In the early days of therapy, there were several behavioural experiments (such as Pavlov and his dog) that were carried out as a way to show how the certain external triggers and behaviours can affect a person (or an animal), on a deep subconscious level.

John Watson carried out a study that taught us a lot about human behaviour and how fears and phobias can be triggered when he undertook an experiement, that today, would be totally unethical and highly controversial, as he used a small baby, who was referred to as ‘Little Albert’.

Here’s what they did to Little Albert..

They took a pet rat and exposed Little Albert to the presence of the Rat.  They did this to Albert over and over… and naturally, Little Alberts reaction was to reach out and stroke it. I mean, lets face it, a small baby doesn;t understand that the majority of us adults would run a mile at the sight of a Rat… to Little Albert, this rat was a pleasure, and he wanted to touch it.

They also showed :Little Albert some other animals, such as a cute Bunny, and then when showing Albert, who by now was in a state of pleasure, the Rat again, as he reached out to touch it, they banged a metal bar loudly which sent Albert into a state of panic.

Albert was then given a rest from the experiment and a few weeks later was exposed again to the animals. This time they showed him the Bunny, and the cute animals and Albert was really enjoying himself. But when they bought out the Rat again, Albert froze in fear.


What this experiment taught us..

This experiment taught us that if you expose someone to something negative, even if they are doing something positive, then the subconscious mind absorbs this feeling and associates that said experience with danger.

As a result of this, whenever you are then expiosed to the ‘thing’ again, in Little Alberts case, the Rat that initially caused him pleasure, your subconscious mind goes into overdrive and its knee jerk reaction is to simplu protect you. Protect you from the thing that scares you, in Alberts case the noise associated with the Rat, and in the case of someone with a Phobia, the thing that was associated with feeling fear, e.g an aeroplane.

If you have enough shock, fear or negative emotion to something, you can go from loving it, to hating it in a brief moment – Chris Jones.


So what does this mean? What is the solution..?

Well what this means is that if we can understand why the mind has behaved in the way that it has for so long, then we can access the event (subconsciusly) where the initial fear was experienced and the phobia was created and we can work on a theraputic level to reprogram that, so that the subconscious mind no longer reacts in the same way when exposed to the thing that we ‘think’ we should fear.

In regards to someone who has a phobia, this means that a therapist who is able to work on a subconscius level can find out the root cause of your phobia and can then get to work on treating that.

And it also shows us how to prevent phobias.

Think about it – particularly when raising children, right from being babies, we can understand the responsibility we have in making sure that the child is not exposed to repetitive negative behaviour when doing something ordinary, We now understand how the mind works and can absorb that. And if we see negative patterns of behaviours forming we can stop and over ride that.

Imagine if a child slipped and hit his head on the ground and then as he was getting up he saw the grass ahead of him. In that moment, that child may associated grass with fear and the next time he is then taken anywhere where he will see grass he could go into a state of panic as he associates the grass with the fear ….

Think about how us adults often respond to things too.. it’s natural to see your child fall over and gasp in horror. But if that child hears that gasp of horror, even if they didn’t really hurt themselves, they may then subconsciously associate falling with danger.

Therefore, we realise that there is a connection between what we see around us and what we feel – and if we feel fear, we can then associate that fear with what we were doing or looking at at the time that this happened.  Quite scary isn’t it?

And Little Albert? What ever happened to Little Albert?

Little Albert well he was exposed to the animals again, but in the end he did not want to touch them. Not even the cute, fluffy bunny. He had associated the fear of the metal bar banging with the animals and then became scared of the animals.


Now that you have this understanding of how fear can lead to a phobia, it puts you in a position of power, as it means that next time that you become scared of something, you can understand how and why you may then develop a phobia and you can get to work on it quickly, rather than live a life where you begin to avoid that trigger.


If YOU have a phobia and you would like to dig deep and work on it, so that you can move from fear to freedom, book a clarity call with me and let’s chat about how I can set you free from your phobia.


And before I go..

If you enjoyed reading this post about Little Albert, why not watch my video, where I talk about the Little Albert experiment?


Until the next time,



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