She thought she had a fear of flying, but really it was something else completely.
Mary was in her late twenties when she appeared in my clinic for treatment of a fear of flying. The fear was severe enough to prevent her from travelling by air. As a result it was limiting her life and but also impacting her relationship with her boyfriend.
Although she had undergone other therapies for fear of flying none had worked.
The fear first struck when she was eighteen. She experienced a panic attack in an airport on her way to a holiday in Spain. Although she calmed down and completed the journey the vacation was ruined as it was overshadowed by the fear of flying home.
She had experienced turbulent flights in the past, none had particularly troubled her and there was no obvious reason for the fear.
Finding the root of Mary’s fear of flying
I opted to use an approach I had developed for this type of problem using Energy Psychology and my knowledge of trance and hypnosis.
By getting Mary to access the unpleasant physical sensations (muscular tension, nausea, heart thumping etc.) that accompanied her fear of flying we were able to go to the origins of these sensations.
Mary went into a story from when she was sixteen years old. She was entering an airport with her stepfather. They were visiting his family in the UK. Her mother was to follow in a few days’ time.
Mary hated her stepfather. In front of her mother he would be nice to her, but with her mother out of sight he would act towards her in ways that were unpleasant, abusive and laced with innuendo and threat.
Her mother had turned a deaf ear when Mary tried to tell her about it, passing it off as unimportant. Mary learned to cope by avoiding her stepfather as much as possible.
Now she had to travel and spend time with this man in a strange location, without the availability of her mother as a foil. She would be at his mercy and she was frightened.
On the way to the airport he had been upsetting her, criticising her looks and using threatening, unpleasant sexual innuendo. By the time they were entering the terminal she was desperately upset.
As they went through the doors her suitcase got caught. He became viciously abusive, shouting at her in a very disturbing way. She was terrified and wanted to run. He became even more abusive and she followed him in.
As she entered the terminal, in a state of strong panic, there was an announcement over the PA system preceded by the familiar musical chimes used in most airports. Mary completed the journey in a state of heightened fear which only eased at her destination where the presence of other people meant she could manage the situation and avoid him as much as possible.
As she told this story Mary expressed shock at the strength of the emotions that went with it. I invited her to “tune in to” these unpleasant emotions. As she did this I guided her through the gentle steps of an Energy Psychology method called TAT.
A few minutes later she described an unfamiliar but pleasant feeling of calmness and peace, as if something troubling had left her system. Her features had noticeably relaxed. She then smiled and informed me that her “fear of flying” had gone. She just knew it.
Very quickly she realised that the terror which had prevented her from traveling was really fear of her stepfather, displaced into fear of flying. It had been heightened by the traumatic and disturbing experience at the airport, and anchored by the musical chimes she heard as she entered the terminal. In reality it wasn’t the flying that troubled her – it was the sound of the chimes, or the unconscious anticipation of them and what they signified.
This simple piece of therapy allowed the “fear of flying” to leave her system. There was no need to manage it – it was gone. Mary went on to enjoy traveling, often with her boyfriend, all over Europe.
She also significantly de-stressed her system and dumped some very negative emotions and beliefs around her stepfather and even her mother.
In addition she created the possibility of better relationships with men, as it clicked that she was inclined to think of all men as a bit like her stepfather. Now she was free to see the humanity in the men she came across and to be much more relaxed and open with them.
All in all it was a good outcome.
Please feel free to contact me for more information or to make an appointment.
I will be delighted to work with you.
You can contact James Jameson on 086 2835758 / 1800924864 or firstname.lastname@example.org
These stories are reflective of real cases with details altered to protect client confidentiality.
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Dun Laoghaire, Bray and Wicklow, email@example.com