Coaching and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces)

On February 1, 2011 I had a coaching session by phone with I.L., on the most important topic for her at that time. I asked for a testimonial after this session, and here’s what she said:

“I suffered for years of agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and consulted physiologists, but none helped me out. Every day I had to face my fear; even the space from the house door to the car was very difficult to pass: my ankles got so tight because of the fear that I could walk only on my toes. My life was a nightmare, and my family life was affected as well. What happened in the 30 minutes session with Gabriela last evening it’s hard to believe, but true: she helped me reach a state of calmness and peace that no physiologists did. This state allowed me to relax and enjoy a state that I haven’t felt in years. During the session I went through different stages of angst, fear, I even cried … to finally release and reach this calmness state. I know it’s not a permanent state yet, but now I learned how to get there, a road that I forgot for years and affected all my life. And you know what? This state of peace spread out into the house, and by the end of my session with Gabriela the other members of my family were calm too – what a wonderful place to be!”

At the end of the coaching session, I.L. decided what she would like to do during the next week, what exercises she could focus on to deeper the learning from this session and create a new habit (that will allow her to achieve that calmness state by herself and walk in open spaces without fear).

With her agreement, I’ll share with you the email she sent me a few days later and my answer:

I.L.: “I cannot relax so much without you, to bring back that calmness state when I start having fearful thoughts. I was able to walk (even without thinking that I’m protected by an imaginary bubble*), to smile, to relax, but I cry in my sleep and I wake up with badly swollen wrists. Maybe I can be healed when I will have money.”

G.C.: “Dear I.L., there is so much you can do even now, without waiting for the time when you’ll have more money to pay for other sessions. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Your mind was used for years to come out with thoughts that bring you the fear and tension in your body. It became your second nature. To reverse the process it takes time, please be patient with yourself, notice every day the positive changes and celebrate them. You said you were able to walk, to smile, to relax (even not completely) – these are good reasons to celebrate! Each time when you notice that you did do that, find a way to celebrate – even if it is a pat on your back, you deserve it! Any progress is achieved in small steps.
  2. The negative/fearful thoughts are coming to your mind without effort. They did that for years! Replacing them with positive thoughts takes willingness, commitment and patience. To get there, you have to train your mind to stop engaging in the negative/fearful thoughts, get to a place of no thoughts, than bring positive thoughts in your mind. You have to become more aware of your thoughts; as son as you notice one that’s negative or fearful, stop engaging into that thought, cancel it and replace it with a positive one. More you will do this, easier will be in time to have positive thoughts, it’ll become your new habit. It’s like pouring water into a glass of cranberry juice. At the beginning you won’t see the difference, but by continuing to do that you will get in time to a glass full of water.
  3. If you don’t remember what I did to help you reach that calmness state, find a quiet place when you have a few minutes available and try this exercise: Take a few deep breaths, than imagine yourself walking in an open space. Every time when you notice a fearful thought (generated by the “space” you’re “walking” in), imagine a sponge that is erasing that thought from your mind. Soon, another thought will come; if it brings again the fear or you notice a tension in your body, erase that thought as well… and so on. You will realise that this exercise is relaxing your body and doesn’t allow your mind to get caught in negative/fearful thoughts. Enjoy the moment and you’ll notice the difference. Repeat this exercise as often as you can. It will help your body become used with the state of calmness and it’ll be easier to reach it in time.
  4. If you’re worried that this is just an imaginary exercise (that doesn’t have real results), maybe you don’t know that there is scientific proof that same muscles fire up when someone is imagining running a marathon (for example), or is really running a marathon. Tennis players are training this way too, and other athletes are using the imaginary method to train themselves for better performance. So, why not give it a try?!
  5. Our dreams could bring to the “surface” emotions that are hidden in our unconscious mind from previous experiences. It is a way to help us become more conscious of those emotions and help us to deal with them, when we are ready. You can consider those dreams as part of your healing process. The fact that you cry while sleeping is good; it helps you to release some of those emotions. Sometimes the healing process brings even more negative effects before you start getting better. The swollen wrists you have when you wake up might not to happen after a while if you continue the healing process.”

Gabriela Casineanu,

*During the coaching session I asked I.L to imagine that she’s surrounded by a transparent bubble that’s’ protecting her while walking in an open space. At the end of the session, she chose to imagine daily that she’s walking with that imaginary protective bubble.


About Gabriela Casineanu

Building a better world by tapping into introvert power. I'm a Thoughts Designer, Trailblazer and Artist, with a background in Engineering, IT, Quality Assurance, Business and Coaching. Yep, seems a lot ... but I came a full circle. :-) I enjoyed every phase I've been through, especially my last years when the pieces of my puzzle start coming together!
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