Jun 012013

As someone who is always either flying or thinking about flying, it never occurred to me that there are tons of people out there who will avoid it at all costs.  I knew about certain people with phobias, but I thought it was only a handful of them.  Now I realize that there are many people afflicted with this fear and it can really wreak havoc on their lives.

Imagine not being able to go on vacations unless you can drive or take the train.  Imagine planning a vacation, but your focus is on the anxiety you’ll feel getting there and getting back rather than looking forward to relaxation and fun.  It’s sad, so I decided to do research on this matter and here’s what I found out.

  1. It’s a complex problem
  2. You can overcome it
Problems = Opportunities

There are several reasons people develop the fear of flying.  For example, your fear could be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Being a control freak – when you’re in the passenger seat, you’re not the one calling the shots
  • Having your personal space bubble penetrated
  • Thinking about how high you actually are
  • Not understanding how airplanes fly
  • Dislike of turbulence
  • Feeling like you’re breathing gross, stale air
  • A bad experience or trauma associated with flying
  • Deep psychological issues that are manifesting themselves as a fear of flying
  • etc.

If you want to overcome your fear of flying, you’ll have a much better chance if you figure out WHY you’re afraid and/or WHEN you became afraid.

Try to think back and figure out when you started avoiding the airlines, what has happening in your life at the time?

  • Did you experience particularly bad turbulence during a flight?
  • Were you changing jobs or careers?
  • Were you about to become a parent?
  • Were you going through a difficult breakup or divorce?
  • Did you go through a huge financial setback?

Situations that have made you feel helpless or out of control might manifest themselves into some type of phobia if you don’t deal with them directly.

It could also be as simple as not understanding what’s going on around you with the machine you’re in or the environment the machine flies through.

Whenever you face a challenge, if you choose to see it as an opportunity to grow, you can face it head on with a much more positive perspective.  The best part is, the success you reap will extend beyond that problem into other areas of your life.

So, to overcome your fear…a multi-faceted approach will give you the best chances at success.

Take control of your life and banish your fears

According to the research I have done, here are some steps you can take to banish your fear of flying forever:

Step 1. Understand your fear

As explained above, try to figure out WHY and WHEN you became afraid of flying.  Try to remember, not just specific events or incidents, but rather, what was happening in your life at the time.  Your fear could have developed over years, try to remember what else has going on during that time.

Step 2. Understand your airplane

Your don’t have to become a pilot, like some people choose to do (Read Bill’s Story Here), but there are several ways that you can learn and understand the basics of flying.  My suggestion is to go through some type of basic course, specifically for those with a fear of flying.  The course should cover:

  • Basic principles of flight – “How does this big tin can fly, anyway?”
  • Basic airplane components and how they work – “What the heck is that noise?”
  • Basic weather theory – “OMG, I just saw lightening!”
  • Basic flight maneuvers – “Why is the pilot rolling us upside down!”
  • Basic navigation – “Where is the pilot going, the airport is over there!”
  • Basic emergency procedures – “What if this…that…and the other?”

I’m developing a course that will cover all these elements, plus go over some techniques that have helped others conquer their fear of flying.  To be notified and pre-enrolled in the course, sign up at the bottom of this page.


Step 3.  Tame your control freak

The answer to changing your state of anxiety at times when you feel out of control (or any other time) is to realize that the only thing you can control is yourself – that means you can control the way you feel in any situation.  But, this takes a lot of practice and effort.

I like to think of our brains as having two parts – the “conscious” part and a more “primitive” part.  The two parts communicate with each other and have an effect on each other, but unfortunately for us, the primitive part of our brain is very powerful.  So if it thinks you’re in danger, you’re going to feel, in every fiber of your being, that you’re in danger.

Fortunately, we can change our primitive part of our brain to do what we want it to do – through conditioning.  Have you ever heard of Pavlov’s dogs.  Essentially, the dog’s primitive part of the brain got wired to think that the sound of a bell meant food was coming, so it sent a signal to the dog’s body to start preparing for a meal by salivating.  This is not something that the dog’s were born knowing, this was taught to them.

You can do the same thing to your brain.  Right now, your brain, for some reason, has been wired (or conditioned) to send your body “fight-or-flight” signals in association with flying.  But you can also wire your brain to send your “relaxation” signals by associating relaxation with flying.

The specific techniques for doing this are beyond the scope of this blog, but here is a great resource I recommend checking out:

Psychology of Fear Of Flying Guide


Step 4. Psychoanalyze yourself

If, after following the steps above you still have not been able to overcome your fear, and if seeking professional help is not something you want to pursue just yet, you can try to solve the problem on your own.  You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

What was going on in your life during the time or flight that you developed a fear of flying?

  • Why were you flying?
  • What happened within the preceding 2 or 3 days before the flight?  How did you feel about it?
  • What happened during the flight?  How were you feeling emotionally, physically, mentally?
  • What happened during the 2 or 3 days after the flight?  How did you feel about it?

What benefit am I deriving from my fear?

This might seem like a strange question, but maybe your fear of flying is keeping you from facing bigger issues.  For instance, have you avoided a family member or friend for a while and are using your fear as an excuse to not visit?  Are you procrastinating on something that you know you should be doing in your life?

Your fear might be offering an easy escape route to something that you perceive as having a lot of pain.

What is my fear costing me?

Make a list of all the things that your fear is costing you.  Vacations?  Visits to loved ones?  Career progression?  Once you realize that your fear is costing you MORE than it’s benefiting you, you’ll have more strength to conquer it.

Once you realize the deep-rooted issue that has shown up in a fear of flying, this alone might help you overcome the problem.

Step 5.  Stay busy

Once you’re ready to test newfound courage and techniques, make sure you have a plan for your next flight.  Visualize yourself going to the airport in calm and collected manner.  See yourself boarding the flight in a relaxed way and enjoying the time that flying affords you: less time traveling, more time enjoying your life.

Find calming music or books and let yourself look forward to listening or reading this material on the flight.

Step 6. Buy an App

There are many apps out there now that will guide you through your next flight with relaxation techniques, hypnotic music, and other tools.  They range in price from $1.99 to $54.00, but the reviews look very promising.

I hope that helps some of you and if you haven’t read about Bill’s story, it’s very entertaining.  Bill had a flying phobia that kept him grounded and unable to even visit family for over 15 years.  To overcome his fear, he decided to take some flight lessons.  Read his story by clicking the link below.

Thinking of taking flight lessons?  Start HERE

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