a guest post by captain tom, on the topic of fear of flying that we’ve discussed on and off here on this blog.
first, by way of introduction, i’m both an airline captain and a licensed therapist. working with people who have trouble with flying has been my specialty for twenty-eight years.
i am fully trained in hypnotherapy and in NLP (neurolinguistic programming). i studied both years ago in my search for things that would help me treat fear of flying clients. i found hypnotherapy to be very “hit or miss”, too unreliable. NLP works with mild cases of flight anxiety.
over the years, my work has been focused on work with people unable to find help any place else. thus, we give away ” free ” the help that some other sites charge for. for free help, see the SOAR library and other free help is available at the fear of flying web site
we also offer free group phone sessions every wednesday night.
there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the cause of fear of flying. it is not caused by a bad flight; most people on a bad flight don’t develop fear of flying. difficulty with flying is caused by insufficient ability to regulate feelings when facing uncertainty.
research since the advent of the functional MRI just eight years ago has helps us understand how the brain works. we now recognize that the ability to regulate feelings is learned and that the part of the brain that does this regulation requires stimulation of the right kind during the first two years of life. the right kind of stimulation requires a caregiver who is empathically attuned to the infant and responds to the infant’s signals, rather than simply providing for the infant according to an agenda set by the caregiver.
if the child is afraid, the caregiver needs to tune into the child’s fear in a way the child really knows the caregiver feels the same way. thus the child knows he or she is not alone.
then, the magic happens; the caregiver then lets the child know that ” though the child’s fear is 100% shared ” the adult has an additional point of view, which is that it is not the end of the world; it will work out alright.
many of us, obviously, didn’t get such optimal early development. thus, when facing uncertainty, we control our anxiety by being in control of the situation, or by having a way to out of it.
that works fairly well on the ground ” except for annoying those who regard us as control freaks. but when flying, there is uncertainty, of course. and, not being in control and not having a way out, there is no way to regulate the feelings.
therapists try to help with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), but anxiety can develop so rapidly that CBT techniques cannot keep up with the anxiety build-up.
hypnosis is pretty “hit or miss”. if it helps on one flight, it can fail to help on another flight.
medications are not to be recommended ” according to the world health organization ” because when sedated, the passenger doesn’t move around enough to protect against DVT, deep vein thrombosis. if a DVT clot forms, it is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem.
also, use of medications ” according to research ” is only helpful in very mild cases of fear of flying. in more severe cases, medications make the flight worse!