I’m a fan of exposure therapy, but in a much milder and more gentle format than is practised by many therapists. I’ve spoken to people who were left even more traumatised after exposure therapy, so it’s worth taking this very slowly.
Remember, this is your journey, so take it at a pace that you are comfortable with. The rule is to push slightly beyond what is comfortable – any more than that may cause too much stress and therefore be counterproductive.
Let’s take the example of leaving the house. Rather than go straight for a trip to the local shop, break it down into much smaller steps, e.g.:
- Looking out of the window, watching people passing
- Stand just inside the open font door (if this is too much try the back or side door to the garden, or even the door to the garage)
- Step outside, preferably in the garden initially
- Step outside and pull the door closed behind you
- Go outside and walk to the end of the path or driveway
- Walk away from the property, see how far you can go
As a rule, with each step you should go to the point where it becomes comfortable, then stay as long as possible with that discomfort. Accept it, know that it cannot harm you and that you are taking control, one step at a time.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you find this tough, it’s by no means easy to consciously overcome something that was unconsciously programmed so any progress at all is a major achievement.
Don’t Rely on Others
While it can be very comforting to have someone with you when you go to the shops, if you’re inviting them along because you can’t go on your own then unfortunately all you’re doing is reinforcing this belief. You need to break this habit and make sure you’re able to do these things alone – use the exposure steps described above to achieve this.