Fear of Flying: Expectation v. Reality


We’ve already discussed in some detail how automatic negative thinking feeds anxiety about flying, and have suggested an exercise like the “four-column technique” to help minimise such thinking. Here’s another helpful exercise you might want to try on your next flight: the “list of expectations”.

It’s a very simply technique, and starts with making a list of different situations related to flying, from the moment planning a flight, to buying a ticket, packing, departing, up until landing at the destination airport. Then, every time you need to fly, you make a note at each stage of how you feel, scoring it according to intensity on a scale of 0 to 10.

Then, come the day of your flight, once you’ve actually experienced all or a good portion of it, try to honestly re-evaluate your actual level of discomfort, then compare it to the list you made in the run-up to the flight.

Chances are the final number will be lower than those you noted in the days, perhaps weeks preceding your flight, because inevitably, when it comes to fear of flying as to many other things in life, apprehension is usually worse than the reality. And the demonstration of this fact – more than once, if need be – can serve to ease anxiety and make flying an experience that’s tolerable and even enjoyable.

image | Paul Worthington