15 February 2016

How I Eliminated the Fear of Flying


I quite enjoyed flying in my very late teens and early twenties (my first plane ride was at 18, thanks to my brother who paid for my flight.)

Airports were one of the most sophisticated places I'd been. As a young girl, I felt important just going along to pick up someone from the airport! I just loved watching people coming and going to and from important places, speaking languages of all kinds, wearing suits, and carrying matching luggage. To me it was like watching the rich and the famous. Ha!

It wasn't long before I was booking my own flights - to NYC, to Paris.

There was nothing more exhilarating than heading off to see the world on my own dime. I even felt a thrill during take-off. Turbulence was practically fun. And I had no deep fears about being on a plane. Yes, I'll have a cranberry juice, please. I loved it all. 



But that all came to an end during my first marriage, while living in NYC, in my mid to late twenties.

I became terrified of flying, which seemed rather out of place for me.

This fear came about after living through 9/11, but it was also during the very uncertain/anxiety inducing years of my first marriage. I think it was all related. It was like the anxiety in one area bled to other areas. (Have you experienced that, too?)

Basically, I feared dying. 

I thought for sure the plane would go down. 

It felt like I had a lot to lose. 

I wanted to hold onto life with all my might.

But yet, the life I had was in shambles. My husband said he didn't love me. Ouch. And in those days, that meant my worth as a woman and as a wife was absolutely feeling threatened.



Perhaps as I sat on those planes, fearing for my life so desperately, what I was holding onto was unfinished business. Perhaps I didn't want to die feeling worthless. Perhaps I wanted more time for him to choose me, to want me, to love ME. Perhaps I wanted my life to be better than it was. Perhaps I wanted LIFE, not death, with every cell in my body. Perhaps uncertainty was not welcome; my ego "needed" to know I was approved of. Perhaps facing death without peace is the worst imaginable way to go.

So there I was with sweaty palms. Short breath. Fearing the worst at every strange sound, every bump. Absolute panic. 

By some miracle, I was still flying places - to Rome, to Greece, to Australia, to St. Barths, to Costa Rica. But I suffered through it all... 

UNTIL, A MIRACLE HAPPENED...

When I learned how to have peace SEPARATE from circumstances, the flight anxiety disappeared. Yes, it's gone.

I can thank infertility for that. And a first marriage that broke my heart. Talk about being forced to find peace in my circumstances. There was no other way to do it, because those circumstances weren't changing. 



It turns out once you know how to cultivate peace in ONE bad circumstance, anything and everything is fair game. Including when a pilot announces we'll be taking off a few minutes late due to mechanical problems. haha.

So how did I do it?!

I changed the way I viewed bad things. 
  • I owned the idea that every circumstance is an opportunity to "at-one" with the Divine.
  • I owned the idea that the most meaningful thing in life is to learn how to do that. ^
  • I owned the idea that if that was going to be the point of my life, than ALL things (good or bad) could work in my favor. All things could be a gift that could teach me how to be at one with the Divine.


I learned by experience that the BEST way to "at-one" with the Divine was to embody Love, to embody the virtues that the Divine represents, and therefore change my energy.
  • If I felt worthlessness due to my marriage, I reminded myself that I was a woman of God; that I had innate worth. 
  • If I felt panic at the thought of being divorced and newly single, I decided that this would be my moment to have gratitude for my life - for my gifts - for all that I am.
  • If I felt fear in a plane, than I tried to look out the window and feel the awe of being alive on this beautiful earth, with fields and mountains and oceans below.
And the beautiful thing about learning to cultivate peace is this: when you learn how to do it, nothing can threaten you; you are a victim to nothing. You can rejoice in ALL of life that is before you. You do not need a circumstance to line up in order for you to feel whole and well, in order for you to exude the best of yourself. You see sunsets and cloud formations and mountains, not death. And if you see death, you align with the Divine. And you rejoice in that energy of peace. You rejoice in the life that you've had. You rejoice in feeling free of fear and free of suffering, as that gives you the freedom to love.



And for all of you working on this - I put together this little list of things that might help ease flying fears as you learn to cultivate peace for yourself. Though to me - these are little patches. THEY HELP, YES. But nothing helps as much as changing your paradigm about death...and about life itself.

Things To Do To Ease Fears During Flights:

-USE HEADPHONES to block out sound. Anyone who has fear of flying knows that SOUNDS are the worst thing on earth. So, do yourself a massive favor and don't even think about flying without headphones.

-ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR IF THEY LIKE FLYING. Start up a conversation about it! Open up about your fears. Before you know it, you'll be connecting w/ a human being and less concerned about dying. #VulnerabilityForTheWin

-RESCUE REMEDY drops or pastilles. They use Bach Flower essences that are supposed to reduce stress and anxiety. I used to pound these things.

-HEALING MUSIC. This is a MUST. Keep your mind engaged on music. It's a game changer.

-WRITE A LETTER TO SOMEONE. Oh, the letters I have written from planes. Doing this truly helps to keep you mind engaged.

-PEOPLE MAGAZINE. I found that the most mindless, easy to read captions and headlines were the most effective during take-offs. Diving into a non-fiction chapter during that moment just wasn't going to cut it. 

-MANTRAS. "I believe in this pilot. I trust the professionals who were trained to prepare the plane."

-ENVISION A CALMING OR JOYOUS SCENE. For example, envision snow falling calmly and delicately. Envision babies laughing. Envision greeting your loved ones.

