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Surrender

Surrender

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Jorinde (22): “I’m afraid of flying. That has never been a problem, but now that I am in a relationship, it tends to be awkward. My girlfriend would love nothing more than to travel to faraway places with me. I am afraid that we will crash. What can I do to get myself to board an aeroplane?”

Ingrid: Like any cognitive behavioural therapist, I can assure you that fear decreases when you expose yourself to it. So exposure is what you need. In addition, we can also investigate whether your fear is realistic by calculating the chances of an aeroplane crashing. I know, and you most likely know too, that chances are very small. Very, very small. All this should help get you in the air, I have learned. Still, I would suggest something else.

I was in a bus in Laos and it collided head on with a truck. From that moment onwards, I sat in buses, but also cars and aeroplanes, bathing in sweat. This is called generalisation. I saw danger everywhere. However, my desire to travel was stronger than the fear. Until the moment when I was actually in the vehicle. The number of times I told myself that this was the last time, cannot be counted. The same applies to the moments of exposure. Although it has been proven that fear decreases with exposure, it doesn’t apply to me. This has everything to do with how I evaluate the bus or plane trip afterwards. Indeed, I don’t tell myself ‘see now, nothing happened’. What I do say, is more like ‘I’m so lucky that I have survived again’. I don’t think this is very strange. I have seen too many buses lying in ravines or crushed together along the side of the road. The disasters with the MH17, MH370 flights and the AirAsia and TransAsia aircrafts don’t help much either. The same goes for the Air Crash Investigation programme that my dear son loves to watch with me. And all the time, I know that the chances of a crash are very small.

Nothing left to do but pray. That was the only thing I could think of doing in order to gain some control. When we took off, when we landed, and with any unexpected movement or sound, I silently prayed for a good outcome. I don’t even know to whom or what I was praying and it didn’t really give me a sense of control. I mumbled contorted standard phrases. I mustn’t be disturbed while doing this and I certainly mustn’t forget anything. This wasn’t making for a very relaxed flight.

My last flight was to Kenya (and back). I didn’t think I could spend eight long hours tensely whispering quick prayers. Did I really think I could prevent a crash that way? Was I in control? No. I wanted to go to Kenya, really badly, and whether I got there was not up to me. From the moment I got onto the plane, there was nothing more I could do or say. When I realised that, I relaxed. Maybe that’s what they mean by surrendering, or what Buddha meant with “if you embrace the enemy, he cannot strike you,” a much used statement in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). So, hop onto that aeroplane, Jorinde, if you really want to travel with your girlfriend. And keep your fingers crossed.

Ingrid Candel

 

 

 

Would you like to ask psychologist Ingrid Candel a question (you may do so anonymously)? Send an e-mail to lieveingrid@outlook.com

Do you have any questions or problems and would you like to speak with a psychological counsellor for students from Maastricht University, contact studentenpsychologen@maastrichtuniversity.nl or call 043 3885388.

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