Fear of flying

NLP techniques

Or do you have a phobia?

I don’t know how many people are affected by a fear of flying, although if you are reading this I suspect you may be one of them.  

Some people say they have a phobia of flying, so what is the difference?

Fear is that little dark room where negatives are developed
Michael Pritchard

If you are able to get on an aeroplane – maybe you are even quite a frequent traveller – but you are constantly worried about the experience and what might or might not happen, you have a fear of flying; it is not a phobia.

If you are horrified by the very thought of flying and perhaps go into a cold sweat at the sight of an aircraft or the picture of one, then you might describe it as a phobia.

It is interesting that we say we have a fear of flying or we have a phobia.  

We talk about these feelings as if they are objects that we can put in a drawer or exhibit on the sideboard.

So if you catch yourself saying that, ask yourself what it looks like.  You don’t have either a fear of flying or a phobia.  

They are both behaviours and behaviours can be changed.

My experience is that people who talk about a specific fear, such as flying, are usually frightened of other things as well.  

It often, but not always, comes down to a general lack of confidence or inexperience of particular activities.

Fear of flying and the way to defeat fear

The best way to defeat fear is to do the very thing that frightens you.  

The more you do it, the more you take it from the realms of the mysterious or unknown into everyday life. 

To take a bizarre example, when you clean your teeth you don’t worry that perhaps you will brush so hard that you will damage them or that they will all fall out and you will bleed to death. 

On the contrary, you are so used to brushing your teeth that sometimes, I suspect, you are hardly aware that you have brushed them.  It is so automatic.  

So if you are frightened or anxious about flying, you are putting your concentration in the wrong place.

Ivan's fear of flying

I have an acquaintance who I shall call Ivan who is now in his early sixties.  

For many years he worked for a government department which was involved in developing underwater weapons.  

He was therefore from time to time called upon to travel considerable distances when the weapons were being tested.

I found out only recently that he never flew to a distant destination.  

If at all possible, he would travel by land; if he was required to go overseas he went by ship.  

I heard him say to a mutual friend:  “I am not a flier.  In my job, I’ve had too many opportunities of seeing what can go wrong in engineering.”

I managed to restrain myself and didn’t comment, but he was of course deluding himself.  

If he was right, his comments applied equally to road or sea travel.  

There would really be no safe method of travel.  Indeed, far, far more people get killed on the roads than as a result of air travel.

Of course, things go wrong and accidents happen, but we could just as easily be killed or maimed crossing the road, and if we allowed ourselves to dwell on it we would never leave our houses.  

Instead, we would probably huddle under the stairs afraid that the roof might fall in.

You see how silly all this gets if you place your concentration in the wrong place.  

You start to make big, nasty disastrous pictures in your mind, they seem very close and you keep replaying them. 

The more you replay them, the more anxious you become.

Teaching yourself fear of flying

What you are doing is teaching yourself to be frightened.  

If you wish to learn a poem, a song or a speech, one of the things you do is read it over many times in order to remember it.  

You are performing an exactly similar exercise when you replay pictures of your fears in your mind.

So start by using the exercise you may have read about on other pages of this website.  Drain the colour out of the picture, push it off into the distance until it is a mere spec and let it explode into the sun.  

While you are draining the colour out, imagine you are turning a little knob that makes the picture completely white.

Repeat that exercise at least five times until you are no longer able to call up the picture.

Something else you can do is to concentrate on the feeling of nervousness or fear you have in your body when you think of flying.  

Work out which way the feeling is moving.  It will be moving backwards or forwards or from one side to the other.

Increase the speed of the feeling.  You will undoubtedly feel worse by doing so.  Now try reversing the feeling so that it is going in the opposite direction.  That will ease the feeling.  If you speed it up it will ease it still further.

That demonstrates to you that you can control the feeling and therefore control the behaviour.

Once you have done that, replace the bad pictures and the uncomfortable feelings with happy pictures and pleasant feelings.  

If the purpose of your flight is to go on holiday, the time has come to focus your concentration elsewhere. 

Even if it is a business flight, you have the opportunity to go to a new or different place and meet more people, so there are experiences which you can look forward to.  Concentrate on those. 

Fear of flying and making beautiful pictures

Make beautiful pictures of what you expect to see.  Perhaps you are travelling to an exotic resort with white sandy beaches and rich blue seas, or travelling to a mountain resort. 

Wherever it is, build a large colourful picture in your mind.  Make it bright.  See what you expect to see.  Hear what you expect to hear.  And feel what you expect to feel. 

For example, see yourself lying on the beach, hear the sound of the waves, feel the warm breeze against your face and the sand beneath your toes, smell the salt air, and see the rich colours of the sea, the sun and the palm trees. 

Double the size of the picture and the intensity of the feelings.  Just as those feelings peak, anchor them on some part of your body.  

If you haven’t learned about anchoring yet, call up that page now and learn that simple technique.

Once you have anchored those feelings, you have a powerful technique with which to fight your fear.  If you have a flight coming up and the bad pictures start to appear, repeat the exercise above.  Then fire off your anchor. 

The closer the flight gets, the more you can fire off that anchor, relive the good experiences and enjoy your flight.

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