Fear of Public Speaking

Sarah JonsGeneral, Stuff about Fear Issues

Lots of us have a fear of Public Speaking.

I’ve worked with clients who invented deaths in their family because their fear of public speaking was so great. Other clients pop pills to help them manage their fear of public speaking engagements.

Is it OK to pop a beta blocker to alleviate symptoms that appear when we stand in front of people, and just talk?

Humans are primed to look for easy solutions, so it’s natural that we do this.

I wonder if the women who take these pills have considered how they would manage if they fell pregnant?  And one of the possible side effects is impotence as well as loss of sex drive for the men.

So taking medication isn’t a sensible long term choice.

Why does public speaking generate such fear?

It’s really baffling why we fear public speaking. Our conscious brain struggles to make sense of our behaviour. It might be a work presentation, an interview, an annoying role play in a training activity that sends us into a spin.

It could be a date, a Best Man’s speech that triggers a mini meltdown.  Perhaps getting married and the thought of reciting wedding vows casts a shadow over the day? Fear of public speaking can manifest itself across a range of settings and situations.

What are the symptoms of fear of public Speaking?

Part of the brain clams up; it just simply disconnects. Accompanied by various symptoms; wobbly voice, sweaty palms, waves of nausea, coughing, memory loss, jelly legs and arms. Why can’t we just stop it?   It’s the fight or flight response. Its an unconscious response that is outside conscious control.

Why do I have a fear of public speaking?

You need to understand the concept of the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious includes the majority of our mind and body.  The unconscious manages our hormone regulation, our heart beating, our breathing. We don’t manage these things consciously.  The unconscious communicates to the conscious brain through various pathways, by releasing chemicals (hormones).

Your’re standing in front of a crowd about to give a presentation, the unconscious triggers the release of cortisol a stress hormone. This is the unconscious letting you know that it thinks there is a life threatening situation. It wants you to quickly leg it as fast as you can. Your unconscious is communicating with you by sending you these signals.

The unconscious increases your heart rate, pumps the muscles up, deactivates parts of the brain and heightens awareness.  However the conscious mind forces you to struggle on with the presentation (because social conditioning kicks in).  Internally there is a state of agony, chaos and conflict. You can’t be relaxed if you’re ready to fight or flee.  Acutely aware of your own discomfort, you believe everyone knows which further compounds your angst.

The unconscious response to this, is to continue releasing cortisol, because it hasn’t got your attention, you haven’t ran away! As far as your unconscious is concerned you are standing in front of something dangerous. You need to think in primitive cave man terms.  Although we live in modern day society, in safe houses, with modern technology, our brains are developed for living in caves, in tribes, fighting predators and hunting for food.

Your unconscious is there to protect you to keep you safe.  But here’s the kicker: It’s making a mistake!

As far as your unconscious is concerned you might as well be standing in front of a saber tooth tiger. Which you obviously aren’t.

Your unconscious give you 3 choices:

  1. Freeze
  2. Flight
  3. Fight

None of the above are great options.

Once the presentation is over, things quickly return to normal.  Relief  floods through your system which can often leave you feeling exhausted.  There is a period of reflection when you try to make sense of your behaviours and extreme feelings.

This memory and experience then gets filed somewhere in the brain, ready for the next time.

Yes it’s a loop; the brain when put in a similar situation in the future, remembers exactly what happened.

When we remember painful events,  we can activate the release of cortisol.  So when you first find out that you have another public speaking, a squirt of cortisol hits the gut.

That’s the  “Oh no not again” moment.

Fear of public speaking ( Glossophobia) does get worse for some as time passes.

So if you need to tackle it once and for all get in touch.

By Sarah Jons

Some interesting links about Fear of Public Speaking

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221214471200004X

https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/06/phobias-what-you-were-too-afraid-to-ask.html