Friday, 20 April 2012

Safety behaviours

This blog is meant with good intentions!

It was prompted by something that has occurred last week and I think it has reminded us of a very good point around behaviour patterns that we get caught up in.

A potential client that is hoping to come onto our course was demonstrating an interesting pattern that would fall into the category of a safety behaviour.  In other words, unless I do this <thing> I won't be safe.

Let me explain.

The gentleman asked an initial question about flying. We answered it. Our answer led to him asking three more questions that had been prompted by our answer.  We answered his three questions. Our answer prompted four more questions.  We answered those.  He came back with another three questions. We answered those.


Before he could ask anymore, and then we answer every question point for point, we have decided to help him in a more effective manner.

This pattern is a bit like playing ten-pin bowling. Every time we knock down the pins <questions> more pins pop up again. No matter how many times we knock down the pins, this pattern will continue and continue. Why? 

Because, seeking the answer to each particular question provides temporary reassurance. Then, to feel safe, he needs to ask about all the other thoughts that immediately pop into his head.  So, in effect, answering his questions isn't actually going to help him in the long term. Every time we answer a particular question, he is spending more time focusing on the fear.  No matter how many questions you answer, there will be always be more to surface - that is the way this pattern works!      So, something new is needed. 

Instead of answering every single question, we introduce a couple of simple ideas.  (There are a lot more things that can be done but for now...)

The gentleman will need to introduce some new strategies.  Every time you have a question or an anxiety pop into your head, instead of rushing to get temporary reassurance and giving the anxiety more energy; try this:

Say, in your head, 'I notice that I am having those thoughts again.'  (There are techniques to get rid of the thoughts but for most people that is quite tricky so we are just going to acknowledge them for now)

'I may have to accept that I am not going to have all the answers that I want and that is okay.' 

Isn't it perhaps unrealistic to know everything?   Knowing stuff, is not always enough. We have had people come onto our courses who have taken private pilot's licence in an attempt to beat the fear and yet it is still there. 
Because they have not spent the time and effort challenging their thought process.  Their thought process that led to learning to fly was probably something like, 'If I just know how it flies and can fly it, then I will know enough to beat the fear.' 

The trouble is, learning to fly means practising what to do if something goes wrong. So, this in effect, means concentrating on the anxiety and raises more questions. Then, having just passed the private pilot's licence, the instructor says, 'what about ground school and perhaps a commercial pilot's licence?'  Suddenly, we don't know enough again and on it goes...

Please don't misunderstand this. Getting knowledge is extremely helpful. Asking us questions is helpful and we are always happy to provide answers outside of the course. 

But, we advocate a longer term solution is needed. We are part (a bit part of course) of a process of getting over the fear and learning to live with not being perfect and perhaps having to manage the anxiety sometimes.  If someone has spent 20 years keeping and nurturing a fear or anxiety, why would you not expect to put a considerable amount of effort into getting rid of it too?

Take care

Paul & Richard
Virgin Flying Without Fear

P.S. That's it now. Busy getting ready for Luton course this weekend 22nd April...

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