By Catherine Grant
My fear of flying had been with me for as long as I could remember. Where it came from I do not know. Even as a three-year-old, the sight of a plane going over our house on its way to Shannon Airport terrified me. I would run out into the garden and hide under the hedge until it was gone.
In my early 20’s I began to travel. I went on everything that moved except a plane. Ships, ferries hovercrafts, jetfoils catamarans; each of them played their part in delivering me safely to other countries. As I had always loved trains, a long rail journey after a sea-voyage didn’t faze me.
In the late 60s, when one of my friends suggesting holidaying in Spain, I declined. I pretended I wasn’t interested but it was my fear of flying that prevented me from going. I never told anyone of my fear, not even my family, as I was afraid people would laugh at me.
I moved to London in 1970 and travel became much easier. I had so many ferry ports to Continental Europe to choose from. Later Eurostar; the French fast-train to Europe via the Channel Tunnel, became my preferred mode of transport.
At the age of 35 I decided to face my fear so I enrolled on a “Fear of Flying Course” at Heathrow Airport . This was a non-residential course which took place over 2 days; Saturday and Sunday. My arrival by coach at Heathrow from Central London was very traumatic, as even being close to an aircraft could cause me to hyperventilate. I tried hard to focus on the day ahead; the flight would not take place until the following afternoon.
I was amazed to see so many people in the same room with the same irrational fear as me. The youngest was 17 and the oldest 82. Some of those present had actually flown but for them it hadn’t been a pleasant experience. I met several like myself who were too scared even to board a plane. The course was very interesting. We learned all about the workings of an aircraft; tried on seat belts and discovered why oxygen masks sometimes drop down when there is no recognisable danger. The meaning of the various sounds inside the aircraft was explained to us as was the reason the engine seems to stop and the lights go off just before departure.
Over a delicious lunch, we gelled together as a group . By Sunday afternoon I had made a lot of friends but my fear of flying remained. When it came to boarding the aircraft, I ran away. I just couldn’t do it. I felt a complete failure when the plane returned from its 20 minute flight.
A year later, I took a similar course at Dublin Airport with the same results. Again I was too afraid to board the aircraft. By this time, I had revealed my fear of flying to my friends who had not laughed at me as I expected. To my surprise two had the same fear as me.
Determined to overcome my fear of flying once and for all, I consulted a well-known and well-respected Irish hypnotherapist who was also a trained psychologist. The one-off session was expensive but a great deal cheaper than the two Fear of Flying courses I had taken. During my hypnotherapy session, which is nothing more than deep relaxation, my therapist took me back to my childhood and made me relive all the memories I had relating to planes. He progressed slowly through all the events of my life changing my way of thinking. Before the end of the session, I was imagining myself sitting in an aircraft looking down from a great height on the landscape below.
I had booked a cheap flight to visit friends in France before the session as I was determined to fly as soon as possible afterwards.
I experienced no fear whatsoever as I packed my small suitcase and prepared to leave for the airport. As I approached the terminal building I was so calm and in control that I could hardly believe it. Later, I boarded the aircraft as if I were a seasoned traveller. It was as if I were looking at a film; I felt completely detached from the events taking place.
The take-off was flawless; we left the ground so quickly and smoothly that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The flight itself was very pleasant and trouble-free and I landed in Paris where my friends were waiting. I was euphoric! I felt as if I had been flying for years!
Since then I have travelled extensively by plane which is now no more stressful for me than boarding a bus. I said “no” to fear and finally won!