Quite a few of my professional colleagues have asked me over the years why I blog and give away from information and acquired knowledge for free.
I was one of the first psychologists to blog (as well as have an online presence) starting in 2004, with my fear of flying blog. I stopped several years ago, but recommenced because I continued to see so much misinformation bring trotted out about flying and anxiety, especially with new developments in neuroscience leaving labs and becoming part of daily discourse.
But also if I wanted to encourage my colleagues to have their own online presence, including social media, I needed to once more do the walk if I was to do the talk (i.e., give workshops on new technologies).
With the advantage of the Wayback website I was able to re-assemble a lot of my original writings, which I must say still stand up well, ten years later. Here’s what the Wayback website reveals (click to enlarge):
Here’s an example which is from the landing page of my original blog, from June, 2014. It still very much applies to the current website you’re now visiting:
“Why I started the weblog…
I’m not sure how you got here – perhaps by accident, maybe you looked for me, perhaps you used a search engine like Google, but however the case, I’m glad you got here. And I hope if you want to fly better, or help someone you know fly better, you’ll be glad you got here too!
But is this site about Fearful flying?
Yes it is!
It’s one person’s effort to sort out the fact from fiction from fear, in an internet-age bursting with information, not all of it accurate, helpful or… free! So I made this blog to offer just that – accurate free useful information presented in a fun and interesting way.
I want you to know too that people come to see me, in person or via email, for all sorts of reasons related to their flying. And my approach to helping people with their flying is to help them become better or wiser flyers – hence my business name, Flightwise. In other words, if you were to consult with me, I would help you go beyond reducing your fears, and to learn to do better for yourself when you fly. Becoming a wise flyer is about more than anxiety reduction (although many people would be happy for just that!). It’s also about taking care of yourself when flying and maximising your chances of enjoying the experience, as distant as that might sound right now.
How can you use my Fear of Flying Weblog?
The brief answer is: anyway you wish!
You can jump and skip about however you wish – that’s the essence of a blog, as well as its connections to other sites. You can leap about and pickup tidbits of information all over the blog – I don’t write in a particular sequence or order. I did this on purpose because not all fears are created equal or the same way. What makes sense to one person, will be irrelevant to another. So click on whatever link seems to offer something to you. Some of the links will take you somewhere else in this blog, and others will take you to another site by opening another browser page – that way you can easily return here to pick up the story where you left off. The links are always underlined like this. (Be aware that I am adding new links all the time, so come back to favourite blog entries to re-read and see if I’ve updated links).
The links generally relate to the paragraph or entry in which they are embedded. Occasionally, my warped sense of humour (one of the important traits of fear of flying treatment, by the way) will get the better of me, and you will be transported somewhere quite removed from the subject at hand. Other times, the reference or link will be quite clear. However, no matter where the link takes you, please do not consider it an unconditional recommendation on my part. I will rarely if ever recommend a product or service in a link unless I myself use it, or have first hand knowledge of it. The link is there for illustrative purposes only – take from the link’s content what you wish.
(Disclaimer: Some links will take you to a service or product for which I may potentially earn associate credits. I would direct you to such links whether or not such an arrangement was possible or in place. As always with any website, caveat emptor. Trust in my recommendations will hopefully be earnt as you explore the links, and my small engagement in the free enterprise system (to fund my next flight – really!) will not offend you.)
Also this blog by design will always have the current section you’re reading (“Why I started this blog”) top-most, and if you scroll down you will see all my entries in the order I wrote them. Blogging usually has it the other way around, with the most current thoughts the first you see when you come to the page from an external site or bookmark. Well, this is not an ordinary blog. I would prefer a new reader to come to the site at this current point, gain some orientation, then go play with the links at their liberty. Apart from that, as one correspondent wrote to me, the blog is an “organic”, living, breathing work, and I will be as interested where it goes as the next person!
The nature of the blog is for me to add things that interest me, because I think it may interest you by dint of it being useful, adding value to your ability to change, or simply being humorous or intriguing. Scroll up and check the Categories section in the panel over on page left to see how I’ve divided up the blog, and keep looking out for changes. There is a black panel under the Categories area which will allow you to be notified be email each time I make an addition to the weblog, so you won’t miss out on anything interesting or newsworthy. Speaking of which…
Also note the “In the News” category. Here is where I will be adding material of commercial aviation interest, as if you were a regular better flyer, interested but unafraid of flying. Start reading about normal aviation happenings now, rather than when you feel 100% ready. How will you ever know anyway? That’s a serious question, by the way!
