When gut-wrenching fear stops life itself… there’s hope!

For 34 years I’ve lived with a phobic. My first husband, I like to call him. He has bat-o-phobia, a crippling fear of those black mice with wings that squeak in the night and make a whoosh-whoosh-whoosh noise as they flap around the kitchen, or the upstairs hall, or the bedroom.

Our current house is devoid of the creatures, but every other house, and the cottage too, are prone to these nocturnal nuisances.

Now, I don’t go looking for these kinds of activities, being the designated bat-basher! But honestly, the father of Kid One and Kid Two gets clammy, disappears into a cupboard or a closet, and won’t come out. My bat bashing system is topic for another column, but phobias like bats, or heights, or small spaces are very real. Come to think of it, my first husband also has a fear of heights. Which means I get to climb up 20 feet on a stepladder to add stain or empty an eavestrough. Hmmm.

Fear so great that it immobilizes you is what this column is about. That, and Dan MacAskill, a man whose fear of flying is becoming a life mission all on its own. When Dan’s parents separated, he and his brother used to fly from their home in New Brunswick to wherever their mom was living. They were short flights on small planes–20 seaters–and Dan’s “bad flight” experience happened when he was 12. It was winter. He was flying to Halifax. It was bumpy. He held his “burp bag” in his lap, and when he vomited, the moment became etched in his brain. He was vomiting. 19 pairs of eyes were watching him. Looking at him.

“You aren’t born afraid to fly. You get it. Something happens,” he says.

Dan looks back to age 6 when he broke his leg when a tree fell on him. He remembers the ambulance. He remembers feeling not safe. Broken. And that same feeling was triggered again six years later when his vomiting experience proved once again that he was not safe. He was broken.

Between age 6 and his adult life, Dan medicated himself to fly. Drugs, booze, sleep deprivation, anything to get him through the flight. His jobs often involved sales trips, flights. He remembers driving 13 hours round trip for a sales meeting to avoid taking an airplane. Fear.

It culminated when he left an excellent position to avoid flying, and then began to turn away from any career move that involved flying. He finally became a recruiter for a trucking company, working from a windowless room in his basement. He built his world around less and less travel and he didn’t even realize it.

It’s odd the things that tip the scales for us. For Dan it was turning down a trip to Australia with his fiancĂ©e, and then looking later at her photo album and seeing that he’d missed it all. “I was missing my own life!” Bingo! The scales tipped.

Why was Dan afraid and his brother not? What was behind his fear? He started researching, investigating, confronting himself, learning, re-learning, building and rebuilding.

Today, Dan flies. Today, he helps other people conquer their fear of flying. Not only does he do one-on-one coaching, he offers a website (www.uRnormal.com) he offers online and telephone coaching as well as seminars for group discussion (Flying Without Fear). Dan feels that most flying phobia sessions are taught by pilots or psychologists. But, he’s the guy who was afraid to fly for 28 years and now flies with ease. He has a message that sticks.

Dan’s now approaching airlines to work with flight attendants and pilots who interface with phobic passengers. He shares language change (have a safe flight!–a big trigger for a fear phobia) that can eliminate triggers and teaches ground crew and flight crew techniques that help passengers. He’s also well through a book which encompasses his seminar and coaching content.

And he’s right here in Barrie where he’s able to offer group seminars to help people confront their fear and find its source. He’s offering the same seminar in Toronto as well. Ultimately he’d like to be the voice on the screen on your airplane monitor, talking you down to your life plot and your role in it.

The seminar, Flying Without Fear, is scheduled for two Mondays, September 13 and 20, and will be in the seminar room on the second floor above the Barrie bus terminal. Cost is $75. for both nights. Register through the website or by calling 705 733-0441.

“You can ignore it, or you can address it and change your life,” says Dan. “What you resist persists. It gets bigger.”

Now, I wonder if Dan would take on flight at another level, the bat level! I can send him his first customer!

Thanks, Dan.