When you start facing your fears, you may either be able to handle your fears well, or you may find some fears too large for your state of readiness. It may still not be easy for you to face a large fear all at once. You might then need to make a hierarchy for each large fear too – a mini-hierarchy within the anxiety hierarchy. So that facing it does not overwhelm you into giving up. Let us take the example of using a knife to hurt your girlfriend. If you find using a knife in her presence extremely difficult to do, you do not need to expose yourself to this all at once. You may be able to work your way up to it by creating a mini-hierarchy within this trigger. An example has been provided in table 4.4.
Table 4.4: Forming a Mini-Hierarchy
|Obsession||What if I want to stab my girlfriend with this knife?|
|Compulsion||Avoid knives around girlfriend|
|Action point to face the fear||Use a knife around my girlfriend|
|Step 1||Keep the knife in your line of visibility, but out of reach while you are with your girlfriend.|
|Step 2||Keep the knife within your reach but do not touch it.|
|Step 3||Touch the knife intermittently.|
|Step 4||Keep your hand on the knife, without picking it up.|
|Step 5||Pick up the knife in your hand and hold it for a few minutes.|
|Step 6||Have your girlfriend keep her hand close to yours while you hold a knife in your hand.|
So, while in the anxiety hierarchy, holding a knife in the presence of your girlfriend may be 9 on SUDS, breaking it down like this may help in facing the trigger eventually. These activities will need to progress slowly and you will need to work your way up steadily, but with this mini-hierarchy within the anxiety hierarchy, you may find it easier to do so.
This mini-hierarchy serves two purposes. One, it will make sure that you are making progress towards the ultimate objective of getting over this particular compulsion. Two, it is doing so by ensuring that you are expected to tolerate the anxiety in bite-sized chunks and not all at once. As explained in the last section, a little reduction at a time goes a long way in long-term progress. Use Worksheet 4.4 to create mini-hierarchies for any of your larger fears.