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Despite the odds of dying in a plane crash being one in 11 million, itís suggested that approximately 40% of us suffer from mild to large aviophobia, otherwise known as fear of flying. It’s suggested that aviophobia can be caused by traumatic past experiences such as being on a flight with a lot of turbulence or enduring a bumpy landing. Second hand information can also play a part in this phobia, with the media giving heavy coverage to air crash disasters despite such occurrences being extremely rare.
If you suffer from panic attacks or claustrophobia, the logistical aspects of catching a flight, such as going through security checkpoints or sitting in a confined airplane seat, can exacerbate flying fears. It has even been suggested that some of the terminology associated with airports has morbid connotations, with words like "departure", "terminal" and "final destination" cropping up continuously.
For one British schoolboy, his fear of flying was so crippling that he was unable to return to his home in Somerset for 18 months, leaving him stranded in Abu Dhabi with his father. Twelve year old Joe Thompson moved to Abu Dhabi with his family in 2009, where he developed a severe fear of flying, despite being a confident flyer when he was younger. When he was due to return to the United Kingdom in 2012, he found himself unable to board the plane, collapsing hysterically on the floor of the departure gate, shivering with stomach cramps.
Over an 18-month period, Joe attempted and failed to board four flights, costing the family around £40,000 in cancelled flights, accommodation and therapy treatments to try and cure Joe’s aviophobia. There were even plans for Joe to return to the UK by travelling on an elaborate route consisting of a car journey on land and then a cargo ship journey by sea; this was ultimately called off due to visa complications.
On October 7, Joe touched down at London Heathrow airport, finally being reunited with his sister and mother (who had been forced to return to the UK at an earlier date because of job obligations). Three months earlier, a British hypnotherapist living in Dubai called Russell Hemmings contacted the family after hearing about Joe’s plight and offered his assistance.
Mr Hemmings described Joe’s fear of flying as the most severe he’d ever seen. In the therapy sessions leading up to the flight, Mr Hemmings used powers of hypnotic suggestion to elicit a change in Joe’s subconscious mind, making him react differently to the external stimulus he would experience as part of the flight. Mr Hemmings, who took the flight with Joe and his father, helped Joe to get through boarding and take off by getting him to meditate and practise deep breathing techniques. The rest of the long-haul flight went without incident and Joe was reunited with his sister and mother who were relieved to see him.
Happy to be back with his family on British soil, Joe stated: "Russell was the best chance I had. He helped me out so much."