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This problem can span a wide range of emotion from a mild fear, which is bearable to some extent and the person experiencing it can still fly, to a complete phobia where flying or references to it (even on TV or newspapers) can cause an extreme reaction or panic attack.
Usually people with this fear find it difficult to book holidays, preferring to go by other means of transport. If they do book a holiday it is not unusual that they can get to an airport, have a panic attack at some point during the check-in, boarding or in-plane stage and either put up with it with great difficulty or try to flee the scene altogether. Obviously if the plane happens to be in flight, there is literally nowhere to escape to, which can heighten the fear. Often this is accompanied by claustrophobia - a fear of being in an enclosed space with no means of escape. Then there can be the worry that they will make fools of themselves.
No matter how logically it can be explained that flying is a much safer experience than many other activities, it’s not the logical (conscious) part of the mind which is causing the problem but the more emotional, imaginative (subconscious part).
Client male, age 56, professional. The problem had begun at the age of 15 when he was on holiday in Italy and had begun to dread the flight back. Later when he was 18 he experienced a feeling of claustrophobia when a London underground train made an unscheduled stop in a tunnel for some time.
After this he just completely avoided planes, lifts and underground trains as an “escape strategy”.
His first session was a suggestion therapy to visualise himself succeeding in flying and to desensitise the fear reaction to enclosed spaces. At the second session he reported that he had booked his next holiday flight and had successfully used a lift with no reaction. During this session he went back through hypnotic regression to an incident when he was 10 years old and had got stuck in a tunnel with some friends while on a midnight expedition at school. This was an extremely frightening incident and he had seriously wondered at the time whether he would get out again but they did eventually. The problem was that they couldn’t see the end of the tunnel and that it was partly submerged with water from a river. There was no knowing what was in the tunnel and whether the water height might rise above their heads. This was the incident which had sensitised his subconscious mind to the problem. He started making the connection with the later underground train incident in which he only felt comfortable when he could see daylight at the end of the tunnel.
On the third session he was taught some anxiety reduction techniques whilst in hypnosis simulating a flying experience. This week he had been in 2 lifts with no consequences. He had also booked a specialised “fear of flying” trial flight for 40 minutes. At the 4th session he reported that the trial flight had gone very well, with little or no anxiety. He had been afraid that if he was with other people suffering the same problem this would only make matters worse. But in the event it did not have that effect. Whilst at the hotel close to the airport he had used the lift frequently with no ill effects. The main thing he found successful was adjusting his thinking to be much more positive and less fearful.
On the final session, just prior to a longer scheduled flight, he reported he had used self hypnosis successfully and was looking forward to flying. Then I received an email with the following message:-
“Just to let you know that I had a very successful trip with no problems. That is two flights now since I saw you and both have been fine. I have another booked for next month and now expect to fly at least 2/3 times a year. Many thanks for your help; it has made a huge difference and opened up all sorts of possibilities. ”
This gentleman’s case illustrates quite clearly that the subconscious mind can “bury” or repress upsetting incidents which can then re-surface in different ways, but usually with an emotional link. It was enough for this part of the mind to recognise a similarity between the original tunnel incident and the later underground train tunnel and aircraft (enclosed aluminium tube) which then set off the fear reaction automatically and without him being able to consciously and logically link these incidents together. This was made possible through hypnotic regression. Following that the use of techniques and further suggestion therapy using this information helped him overcome the phobia completely.
Through this series of sessions, he made an excellent recovery. Initially the problem was around 8 on a 1-10 scale with 1 being “no problem” and 10 “very severe problem”. At the final session he felt his score had reduced to 2-3.
In other cases the root causes of fear of flying have ranged from a straightforward fear due to unexpected turbulence or other aviation-related and upsetting incident, to being really upset with a partner and just happened to be flying at that time. Quite often the cause has nothing to do with flying itself!
Once you feel ready to start tackling the problem all you need to do is to call me on (01738) 561889 and realise that I have had both a successful experience in helping people overcome this fear and have done a fair amount of flying myself in powered aircraft and gliders. I also have experience as an Air Training Corps civilian instructor, so have a good appreciation of how and why planes fly.
You could also contact me using the email form and ask questions, which I’m quite happy to answer.