When Fear Dissolved in the Midst of Turbulence

mocha moments

I would never say that I’m afraid of flying but I don’t like turbulence. Who does?

As I sat in the airport this morning, awaiting the arrival of my flight, rain started to fall. By the time I ascended the plane stairs, the winds were blowing fiercely. I heard the flight attendant say something like “feels as if I’m on a London flight!” Get the picture? My immediate response was a fervent prayer for a smooth-ish ride over to Trinidad from Tobago. I had a window seat towards the rear. A young lady sat next to me.

Takeoff was normal but as we ascended I gazed out the window and saw the thickest set of clouds ever. For me clouds = turbulence. Someone told me that it’s not the clouds – it’s the wind. Makes no difference to me…I adopted a very tense posture, anticipating being uncomfortable.

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3 minutes into the flight…there it was – the anticipated “shake up”. I pressed my body into my seat and waited for more of the same. I was tense and scared.

That’s when the young lady next to me grabbed my arm. That gesture interrupted my fear pattern and I looked at her, assuring her that “It’s going to be over just now. We’re just going through the clouds that brought the rain…it’s going to be OK.”

And then I relaxed!

Gazing out the window I started trying to name the clouds I was seeing, attempting to recall Geography lessons past and then I saw a rainbow. I was calm. No more fear. Where did it go?

Daniel Goleman, in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships says:

WHEN WE FOCUS ON OURSELVES, OUR WORLD CONTRACTS AS OUR PROBLEMS AND PREOCCUPATIONS LOOM LARGE. BUT WHEN WE FOCUS ON OTHERS, OUR WORLD EXPANDS. OUR OWN PROBLEMS DRIFT TO THE PERIPHERY OF THE MIND AND SO SEEM SMALLER, AND WE INCREASE OUR CAPACITY FOR CONNECTION ― OR COMPASSIONATE ACTION.

As I turned my focus from my own fear to calming the woman sitting next to me, my own fear diminished. I was able to connect AND be compassionate.

How often do we get so “us-focused” that we lose sight of everything else that’s happening around us?

Tony Robbins says that there are 6 human needs. The need for:

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

We usually meet the first 4 but 5 and 6 are elusive unless we are intentional about our growth and being of service. Without growth and contribution – our lives remain empty.

At the end of the flight, my neighbor looked at me…smiled…and said “Thank You.”

In her head…I helped her.

In mine…she helped me.

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Image from http://www.fearlessflight.com
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