The thought of admitting to being vulnerable is wholly uncomfortable for me, so this day of the Feel Good Blogging challenge has put me far outside my comfort zone . . .
I was asked by Cara from The Champagne Diet to write an essay for her new book Fearless & Fabulous: 10 Powerful Strategies for Getting Anything You Want in Life after I addressed my fear of flying earlier this year.
This post is one I have been intending to do for some time but always felt very exposed whenever I sit to write it and potentially have real-live people see it. It is one thing to have it in a book where I have no idea who is seeing it, with no opportunity for conversation on it, but quite another when I’m hitting the ‘publish’ button on my own site. So *deep breath*, here it is.
Fearless & Fabulous
An Essay by Victoria James
I don’t remember traveling to the airport that day . . . for me, flying was just a means to an end, like getting in the car, or catching a train. I loved the anticipation of discovering a new corner of the world . . . but I never remembered any of the journey. There was nothing to take any notice of, an insignificant part of a day. Just like I don’t remember brushing my teeth, or my first cup of tea in the morning.
I had always had a sense of excitement for any trip, with family, friends or on my own and had a very deep-rooted wanderlust which was never far from my mind, but the actual flying part never registered as anything more than any other journey.
That day however, I do remember stepping into the tunnel to embark the plane, walking hand-in-hand with the man I had fallen crazy-in-love with towards a plane that opened the door to our first romantic holiday together . . . and I was suddenly petrified. A wave of inexpiable, crippling fear washed over me. I had never experienced anything like it in my life.
I was always such a free-spirited person. No cares or worries, always looking forward to the next amazing thing that I knew was right around every corner so I had no way to explain these feelings to this guy smiling at me like he knew this was to be the first of many fabulous holidays together. So I kept my mouth shut, panicked like crazy inside myself and felt like the whole world was inexplicably caving in around me.
Being rather blasé about things I buried it. Didn’t think about any of my feelings and just thought that by the time our next holiday came around I’d be over it.
In the mean time, we saved up and bought a house together, planned the most amazing wedding, partied until the sun came up and knew our honeymoon would be just what we needed after 18 months of wedding planning and career changes.
We collected our luggage, arrived at the airport, went to board and there it was again. Like a huge slap in my just-married glowing face.
F E A R
I couldn’t believe it. I was freaking out inside again. The only thing keeping me going was the thought of hot sun and two weeks of just us.
We had a beautiful time, but the thought of flying home again was never far from my mind and I was a nervous mess.
After our honeymoon came Paris, then Amsterdam and the fear got worse every time so I resigned myself to the fact holidays just weren’t for me and locked the feelings away. I couldn’t stand the embarrassment of talking about it, never mind how I cringe at the memory of asking the poor cabin crew member on the Amsterdam flight if I was going to die that day. Awful – just awful.
“. . . My wanderlust has never gone – I just locked it away . . .”
That was nearly ten years ago. In this time, my husband’s career has seen him spend a lot of time all over Europe, Japan, Brazil, India and Thailand. Every time he went away I would be beside myself with a mix of anxiety for his flight and envy that he was able to see these amazing places and I felt I couldn’t go, which then made me furious with myself. My wanderlust has never gone – I just locked it away.
So this new year, aware that I was about to turn 35 I decided enough was enough. Surely by 35 a girl is supposed to have her shit together?
I have a gorgeous life and genuinely feel blessed every day. I have my own businesses which I love and feel fulfilled in most areas . . . but I haven’t stepped foot out the UK in nearly ten years.
In this time I’ve avoided facing up to my fear. Using reasons like,
“Oh, we’re moving house, we can’t holiday this year”,
“No, I just started a business so I can’t take time away from that”
and my best/most ridiculous yet . . .
“I just had to have the limited edition Gucci bag so a holiday is definitely off the cards”.
Yes. I actually said those words out loud. (I do love that bag though – it just gets better with age).
Anyway . . .
Time for change, so I decided to get to know myself and think about who I am so I can build myself into the person I envisaged I would be at 35.
We’re also coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary this year and I cannot face the thought of not celebrating it in style. We both deserve a magnificent holiday to relax and unwind so I had to get over myself and face up to my fear . . .
“Surely by 35 a girl is supposed to have her shit together?”
There’s a guy I know, Christian Baker, who practices hypnotherapy, and having decided I wanted to get to the root of my problem rather than cover it with pills I decided to get in touch. I see him in passing every month or so as his wife has a salon just near my boutique. The next time I saw him, I decided to go from a friendly smile to a verbal interaction. I could do this. So, putting the law of attraction to play, I visualised bumping into him and asking for his help. I literally couldn’t believe it when parking my car up the very next day, he came walking by. It was meant to be. So I spoke to him and honestly, it was the best thing I’ve done.
A couple of weeks later I found myself sat in his office talking through my fear of flying, while he asked about other general areas of my lifestyle, career and down-time.
Turns out, I had allowed this fear to limit myself so much so that when I looked back at opportunities I had let pass me by, I just knew I had to take control of this and if hypnotherapy was a solution, then I was willing to give it a try.