Most blogs contain an area for feedback or blog linking from readers to be displayed. You can do the same here by clicking the highlighted comment link, below, to post a response. Feel free to direct any questions to me here.
So why do a weblog about Fear of Flying?
Weblogs are different than static webpages. They more represent a currency of thinking, much more here-and-now compared to a billboard/shop-front approach. It is more akin to a dialogue between reader and writer.
It means that I can update readers when new information is available which I consider helpful. This may be research-based as published in scholarly journals, new programs I find out about, newspaper or television stories, or discoveries I make on flights with my own patients. Or what they tell me worked for them when we meet up again.
If incidents occur which may challenge readers in their progress, I can immediately update the weblog as information comes to hand. Mind you, don’t expect me to keep a log of incidents – there are plenty of websites that will do that, as well as the media. Trouble is, reading them is usually not helpful to clients or readers, as they merely add to the quantity of distorted or inaccurate “information”. Even when accurate, it’s the sort of information that needs to be carefully digested through a “knowledge” filter.
Most fearful flyers have knowledge filters that tend to actively bring in catastrophic information, and exclude reasonable or testable data. In other words, do you know which information is helpful versus a hindrance? The “filter” mechanism is usually quite powerful, and as time goes on the filters tend to get more restrictive, keeping more accurate information out, and letting more distorted information in… especially as you fly more often. That sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but explains why some people claim to get worse the more they fly, not better.
There are even more elaborate yet easy to understand explanations for this which I’ll discuss in another section of the weblog. (If you must know now, you can go here.)
But for now, welcome aboard, I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I intend to, and start poking about at the various links, stories and opinions I have to share. There are many others who will write about fear of flying, but so far this is the only psychologists’ blog in the world on the subject. Enjoy!”
So there you have it. From June, 2004, when most psychologists were still trying to understand the internet, much less blogging! Psychologists who see patients face to face know there are always many more potential patients who would do well to receive even a few sessions, and there are now competing elements in the community for those same patients who can now access online treatments in Australia such as BeyondBlue’s NewAccess program.
Personally, I see such programs not as competition, but giving prospective patients a good start, something where if it suits I can follow up with more intensive work in CBT, Virtual reality-based therapy, and challenging exposure work which going online can address but not adequately treat – not yet anyway! These programs, and the apps which are being developed for smartphone and tablet device will always be of help for a solid proportion of community members experiencing low grade depression and anxiety, perhaps even over a lifetime course.
It’s here I apply a Rule of Thirds I have been using for a long time in all kinds of ways:
1. A third of people will experience a troubling depressive or anxiety episode from which they will recover on their own because of good resources within and around them. Their issues are not permanent, are imminently recoverable, and represent the “stuff” of life. These people have never learnt how to make things worse by covering up their distress with medications, alcohol or other drugs, nor received poor advice from well-meaning others (or at least, have known to ignore it!)
2. Another third of people will do well via low grade counselling, self-help materials, religious beliefs and the counsel of priests, rabbis, and imams etc., and nowadays online self-directed help and apps., including wearable devices which can accurately measure and offer feedback and guidance – a mental health equivalent of something like fitness app, Couch to 5K, below. (This screenshot is taken from the UK NHS website – click to enlarge).
3. Some people in (2) will discover they are really commencing a journey, and would prefer more intensive one-to-one or group work with a clinical psychologist. The psychologist may well include the apps and self-help online sources to do some of the “heavy lifting” and monitoring but these tools are best seen as augmenting the value of face to face (or video-conferenced) work with a professional behaviour change expert. After the work is concluded, these patients may well find the work described in (2) will help deal with any returning issues and help them maintain a steady trajectory towards full recovery.
So there is my Rule of Thirds, and why I am happy to give away my information. It does not put me out of business, but I do believe paying things forward with the diffusion of psychological knowledge via new technologies has its own form of karma.
I strongly encourage my fellow psychologists to do more than construct a static webpage, but develop one that is current, active, challenging and helps the community cut through so much of the misinformation that’s floating about in Google University and which goes unchallenged.
Hopefully, I’ve answered the original question: “Why a fear of flying blog?”