ASK ABDI: HOW TO DEAL WITH FEAR OF FLYING?
QUESTION: I’m getting on a plane this week for a long trip. But as I get older, the more I hate flying - worrying the plane won’t stay in the air, etc. How not to freak out? I need to get over it or at least deal with it better (i.e. not drinking the entire flight), because I’m going to be traveling more for work. What are your thoughts? You usually have pearls of wisdom, so I wanted to reach out. My mortality issues continue to raise themselves to fearful levels!
ANSWER: You are correct in assuming that your fear of flying is, in fact, a fear of dying. There are specific techniques that deal with fears like flying, such as Systematic Desensitization in 10 Steps. Too long to go into here, but it does work. However, it is a symptomatic treatment, just like drinking or taking anti-anxiety medication.
The fear of dying has to be faced squarely in order for us to live our lives fully. The practice of finding some quiet time to reflect on our immortality is important. The awareness of the fact that these bodies can be extinguished in a moment’s notice is crucial to fully tasting life. Not an easy feat in a culture that deals with and thrives on this fear by constant mind-numbing motion and consumption.
Practice lying down and feeling what it feels like to die. Literally. This is it, you will not get up from this position, you will not be able to do all that you like, dislike, etc. You might feel scared, happy, numb. Or nothing. Not important, just stay with it, and see what and where your anxiety comes from. Until you get to the root of this issue it will unconsciously hang over your head like a guillotine. Life is too short for living in constant fear, and we all do until we do the work to realize the preciousness of this realm.