Summer is here! And for many of us, that means taking some well-deserved rest after working hard through the first half of the year. Unfortunately, when it comes to British summers, the guarantee of soaking up some sunlight is not something to bet on. Furthermore, it always seems as if the week or two that you put aside for yourself is the time when the sky turns sour, and it rains all day. Fortunately, there are lots of other sunny spots that can be found both near and far across the globe that are a cultural breath of fresh air and importantly, guaranteed sun. There is one obstacle however that blocks the way to sunny bliss: getting there!
The fear of flying in a plane, otherwise known as aerophobia or aviophobia, is a common fear that affects as many as one in 10 people. Although to those who do not experience a fear of flying, the fear may seem irrational, to those who do, their brain is convinced that this fear is sensible and wishes to protect us from danger. Telling a fearful flyer that “it's fine” just isn’t going to cut it. Thankfully, in today’s modern world aviation has become a very safe mode of transport, much safer than driving a car which many of us do every day.
The causes of the fear of flying are varied, but they are learnt. We have no evolutionary or instinctive fears of flying, but once we associate flying with a sense of fear, it can be a challenge to undo this connection. Our brains have evolved throughout the millennia to keep us alive by avoiding danger, and this survival mechanism is a powerful thing to override. There could also be a specific event that occurred in someone’s life that has led to a fear of flying, such as a previous experience or having lost a loved one in an accident. A fear of flying, although common, can be unique to each person that experiences it. Reactions could range from a raised heart rate, nausea, or some unfortunate sweating during a flight, to a paralysing terror that makes someone unable to board a plane at all.
Importantly, the fear of flying may not be due to a simple phobia and could be comorbid with an existing fear. Someone who suffers from claustrophobia, a fear of tight spaces, may find being unable to leave the confined space of the plane to be a source of their distress. Someone with emetophobia, a fear of nausea and vomiting, may dread the possibility of travel sickness and turbulence during a flight. If you’re seeking a way to conquer your fear of flying, identifying these triggers can be an important first step.
Living with a fear of flying may not affect our everyday lives, but it can interfere with personal holidays, business trips, and connecting with family. This may lead to someone having to avoid certain career paths or opportunities and being unable to take part in family events like a holiday or a wedding. A fear of flying may not just be limited to being in a plane, but also could extend to distress when booking a flight, entering an airport, or even watching films that involve planes.
It is possible to overcome a fear of flying. As the phobia is a learned behaviour, it is absolutely possible to take steps towards lessening and even eradicating a fear of flying. One successful way to overcome a fear of phobia is to expose yourself to triggers. Anticipatory anxiety should not be underestimated and can be a large contributing factor to a fear of flying. It is like the feeling of anticipation before a test, or before an unpleasant medical procedure. The tension that proceeds an event can cause a reaction more severe than the discomfort of the event itself.
Hypnotherapy is a wonderful way to combat your fear. It is a popular treatment method for facing a fear of flying and has the potential to have you hopping on a plane in no time. Hypnotherapy works by allowing you to connect with your subconscious mind, the part of your brain that works behind the scenes in your everyday life. Depending on the source of your fear, there are a few ways that hypnotherapy can help you.
If your fear is based on a traumatic past event, such as experiencing turbulence or a particularly stressful journey in the past, seeing a terrifying film when you were younger, or losing a loved one from a tragic accident, then approaches such as cognitive hypnotherapy or hypnoanalysis may be the way forward. If you find a hypnotherapist that is willing to assist you in revisiting a painful past event in the safety of a hypnotic trance, then you may be able to work together to face the painful memory and put it to rest. Your fear may even come from a source that you cannot easily remember, and hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for searching for the root cause of your fear and defeating it. If you are able to face your past fears from a position of wisdom, calm and safety, then your future reactions to flying can be based more on the here and now, and you can look forward to the destination more than worrying about your journey there.
For some, their fear of flying may be based on a specific component, such as nausea, or learned from others, such as observing a parent who is nervous during flights. In these instances, approaches such as cognitive hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming and solution-focused hypnotherapy may be an option to consider. With the help of your hypnotherapist, you can learn to take control over automatic thoughts and reactions that are unhelpful or set off a fearful reaction, instead equipping you with the skills to face stressful events with a calm mind and a positive outset right from the beginning.
The last few years have been a real trial for the UK and the rest of the world, and the time has come to reward ourselves with a relaxing break over the summer, to reunite with family, or to let our careers take off around the world. You deserve a break, and flying shouldn’t get in the way of what is important in your life.