At the moment you probably find it unimaginable that you could get on a plane and feel good about it. But what would feeling good mean? Would it mean you'd have no fear at all, or that everything leading up to the trip would be less stressed? Or that you could fly without any stress?
Your feelings determine your actions, so we start with your feelings when we talk about your fear of flying. It’s only when you ‘feel’ better that you will ‘do’ ‘better’. The only way to change how you feel about something is to change your thoughts about it.
There is a psychological theory that says that what you think will determine how you feel, and how you feel will determine how you behave. Overcoming your fear is about how you think and how you act on those thoughts.
This is the basis of CBT, the therapy that is most likely to help you to overcome your fear of flying. How do our minds sort out the things that we think are good or bad, what we like or what we dislike? How do our minds work in respect to the fear of flying?
How you learnt your Fear
Here are some principles of learning and the way you have learnt to be fearful of your fear:
Where you learn something is where you will recall it.
The mind distorts unfamiliar information.
Thinking the same thoughts reinforces them.
When we don’t know the answer we usually fill it in with something to support the fear.
The fear of flying is a learned fear, so it is possible to unlearn it.
It is now accepted (World Fear of Flying Conference Montreal 2007) that to overcome a fear of flying, one of the best methods is thought re-structuring. This is not as sinister as it first sounds. To say and accept that an aircraft descends rather than saying an aircraft plummets is ‘thought re-structuring’.
At flyingwithoutfear.com we promote the idea that the best re-structuring is the one that you believe in and the one that works for you … in fact the one that uses the words, ideas and thoughts that belong to you. That’s why we don’t believe in quick fixes and instant cures. Remember a fear of flying is a learned, fear and can be unlearned.
How our brain works
When our brain receives information, we first make sense of it by comparing it with information that we have stored in our long term memory. We try a ‘best fit’ match and if it looks similar we convert it into something the same, and put it into the appropriate memory stores.
It’s like putting something into a file on our PC.
For example, when we hear someone laugh we identify this by comparing … See the Premium on line Fear of flying Course for more.
Naturally we store many ‘mental models’ about flying, especially if we have a fear of it. It is very difficult to ‘delete’ this information in your mind. Making an effort to forget something or put it into our ‘recycle bin’, reminds us of it, so we delete it, and restore it at the same time.
Can you change what you think?
Yes you can, but without hard facts it’s difficult. Here’s a simple illustration of how difficult it is to change the things we ‘believe’ are true. If we listen to radio programs where a competition asks us to identify a voice from a short extract of speech we trawl our long term memory, putting together the various clues to find the answer.
However a very interesting effect occurs once we have come to a conclusion; it becomes very hard to change our mind and rethink from the beginning again. We are normally stuck with that first answer and then we justify it by finding information to support of view.
Rarely are we able to change our mind, we’re almost always stuck with the first answer. However hard we try we can’t shake off that first idea.
Exactly the same things happen when a fearful flyer thinks about flying. If your first thought is in the ‘bad’ category it is … see Premium for more of this explanation.
These become learned ‘facts’ but don’t worry, they can be unlearned. Your responses have become your learned behaviour. That’s why it’s so important to replace misunderstandings with facts and to replace myths with reality to flush out and restock our long term memory.