Height Anxiety

By Pauline Dumville Dip. Couns, D. Hyp, BSCH (Assoc)

A year ago, Mike Dutfield couldn't face the thought of a country walk, was incapable of visiting his daughter in her high rise flat, and struggled to cope with long journeys by car - for fear of driving over an elevated section of motorway. His problem: a sudden and paralysing fear of heights.

He visited clinical hypnotherapist Pauline Dumfield to see if she could help with his problem. During the treatment, she placed him in a state of deep relaxation (trance) in which he was able to remember a childhood trauma that may have triggered this behaviour. When he was a child, he had been temporarily hospitalised and separated from his parents. Every time they visited, he would wave goodbye to them from the edge of a balcony. This combination of height and the feeling of loss had been embedded in his subconscious but lain dormant until the death of his wife, in 2002.

These incidents were part of the cause. What about the cure? Pauline asked Mike to create a hierarchy of stressors ranging from the very mildest (watching a scene on TV that was filmed at a height) to the strongest (looking down over the Millennium Bridge in London). After bringing Mike to a state of deep relaxation, Pauline introduced the idea of each of these stressors one by one, over the course of the next three treatments until, eventually, Mike was able to resume every aspect of his life with no hint of the previous paralysing fear.

This year, he sent Pauline a postcard of the Millennium Bridge, telling her that he had walked right into the middle and looked down with complete ease, and thanking her for helping him to get his life back - in just four sessions.

Pauline Dumville is based in Worcester, on 01684 573-075. She trained with the London College of Clinical Hypnosis to practitioner level, and is registered with the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

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