Why Flying More Frequently is The Only CURE For A Travel Phobia…
Many people ask me whether travel phobias – fear of flying, boating, automobile travel etc. – are justified or irrational.
I would be hard pressed to think of a single travel-related phobia that is “justified” per se. If a person has been in a serious car/plane accident and is therefore, afraid to return to that method of travel, his/her fear could possibly be said to be “justified” under the circumstances. However, most phobias related to travel are based on worries that simply will never eventuate.
By its very definition, a phobia is not a rational process. It is mainly an irrational fear of something that poses no real, impending danger. Take for example one of the most common phobias – fear of flying. Fear of flying is a partly rational and partly irrational fear. Yes, planes do crash from time to time and it is remotely possible that the one you are thinking of travelling on, could crash. But the likelihood of that happening is miniscule. You have a better chance of winning the lottery.
No doubt you are aware that it is statistically more dangerous to walk the streets or travel by car. We know all of these facts “intellectually” but this does not stop many from dreading or fearing travel by plane. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 8 to 10 out of every 100 individuals suffers from some sort of travel related phobia (with symptoms ranging from mild to severe).
Because phobias are not a rational process, facts, safety precautions and statistics do little to calm the fears of anyone who suffers. It is simply a learned emotional response in which your imagination causes a powerful surge of fear and anxiety. Once triggered, the phobic response is fuelled by runaway emotions and powerful imagery created by the subconscious mind.
The critical point here is that although the event (i.e. a flight or the thought of taking a flight) triggers this chain of events, it is purely our imagination that fuels it, maintains it, and makes us dread the next time. And if we continue to avoid travelling in order to avoid the phobic reaction, our avoidance actually intensifies the phobia related to flying. In essence, all phobias are the result of not knowing how to manage our own imagination.
And to successfully overcome phobias we need methods to successfully manage our own thoughts so that they do not produce the phobic feelings. Ironically, despite the prevalence of phobias related to air travel, most suffers do still choose to travel by air and many use drugs or relaxation as their primary method to overcome the physical symptoms. Neither of these is a cure but rather a temporary fix.
Ironically, the best way to treat the aerophobia (fear of flying) is to fly more frequently. Every successful flight will build hard evidence to support the belief that air catastrophes are an exception rather than the rule. However, this may not be palatable for many sufferers (esp. those whose symptoms are the most severe). There are a few common approaches that I do not recommend. They either do not effectively cure the problem or they require the client to subject themselves to an unnecessary amount of sessions revisiting the past.
Depending upon the client and the particular phobia, I recommend using either NLP, clinical hypnotherapy or Thought Field Therapy (or a combination of these techniques).
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 70’s – based on their observations of the work of Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson. NLP was created to help us understand how verbal and nonverbal communication affects the human brain. It gives all of us the opportunity to learn how to gain more control over the automatic functions of our own brain neurology. Essentially, if you know the structure of behaviour (i.e. a phobia), you can change it….and you can change it quickly. It is not necessary to analyse the reasons or causes for the behaviour.
Hypnotherapy minimises the symptoms of phobias by reprogramming the existing thought patterns that are stored in the subconscious mind – which bring about the fears. The thought-feeling reactions created form a chain of events, much like a string of pearls: A “string” is created from the initial sensitising event (or “ISE”) to each of the subsequent events that reinforce those particular thoughts and feelings. The ability to trace back the presenting issue/problem to the first time it was ever a problem for the client (ISE) and break the thought feeling connection, is the key to eliminating the problem and the symptoms forever. The key is to identify the problem (not merely the symptoms) and to uncover the ISE.
Energy Psychology (i.e. Thought Field Therapy) is one of the newer approaches that dramatically reduces emotional distress and restores emotional well-being by clearing the flow of the body’s “energy system”. It is effective in treating phobias because it is safe, effective and long lasting. Energy psychology is based on the centuries old philosophy that there are lines of energy, called meridians that run through the body. Every negative emotion that we experience is simply a blockage of energy somewhere in the body. The symptoms of blocked energy can include emotions such as fear, anxiety, etc. and behaviours such as phobias. Many of these symptoms will simply fade away on their own if you clear the blocked energy. This is done by tapping on a series of points on the body, usually while focusing on the specific problem, either as an image, or by saying a word or sentence out loud. When your energy is balanced and runs clear, your emotional distress goes away on its own. There is no need to explore it, analyse it, or subject to lengthy therapy sessions.
In my own practice, more often than not, I will use either TFT or NLP to assist clients with phobias. From time to time I use clinical hypnotherapy.
The results from NLP and TFT are usually immediate (1-2 sessions depending on the presenting issue) and permanent. Also, these do not subject the client [unnecessarily] to revisit painful memories from the past.