A fear of flying is common – with as many as 40% of people affected by it. But did you know that the biggest cause of your fear could be… you? Here’s what you might be doing wrong.
Let me ask you a simple question. If you were scared of spiders, would you do any of these things:
- Read books about spiders.
- Go to the zoo to look at spiders.
- Watch a programme called ‘World’s most terrifying spiders’.
I’m guessing that the answer is probably: no.
And that makes good sense. Unless you were involved in some kind of immersion therapy programme (in which you were trying to desensitise yourself to spiders), you’d have no reason to seek them out.
The same is true if you had an aversion to mice or snakes. And yet, when it comes to aircraft, millions of people seem to see things differently.
An obsession with bad news
For some reason, people seem drawn to bad news. It’s what sells papers: how often does a newspaper or TV news story lead with something positive?
Bad news catches the eye. It doesn’t make us bad people to be so engrossed by it – especially if we empathise with whoever is suffering in the story. But what bad news does is distort our view of the world.
We see a news headline about a jet that has disappeared off the radar and is presumed to have crashed, and alarm bells about the safety of flying go off. If another incident happens a month later, it’s not too big a stretch to start thinking that planes are dropping from the sky every other day.
But this is untrue. Did you know that Ryanair and EasyJet, both of which have been flying for more than 25 years, have never had a single crash? Between them, they fly more than 200 million people around the world every year. That’s three times the entire UK population every single year – without a single fatality in more than 25 years.
In that same period, around 33 million people have died on the world’s roads. Thirty-three million! If you look at these statistics, it’s a wonder you’d ever get in a car again.
Feeding the fear of flying beast
It only takes a couple of headline stories for us to start believing that what we’re reading is representative of the wider world. Two bombs in France, and the whole of the country must be a dangerous place to visit. Three sex scandals in the Catholic Church, and every Priest must be a danger.
Let me be clear: two plane crashes in a row, while undeniably tragic, does not mean that aeroplanes are an unsafe way to travel.
In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Interestingly, I don’t get into the statistics about how safe air travel is when using hypnotherapy to treat people with a fear of flying – that’s the domain of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), AKA the talking therapy.
Hypnotherapy – which can be done online just as effectively as face-to-face – comes at it from a different angle. The aim during hypnotherapy is to change the way you feel about booking a flight, anticipating a flight, getting onto the plane and dealing with unexpected bumps and cabin sounds.
It’s about stopping the amygdala (your brain’s fight or flight regulator) from kicking in when you’re in any kind of stressful situation involving aircraft.
If the amygdala doesn’t leap to fight or flight mode, you’re better able to relax. However, before your fear of flying gets so bad that you feel you need to come and see me for help, here are five mistakes you may be making right now that are fuelling your anxiety.
They are all things you can change tomorrow. And yes, the first three are pretty much the same – but ending all three of them is important.
1/ You’re watching aircraft disaster shows
Fascinating as they can be, these shows are not good for anyone who worries about flying. Seeing a CGI version of a plane crashing can be extremely distressing – and it’s all too easy to imagine yourself or a loved one inside the aircraft. So don’t torture yourself. Watch something else.
2/ You’re gorging on newspaper stories about crashes
On those rare occasions that a plane goes down, newspapers can find new ways to report on the accident for weeks. But the details they unearth aren’t helping you. They’re just feeding your fear.
Try skimming over these stories and reminding yourself that there are more than 100,000 flights every day, and nearly every day of the year they will all land safely.
3/ You can’t take your eye off the news when a story about a crash comes on
Just change the channel. You’re not being disrespectful – you’re being sensible. You’re already sensitive to news about crashes, so watch something else instead!
4/ You’re desperate to minimise your time at the airport
A common mistake that people who don’t like flying make is to turn up as close to the flight time as possible so they can get it over with. This can be a bad idea, as pushing your luck in terms of arriving on time can massively ramp up your stress levels.
I always think it’s better to give yourself plenty of time and actually plan on spending time in the airport. Think about what last minute items such as books you might buy, and perhaps look at the various dining options you could try. If you build a good 90-minutes ‘hanging around’ time, it can be a good way to transition from getting to departures and past security – which tend to be stressful – and slip into ‘holiday’ mode.
5/ You’re not looking at the facts
Don’t be ignorant about flying and make assumptions that planes are dangerous. One way to challenge this is to go on a fear of flying course. These help you to understand how normal turbulence is, and take away some of the many myths that surround air travel.
Take comfort from the stats in this blog! Ryanair, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad – none of them have had a single fatal crash.
If you stop making these 5 common mistakes, you’re less likely to build up a repository of fear that is ready to present itself whenever you think about flying.
Flying is incredible. It’s the fastest way to get to just about anywhere. And – hands down – it’s the safest way to get there, too.
Would you like to know more about how hypnotherapy can help you overcome your fear of flying? Contact me today for a FREE consultation and 10% off your first session.