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Fear of Flying: Surviving Turbulence

Fear of flying is a complicated phobia. One of the most difficult parts of overcoming fear of flying is allowing the possibility of having a different experience of flying. The people I work with in my psychotherapy and coaching practice often start our work struggling with detaching themselves from their previous associations to flying. Inside their minds, they have seen their worst nightmare play out many times. The story has already been written, as far as they’re concerned. They are simply waiting for reality to catch up.

This is why I put together the Balanced Flying Method™. As I’ve posted about previously, this method is a comprehensive approach to shifting people’s complete perspective on flying. But how is one able to allow flying to be a different experience than the script they have already written?

Let’s take turbulence for example. In one’s conscious and unconscious mind, turbulence is something to be scared of. The fearful flier has already created in their minds what’s going to happen next. And it’s always scary. No one ever tells me in a session, “Yeah, it’s just turbulence (shoulder shrug), no biggie. We bump around and then we keep going. Nothing to worry about.”

The reason fearful fliers don’t say something like this is because the experience of flying has been decidedly something to fear. When a turbulent moment arises in the plane (and often in life), the question always is, what’s going to happen next? They are left with no control, and having to sit in the unknown. A very uneasy scenario for the fearful flier.

But what if you could write a new script? What if you could see into the future and you knew, for an absolute fact, that no matter how bad the turbulence got that you were going to make it okay to your destination on your flight? What would that turbulent experience be like then? Would it be fun? Would it be annoying, but not scary? Would it still be scary? If so, why? What would turbulence be like if you could break the negative thought association and allow it to be its own experience, disconnected from fearful assumptions?

Part of what I find helpful with people who I work with individually is taking the time to learn about their negative scripts with relation to flying, and using the Balanced Flying Method techniques to re-write and experience different scripts.

So back to the title question…surviving turbulence. The trick to overcoming fear of flying is allowing yourself to accept different versions of the experience. If you’re willing to disconnect from the scary scripts, there is room to allow different and more calming experiences. Keep in mind that the script in your mind doesn’t have to be the reality, and that by changing the script, you can change your experience.

Fear of Flying: Surviving Turbulence

Nathan Feiles, MSW, LCSW-R

Nathan Feiles is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He also provides online coaching nationally and internationally. In his practice, Nathan specializes in anxiety issues, relationship struggles, commitment issues, fear of flying (specialized method), decision-making, creative blocks, depression, and migraines. For more information about Nathan Feiles’s work, including a complete list of services, please visit his website at

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APA Reference
Feiles, N. (2018). Fear of Flying: Surviving Turbulence. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 May 2018
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