(This blog was originally posted on May 15, 2014)
|Image courtesy of Fotilia|
If you are afraid of flying, hypnosis and guided imagery can alleviate this anxiety and help to make your journey more comfortable. In this blog, I will describe how I use hypnosis and therapeutic guided-imagery concepts to help desensitize my clients to any negative associations they may have with and fear of flying.
The first thing I do is confirm that the client has a fear and not a phobia of the stimulus (flying). According to Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D., a fear is distinguished from a phobia if it has a specific cause or origin. For example, if the plane you were last on went through a thunderstorm and you experienced a lot of turbulence and sudden drop in altitude or a loved one dying in a crash, you might develop a fear of flying. Conversely, a phobia is a generalized anxiety response that is associated with low blood-sugar levels and no specific event triggered the reaction.
Once I make this determination, I will teach the person some basic relaxation techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing and special-place imagery. When the client is in hypnosis and is in a deep state of relaxation, I will help him or her to create a finger-press anchor to “lock in” that sensation of calm and comfort, which the person can employ if and when he or she feels anxious or afraid. I also guide the person through a series of imagery exercises to desensitize him or her to anticipatory anxiety about flying and to the specific stimulus or stimuli that trigger the fear or anxiety response (e.g., words such as terminal, last call and final destination). I also have the person “rehearse” preparing for and taking the scheduled flight: making travel arrangements, packing for the flight, waking up the day of the trip, eating a nutritious meal, leaving for the airport and boarding the plane. During this exercise, the client gets to visualize, imagine picture or pretend that he or she hears and sees the doors close on the aircraft and feel the plane take off, fly for the estimated duration of the journey and land at the destination. I will then guide the client through a similar exercise to prepare for the trip home.
I incorporate the client’s words/expressions in the hypnotic script to emphasize and reinforce his or her reasons/motivations to overcome the fear (or phobia) about flying. I use guided imagery to help the client replace negative associations between the sensation of flying, with that of the deep relaxation and sense of calm and comfort experienced during hypnosis. In this and future hypnotherapy sessions, I will continue to desensitize the person to triggers of this fear of flying and reinforce the new association between feeling confident, relaxed and in control while traveling in an airplane. Once the client has returned to an alert state I will provide some practical tips to further reduce anxiety while traveling and provide a recording of the hypnosis/visualization portion of the session to further reinforce this relaxed state.
Practical tips to make your flight more comfortable:
- Drink water and eat a nutritious meal that contains protein to keep your mood even and anxiety low.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages before or during the flight, which can affect suggestibility and may increase your anxiety.
- Get plenty of sleep the night before you travel.
- Listen to the reinforcement track before bed the night before your flight and on a personal stereo during the flight.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing and activate the finger-press anchor whenever you need to reduce stress or anxiety before or during the flight.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com