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In this question, I posited the existence of a form of magic that can be used by a practitioner to connect with a subject's mind at touch range, and effectively give an experienced, powerful practitioner total control over that person's mind (and body by extension).

In that question, I asked how a practitioner of such magic could drive someone insane at a later date. Now, we have the same practitioner who needs to quickly cure a friend of a phobia, in particular a fear of heights that relates to a near-fatal fall in early childhood.

This practitioner could simply delete the causative memories and any other memories of being in situations where acrophobia caused a problem, but since the person suffering from the phobia is a friend, the practitioner wants the treatment to have the smallest possible impact while still being effective, and such wholesale editing of memories could well change the subject's personality in undesirable ways.

It might be easy to say "The practitioner just makes it happen", but this magic requires details. Memories can be investigated, added, removed or altered, and the final personality post-treatment is dependent on the individual's genetics plus (now altered) life experience.

The individual in question is acrophobic due to the emotional response to a severe fall, and save for that experience would be no more acrophobic than the average person, i.e. the average person doesn't really like heights, but can cope with being in high places.

As in the previous question, this treatment can and must be effective in a single session.

The question:

How can a practitioner who can investigate and modify a person's mind at-will cure a subject of a phobia (specifically acrophobia caused by a childhood fall) with minimal side-effects to the subject's mind?

The answer with the lowest impact on the subject's memories and personality will be accepted as the answer.

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Instead of removing the causative memories entirely, tone down or remove the emotional content of those memories.

If the patient remembers the fall (and any other problematic experiences) accurately in intellectual terms, but with only the amount of fear/pain/shock that would accompany, say, a hard fall in a sports match, that should significantly reduce the trauma caused by those memories. On the other hand, leaving the intellectual half of the memories will hopefully reduce any unintended consequences on the rest of the patient's personality.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes! I would add to this changing the emphasis of the memories- so if they remember the fear and sensation of falling the practitioner might play that down and instead draw their recollection towards the fact they survived and the idea that even a fall such as the one they experienced is survivable. $\endgroup$ – glenatron Mar 23 '15 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is what I was going to go with, you just need to change their reaction to circumstances, not their memories of them. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 24 '15 at 15:17
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Change the order of memories to mitigate the formative event.

You noted that the core cause of the phobia is a childhood memory. This is highly speculative on my part - I'm no psychologist - but I think it's likely that the memory is having such a disproportionate effect solely because it was experienced by a child - an immature personality.

So you should do the following:

  1. Go through all of their memories that involve or invoke the phobia. Remove any of the original emotional context. Segregate these or lock them away somehow.
  2. Remove any neural triggers to heights that are from the phobia but aren't associated to a specific memory. Your friend may react to heights now instinctively, you need to reset those neural pathways.
  3. Now go through the memories you locked away, in chronological order, and have him re-experience them (this shouldn't be too cruel since, at the moment, he doesn't have a phobia any more).

This will allow him to keep his memories without any actual modification, but they will be filtered through and handled by his adult personality instead of the immature child one. So he can benefit from the experience, and will still instinctively know that falling = bad, but it will be from an adult perspective - a cautious attitude instead of a debilitating phobia.

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This is an interesting problem. I'm no psychologist, but I would tentatively put forth adding a number of pleasant memories of heights could at least be a step in the right direction; say, climbing a mountain with a friend. Of course this also requires significant alteration of memories as well.

Could the mage temporarily blot out the memory and then actually climb a mountain (or whatever) with the patient, then restore the original memory to somewhat counteract the fear?

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