Flying over Your Fear

“The beautiful thing about fear is, when you run to it, it runs away.”

~ Robin Sharma

A client of mine asked me to help her with her fear of flying.   She said that she recently got educational opportunity to study abroad for her second degree but would not be able to consider that due to her incapacitating fear of flying.

Fear is defined as an emotional and physical reaction to a present, known threat.  Fear has a strong controlling power.  It protects us from possible harms and alerts us from possible dangers.  However, the mind also has the capacity to create danger messages when not warranted and incapacitate the person from moving forward.  Fear may result from experiencing tangible attacks by something that has endangered our lives orbeing; or it may result from intangible thoughts created by the mind.  Hence, some fears are imaginary, and not real.  “What if I am not successful in life? What if I would not makeprofit this year in my business? What if I am dismissed from the university? What if I cannot get married? What if I do not give birth to children? What if my children are hooked into addictions? What if… What if… What if…..”

The best definition of “Phobia” is irrational fear – a particular type of fear of something that results in incapacitating us.  Whether it is related to activity such as flying, socializing, speaking in public, going into heights; or related to a particular object or animals such as needle, spider, rat, and so forth; irrational fear has a stronghold that deters us from living life to the fullest.

Today I would like to focus on the ‘irrational fear’ that hinders us from achieving our dream life.  Fear is rooted in a belief system that “I am not capable; I am not worthy; I am not successful; I may fail; I am not confident; and so forth.”  Underneath irrational fear, there is irrational thought that is solidified as a belief system.  Technically, fear appears as emotional reaction to thought patterns that implies dangers.  Hence, irrationality comes from thinking, not emotion.  When danger is sensed, it is automatic for the body and mind to react in fear.  Hence, what is irrational is the underlying thought that blocks us from liberated life.  Our body reacts to fear by escaping, trembling, sweating, freezing, fighting, incontinence, heart racing, short breathing, in general, we will not be in control of our body’s reactions.  This reaction intensifies that we dread to face our issue.

One thing I believe in is that human beings would not thrive if their constant motivating factor is fear, in fact it deters us from achieving our goals.  The brain operates best in freedom, which includes thinking, imagination, creativity and expressing who we are.  Unless we face our fears, they will end up controlling us, dictating us to live below our potentials.

The next logical question will be, “How do you face fear?” In psychotherapy, we use two methods to face personal fears.  The first is gradual exposure to the object of our fear.  Each day we plan to do something that draws us one step closer to the fear that overwhelms us.  When we feel desensitized about that, we add one more step to get closer.  Our habitual actions convince our mind that it is absolutely useless to take up all the energy for the thing that we are afraid of.  In other words, our mind believes that there is no apparent danger to calls for fight, flight or freeze reactions.  The ‘irrational’ fear will be gradually convinced of rationality of thoughts.  The second technique is called inundation whereby we face our fear by forcing ourselves to face it once even if our body overwhelmingly reacts.  Staying in the place where we face the fear for a longer period of time of exposure, will reduce the fear reaction for there is no apparent danger.

My client decided to go for gradual exposure, instead of flooding.   We went to a place where she could see airplanes and experience flying.  First, we went to a simulator where pilots do their initial training before they actually fly planes.  One of the pilot trainers showed us and allowed us to experience what it meant to fly.   We got into something that was stationed.  She was seated in the co-pilot seat to clearly see what was going on.  We all buckled our seat, and experienced whatever the pilot decided to do.  By pressing buttons, different scenarios were created.   The simulator was equipped to simulate places, such as Paris, Johannesburg, Rome, Addis Ababa, Washington DC, and others.  The simulator was also equipped to simulate weather conditions: thunderstorm, turbulent weather, hail or snow.  We also experienced taking off and landing.  Hence, we felt everything that passengers would feel during their trip to different destinations.  At the end of the simulator experience, it was very difficult to believe that we were right there where the simulator was stationed; we have not been to Rome, nor Johannesburg, nor were there any whether changes.  However, my client trembled as we were taking off, or landing or experiencing the different weather conditions.  The fear was the same though it was a simulator.

We took this lesson, if the mind is convinced that it can be afraid of non-existent threats, it might as well be convinced of the truth if we gradually get closer to reality by daring to liberate ourselves of our bondage.

Some use F.E.A.R as an acronym: F = False; E = Evidence; A=Appearing R=Real.  What is the false evidence that your mind is hanging on to that impedes your development?

Would you like to take bolder steps to face “your demon” daily to gradually liberate yourself to fly over your fear? After all, you are called for freedom and you deserve to experience life in its fullness.

Seble Hailu
April 18, 2017