In February 2006, I received an email from Steve Varatharajan, who lives in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. He said he planned to be in New York on business in March and wanted to register for my Level 1 EFT training class.
What Steve didn’t mention is that he was terribly afraid to fly. I learned this at the very end of the workshop. Fortunately, Steve had a few minutes to spare after the class ended, so we did some tapping together. When I asked how anxious he felt just thinking about going to the airport, he said that right there, sitting in our empty classroom, his anxiety was at a 9 or 10. We tapped on the things he mentioned:
Even though the whole thing makes me nervous.... Even though I’m paralyzed with fear.... Even though my heart is pounding.... Even though I feel as though I can’t move.... Even though I feel trapped....
… I deeply and completely accept myself, I forgive myself for reacting this way, I love and bless myself, I forgive the airplane and everything associated with flying, and I choose to be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to relax and feel comfortable, to release my fear, to just let go, and to enjoy the experience of flying.
Steve’s anxiety quickly fell to a zero, so that he couldn’t conjure up any fear or apprehension at all. Having spent the day tapping with 55 enthusiastic fellow students, he knew how to apply EFT when he got to the airport, got on the plane, took off, and completed his long flight home. He agreed that if he felt at all anxious, he would simply tap.
But when Steve arrived at the airport, his fear so thoroughly overcame him that he fell straight into his well-established pattern. Heart pounding, he got to his seat, strapped himself in, and didn’t move until the plane landed.
Considering the effort it required on his part, Steve’s fellow students and I were thrilled when he flew back to New York for our two-day Level 2 training at the end of April.
This time, Steve would be one of our practice cases, although the thought of working on this problem so overwhelmed and intimidated him that he put it off until the very end of the second day. With only an hour to spare, he came to the front of the room, sat down, and strapped himself in with an imaginary seat belt. Looking serious and stoic, he said that yes, his heart was pounding, and he felt just about ill.
In reply to our questions, he explained that as soon as he got on a plane, he pulled the seat belt tight, faced straight ahead, closed his eyes, and didn’t move, praying that he would survive the flight and that it would soon be over. His flights to and from Kuala Lumpur usually stop in Copenhagen. These are long trips, and he agreed that it would be much better for his health (and his ability to utilize EFT) if he drank water to avoid dehydration, got up from time to time, stretched, walked around a little, ate lunch or dinner, and used the lavatory, but he said these activities were simply impossible. As soon as he sat down, he entered a catatonic state from which he aroused himself only to refuse whatever meal or beverage the flight attendants offered. He never sat at a window seat and never read, watched a movie, listened to music, or did anything but maintain his frozen position and wait.
Fortunately, his assistant had mentioned what might be Steve’s core issue at the end of an email she sent verifying his schedule. She said that she prayed Steve would be able to overcome his fear of flying because he was then on a long and dangerous bus trip in the mountains, a trip that would be unnecessary if only he could take a plane instead. “But he is afraid that if he flies, the plane will crash and his body will never be found,” she wrote. “That is what he’s most afraid of.”
I asked Steve if this was true, that his greatest fear was dying in a plane crash with his body never being found. He confirmed that this was indeed a terrifying thought.
I stood beside Steve and tapped on the karate chop point of his right hand with one hand and on the top of his head with the other. We tapped for:
Even though I’m afraid that the plane will explode, it will just blow up, it will break into a thousand pieces, and maybe my body will break into a thousand pieces, too, I deeply and completely accept myself. Even though my body or all of its thousand parts may burn up, be vaporized, or be eaten by rats or swallowed by sharks so my body is never found and I’m lost not once but twice, I deeply and completely accept myself. Even though I’m terrified to fly because airplanes are instruments of death, they fall out of the sky all the time, every day, in fact several times a day, and even though they are always crashing into things and blowing up or exploding or falling apart, I would love to be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is for me to look objectively at the whole business of flying, to accept the statistics that show hundreds and thousands of flights taking off and landing every day, millions of passengers safely going from Point A to Point B, all around the world, perfectly safely, most of them even enjoying themselves. I realize that I can enjoy myself, too.
