Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life's ups and downs

I do not like to travel by airplane. Being hundreds of feet in the air makes me nervous. However, my career requires that I travel more than once a month, so I have used my Recovery training to make the experience easier.

Recently I was on a flight that became quite bumpy; the plane went up and down and left to right. It was probably the worst turbulence I’ve experienced. Needless to say, I was in a panic. My eyes were blurry; my palms were sweaty; my body shook; my mind raced. To my astonishment, the woman next to me sat calmly with her eyes closed.

After about five minutes the turbulence was over, and when I began to regroup I applied my Recovery training. I didn’t fault myself for my reaction, as Dr. Low reminds us that we shouldn’t expect to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I endorsed myself for controlling my muscles (not crying during the turbulence or disturbing the composure of the woman next to me). Afterward I remarked to a few people in the office about the bumpy trip, but I did not speak about it excessively. Before Recovery I would have told everyone I met about my “horrible” flight, thereby working myself up.

I’ve also come to realize that when I worry about the plane crashing I’m making a bid to be exceptional. There are hundreds if not thousands of flights every day across the world, and only rarely does a plane encounter trouble (and even more rarely it crashes). Instead of worrying about an exceptional event, I need to focus on the average flying experience. There will be some bumps, and some flights will be smoother than others. But overall I should not give into temper every time the plane encounters some rough air.

To help me with this, I’ve been practicing forced objectivity. For example, when I’m flying I listen to music, watch a video, or read. This way a lot of the little bumps go unnoticed—and my mental health is better for it.