This was the message I received from someone last week and you may well identify with her feelings!
For many people, the thought of speaking in public, whether that’s with twenty people or two hundred people, is extremely daunting and scary. Often, this fear can start when we were made to or did speak in front of people – reciting a poem at school maybe or being made to answer questions in class when we didn’t know the answer. If we were laughed at or felt deeply embarrassed or humiliated, that can be enough to set up that fear and mind chatter in our heads, that we can’t do this, that everyone will always laugh at us whenever we do speak in a group of more than a few friends. We can actually reinforce this belief without realising as we shy away from situations where that may happen until it becomes something huge in our minds.
This indeed was the case for the lady who called me. She had been made, as an eight year old, to stand up in front of the class and read a chapter of a book. Every time she stumbled or made a mistake, she had to start again. Her fellow pupils were allowed to laugh and make fun of her. No wonder she didn’t like speaking in front of people.
I helped her by helping her feeling differently about that memory, by removing the emotional attachment to it. I also helped her deal with ‘the solid ball of fear’ which she described was in her chest every time she thought about making that speech. This ‘solid ball’ was obviously very real to her as I could almost ‘see’ it in her body language, in the way her shoulders hunched and her face looked taut and tense at the mere thought of what she was required to do. By spending some time when she was deeply relaxed, running through exactly how she wanted to feel and be during that speech, a kind of mental dress rehearsal for the mind you could say, she was able to enjoy the day and remain calm throughout her speech.
I got in contact after the event and was delighted to hear that all had gone well. She told me that she had used the techniques she had been taught, before and during the speech itself and that when she got to deliver her speech it was as if she had done it all before. She had…in hypnosis! She even went as far as to say that she had actually enjoyed it! Subsequently she has noticed that she can use these techniques for other situations – for presentations at work and even in meetings where before she was far less likely to contribute for fear of drawing attention to herself. So, in two sessions, she achieved her goal and made improvements on other areas of her life as well.