While I continued to tap on his hand and head, Steve used his left hand to tap on his EFT points, starting with “problem” reminder phrases that changed at each point, such as afraid, crash, burn, body lost, never found, dangerous, heart pounding, don’t want to fly, can’t fly, feel sick. On the last round, we switched to positive statements like flying is easy, piece of cake, quite safe, convenient, fast, enjoyable, easy, I can do this....
Steve had previously said that he had had this fear all his life, so I wondered whether something terrible might have happened on a plane when he was a small child. But when I asked when he flew for the first time, he said, “When I was 18.” I asked, “Where did you fly?” and he said, “To Australia.” “How was the trip?” “It was wonderful!” He then described a happy vacation that he enjoyed in every way. “And did you enjoy the flight home?” “Very much.” “Did you have a window seat?” “Of course!” “What did you see out the window?” “Beautiful clouds! Beautiful sky! It was very lovely.”
I asked, “When did you suddenly become afraid to fly?”
Steve explained, “I woke up one night from a terrible nightmare. It was a very bad dream. In the dream, my plane crashed and my body disappeared. It was never found. I was afraid to fly from that minute on.”
“Was there anything else that happened, anything that helped you stay afraid?”
“Yes, at about the same time I saw two very scary American movies in which planes crashed. The dream and the movies came together in my mind, and I have been afraid to fly ever since.”
So we tapped on how:
Even though I watched some scary movies in which planes crashed and even though I had a terrible nightmare in which my own plane crashed and my body disappeared forever, I deeply and completely accept myself, I love and forgive myself, I forgive my mind for dwelling on such damaging thoughts, I forgive my mind and body for making me a prisoner of something that happened only in my imagination and in the imagination of Hollywood film producers....
The truth is that in real life, in events that I actually experienced when I was 18 years old, I flew to Australia and had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed flying. Flying was a wonderful adventure. It got me to Australia in a hurry, and there I was in a technological marvel, looking at the ocean from high above, watching beautiful clouds that looked like whipped cream, like mashed potatoes, in lovely contrast to the bright blue sky and the deep blue ocean. I had a wonderful flight to Australia and a wonderful flight home. In fact, I have enjoyed many wonderful flights. Those are things that actually happened, they are facts, they are the truth, and my brilliant mind deeply recognizes the difference between fact and fiction. My brilliant mind fully recognizes the difference between things that happened to me in real life and things that happened in American movies and in a dream. And now, through the power of EFT brain-replacement surgery, I am removing the made-up fictional memories that have kept me prisoner all these years, and I am replacing those memories with actual, true, real memories that I myself experienced when I flew on airplanes and had a wonderful time...
Steve tapped his EFT points saying problem reminder phrases like scary movie, bad dream, frightening thoughts, afraid to fly, can’t move, paralyzed with fear, etc., and then solution reminder phrases on the next round like I’m 18, life is wonderful, life is an adventure, I love airplanes, love to fly, what a great time, I can’t wait, looking forward to it, I’m a happy international air traveler.
At the end of this round of tapping, Steve said he felt terrific. To help verify his transformation, I asked him to think about his next flight home from New York to Kuala Lumpur. He said would be leaving from Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. I asked him close his eyes and imagine the trip. How did he feel about going to the airport? “I feel excited!” he said.
“Now you’re getting close to the terminal. How do you feel?” “I feel excited!”
“You’re getting close enough to smell the jet fuel. Smell that kerosene?” The room erupted in laughter because Steve’s nose twitched like a rabbit’s. “Yes!” he said, “I feel excited!”
“Now you’re checking your luggage. How do you feel?” “I feel excited!”
“Now you’re handing your ticket to the ticket agent. How do you feel?” “I want a window seat!” Tapping all the while, we walked Steve through boarding, sitting down, looking out the window before leaving the terminal and while taxiing to the runway, then the sights and sounds and sensations of takeoff. He was fine every step of the way.