I just needed the desire to address it and he would be able to give me the tools required to solve the problem. Christian’s mantra is
“What the mind believes, you will achieve”
He explained that the process we were about to go through was not an over-ride of my own feelings – he wouldn’t be telling me “You’re not afraid of flying anymore”. It has to come from within yourself, so during the hypnosis you do a lot of visualisation and this process begins to realign your thinking and feelings towards the issue.
We were going to turn my ‘Fear of Flying’ dial down from maximum to an acceptable, reasonable level, and turn up my ‘Confidence to Fly’ dial from minimum to as high as I wanted it to go. It’s about making the two parts of your brain work together in the right way again. The part of your brain that tells you you’re afraid is the same part of the brain that remembers automatic function such as how to walk, how to drive, how to use a knife and fork. You don’t re-learn these things every day, they are remembered.
This part of my brain was remembering and reminding me that I was afraid of flying – something that I just needed to process through and remember isn’t actually a threat. It was a learned reaction which could have started from something totally unrelated, like a stressful situation coupled with a plane journey which means your brain could then associate flying with feeling stressed.
Looking back, that first time I felt frightened was at a very stressful time in my life. I just thought I was ok because I was about to go on holiday. It would make sense for this to have been my trigger.
Being hypnotised is like a relaxing, blissed-out super-charged sleep – but I was conscious, my mind full of vibrant, moving images right there in front of me while all the time feeling cocooned in the marshmallow comfort of his reclining chair. Cosy, safe, happy and I was left feeling refreshed, super-smiley and knowing I was able to achieve anything.
So after a couple of sessions, I did it. My 35th birthday came around, along with my goal of getting back to Paris. This was it.
“. . . Being hypnotised is like a relaxing, blissed-out super-charged sleep – but I was conscious, my mind full of vibrant, moving images . . .”
Due to my husband’s frequent flying we were able to use the BA lounge at Heathrow, so at 5am that Saturday morning we were sat with a glass of gin, eating a delicious breakfast, waiting to board our flight with my renewed confidence in flying and it felt fabulous! Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous, but at the same time empowered that I was taking control of a fear that has held me back for years equipped with the tools I had learned to control my thoughts.
Getting off the plane at the other end was not the high I imagined it to be. I was very calm, no emotional spike. Just like I was undoing my seat belt in the car ready to get on with my day. This left me feeling confused . . .
Paris was amazing. We packed in every minute of our time there and I loved it but the flat feeling remained – I wanted a high but it was nowhere to be found!
I realised, this is exactly how I was supposed to feel. I hadn’t taken my life into my own hands by getting on a plane – it was normal. There was no elation, because why would there be? I flew. I was on holiday. That was it. Bit of an anti-climax really after all that fuss for the last 10 years. I can admit to feeling a little disappointed, but happy that I had done it.
Then it came to flying home – Sunday evening, back in the airport lounge and I was feeling terrified. What was this all about?! I could not believe this was happening. I didn’t even get excited about the free champagne in the lounge so I knew something was amiss. I LOVE champagne and I take any excuse to break a bottle open!
“It was everything I had hoped I would feel and more!”
Boarding our flight was very difficult for me, however the cabin crew were amazing, they took the time to talk to me, inviting me to speak to the pilots before take-off and all of a sudden I felt totally calm again. Like someone had waved a wand and magicked the fear away. The wave of fear that came all those years ago withdrew and I felt like a weight had been lifted off my body. My chest and shoulders relaxed, my hands stopped feeling hot and I was smiling ear to ear.
I took my seat, remembered my tools and I can say with absolute certainty, I LOVED every second of that flight. Take off was exhilarating and I even spent time looking out the window enjoying the view.
It was everything I had hoped I would feel and more! This was the high I had been missing on the way over. The excitable traveller my husband had never seen before was back and I WAS LOVING IT!
The captain invited me to talk to him and the co-pilot again after we landed so I could ask questions and he could speak to me about our journey and I cannot tell you how happy I was. I felt like an excitable child giving hugs and kisses to the crew and the pilots. I had done it! My fear is GONE! I LOVE flying again and I cannot wait to get booked onto my next flight so I can get this free spirit back out that has been away for so long.
“. . . My life has been changed and I could not be happier . . .”
My third session with Christian was booked in 5 days after we returned, like a de-brief session and it turns out the flat feelings encountered on the way out were to be entirely expected. This trip has been ten years in the making, all that anticipation, time and anxiety needed to be processed with my newly learned thought processes and realigned back to where they should be. The feeling of a low before boarding was my brain re-assessing what my feelings were and processing them to feel real and accurate again with the help of reason and positive experience, then the high upon landing back in the UK was the proof that I’m over it – I can do it!
There is no need to feel afraid. This is perfectly safe and a completely normal thing to do and with that, the thought processing was complete.
That was the high. The knowing it was right, and I am capable of turning my fears around using the tools I am equipped with to face a fearful situation and do it anyway.
I feel fantastic every day and can apply the skills learned to any situation which feels uncomfortable or unnerving. My life has been changed and I could not be happier – the high stays with me.
I learned from this, just because you are frightened doesn’t mean anything bad is going to happen. It’s a simple choice whether you enjoy what you are about to do or let yourself be afraid.
*Squints eyes, flinches a little and hits publish*