Fact: Fear of flying (aviophobia) affects 1 in 10 of the general population.
Fact: Aviophobia CAN be minimised by accessing the right help.
If yourself or someone you know is one of the 1 in 10 people mentioned – please read on and be assured that you do not need to put up with these fears for life. Whether you choose a self-help programme or an intensive therapy programme with a professional, there is help at hand to put these fears into perspective and finally make travel by plane a real possibility in your life.
As mentioned, fear of flying is not at all uncommon, but it will be helpful in your recovery programme to have an accurate assessment of your starting point. The lists below are a guideline; check whether your fears are mild, medium or severe to help you make your decision about how to proceed.
Fear/Phobia Scale and Typical Symptoms
- Mild (1 to 4) I can get on a plane if I’ve had a drink or two but still need moral support to do so. I get anxious if there is any turbulence. I try to sleep through the flight or distract myself somehow to make it pass quickly. People who know me do not try to converse with me on the plane unless I ask them to; they know I’m struggling with my inner state.
- Medium (5 to 7) I could probably get on a plane if I had to do so for an emergency, but it would take a lot of “psyching up” and probably quite a few drinks. I would probably need to keep “self medicating” with drinks to make it through the flight and would experience a very tangible level of stress all the way. Just the thought of watching the in-flight safety video is too much – I can’t deal with thinking about it. Even watching a flight simulation on TV would make me want to leave the room!
- Severe (8 to 10) Just the thought of booking my flight and the idea of getting on a plane is enough to put me into a panic attack or feelings of high anxiety or depression. I would do anything to avoid flying, even for an emergency situation and even if it meant driving a huge distance instead. Don’t even mention flying to me – currently not an option!
The first thing to recognise is that a very deeply lodged fear may not respond to common sense, as it comes from the part of the mind that is automatically trying to protect you, not from your rational self. Statistically, a person is more likely to meet with a fatality by travelling in a car than travelling in an aeroplane; although knowing this may take the fear down a notch, it may not necessarily convince the unconscious mind that you are completely safe. The good news is that this is where the logical mind can usually recognise that the fears are not rational and can accept the idea that the unconscious mind can be reprogrammed. As far as your unconscious mind is concerned, your fear of flying is normal. The unconscious mind does not have the critical thinking ability of the conscious mind, so help is needed to re-programme its course. It’s a bit like having a computer programme that’s not functioning properly, but it does not know so – it just runs as it knows how. If you feel that your fear is deep rooted, it is likely that professional support to effect this re-programming process would be the most beneficial pathway for you.
If you have a medium to severe level of fear and feel that you would like to tackle it with support, claim your FREE 30 minute Change Your Life Consultation by going to my website www.vernonaharris.com or call Vernon on 07866 730941.
If you have a mild to medium level of fear and you are happy to try self-help, here is a programme of steps that you might find beneficial.
Start with self-knowledge. Jot down in a notebook the things that bother you most about flying, without censoring anything – just let it flow. Read through your list and see if it’s possible to discern how any of the fears started. Is it fear of seeing the scenery whizzing past at the window that’s the worst thing for you? Or heights generally? Or fear of being travel sick? Or having a panic attack? Actually leaving the safety of the runway and boarding the plane? Trusting that you’re leaving it to someone else to get you get you to your destination safely? Fear of the plane being hijacked? Even something that seems a small concern such as your flight being slightly delayed, could be a trigger for you if it causes anxiety.
Now you have decided which things are your biggest challenges, you can ask the people flying with you to help you through the experience by explaining what you are going through. Whether you are going to be accompanied by friends, family or business associates on your flight, or travelling with strangers, be honest to fellow passengers that you are doing your best to face your fears and ask for whatever you feel might be helpful. If you wish to be left alone to read, sleep, listen to music or watch a film – say so: once the situation is clear, they will not take any offence. If there’s anything else they can do to help, state it clearly, whether it’s offering you a seat away from the window, helping you plan a pleasure trip for once you get there, playing a game to pass the time, doing some collaborative work with colleagues …Now is the time to do the planning for this. You may be surprised at just how much support you receive.
Short circuit your anxiety. Recognise that your anxiety is trying to help you by doing its job – to alert you to what your unconscious mind perceives as danger. By understanding that you are not in actual danger, you can start to defuse your anxiety, or at least diminish its level. Experiencing anxiety feels uncomfortable, but will not harm you – if you can get through the anxious feelings and then recognise that the worst did not actually happen, you will have had valuable direct experience that contradicts your previous expectations – and your own expectations of what you can cope with. If you can recognise that your anxiety is simply trying to get your attention, you can try doing the opposite of what it’s telling you to do – put aside the fearful thoughts and instead of dwelling on them, focus on something else. Remind yourself as often as you need that you are safe and that the anxious feelings are temporary – no matter how unpleasant they may seem.
(Now – how else could you use some of your in-flight time? Could you even use some of it as “me time”? Is there a specific book or magazine you’ve been wanting to read, but just not had a spare moment to look at in day to day life? A catalogue you want to peruse? A letter, card or email you want to send to a friend?…
Empower yourself! Build some time into your schedule for self-calming work. Techniques you could use include deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and visualisation. These are all extremely powerful tools that will help you to cope with potentially stressful situations – not just in the context of flying, but also in any other area of life. The more you practice any of these, the more effective they become for you, so if you can make some or all of them a part of your weekly routine, you will then have a tried and tested repertoire of self soothing techniques you will be able to apply during your flight.
Practicing these techniques regularly can also help you to reduce your baseline anxiety level. A person with a high baseline anxiety level would be hyper-sensitive to any kind of stressful situation, so the more you can do to reduce your baseline anxiety level, the better you then cope with tackling a specific fear or phobia.
See the value in your own learning curve and value each stage of it: every time you manage to board a flight and travel by plane, you are gathering solid proof that you can cope better than you once thought you could, even if there are some uncomfortable feelings still to deal with. As you progress, you will become more and more adept at managing these and more and more skilful in applying your self- calming techniques.
Apply this powerful 30 day technique alongside the self-help programme.
The technique has been designed to support your intention to dissolve old blocks and overcome your fear.
Firstly, write down in detail what your life is like now with your fear of flying. Be honest, even if it’s uncomfortable to do.
Next, take a clean page and writing in the present tense, design your life in detail minus the fear. How much freedom do you have? What are you able to do? Where are you going? Who are you visiting? What new opportunities have opened up for you? How does it all feel? Write as much as you like until you can vividly see this different new life and feel all its benefits.
When you’ve done that, take the first piece of paper and shred or burn it, saying the words “It is done” – as you’re doing that, visualise that old life disappearing into the flames or the shredder. Take the new piece of paper and read it out loud twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening before you go to sleep, for the next 30 days. Each time you read your statement, when you’ve finished reading, close your eyes and visualise that new life as clearly, strongly and powerfully as you can, until that life feels very real to you. If you miss a day, no need to panic – just start again and see the process through for 30 days as if you had only just begun.