This was rapport and pacing and leading. By doing both of these techniques, Maude was easily able to relax quicker and feel more comfortable with me.
She settled in and told me what her life was like. She says that she lives in a constant fear of going into public places. I asked her what it was like and she said that it was awful, describing to me how she couldn’t leave the house most days and when she did she had anxiety and was terribly panicked.
I listened as she described this in great detail. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine being racked by anxiety as I had overcame OCD before, but what this woman was going through sounded very painful.
Maude went on to tell me that she lives with a boyfriend and a dog that keeps her company. This same dog was in her truck out in the parking lot and it was an animal that she loved deeply and couldn’t be apart from for long periods at a time. This made perfect sense as the pet served as her comfort blanket.
She told me how hard it was to even come here and that she almost didn’t many times. However, she willed herself to see me no matter how hard it was. She finally came to say that she was glad to be there and I was as well.
I didn’t need to define agoraphobia or even to know what it was. Maude gave me all that I needed of how she experienced this problem and now I just needed to understand how this problem came about in her life and what a change would do for her.
It’s very important to understand this because our minds are only trying to keep us alive and they form these patterns to do so, even when they are really messed up or don’t make sense to us. In this instance, having a fear of public places somehow benefitted Maude. This is a very important distinction and not one to take lightly because this phobia is there to protect Maude, just taking it away without making sure she will feel safe going forward would be the wrong thing to do.
My thought at the time was that Maude probably had an event, or several events in her life that had taught her that it was good to be scared of public places.
The young practitioner in me was progressing and I had it right. Years earlier she had experienced a traumatic relationship with an ex-boyfriend. The man was a jealous and possessive man that got incredibly upset anytime that she did something that he did not approve of. It got to the point that he became so insecure in the relationship that he didn’t allow her to leave or have any freedom in the relationship.
If she did leave the house where she stayed with this man, even for a few hours, then she would have to endure substantial pain in the form of a loved one yelling at her, degrading her, and just treating her awful. This also would have her come to associate a loss of love with leaving the house. Ie: if she leaves the house she loses his love. Add it all together and Maude had formed a strong behavioral pattern of associating great pain with leaving her house.
Fast forward a few years and she has lost this relationship and now she is with a kind, sweet, and gentle man. However, she still has this uncontrollable fear of leaving the house that just doesn’t serve her anymore. At one point in her life, she had viewed staying at her house as keeping the love she valued so much (something that was really important to her subconscious mind), and now she had the same pattern running even though it was completely unnecessary.
I asked her a few more questions because I had to be sure that she would be able to let this behavior go without having any other consequences that negatively affected her life. This is called making sure the change is ecological. Meaning we wouldn’t want to fix one problem just to create another even worse problem for her, or more problems.
When I asked questions about what it would be like for her to make this change in her life, she told me affirmatively that this is something that could only be positive. I checked with her on many different angles, seeing how her relationships would be affected and how her life would be improved.
As a side effect these questions also prose a very strong motivator to change. Paired with questions about what it’s like now with the pain of living in their hell and then going to their heaven of what it will be like when they make the change, this kind of influence increasing the person’s motivation to change is extreme.
Once I felt Maude was truly ready to make this change and that her life would be totally okay and even better with this change I walked her through a guided meditation just talking with her and soothing her mind. There are many times that I have had to use far more powerful NLP skills. This wasn’t one of them.
Maude had already made the change. Did you notice it? It wasn’t after I greeted her or even when she sat down in my office. Actually the change came before that.
She made the change when she got into her car and she came to see me. Maude did the hardest thing she could have at the time and what she believed was right for herself. I’m a firm believer that only you have the power to change yourself and Maude her changed before I even met her.
It was a perfect example of inspirational change, where she hadn’t even met me, she didn’t really knew who I was, but I had inspired her to change her life and change her patterns. I’m really only a guide, a presence that is there, one that has observed the patterns, knows how they work, and knows how to find the solutions to the puzzles.
In this instance Maude found her own solution to her problem. After I finished the meditation, which was really just to help soothe her and wasn’t really a part of the process, she was glowing and happy. She thanked me for my time and hard work and I smiled as I knew she couldn’t be the same as she was before.
Minutes later, looking out of my office I saw her laughing and smiling while playing with her dog outside of her truck. This was one woman that wouldn’t have to live with agoraphobia anymore.