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Case Study: Hypnotherapy to Banish Blushing

by Kathy Stephenson(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 141 - November 2007

It was relatively easy for Yvonne to book an appointment and explain her problem, she felt protected by the veil of anonymity that email contact provides. The face-to-face meeting was a different story. She had to confront the situation which had caused her so much embarrassment and distress. She was afraid of speaking to new people, did not like to be the focus of attention, and was so self-conscious that she almost ran out of the waiting room when her name was called. Yvonne suffered from erythrophobia, a fear of blushing. This is a common condition which is estimated to affect one in ten people.

Yvonne had blushed as long as she could remember, and had managed to get by OK until she went to university. Then the seminar presentations proved too much to bear and she soon established a pattern of absenteeism and endless excuses. This pattern carried through into her professional life. She became skilled in the art of avoidance at work, and slipped into the background were she could hide away without attracting attention to herself. She even turned down a promotion as it would involve frontline contact with the general public. The more she avoided situations the smaller her world became, to the point whereby, in desperation, she knew she had to seek help to overcome this problem.

Many people keep their fears and anxieties to themselves for years and often find the initial contact the hardest part of the process. In the case of blushing, the fear is compounded as you have to face it almost immediately. Yvonne read an article about self-hypnosis as a useful method for controlling blushing and she decided to take the first step to her own personal freedom.

Yvonne found the whole experience of hypnosis very liberating; in trance she found it was easy to bypass critical consciousness and to develop an image of herself the way she wanted to be, without the blushing response. In this relaxed state she was able to imagine herself calm and confident in various social situations which had previously caused her to blush. She was beginning to establish a new pattern of behaviour.

On the second visit, Yvonne reported that she felt generally less anxious and had managed to control the intensity of her blushing using the paradoxical intention technique I had asked her to practise. This technique involves the client deliberately trying to blush, and they often find it very difficult to blush on command. She also practised self-hypnosis on a daily basis, which is a very effective way of reducing levels of adrenaline and anxiety, and consequently making blushing less likely to occur.

We did an exercise to help to re-direct her thought process in potentially embarrassing situations. Yvonne had previously had an internal focus ‘everyone is looking at my face going red’. As soon as she adopted an external focus, for example, on the other person’s facial expressions or mannerisms, she began to feel less self-conscious and, therefore, less likely to blush.

In order for Yvonne to feel in control of the process, we established a metaphorical tool she could use as and when required in the future. She imagined a thermometre type gage to measure her level of embarrassment. Whilst in trance, we rehearsed a variety of previously embarrassing scenarios, and Yvonne practised lowering the thermometre gage and reducing blood flow to her face, with a calm breathing technique and positive suggestions. This helped her feel in control, which is particularly important, as sufferers often feel their blushing is not controllable. I arranged for Yvonne to leave several weeks before her next appointment to test out her new tools for change.

The change that had occurred by the next visit was clearly visible. Yvonne was no longer blushing in everyday situations and used her thermometre whenever she felt embarrassed. She had begun to embrace new situations and generally felt more confident. The only lingering problem was anxiety around a forthcoming job interview.

We worked using a technique known as ‘parts work’. This is based upon the premise that all behaviour has a positive intention, no matter how outdated and unwelcome it may seem. The key is to acknowledge ‘the part’ and negotiate with it to bring about the desired change. From this work it transpired that Yvonne’s parents were French teachers and they often asked her to read out extracts in French to friends and family. One particular day she was asked to read under the critical eye of her great aunt. She did not want to do this, became flustered and began to blush. Her mother immediately excused Yvonne and she was allowed to leave the room. The useful purpose of blushing was firmly established from thereon in. If she ever felt thrusted into the limelight, her subconscious came to the rescue with a blushing response. Once we had established the purpose we negotiated a more appropriate response in social situations. Yvonne is now enjoying her new-found freedom, free from the limitations of self-consciousness and blushing. She felt calm and confident during the interview and is now enjoying her new job.


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About Kathy Stephenson

Kathy Stephenson BA PGCE MSc GQHP & NLP Master Practitioner is a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. She is the course leader of the Education, Psychology and Counselling degree course and the Certificate of Hypnotherapy. She divides her time between lecturing and running self-hypnosis workshops. She has developed a range of self-hypnosis audio CDs using a combination of hypnotherapeutic suggestions, NLP techniques and creative visualisation, including a CD entitled Deep Relaxing Sleep. She has developed a range of self-hypnosis audio CDs using a combination of hypnotherapeutic suggestions, NLP techniques and creative visualisation, including a CD entitled Deep Relaxing Sleep, available from She may be contacted via Tel: 01433 659358;

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