In my practice, I have been using the comprehensive method I created for helping people overcome fear of flying — the Balanced Flying Method™ — for almost a full decade now. It was originally inspired from my own previous fear of flying, and later developed more fully based on my years of training as a psychotherapist. While the method saw positive results from the start, It has achieved a much higher rate of success than I could have envisioned at the beginning.
A common question people ask before they start working with me is how effective this method has been. Therefore, I thought it would be worthwhile to give a bit of a window into what has made this method successful for many people with a phobia that is often so difficult to overcome.
As I’ve worked with this method over the years, several things have stood out here versus other approaches that struggle to see consistent results. Most approaches that I have come across over time have a fixed system, or blanket concept to them. This means they are generally applied the same way for everyone, no matter who they are. For many of these other methods, you just buy videos, books, or otherwise. It’s almost like taking a class or reading a self-help book. Who you are isn’t part of the picture. Many people come to me after trying these different approaches, noting the many approaches they’ve tried that haven’t helped.
There are many articles around the web about the Balanced Flying Method, so I won’t go too much into the four components here (normalization, flying education, emotional regulation of contributing factors, underlying causes). What’s worth pointing out here is that this method specifically targets the most relevant parts of a person’s mind/body/emotional process — conscious, subconscious, cognitive/thought process, emotional, physiological, and unconscious process.
While the comprehensive nature of this is important and necessary, this makes it possible to do what I haven’t seen any other approach do, which is to consider and integrate who you are — the individual person with their own personal context and history.
Fear of Flying is different for everyone.
A major element to understand about fear of flying is that it’s actually a very different issue for everyone. While it is understood as one common phobia, what comprises, feeds, and bolsters fear of flying for someone is a very personal setup and experience for each person. For example, for some catastrophic thought patterns are a big issue, or physiological anxiety brought on by deeper, unconscious life triggers; lack of control, difficulty with trust, and many other complicated underlying factors (I’m simplifying things here for the discussion, but it’s generally not as obvious as one underlying thing. It’s usually a combination of factors that underly this fear).
The point here is that what is necessary to resolve and overcome this phobia is not exactly the same for everyone. The areas of process that need to be addressed vary from one person to the next.
That’s why the application of this method centers around getting to know you first, what in your current process and overall history is feeding your fear of flying, and then applying the method based on what is learned here. While the structure and components of the method are fixed, it is created with the flexibility to make personal adjustments in order to apply the method as needed for each person. Therefore, more time and focus is spent addressing where more time and focus is needed relative to your situation.
How has the method changed over the years?
When I first started using this method, I was more inclined to ‘bring the person to the method’. It was still personalized, however it was applied very similarly from person to person, with the ‘underlying causes’ component showing the most variation and personalization, at the time. While this still yielded positive results and people were able to fly with much less anxiety, this tended to produce shorter term efficacy.
At one point, I found myself working with someone whose context made it difficult to follow the original plan of the method. It was clear that following the typical plan wasn’t going to do as much to help. The emotional and cognitive context called for certain exercises to be brought out earlier and reconfigured for the situation, and I also started adjusting the key normalization exercises to fit the particular psychological and emotional context of this person. And the results were obvious. This was someone who hadn’t flown in years due to their phobia, and after our work, they were able to not only fly, but felt like it wasn’t really a big deal to fly.
After this experience, I found myself consistently shaping the method to each person’s situation, integrating all of the elements of the method to what makes sense for the context of the person in front of me. Once I started weaving and integrating the method with the person, the rate of efficacy not only improved beyond the point it already was, but it also yielded long term results.
The key difference is that it both transformed how a person experienced the concept of flying on a deeply emotional and psychological level, and it also changed how people experienced the underlying causes in their daily lives. For example, someone who’s plagued by catastrophic thinking or struggles with lack of control didn’t only learn how to relax when flying, but it loosened the reactivity to these issues in their daily lives outside of flying (less worrying, less response to perceived threats, generally letting go more, etc.).
While this may all sound complicated, to do this method a person only needs to come with curiosity and a willingness to look into themselves and talk about their lives. And do a short amount of homework on the side.
Nathan Feiles works with people nationally and internationally for fear of flying coaching via online video conference (as well as in person in New York City). For questions or inquiries, please contact him through his website.