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How I Battled Claustrophobia (and other life applications)

Cheryl and I were once on a long airplane flight. It wasn’t the longest flight we had been on by far, but it seemed longer than it was. We managed to get the last seat in the back corner of the plane. There was no window, no reclining to the seat and limited leg room. I realize that’s typical these days for most seats, but this was the worst seat I ever had on an airplane and I’ve flown a bunch.

To make matters worse, the guy in front of me reclined his full 3 inches and wouldn’t sit still the entire flight.

I already knew I was semi claustrophobic, but this flight confirmed it. I thought I was going to die. I allowed myself to be psyched into a frizzy of miserableness. Cheryl tried to calm me, but I was restless.

I know it sounds extreme, and like I am a big baby, but it became that big of a deal for me at the time. I had to do something. (Even funnier was that I read a book about a WWII POW survivor on this trip. Talk about surviving – I am a sissy!)

So, how did I survive?

And why this post?

Because the way I turned an uncomfortable situation into a manageable situation was a lesson for me for other life situations. The kind that last longer than an airplane flight.

Here’s what I did:

Thought about destination. We were getting out of town. We were going somewhere exciting. It was a vacation. Better times were ahead.

Reminded myself this was temporary. I knew this would pass. It wasn’t my permanent home or situation.

Redirected my thoughts to something that I enjoyed thinking about. (Such as writing a blog post.) And planning a new strategy. And studying my Bible.

It made the trip more pleasant and helped me arrive in a better mood. Cheryl was happy about that.

But, as I said, it helped me process how I respond in other claustrophobic times of life.

When you feel stuck or like the walls are closing in around you – when you are miserable in your current circumstances –

Here’s what you do:

Look at the Destination – Think about where you’re going – maybe in your work or in life. Likely better days are ahead. If you’re a believer – a follower of Christ – you are living with some promises. But if we head ourselves in the right direction, and make wise and strategic decisions, things will likely improve with time.

(If you’re not on the right path – redirect is your step here.)

Remember the Temporary – Remember life has ups and downs. These days shall pass. good and bad seasons are a part of life.

And, as Paul said, even if troubles last a lifetime, these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs” anything of this world.

Change your thoughts – In many ways we are what we think about – especially in our emotions. Many times what we think about determines how we feel.

Again, Paul said, “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things”. Maybe we need to think better thoughts.

Often when we have a proper perspective we can sit back, relax and better enjoy the flight.

Just for fun, what’s the most miserable flight you’ve ever been on and what made it so?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Tina says:

    After a fantastic trip to NZ we were exhausted from all the stuff we packed into our 12 days but now had to get home…our 1st leg from Christchurch to Auckland was likely going to be cancelled due to incoming fog and since we were at the airport early we got bumped up to the earlier flight..great! but we had planned on lunch and now I had a headache from hunger by the time we got to Auckland 1-/12 hours later, but at least we could catch our 12 hour flight to Los Angeles. Anyone who has flown near New Zealand knows that there is about 3 hours of turbulence into and out of Auckland. As I am unable to sleep on planes very much, this was just torture after being tired to begin with. By the time we landed in LA, I felt crippled, my back was out of whack. and now our LA to NJ trip was delayed, and delayed, and oh wait….the airline has found us a plane … in another terminal, leaving in….20 minutes! run, run, run to another terminal to catch a flight…AND since we had been delaying having dinner since our plane was going to be late, so that we could get our bodies on a more NJ time table, now we had to skip finding a meal to catch a flight that served no food (although we were able to buy snacks). So we land in NJ, and our transport shuttle to the off-site parking lot takes 45 minutes to show up at 1:30 am after a bazillion hour trip… And I'm crippled, starving, and exhausted,. but very grateful for the opportunity to have been to this fantastic country, and visited my daughter who was studying abroad. If it weren't for the time and method it takes to get there, I'd go back to NZ in a heartbeat. It truly is one of God's most beautiful creations…but the travel is torture…

  • Guest says:

    I get claustrophobic too. You’ll never find me sitting in a backseat of a Mini Cooper.

    One thing I am learning is that God is full of surprises. I would never have dreamed my life as it is now. Some situations may make us feel stuck, but you never know what God is up to until He reveals it.

  • dewymoss says:

    I'm a little more than semi-claustrophobic. I panic in the MRI machine. Yeah, that kind of claustrophobia. Anyway, my worst flight was on one of the smaller jets. I like the window seat, thus, I felt trapped by the family of screaming, wiggly children. This family sat next to and behind me. The man in front of me reclined his seat to where it was nearly in my lap. His companion was coughing uncontrollably without the courtesy of covering her mouth. My head was pounding. The air was thick. I was miserable. I managed to survive but I wasn't happy at all.