As anyone with a fear of flying knows being afraid of flying can put real limitations on your life. Whether it’s affecting you at a personal or business level.

The first important thing you need to know

The first important thing you need to know is that fear of flying is a learnt behaviour and I am going to explain how and why you can overcome fear of flying. Humans are born with only 2 natural in built fears and they are the fear of falling and the fear of sudden loud noises and these are very useful protection mechanisms both as an infant and as adult. So where does the fear of flying come from then?

Where does the fear of flying come from?

The two main ways in which people learn to be afraid are
1) Seeing someone they look up to and trust being afraid of flying. This most often happens during childhood or teenage years where people learn from those closest around them as how to respond and behave in various situations. So a child growing up seeing a parent or close relative being afraid just assumes that flying is scary. And the more the person thinks about it in that way the more the response becomes more and more assumed or in other words a learnt or unconscious behaviour.

2) The other most common way that people learn their fear of flying is by personally experiencing a bad flight or seeing something scary themselves. And that actually is the most effective way for someone to become afraid of flying. This is because your brain is designed to learn from experiences in order to protect you. Imagine if we had to burn or cut ourselves 50 times before we learnt to be careful around hot or sharp things we would be covered in scars. So to prevent that from happening the brain has the amazing ability to learn very quickly at an unconscious level. In fact if it is a powerful enough experience your brain actually has the ability to learn from just one example!

Conscious thinking takes time, even if it’s only a second or two and by that point you may have already touched the hot thing and burnt yourself. This means that when you see something hot rather than having to consciously think about what you have to do you instinctively or in other words unconsciously move you hand away from the hot thing. So once someone has learnt the fear of flying response in many cases its then run as an unconscious protection mechanism.

Most adults logically know that statistically flying is the safest form of transport. However for many people that knowledge isn’t enough by itself to prevent them from being afraid. So why is that? Think about it this way, if you were told a pan on the stove was cool but when you went to pick it up inside your head you had a thought that it might still be very hot I‘m sure that you would be more wary about touching it. The same applies to flying because even though someone has told you that flying is safe once you have the thought in your head about feeling scared or something unpleasant happening your brain starts going into protection mode. The more you think about flying in that way and your brain triggers the learnt fear response the association between the two becomes strengthen. And to all intents they can start to feel as if they are one and the same thing. So inside your mind flying = feeling scared.

Your brain is constantly trying to make sense of the world

Your brain is constantly trying to make sense of the world based on your experiences. To do that it uses experiences from the past and present, it also uses real life experiences as well as the scenarios that you have ran in your mind. It then puts these together along with your beliefs to create assumptions about what you think is going to happen. It then generates a response or set of responses not built on the real world but around those assumptions and expectations.

The second important thing you need to know

The second important thing you need to know is because your brain is designed to learn and pattern behaviours, the more a pattern is run the more automated it becomes. Think about a time when you got a new phone number or had to learn a new task like driving a car or anything else similar. To begin with you had to consciously think about what you were doing however the more you did it the more it became familiar and instead of having to think about it you just did it.

So back to the question, how do you overcome fear of flying?

When people come to me for help in overcoming fear of flying the first thing I want to know is not why they are afraid of flying but how do they know when it’s time to feel afraid? Now I know that for many people it can feel as though the fear just happens but the reality is your brain doesn’t generate fear randomly, it has to know when to release the adrenaline. You don’t look at your car and suddenly feel afraid of flying do you? And this gives me a lot of the important info about how your brain is actually generating your fear of flying.

The third important thing you need to know

The third important thing you need to know is that phobias have a real structure to them. Many people may say that fear of flying is an illogical response but the truth is once you look at what the person’s internal experience is then the feelings of fear make complete logical sense in relationship to how they are thinking about flying.

There are several ways in which you can stop the fear of flying and feel calmer. Some people will advise that you feel the fear and do it anyway. Now I don’t know about you but personally I rather not feel afraid. In fact I prefer the idea of feeling calmer and being more relaxed so the whole experience becomes better. And in fact if you look at the difference between someone that is afraid of flying and the people that are either ok with flying or enjoy flying the real difference comes from the fact that they think about flying differently.

Your brain is designed to learn from experiences

So how do you stop your fear of flying and develop the mindset of someone that feels more relaxed flying. The first thing is to pay attention to how you think about flying. Are you running the equivalent of disaster movies inside your head seeing yourself feeling anxious on the flight? Does your internal dialogue / thoughts sound scared, fast or anxious? Are you thinking to yourself that something terrible is going to happen? Do you just assume that your going to be scared purely based on past experiences? Thinking about flying in any of those ways will almost certainly make you feel nervous about flying because your brain is designed to learn from experiences. And whether the experience is on the outside in the real world or inside your mind in your reality your brain can learn from it. Do it enough times in a convincing enough way and your brain believes it’s real. But it’s your brain and it’s time to start taking control back over how you’re thinking about flying.

In the same way your brain can learn to be afraid of flying by running scary experiences you can re learn or re-code these experiences by both seeing yourself feeling calmer and more relaxed flying and generating the feelings that go hand in hand with feeling calmer flying. The more vividly you show your brain that it’s ok to feel calm flying the easier it is for your brain to stop generating the fear. This means you also have to stop telling yourself your going to be scared.

The fourth important thing you need to know

Obviously there is more to it than this, and the fourth important thing you need to know is that because other people have also learnt how to overcome fear of flying and now feel relaxed flying means you can do too once you learn the mindset of how to feel relaxed and fly in comfort.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Wright started studying NLP and hypnotherapy over 14 years ago for his own personal development. Having overcome his own fears people started asking him to also help them. At this point Paul meet Paul McKenna who was impressed with his skills and encouraged him to start seeing private clients. In fact Paul McKenna actually started referring clients to him. Over the years demand for Paul's services has grown and grown and he was asked to join the team at the JustBeWell clinic in London's Harley Street. You can contact Paul via his own website and talk to him about how you can overcome your fears and phobias.