Fear of Flying Cases
Hypnosis Fear of Flying Examples
Fear of flying Cases
I learn something from most of my fear of flying cases. 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 a plane. 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.
Feeling old hurts
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.
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.
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.
Metaphor Therapy clears Fear of flying.
My client was a young woman. She was anxious all the time, but in particular, was afraid of getting into a plane. The anxiety went with her everywhere, and had been there all her life. I spent quite some time trying to find the reason for her anxiety, but she could not think of anything.
Since she was anxious all the time, I decided to work on the anxiety in general. I began the process of putting her into trance, but at every point her mind was resisting, trying to stop her from letting go and losing control. I kept on trying different ways of getting her into trance and eventually succeeded by doing a progressive muscle relaxation.
Visualize the Fear
Once she was relaxed, I was able to get her to think about the feeling of anxiety. She told me "it's like a rock pressing down on my chest." I worked with her on changing the visualization of the rock. Her rock was 'huge, and grey, and rough, and nothing would ever move it'. But eventually she was able to break it down into tiny pieces and it disappeared.
I brought her out of trance and said "and thinking about that fear of flying now, how does it seem to you now?" She said "it is still not cleared." This suggested to me that there was something else going on, that had nothing to do with flying.
I started putting her into trance again. Once again her mind fought me all the way down. Her unconscious mind clearly did not want me going anywhere near the actual source of her anxiety. This is not unusual. Many people are so afraid of whatever is causing the problem that their mind refuses to let go of control. However, there are hypnotic techniques that allowed me to get past her block.
The real cause of fear of flying
Once she was safely into trance, I gently led her back to childhood. I asked her to think about herself as a little girl, and to remember a time when she felt very frightened, very afraid. She started telling me about being a child in a kindergarten. Every day she said goodbye to her mother, and her mother kissed her and said she will see her later.
And then one day, her mother left without saying goodbye. This caused the little girl instant fear. She began to wonder if her mother would ever come back because she had not said that she would. Her anxiety grew and grew from there on.
This was the source of her ongoing, life long anxiety. It was also the source of her need to keep control at all times. Her mother had left, and she had lost control, and that had made her feel terrible. So for the rest of her life she desperately tried to stay in control of everything at all times. She knew that losing control meant feeling bad. Her fear of flying was not fear of flying at all. Her fear of flying was actually a disguised fear of losing control.
Fear of Flying Cases
This client worked for a Government Department. Her current job requires her to travel occasionally to distant offices. She loves her job, but hates flying. Really, really hates flying. She is a nervous wreck before each flight.
But now she has been offered a promotion. She will have to fly every week, sometimes several times a week. She is terrified and asked me to help.
Look for the real feeling
I asked her to think about getting on a plane. She immediately tensed up, and showed signs of distress. I told her to think about the feeling she was getting. But to think about it as a 'thing', something that was separate from her.
I said 'Now describe that 'thing''. She said it was 'round'. 'A round thing, with tentacles. It was the size of a tennis ball. Grey in color. The tentacles were pulsing, like blood vessels.' 'It was heavy, made of stone.' I asked what she wanted to have happen to it. She wanted to 'crush it'. She did not have a clear idea of what she would be able to after it was crushed.
I asked her 'can you crush it?'. 'What will you crush it with?' She said 'a stone. A flat dark grey stone'. She then proceeded to crush it into little bits, and break up the tentacles. It became powdery and she put it in the bin.
I then asked her to sense her body. 'See if there is anything left anywhere in your body that has something to do with that old feeling about flying.'
She said 'a feeling of emptiness'. This meant that some part of her was getting some benefit from the old behavior. I have a standard routing in these cases. I get the client to think of pleasant, helpful, fulfilling things. Then I got her to transfer all of these helpful, positive things into the space where that old feeling was.
We tested again, and all the feeling associated with Flying had gone. Only took ten minutes.
Fear of flying cases: abandonment
This client was an outgoing, active, successful salesman from Germany. He travelled around the world representing an international company manufacturing luxury watches. My initial impression was that he is very much in control of things, confident, and comfortable in himself. He told me that with all the flying he does he is increasingly becoming afraid of getting on a plane.
"I think it is because I need to be in control all the time. When I get on a plane I am no longer in control. I feel that things might happen and I have no way of avoiding it. My mind goes into overdrive and I start imagining all sorts of disasters."
I started by asking him to try to get the feeling he has when he thinks about going on a plane. I prompted him to think of aircraft, and airports, and the engine noise and so on. But no matter how persuasively I spoke he just could not bring up that feeling of fear that he gets when he starts flying. I began to think that there was something a bit more than just fear of flying happening here. Something about his behavior suggested to me that a lot of his confidence was only on the surface. Maybe there was something else going on here?
