The reasons why people are afraid of flying don’t change the problem. If it’s a control issue, fine. So what? For me, trying to identify the reasons for the fear of flying is a wild goose chase:
Even if people know what caused the fear, it doesn’t change the treatment. It’s what they do about it is that’s important. I’ve worked with more than 500 fearful fliers, and they basically fall into three categories.
The first includes people who have associated phobias. Claustrophobic individuals have a fear of confined spaces, so they can’s handle lifts or tunnels or that sort of thing. Others have a fear of heights or an obsessive fear of dying.
A second group of fearful fliers are people whose life situation has precipitated the phobia they were okay but suddenly things combined to overwhelm them. People in this group often develop their fear of
flying after a divorce or the death of a parent.
Women often experience it after they’ve had children: They feel all of the responsibility at once and develop a fear of dying and therefore leaving the children as orphans. For people in this group, there’s some sort of a buildup of environmental stress or a combination of events divorce, losing a job, whatever any one of which they could cope with on its own.
Yet, in combination, these events are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The person goes into stress overload. And it just happens that they have to take a flight at that inopportune time. The third group of fearful fliers is made up of those who have had some sort of frightening or disturbing incident involving flying.
They’ve been in an emergency landing, have experienced severe turbulence, or have had a relative die in a plane crash. They feel the fear as a result of a real life incident involving a degree of real threat, and they need help to overcome that fear.
In spite of the differences between these groups, I honestly don’t believe it makes any difference where the fear comes from, because ultimately everybody has to learn to think and behave differently. Obviously, what they’ve been doing in relation to flying hasn’t been working.