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Fear of Flying and EMDR Therapy

Fear of Flying and EMDR Therapy“My family was flying from San Francisco to Mexico when we hit severe turbulence. We were told to put our head between our legs. But I was only 6 years old. My legs didn’t even reach the ground, and it was hard for me to put my head between my legs. I was so scared. I remember watching my tears run down my legs as I did my best to get into the right position. And I thought I saw the flight attendant run toward the cockpit with a manual for the pilot on how to fly the plane.”

This is the memory of a woman named Nancy who experienced a traumatic flight when she was 6 years old. Since that experience, she had been unable to fly without either the comfort of her protective father (when she was young) or antianxiety drugs (when she was older). Her preference had been to avoid flying altogether.

Anyone who’s afraid to fly knows how seriously this fear impacts their lives. Like Nancy, if they’re in a situation where they have to fly, they can only get through the ordeal by taking antianxiety medication, which often doesn’t work. Either way, they spend the entire flight (and sometimes days before) in extreme fear.
To avoid the extreme discomfort and anxiety they feel when flying, people who are afraid to fly often avoid their fear by severely limiting their lives. For instance, they will:

– Never fly at all and only travel by car, bus or train.
– Never take a job that requires travel.
– Never visit loved ones who live a long distance away.
– Only take vacations within driving distance.

They also often have to suffer through arguments with partners, friends or family members who want to travel and don’t understand their fears.

So, is there a way to help people who suffer from fear of flying?

One way I’ve found to be extremely effective is EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy) – a highly researched therapy method proven to be one of the most effective treatments for traumas of all kinds.

Trauma, broadly defined, is an experience that causes us to develop erroneous beliefs about ourselves or the world. For instance, in Nancy’s case, her trauma caused her to believe that flying was dangerous. But after one EMDR Therapy session, she no longer has this belief and she now flies with no difficulty whatsoever. Other clients of mine have had similar results.

Sometimes the fear of flying comes from a fear of enclosed spaces or fear of heights. Sometimes people develop a fear of flying after listening to too many stories about plane crashes or because they had an overly anxious parent who was afraid to fly. In all such situations, EMDR Therapy is the treatment of choice.

Depending upon the complexity of the situation, one’s fear of flying can generally be eliminated with as little as three to ten EMDR Therapy sessions. If you’d like to find out more, I recommend Laurel Parnell’s Transforming Trauma: EMDR, Chapter 2: What is EMDR and How Does it Work, pp. 38 – 72.

Or go to my web page on EMDR Therapy and Trauma and if you’re interested in knowing more, I invite you to call me for an initial conversation about whether EMDR Therapy is right for you.

You don’t have to be a victim of your fear.

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