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The phone rang at 7:00 AM. That's early, but my alarm was set for 7:15, so no problem. On the other end of the phone, a client told me she had to board a flight in two hours. She had received the SOAR Course DVDs but not had time to view them. Ordinarily, I want a client to view at least the strengthening exercise (the exercise that sets up automatic control of feelings when flying) videos and do a counseling session with me to be sure the exercise is set up right. Then, before flying, I would want the client to do the exercise daily for a few days to establish the automatic protection. In this case, there was no time. What could I do to help?
I thought back to something that happened years ago when I was a volunteer on the course at Pan Am. Captain Cummings and I took a group of fearful fliers onto a parked airliner. We promised them the plane was going to stay parked. We made sure the door was left open.
As we boarded, one man in the group hurried down the aisle, and plopped himself into a seat. He put his arms on the seatback in front on him. He lay his head on his arms in the brace position passengers are told to take in case of a crash. And he started to panic.
Here he was. On a plane that was going nowhere. For whatever reason, he went into the brace position for a crash. Though there was no danger at all, he went into a state of panic. Why? That was a question I couldn't answer. But what I did realize at that moment was this: fearful fliers do not suffer from what takes place on an airliner; they suffer from what they imagine will take place on an airliner.
The problem with fear of flying is not reality. It is imagination. The reality is this: no person has perished on a major U.S. airliner in over fifteen years. The problem for the fearful flier is imagination that they will have an experience they cannot bear and cannot escape.
Some fearful fliers try to train themselves. They try to prepare for the unbearable and inescapable by trying to imagine it. A fearful flier may think, "I need to imagine it. But, as I imagine it, if I can bear it, I'm not not making it bad enough."
Other fearful fliers tell me they need to control their thoughts. They believe the problem could be fixed if they could keep troubling thoughts out of mind. I disagree. There is no need to keep from thinking. What is needed is to keep from believing what one is thinking.
Nothing in the mind is real. What is real is outside the mind. Light reflected off an object is focused by the iris onto the retina. Sensors in the retina send signals to the visual cortex in the back of the brain. There, in about one-tenth of a second, signals corresponding to light reflected from the object are processed to produce an artificial replica of the object. This replica is not the object. What is in the mind is not real. What is in the mind is, at best, a replica of something that is real. It is like your TV. What you see on your TV screen is not reality; it is an artificial representation of reality.
Is the representation accurate? It is hard to be sure. And that is the reason I'm asking you to not believe what you have in your mind. It may be an accurate representation; it may not be. It depends on how carefully you have composed the replica in your mind, and how disciplined you are in fine-tuning it.
A photograph may look real. But, anyone who has used Photoshop knows that things that appear to be real in a photograph may not even exist.
Another way of stating the problem is this: the problem with fear of flying has nothing to do with flying. It has to do with Photoshop-of-the mind; it has to do with what a fearful flier makes up - and perhaps habitually - believes.
As it turns out, the person I was on the phone with is a writer, a professional Photoshop-of-the-minder. I suggested to her that it might be hard for her to separate her own mental creations about her flight from reality. She agreed.
What I suggested to her, since she was truly distressed, believing that her plane would crash, is that as she headed for the airport, as she boarded, and as she flew, she should persistently question the content of her mind.
When I read content on the web, I take it in, but I am not taken in by it. I don't necessarily believe it. Apply that to content in the mind: take it in, but do not be taken in by it. Don't dare believe your own stuff.
" . . . Program Has Helped. I Am Very Grateful!"
It's funny, every letter you receive could have been written by me. I travelled for work in the past, flying every week. My fear of flying and associated anxiety affected my job performance and health. I was a wreck. I took a long break from flying, missing many opportunities with friends, adventures and learning.
Fast forward a couple years, I decided to do something about it. I got your program; was totally engrossed by it; learning about executive function, planes, flying; doing the strengthening exercise, talking to you on the phone. My first flight after was so much better. I have taken a couple domestic flights since and also been to Europe seven times. Seven times so far. Before each trip I'll watch a couple of your videos and refresh the strengthening exercise.
The above is probably like a broken record to you. It shows how well you know your stuff and how your program has helped. I am very grateful!
"Just Watched My Movie"
Trip to Scotland went well. Heavy turbulence because of hurricane coming back. But what you taught about hurricanes made it no problem. The captain said about 50 minutes of turbulence. I just watched my movie.
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SOAR Will Work For You Too
Almost everyone who contacts us believes, "Though it works for others, it won't work for me." Regardless of doubts, SOAR works. We broke the code on how to control flight anxiety, claustrophobia, and panic, and to do so automatically.
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To Schedule A Counseling Session
Counseling by phone (in person if you can come to Connecticut) can be scheduled at http://www.fearofflying.com/tom A counseling session is included in every SOAR course, but you don't have to be enrolled in SOAR to work with Capt Tom, a licensed therapist, on any difficulty you have with flying.
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