Fear of Flying
The holiday season is now well underway and the weather has helped us all get in the holiday mood. However, I can guarantee that a significant percentage of people with a foreign holiday booked are not looking forward to it with pleasure but with mixed feelings and, in some cases, pure terror. If you are reading this article, you (or someone you know) may be dreading the flights there and back. So, why do some of us develop a fear of flying and what can we do it about it?
There may be an obvious reason why, but sometimes there isn’t and people with no obvious cause for their fear often feel incredibly frustrated with their growing reluctance to get on a plane (or even go near an airport!). The fear may result from a previous bad experience with turbulence or other weather or engineering issues but bad experiences do not always lead to the development of a flying phobia.
Often, the cause can be one or more of the following
- Claustrophobia – I am stuck in this small space with lots of other people and it is impossible for me to leave until we arrive at our destination
- Lack of control – I am not flying the plane and I don’t know who is (Are they newly qualified? Have they had a row with their partner before leaving the house? etc. etc.)
- Fear of turbulence – Will the plane stand the buffeting or just drop out of the sky?
- Fear of heights – Unless you plan on becoming an astronaut you won’t get much higher
- Agoraphobia – This does not just mean fear of open spaces but is a fear of a panic attack in a situation where escape or access to help is impossible (or feels as if it is impossible)
If you choose to work with a hypnotherapist and you are able to identify the causal fears or phobias then they may decide to treat them specifically. Otherwise, they will work on the fear of flying using a number of possible techniques from simple relaxation through going back to a root cause (often in childhood). A valuable approach is to help the client take physical relaxation, mental calmness and helpful thoughts into their flying experience and to practise doing this over and over again in their imagination – in hypnosis, while listening to a recording or just while relaxing. The aim is to develop a new way of being while flying, or “flying habit”.
But you are probably flying away soon and have no time to visit a hypnotherapist - so what can you do to make your travelling experience more pleasant? Well, one obvious option is to practise some kind of relaxation technique and if you don’t know one, then find one to suit you from the many downloads available online. If you can practice running through an imaginary flight from the point before you get anxious to the point when you are calm again while maintaining your relaxed state this will be a great help. Ask those travelling with you to let you have a bit of “quiet time” to use your relaxation technique whenever anxiety begins to build – at take off and climb or during turbulence for instance. If relaxation isn’t enough then you can use other simple techniques – design a beautiful box in your mind and then (while relaxing and probably with your eyes closed) just imagine putting your unpleasant thoughts and feelings away in the box.
If you are now panicking and thinking “I can’t create pictures in my mind”, just be reassured that however you imagine things is absolutely fine – we don’t all imagine in glorious 3D colour! It is important to remember that fear has a valid purpose but our fear of flying is much stronger than is useful and is totally disproportionate to the actual threat (which is small). Our mind (for whatever reason) is doing this (and doing it very well!) so that same mind, with a little help and a lot of practise, can do the reverse. Flying may never become totally enjoyable but you can be happy with it being just OK. Enjoy your holiday!
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