Help to tackle a fear of flying
Reporter Sarah Coddington talks to psychologist Grant Amos about her fear of flying.
I’m a jetsetter. I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been swimming with sharks in Tahiti and blocked my ears at the intense roar of footy fans at a Liverpool football match.
The travel bug was passed on to me by my father.
When I was young he took me on long road trips all over Australia.
I’m lucky to have travelled to Europe, England, Scotland, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Tahiti and lived in Australia.
And I still want more – next on the list is a honeymoon in Rarotonga.
But there’s one thing holding me back. Whenever I think of air travel I’m convinced I’m going to die.
Every noise the plane makes terrifies me. My heart rate gets faster and my palms get sweaty.
My fear dates back to when I was nine years old. We were landing in Sydney – the plane touched down and it leaned to the side. Everyone got into the brace position. I copied. The pilot managed to land safely but I never recovered.
This really needs to stop. With a fiance from England I’m bound to be travelling halfway across the world for the rest of my life.
I decided it was time to seek help so I got in touch with Flying without Fear programme director Grant Amos.
The psychologist was asked to set up the course by Air New Zealand in 1982. Nowadays he travels all over the country helping people just like me.
They include lawyers, professional athletes, movie directors.
A typical client is an expert worrier. Just like me. I’m always thinking ‘‘ what if’’.
‘‘What if the pilot dies and we plummet out of the sky and land in the sea and then we are eaten by sharks?’’
But Mr Amos assures me that isn’t going to happen – the plane cannot plummet out of the sky. It’s physically impossible but I need to learn how a plane works to understand that. And the scary landing I experienced was completely normal for Sydney. The plane was simply heading into a crosswind.
Mr Amos tells me there were 12 plane accidents out of 36 million take-offs worldwide last year.
That puts my fear into perspective.
Apparently I also fall into the category of people who don’t like to be out of control. I need to learn to relax and let others take charge. Tips to help on the plane include having nothing by my feet on takeoff, practising relaxation techniques and learning to accept changes at the airport.
Mr Amos says there’s no quick fix to getting over my fear. It will take work and changing my behaviours.
Most people who seek help are like me and use air travel frequently. Some think that travelling often will help conquer the fear but it just enhances it.
If they become more exaggerated my thoughts could eventually stop me from flying. So I’m taking my first step towards conquering my fear. Next time I go to the airport I’ll try to take in its exciting elements, rather than enhancing my anxiety.
I will take things to help me relax.
And I’ll try to be reassured that I’m more likely to win Lotto four weeks in a row than be in a commercial plane crash.
Flying without Fear programme director Grant Amos says his typical client is an expert worrier.