I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with flying. I’ve never not boarded an aircraft or been outwardly stressed due to any fears, but like a lot of passengers (particularly in the post 9/11 era) odd negative thoughts HAD passed through my mind prior to flying or during the journey itself. On the other hand, flying also triggers this fantastical altered state in me – flying above the earth, 40,000 ft in the air – is a magnificent dreamlike experience. In my world, TWA always stood for Trance World Airlines! The original idea then to produce the Inflight Relaxation MP3 was an obvious and interesting choice for me. (My Sunny Mind’s Relaxed Flying Series came later!)
The Origins Of Fear
A great deal of fear originates from childhood experience – learned responses from the people (normally family) around us. I remember my mum being a highly anxious person. Flying, traveling on planes, unfamiliar noises or situations would all cause her some kind of freeze, flight or fight response. As a child I didn’t know any better and would just absorb whatever was going on around me – such as my mum heatedly telling my dad to be careful with his driving as he sped down the road! Years later I too found myself to be a somewhat nervous car passenger. Coincidence? Probably not.
Similarly, my grandmother used to have this completely irrational fear of spiders… a little spider in the bathtub would send her into fits of panic before a desperate call to a neighbor to have them come and remove it. Imagine yourself as a little toddler sitting in your high-chair quite happily watching a spider walk across the tray in front of you. Suddenly your grand mother walks in and starts screaming upon seeing this little arachnophobe! At that point you start screaming to and from then on are wary of spiders! Learned responses. Interestingly my grandmother loved flying, but our little eight legged friends were a real cause for concern for her – such is the seemingly random nature of fear and how it affects us all differently.
The White Knuckle Passenger
People have a fear of flying for a myriad of reasons and the most common one is the lack of control they feel once aboard the aircraft - triggered by abnormally high anxiety levels held at the subconscious level. Whilst rationally we know that nothing will go wrong and flying is the safest form of transport, our subconscious mind has a different point of view and so kicks in with angst ridden ‘survival’ techniques. How many times have you been onboard a plane and seen the ‘white knuckle passenger’ sitting there in fear gripping the seat with both hands. Perhaps it’s even been you! Every little bit of turbulence or announcement from the captain is met with some kind of negative response – nihilistic thinking, a tightening of the body… When the plane lands you can sense the tangible relief.
What’s happening is that the nervous subconscious mind is doing what it think it needs to do for us to ‘survive’ the flight. It literally thinks: “well the last time I flew, I panicked over every bit of turbulence… I tensed my body over every unfamiliar sound I heard… and I worried about every announcement… and I SURVIVED!” The subconscious is very regressive in it’s thinking and always refers back to previous patterns of behaviour. It’s reasoning is: “if worrying worked last time, then worrying will work when I fly this time“. Hence we worry, and every time we fly the subconscious both re-enforces and is re-enforced by this negative behaviour. A vicious circle.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Our subconscious mind is like an unruly child that can be taught more positive behaviors. It can also be taught to relax. Just imagine if the next time you flew, when the plane entered into a little turbulence you simply decided to relax into it rather then tense up and worry. Interesting thoughts. I’ll go into the mechanics of this on the upcoming “Inflight Relaxation” blog…