Is There a Disaster Movie Playing Out In Your Head?

I had a recurring nightmare where I was stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.

Somehow I’d ended up in Texas, or somewhere like that and couldn’t get back.

And the reason I couldn’t get back was due to my sheer terror of flying. The more I flew in real life, the more scared I got.

Well that isn’t quite true.

There was one flight from France, where I took one of my favourite books, the Power of Now. And turned to the page where Eckhart Tolle talks about the benefits of being present for our own death.

He says that there are several opportunities to experience enlightenment, and one of them is at the time of our death. According to Eckhart, when the time comes to shake off this mortal coil, the temptation will be to turn away in fear. But if we stay alert and mindful, we can enjoy the moment in it’s full glory and everlasting nirvana will be ours.

I can’t tell you what the other opportunities for instant enlightenment are, as I’m too tired/lazy to go and get the book and turn to the appropriate page. But I swear that reading it whilst on a plane took away all my fear – especially that feeling I know other flight phobics experience – trying to mentally keep the plane in the sky.

In my case this means that nobody else can speak to me, I can’t read a magazine or eat anything. I just have to stare at a spot on the back of the seat in front of me – which of course is pretty close, if the person sitting in that seat has taken the opportunity to recline.

So yes, it’s almost like mindfulness meditation, but in this case I’m not breathing deeply and slowly, but in an anxious, shallow sort of way. My minds all over the place, anticipating heaven knows what.

So back to the dreams where I was stuck on the other side of the Atlantic. I always woke up in a cold sweat, full of relief that I was actually home in my bed in Market Harborough.

But last year, I got this chance to go to the US to attend the Martha Beck coaching meet up. And I really wanted to go. And heck I love America. I’d braved the flight to LA all alone when I worked in travel and I knew could do it again.

As I wasn’t sure if Eckhart Tolle would help me this time, I decided to Google some statistics about plane crashes and risk of terrorist attacks.

The odds against were stacked pretty high, which I knew anyway, but for some reason learning that I’d have to take a thousand flights for a thousand years before I boarded a plane that would fall out of the sky (again I can’t remember the exact odds, I’m not a statistics geek. You’ll have to Google them yourself).

On boarding the plane, I was reminded that so much of what scares us is stuff that we play out in our mind before we even put ourselves in the situation we dread.

I’m not sure exactly what worked, but my fears had evaporated. The flight was fine and I watched 3 films.

I landed in LA not knowing a soul. There was a big full moon as the very expensive taxi sped towards downtown.

But I didn’t feel stuck on the other side of the Atlantic.

I was excited. Facing some of my biggest fears felt great.

And I can recommend Grand Budapest Hotel if you haven’t already seen it.┬áNext time I’ll watch it when the movie screen isn’t almost pressed against my face, because the person in front has reclined.




  1. Lotte said:

    Lovely post Sally, and I empathise a lot! x
    PS You were brave to google those statistics!

    • sally said:

      I know Lotte. But they did make me feel better. Also, no planes crashed in I think it was 2011. That was a lot of planes not crashing, which also reassured me!

      • sally said:

        And thanks!

  2. Becky said:

    Hi Sally, I have never had a full on flying phobia but I really don’t like it. I just have to trick myself into thinking that I am not in a metal box in the sky and distract myself with other activities – work, movies, sleeping. I did physics in my degree and learnt all about why a plane stays in the air, but I still don’t trust it, and I think that it is my lack of trust that makes me think that I don’t deserve to be ok when I fly. Thanks for sharing.

    • sally said:

      Becky, I resonate with lack of trust. I also sometimes feel that I don’t deserve a lovely holiday, so something bad is going to happen. The rational me thinks, “yes but what about everybody else on the plane, do they not deserve a safe flight either?”. But there’s nothing rational about fear of flying.


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