-PURSUE VIRTUES FOR EVERY PERSON ON THE PLANE. Cultivate gratitude for the pilot who loves flying and has dedicated his life to flying professionally. Cultivate compassion for any one else on the plane who many be more fearful than you. Cultivate love for anyone who may have just said good-bye to a loved one or has no loved ones at all. Cultivate kindness for the flight attendants who may have to deal with difficult people. Cultivate compassion for children who will likely be more bored than you. Cultivate hope for your abilities to not be a victim to this fear.

-ESSENTIAL OILS. Travel with one of the most calming oils like: Lavender, Rose, or Ylang Ylang.

-COLORING BOOK or KNITTING/CROCHETING. These are supposed to be massively calming. I've been eyeing this GORGEOUS coloring book by Brittany Watson Jepsen of The House That Lars Built.

OK, enough from me! Do you have any fears while flying? Has it always been that way, or do you think any life experience had an effect? What do you do to calm your fears?


(photos from flying over Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and the Galapagos)



12 comments:

  1. my mom helped a man who had a horrible fear of flying by telling him to force his brain into using the rational part instead of letting the emotional take over. to do this, she suggested working multiples of 17 (or any other number that take more thought than the automatic 2,4,6... or 5,10,15...). once you engage the rational, you're better able to resist the panic that can come from the emotional. hope that makes sense... (:

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  2. Love this! I can get very anxious during landing if I let myself get carried away. My biggest strategy is mindfulness meditation (surprise, surprise! ;)) I try to focus on the experience of life IN THAT MOMENT. What is my breath doing? What does anxiety feel like in my chest? Where do I feel grounded? And it may sound crazy, but I actually consciously invite the fear in. Not in a "letting myself spiral down into scary thoughts" kind of way. But in a "oh, you're here, this is what's happening right now, and that's ok" kind of way. I heard a great Buddhist parable about this recently, called "Inviting Mara* to Tea" (*no relation!! ;) ;)) Have you heard it? https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-true-refuge/201508/inviting-mara-tea

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  3. Personal experience can be helpful. But what if what you have available to you is the personal experience of ten thousand fearful fliers? That's what my book, "SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying" offers you. Why? Because, both as an airline captain and licensed therapist, I've worked with ten thousand fearful - even terrified - fliers, many who had "tried everything" and were sure nothing would work.

    Nothing would have worked if I had simply given them the usual, CBT, NLP, breathing, relaxation, hypnosis, exposure, etc., etc. But, after trying each and every existing therapy, and finding that it did not adequately work, I didn't give up.

    It took fifteen years, but finally a method was developed that works. Make it work for you. Take a look at my book at http://amzn.com/B00MJD6W94 where you can use the "look inside" to read a lot of it.

    It was chosen "Amazon Editors' 2014 Favorite Book." Read the reviews and you'll see why. If you have questions, you can reach me at tom@fearofflying.com

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  4. This is great stuff! I especially love "pursue virtues for every person on the plane".

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  5. I had the exact same experience! I loved flying until about the time I graduated from college. My life was so stressful at the time that anything with a little extra stress undid me. Besides the end of that stressful period, one thing that's helped is my sister-in-law's dad is a pilot and getting to know him made me realize I could trust the pilot! I just imagine my sister-in-law's dad flying the plane and know I'm ok. Being able to listen to music straight through take-off also helps (not having to store those devises).

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  6. How about a post on getting over the fear of marriage?

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    1. Ohhhh... we LOVE this topic. Thanks for the suggestions. We do have ideas for it and we're already working on a post. I think there is hope. Also, check out http://conscious-transitions.com. This woman has a whole site dedicated to anxiety due to relationships.

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  7. It's so interesting how we react to our stressful circumstances. I had almost the opposite reaction to my failing marriage/divorce. I wanted to run, to get away. Anything that helped me do that -- driving, flying, etc. -- I jumped at the opportunity. I was afraid to hold still! Yoga helped me immensely, it really saved me during that time.

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  8. Thank you so much for that post!! i travel a lot but since all the security issues in the airport and the image fo the plane crashing in NY is a constant reminder of how fragile life is .. and most of it the profound sadness ... it difficult to put in word ( english is not my fist language) ... i will read again and again what you wrote... for me i think to big issue with my fear of lying is separation anxiety!!! A few year ago, i had a dream of me falling down like in Alice in the wonderland... that feeling is my worst fear in life!!! Thanks again and have a beautiful WE))))

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  9. Thanks for this post! I've hated flying since my teen years. This past December I was on a flight from LA to Toronto which aborted at takeoff. Didn't help my fear at all! lol. I agree with many of your suggestions. I listen to music and play easy games (Solitaire, Majong, Sudoku) on my phone.

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  10. OH BOY DID I NEED THIS POST!!! I have the WORST anxiety ever with flying (and road trips). I actually have a ton of anxiety in general about death and have been trying to figure out how to release this particular fear and anxiety for years. Today in fact I had a bunch of panic over death that I haven't had in awhile. I will be putting these things to the test! Love you!

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  11. OH BOY DID I NEED THIS POST!!! I have the WORST anxiety ever with flying (and road trips). I actually have a ton of anxiety in general about death and have been trying to figure out how to release this particular fear and anxiety for years. Today in fact I had a bunch of panic over death that I haven't had in awhile. I will be putting these things to the test! Love you!

    ReplyDelete

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