Why It Can Be Tough to Overcome Fear of Flying

by guest blogger Psicoline

When it comes to overcoming fear, many people say how difficult it can be; how they feel stalled along the way; and how the process can take a long time. You should be aware that phobias emerge throughout life, and they’re a learning process that takes time to work through. Immediacy is not a realistic expectation when you work through a phobia.

When we evaluate and work with people who suffer from phobias, it’s very important to find out what perpetuates them and what hinders the improvement process. Here we’ll show you some things that we’ve discovered that prevent you from being able to integrate these fears and handle them differently. 

What’s holding back your improvement? 

Immediacy and Your Expectations 


When we start working with someone who suffers from a phobia, there are often expectations about what the improvement process will be like – the steps and time it takes, which are not always forward – so it’s important to manage them. You’ll need to adapt while moving through the process, as it may take more sessions than expected, there may be relapses, and so forth. If not, you’ll most likely end up feeling frustrated. First – even if it’s difficult – calm down and be aware that each person’s timing while working through a phobia is different.  

The Fear of Symptoms 


You may think that palpitations, chest pressure or agitated breathing, for example, are dangerous symptoms. If you don’t know yourself well, you could interpret these signs as something to avoid and not look further into them. You need to listen to yourself and know that they have to do with anxiety and that there are solutions. 

The Burden of Thoughts  


When it comes to fear, your thoughts carry a lot of weight. What if you’re on a plane and you hear unfamiliar noises? Maybe you start thinking of scenarios or situations that come to a bad end. What you think about has a lot to do with how you feel, so you shouldn’t go deep into those thoughts. This is a small part of you that tries to protect you. But thoughts don’t define who you are, so we advise you to not get sucked into playing that game. Think about them as something “external” to you. 

Trying Out Solutions   


When you think about times when flying generated fear, what did you do to try to overcome it? It’s important that you analyse how useful all those behaviours were and try to see what you could have done differently. And above all, if you have not got professional help and you feel that this fear limits you, we recommend that you seek out professionals who can find useful solutions for you. 

Fear Defence Mechanisms 


Your brain protects you and is designed to help you survive, so it creates mechanisms that try to shield you or help control anxiety. What’s wrong with that? Although they relieve short-term symptoms, these mechanisms are usually the main problem in not overcoming fears. Some examples: 

  • Avoidance: It’s normal that when something causes discomfort you don’t want to face it or be near it. Therefore, people who are afraid to fly avoid travelling by plane at all costs. The problem with that is when you avoid something, you don’t face the issue and often base your life and plans around that fear, making it chronic.
  • Escape: This is a little different from avoidance, since you do confront the feared situation. However, when you begin to feel uncomfortable you decide to leave in order to feel safe again.
  • Planning or control: Control seems to give you the feeling of managing the situation, so this reduces anxiety. If you’re on a flight, you may try to be aware of what’s happening around you and therefore feel partially secure and in control of the environment. But if turbulence begins, the uncertainty will reappear and the feeling of having no control will again increase your anxiety, so your attempts at control actually increase discomfort. You have to let go and try to accept that you cannot be in control of everything.