One man who was terrified of flying found relief in a gentle therapy, says Emma Mahony
Andrew Balfour, 48, a sales manager from Barnes in southwest London, is not the sort of man who enjoys delving into his psyche. So when he considers why his fear of flying crept up on him, it seems out of character to hear him say: “Perhaps it’s because I am a bit of a control freak. I don’t like being out of control.”
He is not alone. An estimated ten million people in the UK have some fear of flying, despite claims from the aviation industry that it is the safest way to travel. And figures indicate that it is getting safer; in 1979 there were three fatal accidents per million flights, compared with only one per million today. But people who suffer from aviophobia are not swayed by statistics, and, as in Balfour’s case, it can threaten their livelihoods, if not govern their lives.
Balfour’s fear of flying began on a work trip to Brussels 12 years ago. “I’d been in the job for about a year-and-a-half and I don’t know why but on this particular flight the turbulence really began to get to me. I started to sweat and to think paranoid thoughts, such as how easy it was for a plane to fall out of the sky, and what if there was mechanical failure.”
An optimist by nature, he hoped that on each subsequent trip his fears would improve, but with an average of 40 business trips to make every year his unease about flying deepened, making his working life difficult. “I tried anything that anyone recommended: a couple of brandies before getting on the plane, pain-killers, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, but nothing seemed to help.” At the check-in desk, he would mention his nervousness to staff, and was often allowed to sit at the front of the plane, near or alongside the pilot (before 9/11) because “talking to someone helped”.
Emotional freedom techniques (EFT), or tapping, was developed in the US in the 1990s. Like acupuncture, it works on the meridian system (“energy channels”) in the body, stimulating eight major meridian points by tapping or massaging them lightly. At the same time, the client talks about the problem or issue to release its intensity, described as “tearless trauma”.
Balfour heard about EFT from his wife, who had been seeing an EFT practitioner, Nichola Schwarz, in Acton, West London, “to help her shift 13 years of emotional clutter”. He says: “She said it was helping her and it was good for phobias. I thought, ‘I’m open to new ideas’.”
Source - Scotsman