Next, the nurse guided me through my fear hierarchy step-by-step. After I was able to look at these images whilst feeling relaxed and less anxious (reciprocal inhibition), I could then advance to more fearsome activities like holding a needle and injecting a pillow. A pillow was used because Piaget (1945) claimed that symbolic development occurs around 2-4 years and this object was a symbolic representation of my leg. This task took longer to master, so when I finally learnt to become relaxed the nurse praised me by stating: “That’s a great accomplishment” and “see, no harm was caused”.
Eventually, this gave me the confidence to progress to the final stage of learning where I felt comfortable about injecting into my own leg. On reflection, I’m extremely proud of myself; 13 years later and I can no longer remember a life before injecting and carbohydrate counting.
Accordingly, the behaviourist perspectives explanation of classical conditioning exemplifies why I learnt to acquire my phobia.
Pavlov (1902) expressed that classical conditioning is learning through association. When I was a toddler I was constantly unwell, so I was administered a flu vaccination. Being unwell was a naturally occurring unconditioned stimulus that resulted in an unconditioned response of discomfort/pain. The neutral stimulus was the needle and when I repeatedly associated this with the unconditioned stimulus of feeling unwell then the needle alone (the conditioned stimulus) caused a conditioned response of fear/pain.
This perspective exemplifies why the nurse used systematic desensitisation to help me eliminate this fear response that I created via classical conditioning, by me gradually learning to replace it with a relaxation response.
These relaxation strategies enabled me to use counter-conditioning to overcome different anxiety-provoking activities. Therefore, desensitisation enabled me to comprehend/associate the needle with a more positive stimulus of saving my life instead of causing me harm. This was enhanced when my father expressed: “If you don’t learn to inject yourself, you’ll die.”
However, learning to overcome my phobia via systematic desensitisation was a lengthy process as I struggled to relax as a 6-year-old. Thus, relying on this approach costed the NHS additional time and resources because I was wired to a drip until I conquered my fear. Consequently, my learning could’ve been structured more efficiently if an evolutionary perspective was considered. This states that individuals in the past avoided sharp objects that caused injury because it was associated with increased mortality. So, this fear was genetically inherited where this advantageous gene was passed down from generations to ensure survival
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