How To Quickly Transform Your Fear Of Flying Into Laughter

On two occasions, I’ve heard my intuition, tell me, “No.”

The difference between intuition and fear is that intuition isn’t scary.  The “no” didn’t come with spine tingles and stomach butterflies.  It was firm and clear like someone standing next to me, and I listened.

I’ve talked to those who have cancelled travel plans based on a “bad feeling” or “bad dream.”  Our intuition, Guiding Spirits, God, conscious works in different ways to steer us from bad situations.  We must learn to listen and know the difference between a spiritual warning and fear.

A few  months ago, I developed a fear of flying.

And while I have survived several plane rides since, it still manages to unnerve me during turbulence and bad weather.  I use meditation or keep myself busy in hopes of alleviating my fears until landing.  I hoped that after enough flights, the fear would disappear as quickly as it came.

Then one day, while watching a TED video, the speaker mentioned a plane engine failing after takeoff.  I was in the process of adjusting my treadmill settings and I turned my full attention to what she was saying.

Was this a sign?  Was my apprehension towards flying because something is going to happen to me on a future flight?

Karen Thompson Walker speaks on why fear contributes to our bad decisions and how we can look at fear another way.  She says that fear propels our imagination to create stories.  The most vivid story scares us the most, but is also the least likely to happen.

It’s true; of all the terrible things that could happen on a flight, a crash is the least likely.

Getting stuck beside a snoring or farting passenger would be terrible.  My luggage getting lost would be terrible.  Having to eat a beef meal because the chicken meals have run out would be terrible.  And while all of these things have a chance of happening, they aren’t as sensational as falling out of the sky.  They aren’t as finite as falling out of the sky.

I won’t focus on my fear is because it is debilitating.  What quality of life would I have if I allowed my fear to change my desired path?  Wouldn’t it be better to push through my fears and have the best life possible, even if one of my fears happened to come true?  I think so.

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one’…. (The man who first said that) was probably a coward…. He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’d been swatting away at my fears in hopes that they would disappear completely.  That is, until I heard Karen’s TED talk.

She spoke about looking at fear as “an amazing act of the imagination.”  She discussed our need “to think of fears as stories and ourselves as authors of those stories and readers of our fears.”

Fears as stories has been life changing.

My imagination is amazing.  So much so that it used to keep me up at night as I would get stuck on one situation after another in an endless and fanatical adventure.  Then, they would fill my dreams and I would be flying or outsmarting criminals or fighting monsters.  I can definitely do storytelling.

It wasn’t long before I thought of my next trip and the fear of sixteen hours in the air crept into my mind.  And as I saw the plane jerk and begin to nosedive, I took control of the fear.  The plane hit the water with enough force to snap the wings off.  My heart raced as I unhooked my seat belt and frantically tried to remember where the life vests were located.

The emergency doors opened with a whoosh rocking the plane violently from side to side.  Water gushed into the plane muting the screams and yells from other passengers.  Life Vest Under Your Seat.  The words, printed on the back of every tray table on the plane, burned a hole in my mind.  I grabbed the vest and struggled to put it on while I straddle-hopped over seats on the way to the exit.

I looked out onto the ocean blue wondering where to go.  People were floating among an array of debris.  A baby lay on a briefcase, the mom frantically scanning the waters – for the diaper bag perhaps?  A forceful nudge pushed me into reality and I sank quickly before buoying back towards the surface.  I wondered how deep it went.

My heart raced at the thought of what lurked beneath my feet and I kicked diligently to deter anything from thinking I would be an easy target.

Maybe it was the drop in adrenaline or the hot beaming sun that took my mind from fight or flight to a lullaby.  When I opened my eyes again, passengers were standing near a campfire drinking mini bottles of liquor and eating in-flight meals.

It’s amazing how the body works.  With the fear of probable death staved for the moment, my stomach rumbled so loudly that the Flight Attendant grabbed a satchel of food and walked over.  The beef and gravy shifted gently as she handed me the tray.

“I don’t want to be picky, but can I have chicken instead?”

Her smile was gentle as she reached back into the bag and retrieved a few napkins.  “Sorry, we’re out.”

My fear of flying has turned into a creative pastime. 

Here’s Karen’s TED talk on fear.  Take a few minutes and check it out!