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; here he exclusively tells us “How to overcome your fear of flying”
Has a fear of flying stopped you taking the holiday of your dreams? Or has it prevented you from getting a promotion at work? Or is there a friend you’d love to visit overseas – but just can’t face the flight to get there?
Don’t worry – a flying phobia can be cured. Here are my top (quick and effective) tips to help you overcome a fear of flying:
Find the Cause of Your Fear
Most phobias have a trigger point when the mind first linked danger to flying. Very often people are not aware of the triggers, but they are still affecting your beliefs and choices. These triggers are known as the ‘stimulus response’ as established by researcher Ivan Pavlov.
The best place to start therefore is to explore its origins. What are some of the events from the past that made your mind link fear to flying?
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?
Creating a New Stimulus Response (Anchoring)
By creating a new trigger linked to positive feelings and emotions, and using this trigger whenever your phobia appears, you can dramatically reduce its impact.
Imagine a time when you felt completely calm and relaxed. 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.
Change the Image of Flying
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. You can change the impact of your mental image by scrambling it. Make the image smaller, drain it of colour, run the event backwards, imagine the picture is a tiny dot or has Mickey Mouse ears. Notice what happens to the fear when you play with these images.
Change the Feelings
Locate the feelings in your body, how heavy or light are they? What colour? What happens if you put more focus on them? Do they have a direction? If so change the direction. Speed them up, change the colour to white or gold. Notice how that may change the level of fear.
Change the Meaning of Flying
When the fear of flying starts, what do you say to yourself? Notice the internal voice. Who does it sound like; how deep, how loud? Now change the tonality to a Mickey Mouse voice or super slow and boring. Add a comedy soundtrack or a circus tune. This will affect its impact.
Change the Perspective of Flying
Another tip is to imagine watching yourself on a plane ride.
Imagine floating above the event and watching yourself on the flight. As you look down at yourself notice how you are acting. How are you breathing and moving? How do you feel in that moment? From your perch high above, free from the emotions, what could you learn that would help change the flight for the better? What could you teach yourself that would help you relax and make the journey more enjoyable?
Get in Touch with Both Parts of the Brain
One side of the brain deals with logic and the other side deals with emotion. If you access both at the same time whilst focusing on your fear you will find the emotions reduce.
Look straight ahead while thinking about your fear of flying, then allow your eyes to move slowly from left to right passing between the bridge of your nose. Keep repeating this left to right process and you’ll notice your phobia reduces in intensity.
Remember a phobia is not something you catch like a cold. It’s something you have to do, even if up until this point it has been unconscious.
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.