After a Crash: The Worst Mistake a Fearful Flier Can Make

Imagining what people felt on the doomed airliner can vicariously traumatize.

Posted Jun 01, 2016

The mistake is not obvious. The mistake is imagining what being on the doomed airliner felt like to the passengers. 

After 9/11, I worked with people who were in the World Trade Center and with people who watched on TV. Those inside the building knew they might be about to die. But, instead of imagining what it was like to die, they focused on finding a way out. 

The treatment of those inside the WTC was brief. They returned to flying as before their 9/11 experience. Here is the story of a person who was inside the building:

If was different for people watching on TV. Treating them was difficult. Sure that being inside the building was unimaginable, no horror they could come up with was enough. How can you imagine the unimaginable? If you can imagine it, you've come up short. There’s the Catch 22. Imagination needed to be pumped up, somehow, to simulate unimaginability.

In their search to experience the unimaginable, the TV viewer assumed what those in the building felt was beyond human ability to deal with. They must have been overwhelmed. They must have gone crazy. They must have been out of control.

Trying to imagine the unimaginable releases massive amounts of stress hormones. The stress hormones cause the person to lose their ability to critique their thinking, and their ability to distinguish imagination from reality.

And there is the problem: first, the TV viewer creates a monster of an experience. Second, the stress hormones it triggers makes them believe the monster experience exists. It lives, breathes, is after them, and will swallow them up. Vicariously traumatized by their own imagination, they create their personal "Steven King of The Mind.” To understand how imagination can be made real by “psychic equivalence,” see

Currently, instead of dealing with 9/11, anxious fliers are vicariously traumatizing themselves with EgyptAir. Doing so is easy. They mentally replay what they did with Air France 447 and Malaysia 370. As anxious fliers create their imaginary experience of what it was like to be on those planes, completely unnecessarily vicarious traumatization takes place that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to fly. Once self-traumatized, the monster experience they created is lurking, waiting for them to board a plane.

This is how a fearful flier lets reason fly out of the window. I present this to you for your consideration. Now that you understand how it is done, do you wish to vicariously traumatize yourself, or not?

If you have already vicariously traumatized yourself, can you rewind the tape? Can you recognize what you have done, and realize it is all in your very own “Steven King of The Mind” and nowhere else? What you imagine didn’t happen in the WTC. What you imagine didn’t happen on EgyptAir, or Air France 447, or Malaysia 370. It happened - and happens - only inside your mind. It is not real.

When you start thinking about a doomed airliner, the stress hormones you produce tend to keep you focused on that subject. Break away from that vicious cycle with the video at this link.

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