I decided to try a different method. I got him to relax using a Progressive Muscle Relaxation induction. This put him into a gentle trance. Then I used regression technique and took him him back in time to his childhood. Once I was sure that his mind was relaxed, I suggested to him that he could remember being at school, playing with his friends, doing sport, and many other things that I was sure that he must have done when he was a boy.
The idea was to get his mind to forget about me, and the office, and what he was doing right now. I wanted to get his mind focusing on his childhood. I gently suggested that there was a feeling he got when he was a child. A feeling that he recognised, a feeling that he'd had many times, a feeling that he had never dealt with.
I told him that he had a memory associated with that feeling. When he got that feeling the memory would emerge, and he would feel that he was back at that time and that exact place. He began to tell me about feeling abandoned. He had a memory of being in a kindergarten, standing by a window watching his parents drive away. Initially he felt quite comfortable with that. But then, it suddenly occurred to him that that they might not come back. The setup of feeling of absolute panic in him. He remained agitated, and uncontrollable, until the returned. And he never really let go of that feeling.
The fear of flying cycle
All through his childhood that feeling remained, and in fact got worse. Due to his father's job, he moved from town to town and school to school and never felt really settled anywhere. He felt a constant longing for certainty.
After he got married, he decided that he would never do that to his own children. He would never abandon them. But then he started doing a lot of flying. And slowly a fear developed that the plane might crash and he would die, and abandon his own children. And every time he thinks of that the original fear of his own "abandonment" comes back. Over time, that original fear of abandonment has become linked to getting onto a plane. His mind equates getting on a plane with the danger of dying, and equates dying with abandoning his children, and that triggers his own fear of abandonment.
I used the regression technique to work on that primitive fear. Once I identified the linkage I was able to persuade his unconscious mind to break the cycle. He left my office with a deeper understanding of his own motives, and looking forward to his next plane ride.
Non-visualizing Fear of Flying
This client was too terrified to even accept a ticket. She lives around Nelson, and has to go to Wellington regularly. She used to be able to fly but now turns down her parent's offers of tickets and takes the ferry instead. Her fear of flying is so strong, she vomits on the plane. When she has to travel by air, she dreads the idea for weeks before.
I explained the theory of metaphor therapy to her. Then I did a brief breathing induction. I got her to visualize flying and airports and turbulence and so on, to induce the fear. She took a long time to get the feeling. She said she felt it in her hands. Eventually I saw from her face that she was getting into it.
I told her to allow the feeling to grow, that it could not harm her, that nothing in her mind could harm her. I told her to think of the feeling as something that had come into her life. She was to think of it now like an object lodged in her body.
I told her to think of it as something in a glass case in a museum, or under a glass dome. Somewhere she could examine it, poke it, measure it. She said it was like a rock. The rock was dark grey, not very big, smooth, solid, quite heavy, oval in shape. I asked what she wanted to have happen to it. She said to leave it in the museum. I then asked what that would mean for her if that rock stayed in the museum case. "Then I could not be afraid", she said.
The next stage is to lead her to find ways to destroy the 'thing' that represents her fears. I asked 'what happens to things left in a museum?' She said 'it would get dusty'. Then I asked 'what happens to things in a museum case after a long time?' She said that 'if it didn't get visited for a long time ,it would shrink.' I developed that idea, of it getting old, wrinkled, flakes falling off. Let her develop the idea, and then she said it fell off its stand, and split. Eventually she had reduced the rock to dust. Finally, I got her to imaging sweeping up the dust and throwing it away.
In this case, the client was not able to get a physical reaction to the fear. But she was able to visualize her fear directly. I learned that you don't really need the person to get a physical manifestation of the feeling, it is enough to invite them to transfer the feeling into a metaphor.
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 the fear 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, or something 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".
Fear of Flying therapy
Not all cases are long and difficult, although they are always interesting. This client was a diplomat, who did a lot of flying. The problem was that her fear was getting worse with each flight.
I used a Metaphor Transition. She saw her fear as a black ghost bigger than her, like some sort of evil out in front of her. I got her to gradually change it into something smaller. She was stuck for a while, and she realized she could put it in her kitchen. Once it was in her kitchen, she shot it with a spoon(!) The ghost then got sad, eventually she told it to leave. She she left it crying in the kitchen. The ghost still was not dealt with, so I got her to go round the house to the kitchen, and open the outside door for it. It left and the wind blew it away. Job done.