have, (d) how you behave while experiencing the emotion, and (e) the
consequences of your response, i.e. how others react to you and what
the outcome usually is. This information has many uses: (a) and (b)
will be necessary in the next step when you rank order several scary
scenes, (c) is needed to know if your thoughts--misinformation or
misperceptions--might cause the emotions, (d) and (e) help you
determine if your emotional reaction is being reinforced by others. If
the emotional response doesn't occur very often, imagine what it is
like and make these ratings.
Keep these records for a week or so, and then try to answer these
questions: Could I avoid these situations? If the emotion occurs in
many situations, what do they have in common (e.g. a fear of criticism
or losing control or looking dumb?) Could the emotions be based on
misconceptions? (Is the probability of rejection that high? Is the
teacher or boss that critical?) Could the emotions be yielding some
payoff? (Do fears keep me dependent and cared for? Does anger get
me my way?) These records provide some answers and a way of
measuring your progress in overcoming the fear.
STEP THREE: Make a list of scary situations
Use the rating (a) and (b) above. For each fear, make a list (called
a hierarchy) of 10 to 20 scary situations that you have faced or might.
Start the list with a few very slightly disturbing situations or scenes. In
very small steps, add more scenes that arouse more and more fear or
anxiety (see samples below). Use a fear scale from 0 (not frightening
at all) to 100 (terrorizing) to rate each scene. The increase in rated
fear from one scene to the next in the hierarchy should be no greater
than 10 scale score units. It's important to conquer the fear one small
step at a time. It's also important to include realistic but scary scenes
at the frightening end of the list. Do not include scenes that involve
real dangers or consequences that would inevitably be disturbing, e.g.
if you are afraid of flying, do not include a scene where you burn up in
a fiery crash. If you are afraid of speaking to groups, do not imagine
the crowd becomes unruly, throws tomatoes and boos you off the
stage. Instead, include at the high end (rated about 75, not 99) scenes
of things you'd like to do if you were not afraid, such as flying safely
cross-country or successfully addressing a large audience.
Several sample hierarchies are given below (Rosen, 1976). They
illustrate the kind of list you should develop for each specific fear but
they probably do not fit your situation accurately enough to be used as
they are. Example: suppose you are uncomfortable in social
gatherings. It is crucial that you know why you are scared--is it the
number of people? the type of people? the activities engaged in? the
topics of conversation? the drinks and drugs being offered? the way
you talk or act? the way you look? the way people look at you? what
you think they are thinking about you? The relevant factors need to be
included in your hierarchy (Rosen, 1976).