This is a question many people ask. The reason is that phobias sometimes seem so bizarre and have no seemingly logical explanation. Yet, generally, they are logical and come from logical causes. Many people expect a simplistic answer, but phobias can be anything but simplistic. We might expect that we have a phobia of water because we nearly drowned as a child and have forgotten it, or we drowned in a past life, and have a fear of water as a result. Now it is true that some cases have been found whereby the answers to modern day problems have been simplistic and do relate back to past life memory. One such case is posted on our research pages. A lady with a lifelong affliction was cured instantly simply by being regressed back to a past life where she recalled being chained to a wall by the neck.
This however, is the exception, rather than the rule, though it shows that such things are indeed possible. Phobias, however, like the above case, have unconscious aspects, and that's why we don't understand them. While we might see such simplistic solutions to some phobias as in the above case mentioned, most won't be found to be so simple. Also, some problems have symbolic aspects to them, meaning they have unconscious elements that are hidden behind conscious representations of the problem, and while fear is a part of a phobia, it is often not simply fear that drives it. It can be a conflict that resides at an unconscious level. This conflict could be over different issues in different people, but the conflict in these cases would generally be over something important, possibly something involving emotional issues as well as insecurity and fear.
There are many issues that can generate fear, depending on one's nature and upbringing. Mostly such fears come from the present life, especially childhood, but it need not be childhood. If one is brought up in a suppressive religious household, one might develop a fear of God, and a fear of anything told to be against the liking of God. A person in a narrow minded household might develop much shame about, and possibly a fear of, sex. There are many possibilities. For a girl, the focus of sex might be a male. An association with the story of the frog and the handsome prince might associate sex with a frog. We might develop a conscious fear of frogs without understanding the unconscious association with the story. A person might wish to leave a spouse but at the same time be fearful of it. In this way someone might develop conflicts over desires and needs. Some might suppress their true feelings because it becomes stressful to be constantly aware of them. The picture becomes further complicated by substitution, which can be considered a form of symbolism, or by direct symbolic representation. For instance, a person might have a conflict within over whether to leave their husband. Insecurity might keep them in the relationship. The drive to leave grows with time. The fear of the consequences of leaving remains. The problem grows with time and along with it the conflict within. It is impossible to solve because of the fear of leaving. There are different reasons why the person might wish to leave the relationship, but let's say that in this case, it is because the person feels she married too young, has not had enough good times, has not had enough sexual relationships, (a commonly felt problem) and wants to explore. Let's say this desire is strong. The problem builds up until it is too much to cope with so it becomes quietly suppressed. We can come to fool ourselves, delude ourselves, if it is convenient. Consciously the lady gets on with her life. The problem is that as the conflict grows, and the frustrated sexual needs grow, the psychological energy has to go somewhere. The lady doesn't consciously want to know about the problem because it is too upsetting and frustrating, but the emotion will come out in spite of that. The conflict can become expressed in another way, through indirect representation. In this way the girl gets her feelings out despite the conflict being unconscious, but doesn't realise what she is doing. A common symbolic representation of upset is water, and can be found in the dream symbol of floods, tears and other ways. The girl feels she needs to be free. This might be symbolised by a dream symbol of walking in wide open spaces, or by a dream of standing on a headland looking out to the the sea, giving a feeling of freedom. The girl with the conflict would also be worried about upset from the result of the conflict. This upset might be represented by the water, and the desire for freedom by the sea, or open spaces. When the conflict becomes too great at the unconscious level, and the desire to leave and experience sexual freedom becomes too strong, the fear related to what she so desperately wants to do may break into consciousness, but instead of being associated with sex, or the husband, it becomes associated with the representation of the conflict, which in this case is water, or open spaces. As a result, seeing water at a conscious level, or open spaces, can remind her of the conflict that exists at an unconscious level that she is trying to ignore, and the fear associated with it. Because of this, when the girl sees water, there is a response of emotion, expressing the fear within, or when the girl sees a wide open space, it reminds her of the freedom she craves, and the conflict at an unconscious level, so she responds with fear. At a conscious level she doesn't understand the fear, because she has suppressed the true strength of the conflict within, and the associations that link to it. In this case the lady might develop a phobia of water, or open spaces. Neither have anything to do with a traumatic experience, and neither are to do with past life memory. There are many different possibilities, so one shouldn't immediately run to the idea of a past life memory, though that is possible. Something from this life is much more likely. In this lady's case, the phobia might help to disable her, so she needs her husband's help all the more, and makes her even more dependent on him. In this way the phobia can also help to overcome the conflict by forcing the lady to stay with her husband. Fortunately, it is not always necessary to understand a phobia, to cure it.
In summary, it is possible that a phobia might be an association with some real past situation, or even a feared object. It could have components of fantasy. It might come from teachings and associations. As mentioned, some real situation desired might bring fear of the consequences, so a conflict of some type might lie at the base of a phobia. A difficulty with phobias is that the closer you get to the true cause of the problem, the greater the anxiety can become. We therefore tend to run away from the real cause instead of facing it, and this tends to hold in place the phobia. In my next post I'll discuss past lives and panic attacks, and then I'll discuss yoga and its psychological benefits. I'll also discuss how some types of yoga might help with these types of problems.