Each year millions of people work hard and book a holiday or two. Sadly many of these people will have a fear of flying, with the latest estimates suggesting that as many as 1 in 5 will have some degree of anxiety. Even more tragically, many of these people will suffer anxiety from the moment they book the flight, with a brief lull whilst on holiday only to come back as the return flight looms nearer. In other words their excitement and enjoyment of the holiday is seriously impacted.
What help is at hand for these millions of people?
I spoke to psychologist Peter Owen from www.flyandbecalm.co.uk – a company who specialises in helping fearful flyers – and he explained to me what is going in the mind of those suffering from this phobia.
He explained that although there are certain commonalities, each person’s fear is unique to them. For some it might be turbulence that sets their heart racing whilst for others it might be take-off and landing.
For others still there might be deeper conceptual issue at stake such as a fear of not being in control, claustrophobia and other such things.
One of our subconscious mind’s main goal is to protect us from danger. If a certain link or pattern is made in the subconscious mind of a perceived danger such as flying, regardless of the cause it will try to protect us by creating the anxiety. For some the anxiety is so severe that it stops them from flying at all, though for most it merely makes the journey very uncomfortable.
Sadly once the subconscious mind comes to a conclusion, no amount of logic or persuasion seems to change the fear response. It is extremely common for a person to know that flying is the safest form and transport and that despite knowing this the terror continues. In other words it is possible to have two opposing beliefs in the mind simultaneously, with the subconscious belief always overriding the conscious/logical belief.
For some, he explains, especially those with milder anxiety, just being made aware of what all the different noises are and the fact that turbulence simply cannot cause any significant danger is enough to ease their mind. For many though the anxiety is more severe and no amount of listening to pilot’s calming words will have any lasting impact.
Recent approaches to fear of flying seem to focus on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which attempts to analyse and question the fearful thoughts in the hope that doing so will weaken them. However once a fear reaches a certain level, as mentioned before, no amount of logic or reasoning seems to have much of an impact. Another popular approach is using mindfulness, which in essence advices the listener to focus on their breathing. Doing so can certainly have a calming effect but ultimately it is a distraction technique which doesn’t do much to remove the problem long term and as such, it is more of a temporary fix. Most of the fear of flying courses combine an element of each of these in the hope of reducing overall fear. The success figures they give however often relate to how many people flew at the end rather than whether those people felt completely calm or not so this should always be checked first before embarking on one of these courses.
So what is Fly and Be Calm and how does differ from the other options available? Peter explained that Fly and Be Calm consists of a handful of audio tracks which allows it to be used and downloaded instantly.
Of critical importance is the “fear eraser” audio track. Unlike other methods, the listener must try to bring up as much fear as possible and then try to hold onto it whilst listening to the track. In most cases a substantial reduction of fear can be felt after just one or two listens of the 10 minute track. It is very common for a person to be unable to connect to the fear once the track has been listened to a few times and often won’t come back. It can even be used mid-flight and greatly reduce the fear so long as the person isn’t having a panic attack at the time (only because this might interfere with them following the instructions fully).
How does it work? Peter explained that the instructions on the track serve to interrupt and neutralise the emotional response to the thought of flying; in other words it works on the problematic subconscious perception. It repeatedly interrupts the problem pattern of thought to emotion by have the listener follow simple cognitive instructions at the same time as trying to maintain the fear. In other words, parts of the brain that are more neutral emotionally are being activated at the same time they are trying to hold onto the emotion. The end result is that the thought and experience of flying holds no emotional power.
Would you try Fly and Be Calm? Although relatively new to the market they have partnered with most of the major UK airports and more recently Thomas Cook – one of the largest airliners in the UK. It is far less expensive than other methods and comes with a money back guarantee so this could be a good first port of call in your journey to becoming a calm flyer.
For more information about Fly and Be Calm and to see the technique in action, feel free to visit www.flyandbecalm.co.uk. Let me know your thoughts below!