The following story is about how hypnosis helped with fear of flying. The techniques used, and the results, are similar to those used for other fears and I hope this story helps illustrate the general techniques used to overcome any fears.
Fear of flying is much more common than one might imagine. Some people struggle with it every time they take a plane flight; others are not even able to fly, because the level of anxiety is so great. Some people have had the problem all their lives, and for others it crops up unexpectedly after many years of flying comfortably. In general, this is problem that responds extremely well to hypnotherapy and EFT, and is usually resolved in 2-3 sessions.
The approach I use most often is similar to the approach used with “Sandra”, whose story will follow.
- I teach the Emotional Freedom Techniques and we use it to clear general and specific anxieties about flying.
- I tape a hypnotherapy session that guides the individual into a deep, comfortable state of relaxation, and gives the subconscious mind the suggestion to access feelings of safety that will allow their flying experience to be as comfortable to them as riding in a car, or another form of transportation.
- I recommend listening to the tape every night for two weeks and then several times a week until their next plane flight, and to take the tape with them to listen to on the plane if needed or desired.
“Sandra” called me because she needed help with her anxieties about flying. In her words, she felt “terrorized” every time she had to get on a plane. Not only did this affect her during the actual flight, but the problems began 24-48 hours before she was to fly. She slept fitfully or not at all on the night before the flight, and after arriving at her destination was exhausted and drained. She spent a great deal of energy worrying about the return trip (and not sleeping well) until she returned home.
Sandra’s job included frequent travel (several times a month) and she felt her personal and professional life were both suffering significantly from this problem. She was concerned about compromising her performance at work as her concentration and ability to focus were significantly affected during the days before and after she flew. During the times she needed to be at her best, she was barely able to function. She had used medication to reduce the anxiety, but had found it was only slightly helpful.
Our first session lasted almost three hours. I began by asking her all the details of her experience. She described feelings of intense vulnerability, heart pounding, shortness of breath, buzzing in the ears, and a feeling that a crash was inevitable. The physical symptoms she described were those of “fight or flight”, a biological response to real or perceived danger. In the “fight or flight” response, there are shifts in many systems of the body, including a rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate, and shifts in the circulatory system. To remain in this state for long periods of time without a physical release (in a physically threatening situation the actual fighting or running away would be the release) is extremely stressful to both the body and the mind. Hypnosis provides a natural antidote to this state.
We discussed the difference between rational and irrational fears. Sandra told me that intellectually she felt comfortable with the safety statistics on flying. However, logic and statistics had no effect whatsoever on her “gut level” response. We discussed what she would like to be able to feel before, during and after flying. It is always useful when communicating with the subconscious mind, to have a picture of what you do want, not just what you don’t want. Sandra said she would like to be able to carry on with her work normally in the days before flying, staying focused on the task at hand. Her trip would just be an incidental part of her day. During the flight she would like to feel relaxed and calm, her heart beating normally, the palms of her hands dry, a relaxed breathing pattern, and a comfortable interest in the progress of her flight. She would like to sleep as well on the night before her flights as she did on normal nights.
I described to her how we would use the hypnotherapy and EFT and then we began. Sandra was open minded and interested in the EFT. She experienced some immediate shifts in her general anxiety level in our first few rounds of “tapping”. Often, the most effective way to dissolve anxiety is to “tap” while remembering past experiences that were difficult. So we “tapped” through a number of these experiences. Sandra was delighted that she could tell me about an experience that stirred up intense feelings of anxiety at the first telling, but after “tapping”, she felt relaxed and removed from the experience. She was able to place the experience back into a context of rational understanding of what had happened and it no longer seemed to stir up the old anxiety.
We did almost an hour of EFT and by the end of that time, she felt much more comfortable with the idea of flying. I explained that the specific memories we had “tapped” on would probably not cause her any more problems, but if other memories or anxious feelings came back at a later time, she could use EFT right in the moment to reduce or eliminate the anxiety.
She was ready, now, to relax and enjoy the hypnotherapy session. EFT creates a naturally balanced and relaxed state, so Sandra slipped easily into hypnosis with a simple deep breathing induction. I asked her to take three deep breaths and as she exhaled to think the words “calm and comfortable”. (This simple process causes the subconscious mind to key into the meaning of those words, and often to access a calm, comfortable state simply through this invitation.) Remember that hypnosis is a natural state that we all go in and out of many times a day. With just those 3 deep breaths, Sandra had already entered into that natural state.
I then asked her to imagine a safe, peaceful, beautiful place she could go to for a brief mental vacation. I cued her to notice some of the details of this place; things she could see and hear, things she could feel, such as the temperature of the air, the textures she might touch. I suggested that every detail she noticed would guide her into a deeper, more pleasant state of relaxation. These are very simple suggestions to engage the imagination, which I often describe as the doorway to the subconscious mind.
Within 3 minutes Sandra was deeply relaxed, but to ensure a deep level of hypnosis, and to teach her the skills and benefits of the technique of progressive relaxation, I described a “wave of relaxation” that would ripple from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. I guided her attention to each area of her body, and invited all systems of her body to move into a calm and comfortable state of repose. (Please note, I was also giving her the specific antidote to the “fight or flight” response that had caused her so much difficulty in the past). This was all being taped for Sandra to listen to at home or during plane flights. With repeated listening, she would be able to guide herself through this same process, thus creating her own personal system for self-hypnosis.
Now, in a deeply relaxed state, Sandra received the suggestions we had agreed would be useful to communicate to her subconscious mind. I described the relaxed, confident feelings she would feel the next time she flew, and the physical comfort she would experience in her body while in the plane (drawing from the description she had given me earlier). I painted a picture of a sound night’s sleep the night before flying and an ability to operate with a clear, focused mind during business trips. I asked her to mentally repeat some statements that would be useful to file in her subconscious minds as new beliefs about flying. Towards the end of the session, I asked her to go through a “mental rehearsal” of what her next plane flight might be like, to enjoy all the details of a comfortable, positive experience.
Sandra emerged from a half hour session feeling rested and positive. She felt hopeful that her next plane trip would be much more comfortable, and scheduled a brief follow up session to reinforce the new feelings. Her next plane trip was only a week away, so we didn’t have long to wait for the results. She listened to her tape every night when she went to bed for the next week.
Sandra was very pleased with her next business trip. She flew four separate flights and except for a little anxiety during a rough landing of one of the flights, she had been very comfortable. She had used a little EFT and listened to her tape several times during the plane trips. She even slept through one whole flight, which she had never done before. She had arrived rested and clearheaded. Sandra continued to use the techniques and tapes to fly comfortably for both business and pleasure.