Some 70% of my students and clients recall that from early childhood they were shy and didn’t speak up. The other 30% who suffer from public speaking phobia have a different story. There people were once excellent speakers. Generally outgoing, some were active in drama and debate clubs, were class valedictorians or presidents of school societies. They report this kind of experience:
I have about a hundred people working for me, and there I was, in front of my entire staff, nervous but doing all right, I guess. We had just been awarded a major contract and this was to be the announcement. Suddenly I looked at them and I couldn’t say a word; or even think a word. They just looked at me and the room got very quiet, and I started to get very warm, and I could feel my face turning red... And I was totally speechless. It was the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t talk in front of groups anymore.
- James, commerical real estate developer.
Behavioral psychology tells us that phobias happen after a traumatic event - usually an experience that shakes the individual to his core - like a psychological near-death experience. One’s sense of personal control and safety is utterly shattered at the deepest levels of self, resulting in post-traumatic stress syndrome. The stress reaction can appear immediately or up to two years after the traumatic event.