Recently, I discovered a new way to help clients overcome their fear of flying. I give them an assignment to research basic information about how planes fly, a well as the reputation the airline they are flying with has with adhering to safety standards. This technique has worked, as I have had clients report back with either their preparation to fly or their recent successful trip by flight.
So the question is, why does this work? Especially since none of my clients studied enough information to become pilots themselves. The answer lies in our fear of the unknown. Most of the time, our fears are actually attributed to our poor understanding of any given situation.
Another way to put this, is that what we fear the most is the unknown. As human beings we love and hate mysteries, the unknown fascinates and frightens us. The solution for fearing the unknown, is to seek understanding of the unknown.
Our experiences with fear is a good thing, fear is what cautions us about danger so that we may take necessary steps to increase the likelihood of our survival in the event our lives were to become truly endangered. Two key words: necessary and steps, are important to remember because necessary steps indicates that we implement knowledge we already know about the dangerous situation in order to increase our likelihood of survival.
For example, what do you do if you are hiking and you come face to face with an angry bear. The necessary steps you take are based on your knowledge of bears. Chances are if you have never bothered reading up any information about bears, then you don’t care for the great outdoors and hiking isn’t your thing. If hiking isn’t your thing chances are you have a phobia for the wilderness and the great outdoors. Why? Because you know very little about the great outdoors.
The problem most people who struggle with phobias is that they lack the fundamental knowledge for dealing with certain experiences they struggle to avoid, examples would working in the corporate world as a traveling consultant, having social anxiety e.t.c.. The simple answer would be that these people educate themselves on their phobias, however even with scenarios such as a fear of flying and social anxiety some people have come to believe that they lack the competency to comprehend the information. Another the reason could be that their fear of a particular scenario could simply be a projection of a deeper and more serious issue that they are intent on avoiding. In either case education is key.
Pertaining to the fear of flying, with clients who have followed through on educating themselves, it has lead to the revelation of more deeper fears for which the same strategy has been prescribed – more learning. The best part about people educating themselves about certain fears they struggle with is that they become heavily invested in developing coping strategies for certain what if scenarios.
Fear is not a bad thing, it’s a call to action. A call to action might simply be a call to make needed observations to confirm or dismiss the fear, or a call to initiate life saving actions.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions pllc, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.