Using Positive Sayings to Stop Irrational Thoughts
Catastrophic thoughts, are an extreme case of the “what ifs”. What if the engine fails? What if both engines fail? What if we go through a thunderstorm and get hit by lightning? What if we run out of fuel? What if the pilot loses control of the plane during turbulence? I could go on, as I’m sure you know.
We imagine all the worst case scenarios we can think of and then, as if that’s not enough, they spiral upwards until they get so severe, not only are we irrational, we’re in a panic. We don’t usually realize we’re being irrational, because the catastrophic thoughts keep feeding themselves and getting bigger. The worst thing about this kind of self talk is that it almost always sounds true to our own minds, no matter how irrational it is. Our minds accept it without question.
If these thoughts are irrational and we have them automatically, how can we possibly stop them? And what about the validity of those “what ifs”? Planes have crashed in the past. We all remember hearing about incidents in the news. How do we believe we’re safe?
We first have to stop our racing thoughts, or negative self talk. Thoughts come automatically in some cases, so how then do we stop them? Like any bad habit you want to break, it takes a little concentration. You have to make yourself notice when you’re thinking them and then you have to break the thought. One way to break the thought is the rubber band exercise. You get a thick rubber band and put it on your wrist. It shouldn’t cut off your circulation, but it shouldn’t be loose on your hand. Once the irrational thoughts start, you interrupt them by snapping the rubber band on your wrist. The sting will interrupt you from the exaggerated negative thought and you tell yourself to stop. Use whatever words you like, but order yourself firmly to stop thinking that way. Then you can counter them with a positive thought.
Write it Down!
Now here’s where your paper and pen comes in.
Make a list of the irrational thoughts you can remember having, might have or can think of related to your fear of flying. Leave space so you can add in a countering thought. When you’ve made your list, think of the information you’ve already learned from this website and ask yourself if the negative thoughts have been answered. For example, if your negative thought was “an engine will fail”, your counter thought can be, “so what? We still have the other one and the plane can fly on just one.” If you take that thought even further and your negative thought is “well what if both engines fail?”, your counter thought can be something like, “well that still isn’t a catastrophe. First, it’s extremely unlikely that even one will fail, let alone both. The odds of that happening are miniscule. Second, the pilots may be able to get them started again. Third, planes can glide a long distance.”
Make a list of negative talk and then replace it with positive talk. Another example:
Negative thought: I can’t handle this.
Positive thought: I can handle anything.
Negative thought: I’m afraid something is going to happen.
Positive thought: There’s no reason anything should happen.
Negative thought: Flying is dangerous.
Positive thought: Flying is not dangerous. It’s the safest way to travel.
Also helpful is to make a list of power statements for yourself For example:
- I can!
- I’m strong!
- I’ll beat this!
Use the word 'I' in your statements because they’re the most powerful. Make a list of power statements you can use for yourself.
Some people have trouble imagining themselves being strong. In that case, instead of power statements, try motivational statements such as:
- I want to conquer my fear.
- I’ll be able to see so many places when I conquer my fear.
- I want to be free of this fear.
A few simple steps and they do so much!
- Notice and identify the irrational thought.
- Interrupt it – stop it in its tracks by snapping the rubber band.
- Order yourself to stop thinking that way.
- Replace the negative talk with positive talk.
Additional Questions to Ask Yourself
Another aspect of thought stopping is testing the validity of the thoughts with logical questions. Some possible questions you can ask yourself are:
- What is this thought based on?
- What proof of this is there that this thought will happen?
- Does this always happen? Has it ever happened before?
- Is this thought happening right now?
- What are the odds of this actually happening?
- What are the odds of this actually being true?
- Am I looking at everything or just focusing on this thought?
- Am I being objective or am I feeding my fear?
We hope we have helped trigger some kind of break-through here but if not we recommend some great reading, DVDs and Audio solutions to really get you thinking positively about flying. Have a look at our reccomendations on the right!