A small group of people met together in our Oakville office over the final weekend in September to challenge their beliefs that they could not fly without anxiety and panic. All had signed up to participate in our 2-day, NON FLYERS group and all told stories about how they used to enjoy flying in childhood and early adulthood until fear gradually (or suddenly) began to creep in, turning their enjoyment into suffering.
No one in the group reported any kind of dangerous or unusual experiences in their previous flights, but all spoke about remembering one flight as the one that triggered their fears. One person told a story of flying through stormy weather and having to remain seated during a long stretch of turbulence because the captain kept the seatbelt light on through much of the flight. She spoke of her fear developing late into the flight, when the captain came on the P.A. to announce that they were experiencing “technical difficulties …” and then paused momentarily, clicking off his microphone. The group member told of how her mind raced with fear over what felt like an hour but was probably only a few seconds, imagining horrific scenarios the pilot might describe when he came back on to complete the announcement. She had prepared herself to receive the bad news when she heard the ‘click!’ of the pilot’s mic and heard him explain that the technical difficulties were with the plane’s video entertainment system! The remainder of that flight ended without incident and she arrived at her destination just fine, but felt shaken from the fear. It wasn’t until her next flight several years later, when she experienced a sudden panic attack. There was nothing unusual about that second flight, certainly nothing dangerous, yet being back on a plane reminded her of how she felt on her earlier flight and imagining all the things that might have gone wrong caused her to panic.This one person’s experience is very typical of what many people report in our fear of flying groups, that they can feel terribly afraid even when the aircraft is perfectly safe and functioning exactly as expected.
To help with that we spent a full day in-class in our NON FLYER group helping people understand what goes on in the bodies and mind when fear is activated. We also brought in Capt. Larry, a commercial pilot with 48 years of experience flying all over the world for major Canadian airlines. He explained how airplanes operate and how the airline industry is one of the safest there is.
However, the real excitement of the group experience happened on Sunday afternoon, when we met Capt. Dave B. of D.B. Air, who took us up for an hour-long flight in his twin-engine plane. People who feel anxious about flying tend to worry that they won’t be able to cope, and the only way to really demonstrate that they can is to let them experience that personally. Even though most of our flyers reported feeling mild to moderate fear in the first few minutes of our flight, all 5 people reported that most of their fear was gone within 10 – 15 minutes and that they felt much more confident about their belief that they could cope with their next flights. Within 20 minutes of takeoff, everyone was enjoying themselves, taking photos of the scenery and talking excitedly about how much they had learned about their own coping abilities.
Fear of Flying Courses in the Toronto Area. www.afraidtofly.ca