I’m standing on the bedroom table because, at six years old, it’s the only way I can see out of the window. I’m fiddling around with the window latch trying to open it and as I do I brush aside a bit of wood shaving that turns out to instead be a tiny moth which immediately takes flight towards me.

As I lean back to avoid it I lose my balance. My arms are waving around grasping at the air but I know really there’s nothing I can do to stop myself falling backward off the table now. I’m lucky, landing on my bed which happens to be directly behind me. I’m shaken but safe.

Soon after I discover that whenever I see a moth or a butterfly I feel inexplicably terrified, which if I’m honest isn’t ideal! 

And as I get older, summer exams bring an extra concern in that I know I’ll walk out of the exam hall if there was any sign of one of the creatures! And although that doesn’t happen there are social occasions where I take off at high speed, and even to my lovely friends who know about my phobia, it must look pretty strange!

From this though I learned that irrational behaviour actually rarely is. If your neural network makes an odd (x means y) connection… for example, a moth (or butterfly) means almost certain death or at least serious injury, then it makes sense that your instinct is to get out of there, fast. It’s just a survival mechanism, which when it works well keeps us safe, but when it get messed up is a pain in the ass, because the fear feels real even though the threat isn’t.

Some random scary event is usually behind this kind of fear. For instance, after the film Jaws was released in the UK many people became a bit phobic of swimming in the sea, even though let’s face it, shark attacks in the UK are not exactly prolific. So the trigger can be as innocent as a butterfly and doesn’t even have to be set up by a ‘real’ event, given Jaws was just a film.

So why am I sharing this? Well, many years after my ‘falling from the table’ experience, I was training in India. I’m walking along a path and I catch myself thinking ‘Wow, how beautiful’, as a large butterfly flutters past me. Followed by a real sense of gratitude. 

In between I’d learnt NLP and specifically I’d made use of a technique for releasing phobias, and in that moment with the butterfly I knew just how different things were. The same technique is also helpful with much less intense concerns, so you don’t have to be walking an emotional tightrope to benefit! It can help with fears around public speaking, meeting nerves, and many other everyday stresses and strains.

If you have an irrational fear or concern of some kind, that you think may be holding you back, you may want to find a coach who is familiar with these kinds of techniques, as it can make an incredible difference.

My own coaching is usually more geared to business and performance but given my personal experience, it has always been an area of interest for me, and so I am delighted to be co-facilitating a training on this with Heather Bond, in March this year.

Heather has trained with Tad James (one of the originators of timeline) and many other NLP trainers, and brings with her a wealth of experience in this area. The event is an advanced level training, open to those with existing NLP experience. So, if you want to enhance your skills or brush up on working with fears and phobias, check out the event here and join Heather and myself for a very special programme.


You can also contact me at lesley@lesleymcdonald.co.uk