Jane Ann Covington, BA, CCHT, RBT
for The Piedmont Review
“It scares me to death to just think about getting on a plane!” This client has a fear of flying. She’s been through all the conventional attempts to deal with her fear–from self medication (alcohol), prescriptions and therapy, education about flying, to shear avoidance–all in an attempt to make the necessity of flying an experience that she can live with.
In Atlanta alone hundreds of thousands of people have this and/or other fears that stop them from fully living their life every day. Fear can affects us mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, socially, and even financially.
A specific circumstance or even anticipation leading to anxiety, in addition to the fear of failure, can stop people from acting on an opportunity that could greatly enhance the quality of their life. Excessive fear can make you feel paralyzed, numb, lightheaded, unable to catch your breath, make your heart feel like it’s going to jump out of your chest. Scary, often unrealistic beliefs can make your mind go blank, make you feel sick to your stomach, give you a throbbing headache and more, but mainly you feel totally out of control.
What greatly compounds the problem is an additional fear of looking foolish in the eyes of others backed up by being criticized for being irrational. For instance, statistics show that flying is much safer than driving, yet they easily drove themselves to our appointment.
Most of my clients are pretty successful in their overall life. They’re smart enough to have figured out that a fear such as the fear of flying mostly has to do with how they are thinking about their fear, especially when measured against the perception of others.
The good news is that most of our fears are learned responses. But telling people or yourself to “change your thinking” or “chill out” doesn’t make it any easier for these folks. When you think about it, that’s usually easier said than done.
Even more terrifying to many is that this out-of-control, anxious, total mind-body feeling can seem to come out of the blue. Nevertheless, the feeling is actually generated in our minds from our imagination and what we focus on. Then thoughts become habits; habits become patterns; patterns become knee jerk reactions.
When the client’s history is carefully reviewed there is often a moment in time when they typically have frightfully misinterpreted the world around them, or their own inner world, and perceive themselves to be out of control. This is where the problem begins.
My client, now age 42, amazed at her own recollection of the first time she had that same feeling, reports in hypnosis, “I am 16. My family and I are traveling to Hawaii for the first time. Everyone is excited. As we approach Honolulu, we hit turbulence and the plane feels like it’s going to drop out of the sky. Suddenly my heart feels like it’s in my throat. I can’t catch my breath. I am feeling sick to my stomach. I am scared that after all those hours on the plane, it will crash.”
After that experience, and increasingly over the years, every time my client would even think about taking a flight she would not only have the same feeling, but it had gotten worse and worse. Just the thought of flying would send her over the edge feeling overwhelmingly anxious by the time she came to see me.
Of course, these same reactions are common in people who develop fear of driving after an accident, fear of public speaking or making that presentation at the next meeting, fear of leaving that relationship that isn’t working for you or your partner, meeting new people out socially, and more.
Fortunately, there are ways to move beyond the old debilitating glitch back into balance. The goal, in this case, is for her to become comfortable with flying; to learn an appropriate response that allows freedom to act according to current conditions and goals rather than react in response to previous circumstances.
There’s no magic that can turn the tide and set her free. However, when taken through a very specific reeducation process including education, coaching, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, personal discovery, awareness, time, integration, and retraining with a little outside mindwork/homework, it may seem almost like magic because it can typically be accomplished over a 30 day period.
Although the client is coming to me to have me influence them, one of the most effective methods of the work we do is that they learn to influence themselves more appropriately. This regaining of control of themselves goes a long way to transforming their prior irrational response.
So, in the end, success is most often achieved by reeducating the conscious, logical mind along with retraining the subconscious mind’s reaction to flying.
Almost always, clients report how much easier and faster the change came when compared to their original expectation of what it would take, given the years they suffered with the problem. This is good! And, there is hope……because the mind is the common denominator in all that we do and all that we are!
Jane Ann Covington can be reached at Center for Developing Mastery (404) 442-8700 for more information or to schedule an appointment. She is a certified hypnotherapist, life coach, speaker, producer, writer, and educator. She is featured on the new CD Mastering Stress Overnite. She may also be accessed online at www.hypnosisinstitute.com