I Tried Hypnosis For My Fear Of Flying: Here’s What Happened

an airplane landing

Spoiler alert: I got on the plane.

Hypnosis is something I had always wanted to try. But I’ll be honest: as a person who has struggled with anxiety, the idea of giving up “control” was, well, terrifying. But an upcoming family event in New York (all the way from rural Colorado?!) had me revisiting my preconceived notions of hypnosis to overcome my fear of flying. I had to go. I no longer found not traveling to important family functions – because of my crippling fear of having a panic attack on a plane –  to be an option.

A trusted friend encouraged me further when I first said “what do you think about hypnosis?”.  She told me about Art Kuhns from Breaking Day Hypnotherapy–  she, and many she knows, have worked with him and trust. He also offered remote sessions, which was perfect for me since I live in another state.

The Backstory:

I know there are a lot of people that are afraid of flying, and for different reasons. The great thing about hypnotherapy is that a hypnotherapist tailors the sessions to you and your specific fears, phobias, or other blockages.

I was afraid to have a panic attack on a plane. Central to my go-to coping mechanisms for a panic attack is stepping outside for some fresh air and walking around – not exactly something you can do when you’re cruising at 35,000 feet in an airplane. I also don’t like to be around people when I am in panic mode – another not-so-avoidable feature of an airplane. I hadn’t flown in six years due to this fear. But, as one of my favorite quotes reminds me in my quieter moments: “Sometimes the only way through is through,” (-Unknown).

So, how do I get through this? This summer has seemed to carry a strong theme for me, which is: instead of trying to control everything around me as a result of my anxiety (which is just as exhausting as it is unrealistic), I need to control my own mind. I decided that the most effective way to create new pathways against my anxious thought patterns was to dig deep with hypnosis and retrain those pathways.

What Is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is actually really just a state of increased relaxation. It feels like a deep meditation. Your mind is in what is commonly referred to as a “trance”. But don’t let that scare you – it’s not like the movies where you’re under someone else’s control. You’re just (way) more open to suggestion than when you are operating in a state of consciousness throughout your daily life.

Here’s where hypnosis gets its power: your subconscious mind can’t actually tell the difference between a visualization and reality. That’s why visualization works so well. So, when hypnosis accesses your subconscious, it’s able to reframe core beliefs over time through the power of visualization. For example, part of the work to get me over my fear of flying involved imagining myself feeling safe on a plane, cutting cords to my fears, etc. I’ll go more into this in the next section.

For a more comprehensive dive into hypnotherapy, check out this article.

What Is A Session Like?

First, we talked about my goals. I wanted to fly to New York and back without having a panic attack. 

He explained what a session would be like: he’d start with some relaxation techniques (as I listened with my eyes closed) and as I became more relaxed, he’d use a countdown to seamlessly bring me into the hypnosis. He also asked me a couple things about what types of ideas were most powerful to me (i.e. the type of language that resonated with me most when I thought positively about flying or overcoming fears. Basically, he asked, “what makes you feel grounded and safe?”).

In the second session, he asked me to explain what having a panic attack on a plane looked like and felt like to me. We developed the image of me sitting on the plane with my arms over my head. This would be the image he used when we cut the energetic cord between myself and this image/concept.

Art’s calming voice then begins with the relaxation (things like as you noticed how relaxed you feel, heavy against your pillow…). He framed the hypnosis by a countdown at the beginning and then end (10 is you are aware but becoming relaxed, 1 is you are completely relaxed and open). He explained to me that for people with anxiety, he’ll often do more than one induction countdown, as people with anxiety have a harder time letting go of that cherished sense of control I mentioned earlier.

To my surprise, I even fell asleep in certain parts of the sessions. This is major for me – I am the person that has to have a strict bedtime routine, and I still end up lying there for an hour as I fall asleep. I was always able to recall what happened when I was awake, and I woke up easily and calmly when the countdown to come out of the hypnosis reached the number 4 or so.

So, What Happened?

I got on the plane. I stayed on the plane. I didn’t have a panic attack. My trip to New York consisted of two flights to get there (connecting in Denver), and two back. All flights were delayed. I was still fine. Do I love flying now? There are things I’d rather do. But I can do it. And I did it by tapping into my own power with Art’s guidance. It’s inspiring to me to witness my own power.

I also took some valerian root in the airport as a tincture. That helped keep the edge off. When I got on the plane, I started to associate the smells and sounds with excitement that I was really doing this. That I would see my extended family.

I put my headphones in and listened to a mindful breathing recording that Art had emailed me. I think the familiarity and established comfort of his voice made it easier for me to return to that relaxed state and tune into the lessons I learned, and validate the shifts that my subconscious had undergone. I listened to it on repeat the whole way. I practiced deep breathing the entire plane ride. There’s no shame in using the tools you’ve found work for you.

I did a total of three sessions. Do I recommend hypnosis? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. I’ll probably do a “refresher” session each time I fly. I’m also going to do more sessions that focus on some of the stems of my anxiety.

Art was an amazing guide who took me through the process. He helped me regain the confidence in myself that I was lacking to face something I was deeply afraid of.


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