Friends, rejoice with me! I’m delighted to report that my fear of flying seminar was rescheduled for a later date. Huzzah! One of the presenters fell ill and I now have several more weeks to prepare. Blessed reprieve! I’m very sorry, Airline Presenter Person, that you’re not feeling well, but THANK YOU, sweet baby Jesus.
I know it’s just kicking the can down the road, and I will have to attend the scary seminar eventually. But it’s a relief to push it off a bit. After all, it does give me more time to test-drive the fear of flying apps I downloaded two weeks ago. To be honest, they’re not quite doing it for me. Not yet, anyway. I’ve been listening to each of them a little each day and trying to keep an open mind, but nothing has really made a difference so far. I suspect it has more to do with my inability to take anything seriously and less about the apps themselves. Although, and this will come as no great surprise, I do have a few immediate impressions:
VALK – This app opens with a very nice, easy to navigate menu, icons on a white background with orange tabs, set against a soothing, sky-blue background. Not assertive or aggressive, but not patronizing, either. Sort of a gentle declaration of “No worries, girl. We got you.” I like that. But what I don’t like is the panic button. Set dead center, this icon is the reverse of the others – it’s orange and features a white triangle with a large orange exclamation point in the middle. Sure, it makes it easy to find in a panic-stricken moment, but it’s also the first thing I see when I open the app. It’s a little thing, but because I’m a fatalist when I’m anxious, this panic button immediately launches me into, well, panic mode. However, for the sake of research and the preservation of my relationship with my domestic partner, I push on.
The menu is comprised of several presumably helpful topics, such as Flying, Knowing (sounds mysterious, doesn’t it?), Exercises, Flights, and my favorite, PANIC. The narrator for the exercises is British. Sweet. However…here’s where I have a problem. As we know, I tend to hone in on completely irrelevant details, and when I’m anxious, well…putting it mildly, I become overly sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, basically life itself. Listening to the very calm Englishman guide me through the exercises, one would think I’d relax and find myself in a state of openness and calm. One would be so wrong. As the gentle voice instructs me on proper breathing, all I can hear is the saliva smacking inside his mouth. This is unacceptable. To a person like me, hearing the machinations of his mouth cancels out everything else. I completely miss the content and only hear the smacking. He could be revealing the secrets of the universe and I’d miss it every time. Smack, smack, smack. It’s so subtle, but to a person who finds the sound of someone chewing a nightmare, this barely perceptible and completely normal byproduct of speech, now amplified through my headphones, makes me want to rip my ears off. “Isn’t it pleasant to feel calmer through concentrating on your breathing?” Mate, I can’t concentrate on my breathing BECAUSE YOU ARE SMACKING YOUR LIPS IN MY EAR. Otherwise, he is lovely. And I’m sure he’s saying some very helpful stuff. But I don’t know if I can listen to him anymore.
SOAR – Unlike VALK, the menu page of this app resembles a PowerPoint presentation. Not bad, but not very engaging. That’s ok, though, because we’re not here to look at the screen, we’re here to get some serious help. So what does SOAR have to offer?
This app is loaded with information. In just the Basics section, there are 15 different subjects to consider, broken into three areas: Getting Ready, At the Airport, and In the Air. I appreciate how the idea of flying is not limited to time on the plane, because an anxious person doesn’t fear one thing; she fears everything related to that one thing. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting, so having some guidance when you’re simply in the planning stages is fantastic. In the Course section, you can select from free videos on overcoming your fear of flying or controlling in-flight anxiety and panic to in-app purchase videos like turbulence and navigation, maintenance, and my favorite, one called “Take Me Along,” where the Captain coaches you throughout the flight. I admit, I have yet to watch the free videos, but I did give the Basics a read. Most of it is pretty good stuff, but I’ve already read it in articles and support sites. That’s ok, it’s always worth reading again and again and again, though it never seems to make a difference. I’m still waiting for that moment when it sinks in and my brain clicks over to “wait a minute! This flying is safer than driving! My fear is unfounded and ridiculous – to the airport!” We live in hope.
But then, in the section of In the Air, I get to the G-Force Meter. It’s full of great scientifically-proven facts, and also this gem: “One G is the normal force of gravity. Airliners are certified to be able to withstand 2.5 Gs continuously.” In all honesty, I’d like to see that number much higher, like 250 or so. But it’s the following sentence that gets me. “Free fall produces a zero G condition.” Then it goes on to say how great planes are at withstanding all kinds of Gs. But the words “free fall” in an app meant to assuage my fears of plummeting to my death from a free falling plane are not very welcome. Right there, my brain stops comprehending the science and safety information and focuses only on the nasty problem of surviving a plane free falling from 30,000 feet. It doesn’t end well. I am my own worst enemy and I’m not sure this app can change that.