“Now you’re up at cruising altitude, miles above the ocean on your way to Copenhagen, and you’re sitting at the window with a beautiful view. What kind of clouds do you see?” “I’m not looking at clouds, I’m watching the stewardess!”
Steve left us laughing, and we all hoped his results would last, but we didn’t know for sure until his assistant sent the following email, which I forwarded to the group.
“Steve got back to Malaysia on Monday,” she wrote. “He called me from the airport very excited and asked me to write to you immediately. He was rushing off to some remote village to do his volunteer work. This is what he said. He said that he was totally comfortable flying, drinking about 10 cups of water and juice, and walking to the lavatory about four times without any problem. He had two meals and enjoyed looking at the girls. He also watched a movie. Please reserve a seat for Steve at the Level 3 training. He can’t wait to come back!”
Needless to say, Steve was a big hit at our three-day Level 3 training in May. He reported that his only problem during flying was a feeling of discomfort during turbulence, which we would tap for, but first, Steve addressed the class and explained his previous phobia and its symptoms, what we had tapped on, and how he had felt since the Level 2 workshop.
“On this last trip,” he said, “I didn’t go through Copenhagen as I usually do. Instead, the plane stopped in Dubai. Throughout the flight, I felt relaxed and happy. I realized that you were right about an airplane being a wonderful, fascinating machine. I couldn’t stop looking around. I got up many times, I drank lots of water, I ate lunch, I moved around the cabin, I kept noticing the most interesting things –“ Steve peered at the ceiling and at the students in the front row to demonstrate – “and every single person seemed so interesting to me, every piece of carry-on luggage, every overhead bin, every window, even the pillows, it was a whole fascinating world of things I had never seen before. What I didn’t think about was that I must look Middle-Eastern to most of the passengers, and I was behaving in a really suspicious manner! The flight attendants were beginning to look at me with worried expressions. Finally one of them asked me to please sit down!”
We worked on Steve’s discomfort with turbulence, comparing it to dizzying amusement park rides that he had not enjoyed as a child and focusing on his worry that the plane’s wings would fall off or the plane would simply break apart. In a short time he was tapping about how airplanes are engineering marvels, they’re built for turbulence, I’m safe and secure, I can actually relax and enjoy turbulence, I can even read a magazine and not be bothered....
I few days later I received an email from Steve, who wrote, “I got back to Malaysia on the 8th. As usual, there was bad turbulence over the Bay of Bengal. EFT worked. I felt very confident and very much at peace within. In fact, when I boarded the plane at JFK in New York, I was silently hoping for turbulence to see if I had been totally freed of the bondage. Yes, I am free and feel as though I have received salvation.
Everything on the flight went well. I ate and drank and danced my way to the lavatory. It was wonderful to be able to fly stress-free once again.”
I have to admit that when Steve first described his fear of flying, I didn’t know how much improvement EFT could produce in a classroom far from the nearest airport. But, as Gary Craig always reminded us, try it and see what happens, so that’s what we did.
As a bonus, Steve stayed after the Level 3 workshop ended and we were able to work on his fear of dogs. The workshop was a fund-raiser for the Hudson Valley Visiting Pet Program, and our program’s director, Dolores Schaub, and I had our dogs with us. She had two Doberman Pinschers, one nine years old and the other a puppy, and my black Labrador Retriever was then two. We let the dogs run on the field outside our classroom, and when we came back in, they were happy and tired. Steve and I were soon tapping about how even though he was badly bit on the legs by two stray dogs when he was nine years old, and he’s been afraid of dogs ever since, he can accept and understand that not every dog is out to bite him. In fact some dogs work in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. They obviously have to be gentle, quiet, affectionate, and calm. Soon he was looking at Chelsea and Chloe, both of whom were registered therapy dogs, and at Luna, who was a therapy dog in training, with new eyes. He petted their ears, stroked their shoulders, and gave them treats. Steve had already won all our prizes for the EFT student who traveled the longest distance, but he said his best prizes of all were overcoming his fear of flying and being able to relax and enjoy the company of dogs. And to think that he accomplished all this just by tapping on his head!