Friday, 31 August 2012

Help! Message board answer this week - defusion techniques

Someone wrote to us this week about their fear re-surfacing after five years of attending our course.  They posted a message about this which has been answered below.  One of their frustrations is that even though they had flown several times since our course, they had started to get anxious with an upcoming flight a week away. The other frustration they experienced is that their well-meaning relatives keep saying to them, 'You've done that course, shouldn't be cured now?!'

Below, is Paul's answer to this posting...

When people face a fear, for some it is a done deal. For others, it can lurk ready to re-ignite when you least want it to. The pathways that were set up in your head when you learned to be fearful of flying, are still in your head.  When you learn new things about flying and new ways to deal with your anxiety, then new pathways are set up.  It is actually very easy to re-stimulate a fear again. 
You have had a break from flying and in that time, it is quite common for people to re-ignite the fears and anxieties all over again.   The facts as I see them, are that nothing has changed.  Just because you haven't flown for a long time does not mean anything. You have had mostly good experiences since our course all those years ago.  Often, our graduates put themselves under extreme pressure by saying, 'I should be cured' 'I shouldn't be scared' or even worse, 'Why am I so anxious again?!'  In essence, you beat yourselves up despite having achieved so much.  It is also normal, expected and human to be anxious when you are going to do something challenging. For you this is flying. Anxiety is a normal thing that humans do.
For me, public speaking brings on huge amounts of anxiety even though I have been doing it for over 17 years!  Anxiety is seen as a bad thing whereas in fact, it can focus the mind around the importance of what you are about to do. 
So, here are a few defusion techniques I would like you to try...
When we have thoughts, any thoughts, they are mostly out of our control. Up they pop and then they disappear. Thoughts are just words whizzing around our head.  If you have ever tried to relax and 'empty your mind', most will find it virtually impossible to do so. Up pop thoughts all the time, like an internal chatterbox!  When we 'fuse' with the thoughts, they make us feel different things. So, if I keep thinking, 'I am so anxious, I am going to freak out, I am going to have a panic attack...' These thoughts are only powerful if we believe them; If we fuse with them.  It is virtually impossible to stop the thoughts coming in and coming out.  So, I would like you to try a couple of these techniques to take some of the power from the thoughts.  Remember, at the moment, the thoughts are coming in and you are 'fusing' with them which is what makes you feel rubbish.
Quick exercise before you read on:
  • Read the instructions and then try this please
  • Sit comfortably
  • Take in 10 slow, deep and paced breaths
  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4, hold for 2 then breathe out to the count of 4.
  • All you have to do is to listen to your breathing only. That's it. Listen to your breath and be aware of your body as it breathes in and out.
  • As each thought, feeling or image pops into your head, don't do anything with them.  Imagine each thought, feeling or image that comes in is just like a passing motorist on the motorway and just nod your head to it.  Don't do anything with these thoughts, just let them come in and go out.
How did you get on?
If you didn't do it because you are busy, stop reading and come back to this blog when you have time to do the quick exercise - otherwise the rest of the blog won't make any sense.

What happens is that our brains are automatically bubbling away with thoughts and stuff all the time. We don't notice them until it is a critical moment - such as taking a flight. Then the thoughts, images and feelings can bother us if we 'fuse' with them. In other words, we start to believe them.    But these are just auto things thrown up by some area of our brain. They are not necessarily true things.  It is very hard to stop them coming in.

Clients often say, 'I want to stop the negative thoughts happening.'  This is a reasonable request I suppose. But sometimes, we can't stop them coming in - they just run themselves.  We can stop giving them more energy than they deserve. These are just thoughts, images and feelings generated automatically by our brain.  We can use the following 'Defusion' techniques to stop the power that they have over us.
Defusion techniques:

1. When the thought comes in, simply say, 'Thanks Brain.'  It is like nodding your head to it but not doing anything with it. Not feeling you have to change it, squash it, manage it - just nod your head to it.
2.  When you have certain thoughts, say to yourself, 'There I go, having that thought again.'  This is just you recognising that the thoughts are not you. They are mostly running on auto software.
3.  Give the group of thoughts a name for ease.  'There goes the anxious story again.' 'Oh, I am running my loser story again.'
4.  Turn the thoughts into a song you know.  For example, 'I am so scared, I am going to have a panic attack..' to the tune of Jingle Bells or a pop song you know.  Reason, this gives you some control over the thoughts/anxiety. Not straight away, but it is very hard to take these things seriously when you practise these techniques. 

Defusion works by giving you some separation from the thoughts. If you can observe yourself having the thoughts then they are not you; They are just something your brain is running automatically.


Keep playing your CD as that is a very good re-enforcer of the work we have done

Do one or any of the exercises above, 10 times a day from now till your flight

Play this clip several times and visualise yourself flying and being in control 

Take care
Paul & Richard
Virgin Atlantic Flying Without Fear
Next Course
Birmingham Sunday 14th October 2012

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