Hidden Aspects of the Fear of Flying (Article)

By Dr. Patricia Carrington

Most of us know that fear of flying usually has many aspects and that it may well require more than one session of EFT to clear up this type of fear entirely.

I frequently get email, telling me that the writers have not been as successful as they would like to be in clearing a flight phobia completely, even when using EFT, although they have targeted some of the more familiar aspects of plane fears such as: 

— Fear of being in an enclosed cabin 

— Not being in control during the flight 

— Fear of plane crashing 

—  Fear of heights 

—  Fear of being hijacked, etc. 

In addition to these more commonly seen aspects, there can also be INDIVIDUAL aspects in any fear of flying which, if overlooked, can prevent a person from coming all the way down to zero in his or her Intensity Level when applying EFT. Let me give you an example:

A client I worked with experienced a severe anxiety attack in an uneventful cross continental flight, and when I questioned him about the aspects involved in his fear he kept shaking his head.  No, he had absolutely no fear at takeoff or at landing. No, he had no fear of heights. No, turbulence was not his problem etc.

At first it seemed we were getting nowhere, but as we kept digging, the answer finally revealed itself. What really frightened him, he said, was when the plane seemed to be "not moving at all", when it felt as though it were suspended in mid-air. At such times he'd get the feeling that he was "waiting for the bottom to fall out from under me." There were one or two other aspects to his fear of flying that bothered him too, but the one we tackled first was this fear of the plane appearing to be motionless and "hovering".

(NOTE: I report this case in more detail in my Choices Manual as an important example of using a Personal Resource State to overcome fears).

I asked him if he felt equally distressed when traveling under other circumstances, and in other vehicles than a plane?

He immediately told me that he had no trouble at all traveling in cars, buses or trains, and that he LOVED driving his own car and did so frequently. This provided a clue about as to where we might go in terms of creating an EFT Choices phrase, and I suggested to him that he might want to make a Choice which would go something like,

"Even though I feel anxious when the plane seems to stand still, I choose to feel the way I would if I were driving my car."

He responded to this maneuver with enthusiasm, and within a short time his fear of riding on planes had come way down. This particular Choice worked so well for him, in fact, that he applied it to some of his other concerns about flying with great success, as for example:

"Even though I'm anxious about an air disaster, I choose to feel as if I were driving my car". For each of these issues, choosing to feel at ease the way he did when driving his car absolutely did the trick. We had effectively shortened his treatment by who can guess how much.

Another not too often encountered aspect of fear of flying is a person's anxiety about being prevented from going to the toilet if necessary by the "Keep Seat Belt Fastened" sign. A client with whom I recently worked, reported that she experienced an extreme fear of this occurring every time she traveled by plane. We managed to clear this fear completely with EFT, but not until we had tapped away an infant memory of her Mother shrieking in distress and ridiculing her when, as a baby, she had leaked a few "drops" on the sheets of her crib.

We had fun during her EFT session as this woman repeated a reframe which I couched as an EFT choice:

"Even though I had terrible shame when Mom ridiculed me, I choose to see how ridiculous her shrieks were and BE AMUSED BY THEM."

Her laughter cleared the whole incident for her, and with it the fear of being caught short without being able to get to the bathroom fast enough on a plane.  Her intensity level plunged from an initial 10 (on a 0 to 10 point scale of Intensity) to a 2.

We needed to tap on only one more aspect to clear this issue completely for her:

"Even though I'm afraid I might pee in my pants on the plane, I choose to see it as no big deal if it does happen, the way I felt about my children when they were babies and had accidents."

These phrases did it! She finished tapping by saying that she suddenly had a "mature" attitude about the whole thing — – that "what happens, happens." The plane problem had disappeared.

The point is that we can never be too diligent in our attempts to unearth the real driving force behind a phobia.

Recently, in working with a client who was about to take a cross continental flight and was apprehensive (as usual) about flying, I discovered upon inquiry, that the most distressing thing she imagined when she thought of actually boarding the plane, was the fact that she would always start saying to herself, as she became seated in the cabin:

"What if I never come back to my kids?"

This is what is referred to as an obsessive thought — she simply couldn't get it out of her mind, and our initial tapping on it didn't do much good. Then I asked her what would happen if she were to put the phrase, "What if I never come back to my kids?" to MUSIC in her mind, singing it to herself much like the libretto of an opera.

I modeled this singing for her with a little tune that came to my mind, and she quickly changed the melody to that of "She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes", and was easily able to think her little obsessive "song" while tapping on each acupoint.

She not only liked doing this, but ended up laughing and feeling at ease.  She then made the following Choice,

"Even though I may think this unpleasant thought on the plane, I choose to put it to music each time." The phrase then faded in her mind.  Its intensity level had come down to a 0.

Another client described her main fear of flying as happening when, after take-off, the plane started to bank, tilting far to the side. She considered this to be dangerous, so I talked with her a bit about the fact that banking is a natural part of the climbing process when in flight and that without it one would not have a very successful takeoff. In other words, I reframed it as a positive occurrence which shows that the plane is being buoyed up by the air.

We then formulated the following set-up phrase for her to use and it proved to be remarkably successful:

"Even though up until now, I felt uneasy when the plane tilted at takeoff, I choose to feel exhilarated at takeoff and when it starts banking."

This brought her Intensity Level down considerably, but there was still a little concern left.  Then she spontaneously suggested a Choice to take care of it:

"Even though I don't like the takeoff and the way the plane tilts, I choose to trust the skill of the pilot."

This worked for her. After only one round she was at a “zero” on the whole issue and she commented that she now felt that she was "an adult" who could make the reasonable judgment that she was going to trust the pilot.  "After all," she said, "If you're on the plane you might as well leave the flying part up to him!"

This same woman did, however, have another "hidden aspect" of her fear of flying.  It was a fear of delays on the runway. She overcame this problem by using the set-up phrase:

"Even though there may be delays in the flight, I choose to know that they (the crew) are all working to make it safe." This reduced her "delay anxiety" to zero.

Another unexpected aspect of fear of flying came to light when a recent client of mine confided in me that in the past she has always needed to order two bottles of rum with Coca Cola when on a plane in order to get through the flight without extremely anxiety. She does not ordinarily drink very much and this was definitely a form of self-medicating — she wanted to knock herself out on the trip. However she was very ashamed of doing this and would suffer severe hangovers afterwards and she didn't want to do this again.

So we tapped with this phrase, which she herself came up with:

"Even though I've needed two bottles of rum in the past, I choose to feel just as relaxed when totally sober."

This rapidly brought her Intensity Level to a zero. She felt much better and said that her usual feeling of having a blanket pulled out from under her when she went up in a plane was simply not bothering her. Her subsequent plane trip was uneventful. And she didn't have to have any rum.

My point in relating these incidents is that we cannot be too careful about searching for hidden aspects of any situation, particularly when dealing with flying fears. Spending a little more time investigating the INDIVIDUAL aspects that may contribute to plane anxiety can be incredibly productive.

EFT Master, Dr. Patricia Carrington
(Previously published in the EFT 1-Minute News June 16, 2003)

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