If you have a fear of flying, the chances are it’s probably impacted your whole life.
Perhaps you’ve never been abroad because of you phobia or can’t visit your children or grandchildren living abroad because you simply can’t set foot on a plane.
Christopher Paul Jones, AKA The Breakthrough Expert, who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and phobias, believes you can overcome a fear of flying.
“When I work with clients, dealing with the root cause is where I find it makes the biggest difference in reducing a phobia," he says. "Also, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach generally fails because fear of flying can manifest itself in different ways depending on the person.”
If you want to start addressing your fear, begin with these five tips::
1. Find the cause of your fear
Most phobias have a trigger point when the mind first linked danger to flying. Say a young child experiencing a turbulent flight or watching a TV programme which showed a plane crash. Even watching how your parents reacted if they were scared of flying could have taught you the way you think you should react. Often, people are not aware of the triggers, but they are still affecting your beliefs and choices. The best place to start, therefore, is to explore the origins and what events made your mind link fear to flying?
2. Challenge your beliefs
It’s worth asking yourself what do I need to believe in order to feel afraid of flying? Then ask yourself how true is that belief? What do you choose to focus on when you have the fear? What do you focus on when you don’t have fear?
3. Creating a new stimulus response
There’s an old saying that love and hate cannot exist in the same place. This is also true for feelings like fear and calm. By creating a new trigger linked to positive feelings and emotions, and using this trigger whenever your phobia appears, you can dramatically reduce the impact your fear of flying is having on you.
The key is to think of, or imagine a time when you felt completely calm and relaxed i.e. sitting on a beach or being around people you love. Now imagine going back to that time and notice all the images, feelings and sounds that go with this event. When you have fully connected to this positive event, squeeze your fist to create a link between the emotion and the gesture, and as the emotion fades release your fist. Keep repeating this as many times as you like and then test it by squeezing your fist. Notice what you feel. If it’s strong enough, just the act of squeezing your fist will bring back that calm feeling.
4. Change the image of flying
The part of the brain that deals with visual memory is highly active when you see something for the first time. With everyday events this will fade over time, but this is different for a phobia. Neurological imaging has shown that visual memory is just as active when you think about your phobia, as when you felt it for the first time. One of the ways to change the impact of your mental images is to scramble them. What would it be like if you made that image small? What would it be like if you drain the colour from it?
5. Change the feelings
The thing that often gets over looked when people try to tackle a phobia, is the emotions that go with it. If you get scared, locate the feelings in your body, how heavy or light are they? What colour do you associate with them? What happens if you put more focus on the feelings? Do the feelings feel like they have a direction? See what would happen if you made the feelings move in the opposite direction. Speed them up, change the colour to white or gold and notice how that may change the level of fear. If you change your thoughts, feelings or images, you will feel different. If you change more than one thing, you should feel even better.
Practise these tips and see how you get on. Then, why not go and book that flight?
- Tips by Christopher Paul Jones, aka The Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and even their phobias; from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work.