Hi friends, I'm an 11-year SOAR vet and have posted here many times before. SOAR has helped me travel to places I never thought I'd be able to see. But in the interests of full disclosure, I have to tell you about some recent problems I've experienced--and how I overcame them to achieve the full SOAR therapeutic experience.
In the years since my child was born, my anticipatory anxiety and flight experiences have significantly altered. Feelings of despondency prior to flying, and either uneven or unsteady results during flights, were overpowering and had me seriously concerned that my mind had outfoxed the SOAR approach.
Well, yes, they did. But it took recent trip to Alaska for my wife and I to understand why. She was growing exasperated at my complaining and dire predictions prior to even the shortest flights. And who could blame her? As I started this routine again, we got into a heated argument in which I accused her of not being sensitive to this emotional impediment I've had since youth.
Then, my wife came up with an insight that absolutely opened up the floodgates. Some background: the first time I took a round-trip flight was when I was 13, to visit my father in another city. He had moved there to take a new job, and we were to move out there with him. I had no choice in the matter, my opinion was not solicited, and I was neither counseled nor shown empathy about the move. The second flight was the actual move to the new city. I had just graduated from middle school and was about to be thrown into a high school in which I knew not a single person. It gets even better: after my father decided the job wasn't working out, we pulled up stakes and flew back to my hometown, and now I was returning to all the friends I thought I'd left behind for good--all well into their teens, and many completely different than when I left them.
What my wife showed me was that because of the way my parents handled it, I was always viewing air travel as a landmark, life-altering event. And for some reason, all of those emotions bubbled back to the surface when we began a family of our own. Furthermore, she deduced that the anxiety I experienced was not about the airplane, but about control. Once we established all of this, we moved to the healing phase of the conversation. We agreed that a trip via air travel is just a trip, and not earth-shattering or epochal, etc. No amount of worrying that I could do before or during the flight would make the plane fly better, or add a single day to my life. There was no need to constantly check flight tracker sites for flight times, airfields for emergency landings, etc., because the airlines have that all worked out. The only reality is what occurs on the flight, and not the phantasms I create in my mind. Most of all, my family loves me and would be waiting at home when I returned.
Well, let me tell you, the next day I woke up, got showered and dressed, put my luggage in a taxicab, and boarded an Alaska Airlines 737 at KDCA and proceeded to enjoy my best flight ever. Zero anxious moments over 5.5 hours. I had a window seat and spent most of the flight looking out at the panorama below: the high plains, the Columbia-Snake River, the Cascades volcanoes--something I previously refused to do, even after taking SOAR. Transferred at KSEA for the next flight to PANC (same aircraft, in fact) and had an even better flight. In fact, I hated having the aisle seat on the second leg because I was missing the view of the breathtaking Canadian and Alaskan coastline! Turbulence came and went but I barely noticed it--truth be told, I kind of welcomed the turb because it broke up the monotony.
In short, I relaxed and enjoyed a flight for what it IS, and not what IF. As a result, I arrived in Anchorage the way most people arrive somewhere after a moderately long car drive.
The flights back home (PANC-KSEA, KSEA-KDCA) were just the same as the ones going up. Whereas I used to sweat the duration of each flight, this time I would occasionally glance at the flight tracker on my cellphone to help plan my in-flight activities. And there had been no time during my stay in Alaska to do strengthening exercises. Even if there had been, I wouldn't have bothered, since my time there was jam-packed. I plugged in the iPod, recorded some of my Alaskan adventures in a journal, read a little bit, and enjoyed my trips. From my standpoint, the pilots were in charge in flying, the flight attendants were in charge of service or other passenger needs, and so all I had to do was sit back and pass the time--which, believe it or not, definitely goes by quicker than you realize when you're not agonizing over every minute.
I arrived back home and didn't feel the need to kiss the ground or thank my lucky stars for "having made it there and back." None of that. It was just a trip--my first visit to Alaska, in fact--and now it was back to the daily grind. I was crabby when I got to the office this morning. If someone had offered me tickets back to Alaska, I would have gladly flown back today without hesitation. Proving that there's no place like Nome.