Fear of Flying therapy
I had a client with an absolute fear of flying. The idea terrifies him. He gets sick for weeks before it. He gets night sweats, tremors, complete wreck. Hates being on a plane. He is now applying for a job where he will have to fly at least twice a week. It seems to be the movement and particularly the fear of a drop is what causes his panic. He could not think of any reason why he had this fear of flying.
It seemed to me this was an ideal case for metaphor replacement therapy. We talked about his feelings for a while, and then straight into the therapy.
When I started to lead him into trance I got a big surprise. This guy seemed to me to be one of the most hypnotisable people I've ever come across. He just fell into trance almost instantly. I think his basic problem is that he is hypnotising himself into the fear of flying.
Fear of Flying metaphor therapy
To get him to relax, I did a brief breathing induction. I asked him to think about getting on a plane. I walked him through getting the tickets, going to the airport, going to check-in, waiting for the boarding call, and then walking across the bridge and into the plane and taking his seat. Then I talked him through the plane taking off and a lot of shaking and shuddering and called up his feeling that the plane was going to drop suddenly. He was clearly agitated and in the feeling.
Visualize Fear of Flying as an object
I therefore got him to visualise what the feeling was like. He said "It is like a rock". I asked him what size it was and he said "about the size of a soccer ball". I then asked him to describe the rock in as much detail as he could. He said "it's pretty jagged, black, and there is a horrible feeling around it". More probing revealed that it was terrifying, the outside was hard and rough and it had no particular temperature. What was interesting was that while I was asking him what it would be like if he touched it and felt it, he was using his hand as if he was feeling this soccer ball rock. And then I asked him what temperature it was, he was using both hands as if they were on each side of the rock. He was totally living the experience of that metaphor.
Establish the link
The next stage of Metaphor Replacement Therapy is to find out what the link is between that rock and their feelings. I asked, "what would you like to have happen to that rock?". He said "disappear". I asked, "what would that mean for you if that rock disappeared?". He said, "relief". So I asked, and what can you do then". He said, "I could relax". I didn't want him to learn how to relax. So I asked the further question "when you have that 'relax', what can you do then, what about flying?". He then said, "I could enjoy flying". I had now established the link between the rock, the metaphor, and the feelings he wanted to get rid of.
Get ownership of the metaphor object
I then started asking him questions that would allow him to alter that rock. "What happens to rocks over time?" He said, "they get smaller". It seemed to me that he was comfortable with changing the size of his rock. So I said to him "can you imagine that rock a little bit bigger?". He said, "yes". "And can you imagine a little bit bigger still?". "Yes." So he could make it bigger. Most people with anxiety problems can easily make their problem seem bigger. So I said to him, "Now put it back the way it was. Now just make it a little bit smaller. Can you make it a little bit smaller?" I then asked him to make it bigger and smaller, and he was able to do that. Then I said, "do you realize that that means that you have control of this thing?" That changed his whole perspective of it.
Destroy the metaphor object
I then got him to think about what might happen to that rock. And very quickly, he described it as cracking and crumbling, and the whole thing just fell apart. I then got him to get rid of all of the bits that were left and he confirmed that it had disappeared.
Replace the Fear of Flying object
The next stage then is to replace the old metaphor with a new metaphor. I then suggested that he focus on the place without rock had been. "Your mind will find something you could put in there, something you would like, something useful." I suggested "some people like to use a sunny day, some people a child's smile, some people the feeling of triumph when they won something". "I wonder what your mind will want to put in there?"
And then I encouraged him to put his special thing in that place. I told him that once it got there he would experience a colour, a vibration, or a sound,orsomething quite special. It would fill that place. It would overflow that place. He would fill the whole of his body with that wonderful feeling.
Out of trance
I then told him to count himself out of trance and back into the present."
And how does that whole fear of flying business seem to you now?
He said with excitement, "it feels like nothing nothing at all".
I asked him how he was feeling. He said, "I am wonderfully relaxed, and I love that blue feeling that I'm feeling inside".
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community. He is Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (NZAPH).
He is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.