Fear of flying hypnotherapy
I had an interesting client today who wanted fear of flying hypnotherapy. This client said that she was afraid of flying. Or rather, she was only afraid when they shut the doors. She felt like panicking because she could not get out.
Fear of flying is a difficult thing to deal with therapeutically because you cannot test it directly except by getting on an aeroplane. But this case gave me confirmation of what I believe about fear of flying. Fear of flying has nothing to do with flying. It is simply that the flying experience has been linked unconsciously with some other source of fear, and the flying triggers that original fear. No amount of dealing with the flying will help - you have deal with the original fear.
It all started when she was on a plane about six months ago, waiting to take off. She was reading about some trapped miners. She was already empathizing with the trapped miners, and feeling their fear, when the attendant said several times that the doors were going to be closed. This increased the feeling of suffocation. She immediately wanted to get off but couldn't, and that increased the feeling of suffocation.
Fear of flying control
Every time she got on a plane after that she had that same feeling of being shut in. This then began to be transferred to the car and to lifts. She suggested that it might come from when she was locked in a cupboard by her brother, or locked in under the house with her other brother. I suspected it was something emotional, so asked her about the big things that happened when she was growing up.
She said that her father was unfaithful when she was 13 and the family threatened to break up, although it never did. But there was always tension, and she felt she had to look after both of them after that.
She also said that along with the suffocating feeling, since the flying incident she felt increasingly that she had to be in control and worried about lack of control. Mother had been very controlling.
Also said she had recently begun to have tinnitus.
This was quite a collection of symptoms, and I was wondering what on earth could connect them all together, or even if they were connected.
I started by discussing her feelings of lack of control. It quickly became obvious that she had many symptoms of dysthymia, the little cousin of depression. One of the main symptoms of depression is called black and white thinking. Things are either right, or they are totally bad. Things are either going the way you think they should or they are out of control.
It never occurred to me before that feelings of lack of control can actually be linked to depression. On reflection, the escalating fear was making her feel bad all the time so it would not be surprising to start to get depressed if you were already susceptible to it.
Fear of flying Hypnotherapy session
For the hypnotherapy, I started with a rapid induction, she started laughing part way through. I interpreted this as fear of losing control. I switched to kinaesthetic induction, feel your breath as it goes in, and got better results. Then to a countdown induction, going into an old house, more laughing but I kept going. As the countdown continued I was suggesting that she was going deeper into that house and down a corridor.
As I was talking she went into trance and then she was ahead of me and started weeping. I asked what she was getting - she said the corridor took her back in time, and she getting a feeling of suffocating in her throat and ears.
When I get such a clear feeling I always go with Metaphor Replacement. I asked what the feeling most resembled. It was a rectangle, dark red, about 30 x 10 cm. It was filled with fear.
Clearing the fear
I used the replacement therapy to shrink it. When I asked what she wanted to replace it with, she wanted air in its place.
So we filled it with air. She was no longer suffocating. I then tested it with a visualization of being in a plane. Said she felt OK.
Then I did an extended metaphor on the air theme. I led her into a visualization of being in that old house. She threw open all the windows, let the fresh air in, looked outside to the future, then started walking away from the house. I took her to a stream and put her naked in the stream to wash away all that old stuff. Then she got new clothes and walked away from it. I had no idea what it was that she was fearing but I felt that as long as I was taking her away from it in metaphor, her mind would figure out what the real issue was.
I then did some direct suggestion and counted her back to full awareness.
Fear of flying origin
She said she remembered after the infidelity came out, a scene with her mother pretending to read the paper and her father trying to find something to say and them not communicating. They spend the rest of their marriage not communicating. She realized she would have to fix both of them and that was the day she grew up before her time.
The whole atmosphere was one of immovable tension and for her a suffocating feeling of not being able to get away. Of course, the "not communicating" suggested an interesting link between 'not listening' and the tinnitus.
She thought that she had already dealt with it because she had gone over the memory many times, but obviously she had not because that was the root of her problem.
The human mind is endlessly fascinating.
I felt that this case was quite significant. It got me thinking about the whole fear of flying hypnotherapy approach. I wonder what your experience of dealing with fear of flying is?
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.