Overcome The Fear of Flying – Right. Where to start with this one? My snarky nature immediately kicks in when I open this app, because this is what I see:
Glenn looks pretty proud of himself, doesn’t he? That’s thing one, and already I’m scoffing. I shouldn’t be, but that’s just who I am. Glenn looks like a real smug mansplainer to me, and I have the uneasy feeling that he’ll be condescending and patronizing. I don’t need your attitude, Glenn.
Then there’s the swirling vortex with the shadowy plane emerging. I’m sure it’s meant to suggest hypnosis, but I don’t like it, not one bit. It evokes traumatic memories of that Twilight Zone episode, when a frantic John Lithgow wails “there’s something on the wing!!” to a non-plussed cabin crew. I do not enjoy this app already, and I haven’t even given Glenn a chance.
But I’m sure Glenn Harrold, FBSCH Dip C.H. has put some effort into this app, otherwise I’m sure he wouldn’t look so cocky, so I give it a try. Selecting “Audio Tracks,” the image of Glenn still looms. In fact, he’s on nearly every page, judging me while the plane swirls in a cloudy vortex behind him for most of the menu items. Thank goodness he’s absent from the “Journal” feature, where I want to write about my response to scary Glenn. But I digress.
I try the first of the three Audio Tracks, aptly titled “Overcome the Fear of Flying.” That’s why we’re here, Glenn. The track opens with gentle piano music, and Glenn’s heavy accent, which sounds to me like a slightly-polished Cockney and reinforces my image of Glenn as a rather confident fellow, urging me to use headphones but, under no circumstances, am I to listen while driving. So strong is his hypnotherapy. But as Glenn continues, he promises me we will use “the awesome power of your mind to take back control, and all you need to do now is close your eyes and relax.”
As I listen, amused though I am by the packaging of this app, I can completely see how someone actually serious about using hypnosis to conquer her fears would find it helpful. Glenn really goes to town, slowing down his voice and reminding you to just breathe. Really, it’ll be fine if you just keep breathing. Maybe fall asleep, even, Glenn surely won’t mind. He won’t even be offended. But, because I’m me, I need to wait for all the cynicism, sarcasm, and thinly-veiled comedy gold to pass before I can take this seriously. Sadly, that time has not yet come, Glenn.
Master the Fear of Flying (or MFOF as the cool kids call it) – Ahhh…this app opens to a glorious shot of the sun’s golden rays streaming through fluffy clouds. It’s a heavenly sign that all will be well before you’ve even started the program. I like you, MFOF. I like it even more when the next page congratulates me for purchasing this program to conquer my fears. This narrator is Australian, which is nice, because I imagine this guy would hang out in a pub with me, laughing about that crazy time we almost died in a fiery plane crash. But, boy, he gets straight down to business, no fuzzy reassurance like smug Glenn. Before I could focus on the message of congratulations and accolades for my brilliant decision to do something about my fears, MFOF Man wants me to rate my fear level, fill out all kinds of forms (not really, it only seems that way), and get a “fear scale” number to develop my “personal fear recovery plan.” Whoa. I’m asked to assess my level of fear as it relates to planning a flight, learning that I have to fly tomorrow without any advance notice, etc. The scale is from zero to 100, with 100 being the most scared you’ve ever been in your life. Can we just cut to the chase here, MFOF, and say I’m at 100 nearly any time I think of flying? There are seven questions with five or six outcomes to rate from zero to 100. Isn’t there a general category called “Batshit Crazy,” because we can just go ahead and place me in there. What’s your recovery plan for that one?
Surprisingly, as matter of fact and quick-moving as this app is (MFOF Man doesn’t let you get all cozy with your fears, you answer and move on sharpish!), I find I like it each time I listen to it. Because it addresses MY specific fears and not the facts and statistics of flying, I find it most appropriately addresses each of my triggers, instead of general information and a suggestion to calm down. Have you ever told an anxious person to calm down? How has that worked for you? I’m assuming not very well because it’s a stupid and callous way to handle an anxious person (I’m shouting here). While Glenn from OFOF, above, talks you off your ledge with his unique brand of condescension-laced hypnosis, MFOF Man assures you that your fear comes from a real place inside you and that by understanding it, you can conquer it. This has potential, but I’ll still need to poke fun for awhile until I accept that I need help. Admitting it is the first step, right?
Guys, you won’t believe this. After writing all that, the universe just bitch-slapped me. How? As I was finishing up that last bit, an email preview flashed across my screen. You’ll never guess who it was from. Ready for it?
FUNERAL AND BURIAL INSURANCE
That’s it, I’m out! Universe, I hear you.