In the comprehensive method I created to help people overcome fear of flying, one of the areas I address is your personal relationship with risk. As we get to know this part of you, we also focus on the concept of “normalizations”. This refers to the training of our brains (through various exercises created for this process) to understand the fact that flying is a normal and routine activity.
In general, our brains normalize situations that we experience routinely — even if these routine situations have risks involved. For example, we mostly likely don’t worry about the possibility of slipping every time we shower because our brains have become trained to expect that we will safely take our showers, based on many years of successfully completing this task. But since most of us only experience flying on an occasional basis, if at all, our brains automatically go on alert when we think of flying since it’s out of the ordinary for us.
This brings us to what I call the “Fear of Flying Mindset”. We do things every day that, if they were to go catastrophically wrong, could result in us getting hurt, or worse. But since these are things we do every day, we don’t fear them because even with the risks involved, we’ve safely experienced them on a routine basis. Here’s just a small sample of some of the things we do that are most likely normalized in our lives — crossing the street, taking a shower, eating food at a restaurant, driving, riding a bike, eating (generally), and many others.
Every day we probably do at least five things that could have life-changing results, in the worst case scenario. And in fact, if we were to research statistics, we’d most likely find that the things we do every day that are normal to us have a greater chance of harming us than flying. However, the point of the Fear of Flying Mindset isn’t to train us to feel that flying (or anything) is 100% safe, it’s to help ourselves emotionally understand that we already routinely do things with greater risk than flying.
A significant issue with fear of flying is that people tend to think that if there is a problem on a plane that it’s all-or-nothing — that a problem is going to mean catastrophic life consequences. People often don’t realize that there is a vast middle ground between perfectly functioning plane, and catastrophic incident. In this all-or-nothing mindset, people believe that they are taking the ultimate risk by flying. However, with all the normalized areas of our lives that involve daily risk, people don’t realize that they are often taking what could be “ultimate” risks every day.
This is where things misalign. People magnify the risks of flying while diminishing the greater risk of almost everything else we already do. The exercises that accompany the Fear of Flying Mindset are meant to train our brains that flying on an airplane is really no different than anything else we do in our daily lives, in terms of risk. We are already risk-takers, we just don’t think about it until we’re doing something out of the ordinary for ourselves.
Now, I’m sure some of you may be reading this thinking, thanks a lot, now I’m going to be anxious about everything I do. However, it’s usually tough to break normalizations without experiencing a trauma in particular areas. Some people have actually felt liberated seeing that they already take risks in their lives when they’ve previously felt constricted by their perceived inability to take risks.
The next time you feel like avoiding a flight because of fear, think about the things you already do every day that you have normalized over time. While this may seem like a very “glass is half-empty” approach, it’s actually an approach that people have found significantly helpful (and one of the overall favorites) in the process of overcoming fear of flying.
Keep in mind, there are still other psychological and emotional factors that need to be addressed as part of overcoming fear of flying. The overall hope with the Fear of Flying Mindset is that we become more realistic about the role flying has relative to how we live our daily lives.