So what could be the reason? Imagination? If so, why does imagination trump reality when every piece of information says turbulence is not a threat?
Why does imagination rule? I think it has to do with ‘poor reality-testing’. If you see something and feel something, you are sure it is real. That is good reality-testing.
When you see something in your mind’s eye (imagination) and you feel the results of stress hormones physically, if you are sure it is real, that is bad reality-testing.
There are two chances to know you are wrong:
- 1. Can you tell when you are seeing something in reality or seeing something in imagination? Can you be mindful enough to determine that imagination is, in fact, imagination and not real?
- Can you be mindful that physical feelings produced by stress hormones are feelings from inside. If the thing you are imagining were actually taking place, the feelings you would get would come from outside.
The feelings you get via imagination do not correspond with the feelings you get via reality.
You imagine the plane is falling, and feel rapid heartbeat. That is not a feeling that comes from falling. In a genuine emergency, your attention is outside, not inside. And, if you get any evevated heart rate, it is not pronounced enough for you to be aware of it.
The physical feeling you — or anyone — would get when falling is NOT the feeling of rapid heartbeat, but weightlessness.
Or, you imagine the plane is falling and you feel tension in your body. That is not the the physical feeling anyone gets when falling. When falling, people go limp. Then, just before hitting, if possible, you use muscles to break your fall. But it is the limpness that often prevents injury.
Again, tension in the body is not a response to falling. Instead, again, you would feel the freedom of weightlessness.
Or, you imagine the plane is falling and feel unable to breathe. Again, when actually falling — instead of imagining falling — difficulty breathing does not take place.
Nor is the feeling of being sweaty or cold and clammy the feeling of falling.
None of those physical feelings confirm that the plane is falling. None correspond with the physical sensations presence when falling. And yet, these feelings are used to ‘prove’ that the (imagined) falling is real.
Why does imagination have such power, more power than reason or reality? Could it be part of our attempt to be in control?
Is It Connected With No Longer Knowing How To Pretend
Remember when you were a kid and played ‘pretend’? One kid would say to another, ‘Let’s play pretend.’ And then the question was, shall we leave the real world and enter the world of pretend, or shall we play in the real world. We might say, ‘No, let’s play baseball.’ Or, ‘No, let’s go ride our bikes.’ But if there wasn’t anything interesting enough in the real world to do, we would say, ‘OK, what shall we pretend?’ That seems to be the only time kids use the word ‘shall’.
It was easy to know whether what you were pretending was real or not. We never lost track of what was ‘real’ and what was ‘pretend’ when we were kids. Why do have have trouble knowing the difference now?
Did we lose the ability to know the difference between real and pretend? When you examine it, imagination is nothing more than ‘playing pretend’. It is ‘pretend thinking’.
Perhaps we lost the ability to pretend when life became too serious. Perhaps, confronting the seriousness of life, pretending stopped being fun.
Maybe this will help. The next time you begin feeling anxious about flying (or anything), ask yourself to pretend that what you are imagining is true. If you intentially pretend, you easily can tell the difference between that and reality.
Then stop pretending. Imagine that what you imagine is really true, and see if you can still tell the difference or not. I believe that by pushing what you imagine over into intentional pretending, the difference between your ‘pretend thinking’ and reality will be clear.
Next time you fly, ask yourself, ‘Shall I pretend, or not?’ If you make it a conscious decision, you’ll find it easier to know what is — and what isn’t — real?’