Fear of flying (and no, I’m not talking about Erica Jong)

So I’m a nervous flier. I’m one of those people you see white knuckle the arm rests for the whole length of the flight and only allow my muscles to ungird themselves when I land safely. I try to avoid flying, looking for other modes of transportation, even wishing that they still did trans-Atlantic boat trips to Europe.

This fear of flying is relatively new. I used to be a very calm flier, looking somewhat dismissively at the folks who would nervously finger rosary beads or those who are obviously doing some sort of breathing exercise. No, I’m the guy who is hissing out his breath like I’m giving birth.

In a previous job I was expected to travel quite a bit. And before you become envious, dear readers, most of my travels were in the Midwest. I traveled roughly once or twice a month – nothing excessive, but still rather a lot. So, after a little bit, I started to get a bit nervous about traveling so much, stupidly thinking I was heightening my chances of being involved in a fatal crash because of my frequent flying.

I know intellectually, I’m being stupid. I’ve never been on a flight that’s ever been in serious danger (though once I flew through a storm from Miami and our plane got hit by lightning – not a pleasant thing to go through). I still am scared to fly and dread the day I have to board a plane. I’m lucky that I don’t have the kind of phobia that crippled me from going places, but the amount of stress and stomach-lining digestion that goes on can’t be healthy.

And despite all the studies that are out there about the safety of air travel, I’m still a scaredy cat when it comes to air travel. I’ve done things in the past to assuage my fear – most notably I’ve doped up on over the counter sleeping pills, hoping to pass out. This works in fits, though – because the stuff is never terribly potent, I find myself popping more than I should, which inevitably leads to my throwing up most of it (once when flying home from London, I overdid it on Tylenol PM and booze in vain hopes of being comatose throughout the 8-hour flight, only to be left with a feeling of nausea so strong, I considered skipping the flight and taking up residence in Heathrow).

Folks have given me lots of good suggestions: they all sound great. Listen to calm, relaxing music. Read a good book. Remember that you’re more likely to die in a car accident, etc. By the way, the last one never calms me down because then I think, “fantastic, now, not only am I worried about flying, but I’m scared to drive as well.”

I wish I could explain this phobia but I can’t. I wish I could also transcend this phobia, but again, I can’t. Instead, I try to play off that I’m a great traveler, fill my gullet with cheap sleeping aids and wish for the best.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Fear of flying (and no, I’m not talking about Erica Jong)

  1. Hi,

    Fear doesn’t work with the same operating system as the intellect, hence thinking our way out rarely works. Bringing your attention to your pre-frontal lobes may help.

    I view fear as a blocked energy that is simply stuck in a loop. My aim is to find the blockage and dissolve it.

    Don’t settle or suffer, change is certainly possible.

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