People who are afraid to fly (as well as anxious people, in general) tend to pay more attention to events that support their fears and less attention to events that challenge their fears. In that way, they provide their own justification and evidence for why it makes sense for them to remain afraid. Of course, IF the situation you are facing in this very moment is actually a dangerous one, then that strategy makes great sense – for example, if you’re about to step on some slippery stairs, then paying more attention to where you place your feet is probably the best thing you can do right now.
However, unless YOU were one of the almost 60 passengers on board WestJet’s flight 442 on June 30, 2015, then the situation you are actually in at this moment is: You are thinking that the same (or worse) might happen to you on a flight you might take some time in the future. Let’s examine that.
The human body has great potential to survive calamities because it treats potentially dangerous events that might happen in the future the same way as events that are truly dangerous and are happening right now. It’s just safer this way because the resulting activation of our internal alarm systems pulls the focus of our attention onto the potential threat to increase the odds that we will deal with it effectively. The body acts automatically to bring the potential danger up and into conscious awareness where the logical and thinking brain can determine whether it is a genuine threat. If not (for example, when we realize that the only danger to us in this moment is the thought that a flight I take might have to make an emergency landing), then we can choose to disregard that ‘false alarm’ and get back to the business of the day.
So, the question comes back to: How do I want to view this recent event?
Two obvious choices are:
1. ‘See, I knew flying was dangerous and you just can’t trust the system to protect you!’
2. ‘See, I can trust that the system works to keep me safe when there is a problem.’
The choice here is up to you. You can focus on the facts that passengers reported being surprised when the crew shut off the engines and suddenly shouted, “Evacuate!”, or that one passenger was quoted as saying, “… everybody started panicking …” in the moments afterward. Or, you might choose to focus on the facts that when there was a potential threat, the crew took action to land the plane immediately and kept the passengers calm, emergency crews were dispatched and ready to meet the plane as soon as it touched down, and everyone walked away safe and well.
Which point of view will help you feel strong and live the kind of life you want?
Fear of Flying Courses in the Toronto Area. www.afraidtofly.ca