Breaking down Fear
I bought my plane ticket for Greece. I was shaking at the travel agent looking at flight times, but I did it. The connection is way more ambitious that I had expected. It will involve two flights with an 8 hour delay in Athens. Does anyone know how nice it is to be overnight in the Athens airport? A few days after purchase and I’m calm and still sleeping, which is a good sign.
I have written a fair amount about fear. Firstly, because I struggle with it a lot. It is cathartic to write about things. Secondly, I know a lot about it both in experiences of my own and in reading from others. I have read an enormous amount about fear and dealt with panic attacks. And lastly, I write to try to help others. Hopefully reading that I can manage things helps someone else. Normally travel doesn’t frighten me at all. Moving halfway around the world? No problem. Airplane? Uhh no. But knowing fear as I do, I’m working on breaking it down.
Battling a Brick Wall
One of the things I have learned about fear is that as your crash into it and are defeated it gets stronger. If you can just power through and break down the fear, go for it. Otherwise it helps to break the big fear down into little ones. Side step the head-on approach and work the side angles. By breaking it into smaller chunks, each one is more manageable. If a fear is a brick wall, if you can’t just go through it, get up a running start and jump over. This is my current metaphor.
So why am I writing about fear on my Travel site? Well, it seems that a lot of travel involves fear. Fear of the unknown being prime among them. I think that a lot of people would travel more if they had less fear of it. Travel is the way I manage and confront my fears, maybe it works for others too. I beat two separate rounds of panic attacks by travel. Despite which I have a fear of flight, here is my plan to getting through it.
Step One : Set a goal.
I’m not usually a planning person, but to end-run fear a stated goal helps. Fear is often very slippery itself. Without a definite goal to focus on, the fear will push your intentions around to avoid confronting the fear.
My Goal: Get be able to fly again.
Step Two : Pick a reward.
If you imagine fear as a brick wall, then think about what is on the other side that is worth the pain of dealing with the fear. One of the tactics of fear is to imply that facing the fear wouldn’t get you anything. That you would be better off not facing it. So by picking a reward, a concrete thing that you want more than you want to avoid the fear. Here it seems to really help to pick a reward that the fear is keeping you from as opposed to something else.
My Reward: A sailing trip in Greece. In order to make it to the start of the trip without taking any extra vacation days, I need to fly down.
Step Three: Set a time.
Procrastination is a bad thing here. “Sometime” or “someday” are not set times. It depends on what you are trying to overcome as how far out you set this time. Some things actually do need more planning than others. Don’t set the time too far ahead of time, fear will tend to make you think you need more preparation than you do. Waiting too long leaves too much time to psyche yourself out and cause more anxiety.
My Time: September.
Step Three : Make irrevocable small steps.
Use inertia. Everyone remembers high school physics right? A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Newton was a smart guy. In a normal head-on approach to facing a fear this step would be something like “just do it”. But for an end-run I find it good to build up some momentum. This way when you get to the next step you are on your way and have an investment behind facing the fear. The point is to build up a set of consequences involved with NOT facing the fear.
My Small Steps: I’ve booked my ticket. That money is spent and I have the paper. Next I will book my sailing trip, so that it will be already there meaning I would miss it if I didn’t get on the plane.
Step Four : Hold strong.
In the metaphor of getting over a brick wall, we are at the moment running headlong toward the wall. It is really tempting to slow down or hesitate at the end. This will make the last step harder. The point here is that to hold on is nothing more than to continue doing what you are doing, to not anticipate failure and to actually anticipate success in glorious style. The benefit is that you are facing a future fear, so can do it without the reality of the actual fear. I find this more as a day to day action.
My Persistence: I go to bed every evening expecting to sleep through it and not worry. I am getting myself used to the idea of flying.
Step Five : Jump.
In the end, the time to face the fear will come. You will have your momentum, consequences for not going through with it, reward for doing it and you are at your chosen time. The last is to just jump. Lean into it, close your eyes, rely on the mental preparations you have done and jump. The point of Step Four is to get you used to this idea. Practice it in your head almost, so when you get down to it the action is more automatic.
My Jump: I’m not there yet. I am still firmly in step four and early on as well. It is hard even to write these steps, but now I have a plan to hopefully make my jump happen.
This approach works for me for a number of fears that I have faced. It isn’t a good idea for some things. The best choice of all is to just face a fear when it occurs. I didn’t face my flight fear at the time and now it is more difficult, hence the steps. I have had some great adventures and look forward to more not flying. I am just tired of skipping things due to the fear.
Anyone else have a similar plan for conquering fears? Or even the anxiety of leaving on a trip?
Description of Panic Attacks » Grounded Traveler
April 6, 2012 @ 10:38 am
[…] Attacks 6 April, 2012 I have suffered from panic attacks several times in my life, as I have mentioned a few times. Each time they lasted for several months and I ended up moving out of the country for […]
Description of Anxiety » Grounded Traveler
April 6, 2012 @ 10:32 am
[…] of Anxiety 6 April, 2012 I have suffered from anxiety attacks several times in my life, as I have mentioned a few times. Each time they lasted for several months and I ended up moving out of the country for […]
My Biggest Travel Fear | Ali's Adventures
May 30, 2011 @ 3:23 am
[…] are many things in this world that can be scary, especially when traveling. Some people are afraid of flying, some are afraid of boats. Some people are afraid of not being prepared, so they react by […]
Happy Birthday Grounded Traveler » Grounded Traveler
April 20, 2011 @ 10:42 am
[…] Most Helpful Post – Breaking down Fear […]
Concentrate On The Present To Beat Fear » Grounded Traveler
March 4, 2011 @ 7:02 pm
[…] still remember that story after many years. By looking at what actually occurred at each layer, he breaks the worry into little chunks that are more easily able to be dealt […]
July 18, 2010 @ 11:20 am
Thanks for the comment. I am happy that my ramblings help you. I'm really not a planner and tend to be very chaotic. Hence the step-by-step thing, chaos seems to feed fear and planning has a way of reducing it. Or like I say, end-run-around if the head-on doesn't work.
July 18, 2010 @ 7:07 am
I really liked reading this post, made me think about my own stuff a lot. I definitely have a fear of traveling alone, but my desire to see the world eventually overrode my fear and I've taken quite a few solo trips now. I'm currently facing a much bigger fear and I'm still early on in step one. I totally am a planner though, so hopefully I'll make it to the next step soon. I like your step-by-step process!
June 30, 2010 @ 5:35 pm
I definitely know what you're talking about — travel definitely can incite fear in me, too! Fear about getting lost, getting hurt, getting robbed, getting lonely (on solo trips), etc. But I guess that's part of what makes it so exhilarating! If it was boring and safe, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting.