Monday, June 20, 2016

Drawing to Overcome Fear of Flying


For as much as I love traveling, I am a fearful little flyer. Last week on the Lufthansa regional jet from Munich to Trieste, I could feel myself freaking out during takeoff.

My involuntary reaction when I think the plane is about to drop out of the sky is to throw my arms up in panic and then grab onto the armrests for dear life. I'll white-knuckle it for a few seconds, get my shit together and release my grip, take a breath or two, and then sit on my hands or fidget with my hair or something until I feel like we're about to fall of the sky again and the whole flail-grip-regain control routine repeats itself.

My row companion was pretty nice about it, but I felt supremely awkward grabbing all over the place and wanted to get my behavior under control. So I took out my sketchbook and started a weird mix of nervous doodling and contour drawing of the inside of the plane. It worked quite well to manage my phobia, as I could concentrate on reproducing the lines and objects in front of me to distract myself, and then just let the pen go crazy in the moments of acute stress.

You can see the balding head of the guy in front of me, the window, the seatbelt/no smoking sign, the overhead bins, the curtain separating first class...and me intermittently losing it, translated into shapes and squiggles.

In all, a useful exercise I'm sure to repeat on future flights and in other moments of fear and uncertainty - of which we sadly have an abundance of these days. At least I have a funny drawing and a story to share as a result, a concrete transformation of negative emotions into something positive. 

What do you do to cope with fear?

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