Solving a Fear of Needles

fear of needles
Source: momento mori

Debbie came to me because she suffered from a fear of needles. While for most this would be simply a nuisance, in her case it was standing in the way of a cherished desire: motherhood. Her gynecologist had informed her that if she got pregnant, that meant routine blood tests before and during the pregnancy. Debbie told me that on a few occasions she had forced herself to go to get a blood test. But as soon as she got near the clinic, she became agitated, nervous and felt dizzy.

To treat her phobia Debbie had tried psychotherapy with different psychologists. They had taught her visualization exercises and relaxation techniques. Once a psychologist had even accompanied her to a clinic and tried hypnosis right then and there. On that occasion Debbie became a slightly relaxed but then the sight of the needle triggered her full phobic reaction.

“Tell me if you can help or not,” she said.

This question communicated to me that she was tired of her fear of needles and she didn’t want to continue with endless psychotherapy sessions that led to nothing.

“Yes, I can help you.” I answered. “And I can help you overcome your fear of needles in just few sessions.”

Debbie reiterated that her fear of needles prevented her from something very dear to her, getting pregnant and starting a family. She knew that, to make sure everything was going well, she had to do blood tests. As a result of her phobia, she had postponed having a child for many years. She really wanted to get pregnant, but she didn’t to dare because she cared about her child’s health and knew that she would not be capable of undergoing the necessary and routine medical procedures.

After 4 sessions with me, Debbie booked an appointment and went to a clinic. She had her blood drawn. During the process she was relaxed and in control.

How she did it? By relaxing herself? By controlling her thoughts or controlling her fear reaction? Absolutely not!

Here is how I helped Debbie:

First I pointed out to her that relaxation or controlling her fear reaction was not helpful. This is what all psychotherapists had told her to do and it had given no positive results, as she well knew. The reason it didn’t was because underneath the conscious efforts to relax and to control her thoughts and fear reaction Debbie was still struggling with the fear of needles. Paradoxically, she actually felt less in control. I asked her to reflect on Lao Tse’s quote: “Before weakening something, you must strengthen it.”

Seven days later she said that she had understood the essence of this teaching of Lao Tse. I explained to her the Chinese duality of Yin and Yang. According to this universal principle anything carried to excess can transform itself into its opposite. If she tried with all her effort to relax, the effect was more anxiety and fear. I gave her a task to practice for seven days. This exercise was to help Debbie feel differently about her fear of needles. I also told her about the power of the water:

“Even though water is the softest element in nature, it is the most powerful one. You cannot oppose it – you must channel its strength to your advantage.”

On her way to the clinic, I asked her not to relax. I told her that she should go with all her emotions, thoughts and reactions to fear. However, after the exercise I gave her, her fear reaction was no longer a fearful trigger. Her fear of needles was no longer a phobia.

A few months later Debbie called me to announce that she was pregnant. I was overjoyed to hear the excitement and happiness in her voice. Now, many years later, she is a happy mother of a beautiful eight-year old girl.