Whenever surveys have been carried out about what people’s worst fears are, one of the top answers that consistently comes up is public speaking. So many people dread the idea of being up before an audience giving a talk or a presentation. On a rational level, you might know that you’re perfectly safe in front of an audience, but at an emotional level, a part of your mind thinks you are genuinely in danger, so it activates the body’s emergency response mechanisms.
This is why so many people get sweaty palms and a racing heart before giving a talk. Their body is preparing for an emergency, just as if they’d encountered a pack of hungry lions in the wild. This emergency mode could be a helpful response if you’re in real danger of being eaten, but having a body that’s flooded with cortisol and adrenaline, and breathing rapidly with a dry mouth, certainly isn’t the ideal state to be in when you’re giving a public talk.
The fear of public speaking often arises for a mixture of reasons. Firstly, in any high pressure situation where you want to perform well, there can be a tendency to think about and focus on what you don’t want to happen. People with a fear of public speaking often spend a huge amount of mental energy scaring themselves by vividly imagining all the ways their talk could go wrong, and in doing so they’re performing a form of negative self-hypnosis. Hypnotherapy or subconscious exposure therapy is going to help you to use your mind in a much more positive way than this, to create much more helpful expectations about your future public talks or presentations.
Also, if you’ve had bad experiences of speaking in public in the past – whether it was a presentation at school that you didn’t want to do because you felt shy or unprepared, or whether it was a more recent event at work or at a social occasion – your brain can start to form a pattern, where it connects public speaking situations with feelings of anxiety. This isn’t something anyone does deliberately and consciously, it’s simply a process of emotional conditioning, where your subconscious mind learns to instinctively associate public speaking with danger. Hypnotherapy is going to de-condition any negative memories you have of public speaking in the past, so that you can feel calmly neutral about them, which in turn will help your brain form much calmer associations with public speaking.
Finally, having a lot of people looking at you affects you at a primal level. We are social animals, and when you’re in front of a large group of people, it feels tangibly different from relaxing in the privacy of your own home. So everyone, even highly confident public speakers, gets a little increase of adrenaline when they first go on stage. It’s unrealistic and unhelpful to expect yourself to be a hundred per cent relaxed and comfortable at all times during your talk. A little bit of elevated adrenaline is a natural biological response to public speaking, and it can give you the energy, focus and clarity you need to perform well. For actors, performers, and people who love public speaking, this little burst of adrenaline is part of the excitement and buzz of stepping on stage. The trick is learning how to confidently relax with that natural bit of extra adrenaline, so that even if you’re a little nervous at the start, you implicitly trust yourself to be able to speak well. And that’s exactly what mental rehearsal through hypnosis is going to help you to do.