There is nothing rational about fear of elevators in modern society. Indeed, there is little that is rational about most such things although at some time or another we all suffer them in our lives.
To fight fear, act
To increase fear – wait, put off, postpone
David Joseph Schwartz
You may find they arise in a number of ways. One might be just an extension of a fear of small spaces.
Alternatively, it may be that you are not afraid of small spaces in themselves, but you can’t bear the thought of travelling up and down a huge building, often quite quickly, and feel out of control.
Yet another may be associated with a fear of heights generally. Whatever it is, the fear is real and needs to be dealt with.
Let me tell you about the bizarre circumstances involving the first person I met with this fear some years ago when I was looking for an apartment in London.
I contacted an estate agent and arranged to view a few separate apartments the same evening.
The first was on the seventeenth floor of the building. The agent met me in the reception area, showed me to the elevator and then said, “I have a phobia of elevators. I can’t travel in that. I’ll meet you up there.”
He was, fortunately a young man, for he then proceeded to run up seventeen flights while I travelled in the elevator.
To say I was taken aback was an understatement - a fear of elevators!
Here was a man who spent his entire life showing people around real property, and as he was based in a city most of the work would involve viewing apartments.
Firstly, he had to be extremely fit to be running up and down many flights of stairs each day and, secondly, he was facing a short career for as he got older it would get increasingly difficult. Neither was he just an employee; he owned the estate agency.
My next experience was much more recent. I was about to get out of an elevator on the ground floor of a major public organisation in the city when I stepped aside to allow a young lady to enter.
She immediately exclaimed, “Oh, I can’t get into that thing on my own.”
I discovered, on enquiry, that she wished to travel to the sixth floor, so I asked “Would you like me to accompany you?”
She then entered the elevator, we travelled to the sixth floor together, she exited and I returned to the ground floor.
I mention those two incidents to reinforce the point that fear is not rational and also to point out that the fear in these two people expressed itself in different ways.
In the first case, the estate agent would not enter an elevator in any circumstances. I have no idea what the root of his fear was.
The young lady was quite prepared to travel in an elevator but would not do so alone.
It may be – I do not know – that her fear was one of being trapped alone in the elevator if it got stuck or the doors failed to open.
It did not seem to have crossed her mind that if it did get stuck on this occasion, she would be trapped at least for some time with a complete stranger who she had no reason to trust.
What is clear is that both of these very pleasant people were putting their concentration in the wrong place.
Most people who board with a fear of elevators are not concentrating on the ride; they are, instead, thinking about where they are going.
Usually, at most, it is a two-minute ride and very often considerably less.
If you are thinking about where you are heading or the next task you have to perform, you are usually barely aware of the trip in the elevator.
Both these young people need to make up their minds to defeat the fear.
It is ludicrous to think of their lives – and those around them – being inconvenienced over what is, in reality, a triviality, although I accept it is no triviality in their minds.
I hope that one day they will look back upon their fears and laugh about them.
As Richard Bandler says, if you think one day you will look back and laugh about it, why wait? It is really a question of loosening up and laughing about it now.
If you don’t conquer your fears, you handicap yourself in life. You prevent yourself from participating in some beautiful experiences.
Those who have been to the Marina Mandarin Hotel in Singapore will have experienced the glass elevator which ascends from the middle of a beautiful atrium, so you can see the floor disappear below you as it travels upwards, observe the beauty of the plant life and hear the sounds of birds singing.
If you refuse to travel in an elevator you cannot experience that. Likewise you would not enjoy the breathtaking experience of the glass elevator that runs on the outside of the Lloyds' building in London – and I have no doubt there are many similar experiences to be had around the world.
It is only when you start to conquer your fears that you can start to imagine what else is preventing you from moving forward.
If you are affected by this sort of fear, try this technique of double dissociation.
Imagine you are sitting in a cinema looking at the screen. You are watching a film of yourself going towards an elevator with other people. They get in. You see yourself paralysed by fear. You let the elevator go and trudge up the stairs instead.
View the film through from beginning to end and see how ridiculous it appears. Now, watch the film through a second time and when it gets to the end freeze the last frame and run the film backwards.
As it runs backwards see the pictures flickering black and white, black and white, so that they become increasingly less clear, until it gets to the beginning of the film.
Now imagine yourself in the balcony of the cinema. This time you are looking down and you see yourself watching the same film on the screen. Play the film through to the end again and freeze the last frame.
Run it backwards as fast as you can, flicking the picture from black to white and back again so that it becomes increasingly less clear, and also imagine playing some circus music at the same time. If you have access to circus music which you can play out loud, so much the better.
Repeat the exercise several times. This disrupts the neural pathways which are the basis of your repeated fear.
Now read the chapter on this website about anchoring. Learn to anchor some good experiences and when you next go to an elevator fire off the anchors. The way to overcome your fear is to face it.
Use whatever aids you need in order to overcome it, but remember particularly that the more you face the fear, the more you experience what you fear, the more the fear diminishes and the more the experience becomes part of everyday life and it is one more victory you can chalk up for yourself.
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