Russell Hemmings
Russell Hemmings helped Rohan - he can help you

Grounded by a fear of airline food



When you meet Rohan Patel, he strikes you as a confident and very outgoing young man. So it’s surprising to learn that from the age of 10, just the very thought of getting on a plane caused him such overwhelming anxiety that he started being physically sick two days before he was actually due to fly. In fact, his anxiety was so acute that he would collapse in the airport and have to be carried by his parents in a state of pure terror onto the plane.


Originally from India, the 15 year old has lived in UAE his whole life. As a family, the Patel’s enjoy all that life has to offer and international travel was very much part of their everyday life, until Rohan developed his acute, but unexplained fear. His parents Karishma and Minoroosh were at a total loss. All they knew was that they had tried everything to convince Rohan that flying is the safest form of travel, but to no avail. The problem was really beginning to curtail their lives. Family holidays abroad were virtually impossible as they would involve putting Rohan through such a unbearably traumatic experience that it just didn’t seem worth it.

“I couldn’t understand it,” Karishma recalls. “ In all other areas of his life Rohan was so adventurous and outgoing. The contrast was immense. I mean here was a boy who thought nothing of quad biking or parascending. In fact he relished the challenge, but the minute he had to face flying he would become a physical and emotional wreck. For any mother, seeing their child in such a state and not being able to help in any way is so deeply upsetting. The very few times we did manage to get him onto a plane, he would be constantly throwing up, he wouldn’t touch anything like the blanket or headphones and we even had to develop our own sign language because he was so distressed he couldn’t actually speak.”

Rohan continues, “ At the time I had no idea why I felt like that at all. I vividly remember one of the rare trips I took with my parents was to the USA. Like any other kid, I was so desperate to go that I was determined to get on that flight. A couple of days before we were due to fly the anxiety started. I couldn’t control how I felt. Waves of panic would wash over me and I started being sick. In the airport, it felt like I was going crazy. I was so weak and distressed that my Dad actually had to carry me to the plane. If I hadn’t been in such a state, I would have died from embarrassment!”

One of the worst things for Rohan was that his fear started to prevent him from enjoying the opportunities that were being offered at school. “My friends used to beg me to go away on the school trips with them, but I always refused. I couldn’t bear for them to see me being sick and panicky. I thought they would be disgusted by it and I would feel ashamed and humiliated. They knew me as Rohan the kid that would try anything and I didn’t want them to know the secret me that was out of control. It was just easier to say no and stay at home.”

His parents didn’t know where to turn to get help until one day, quite by chance Karishma encountered a story in Friday Magazine about how Russell Hemmings had completely cured one woman’s debilitating panic attacks for good with his Freedom From Fear programme. The story really resonated with her as she knew that Rohan had experienced many of the same feelings related to flying. There was no question in her mind that if anyone could help, it would be Russell, but Rohan wasn’t so sure.

“I have to admit, when mum told me about Russell, I was willing to go along with it, but deep down I was totally skeptical! For one thing, I didn’t think anyone could do anything to help me. That this was it. I was going to be stuck with this fear for the rest of my life. I suppose I had resigned myself to it really. Also, I didn’t think anybody stood a chance of hypnotizing me. I was too aware and with it! I couldn’t have been more wrong!”

From the very first meeting Rohan had with Russell all of his preconceptions dissolved. “Russell completely opened my eyes to what was happening to me. For years I had been told I was scared of flying. It seemed ridiculous that I could cheerfully strap myself into a parachute and become airborne, but I could do the same on a plane. The minute I started telling Russell about my experiences, he knew exactly what I was talking about. It was incredible. For the first time in years someone was really understanding what I said and how I felt. He’s an amazing guy as he can just create this bond between you instantly. He made me feel completely at ease and I put my full trust in him, because I truly felt here was a man who could help me.”

Russell, whose Freedom From Fear programme has been a success all over the world, takes up the story. “Rohan presented himself as a boy of total contrast. He radiated confidence in all other areas of his life. To me it just didn’t square that he would be afraid of flying. I knew it had to be something else and that I had to peel back the layers of his experiences to get to the heart of the matter. In the cognitive behavioural sessions we had, I used a technique I have pioneered in combination therapy called Socratic Questioning. This enabled me to tease out what was really happening to Rohan when he even contemplated stepping on a plane. This is so crucial when dealing with any sort of anxiety. Often a sufferer will not be able to pinpoint why they feel as they do, so before any hypnotherapy takes place it is essential to get them to unearth the true source of their fear.”

So what was it that was causing Rohan such distress? Well amazingly, using his specialist techniques, Russell first uncovered that Rohan was scared of the smell of airline food. He then identified that what Rohan’s actual fear was: he was scared of being sick on a plane and the first time he had been sick he had made the connection in his brain between that and the smell.

“The brain sometimes makes powerful connections as a method of protection,” explains Russell. “In Rohan’s mind, it was the smell of the food that made him sick and his impulse to run kicked in every time he smelt it.”

Once Russell had pinned down the root cause, he was able to achieve something even more remarkable using hypnotherapy techniques. “ I knew that in order to cure Rohan, I would have to break the connection between the smell of the food and sickness. I asked him what his favourite smell was and he brought a bottle of his own aftershave to one of our sessions. By harnessing the power of his sub-conscious, I was able to swap out the smell of the food for the smell of the aftershave, so that whenever he stepped on a plane, that’s the smell he would get.”

Rohan’s skepticism melted away and after the very first session he says he felt an instant surge of confidence. “Being hypnotized by Russell was a wonderful feeling and not how I imagined it at all. It’s not scary one bit, it’s a really pleasant feeling of total relaxation. You are always fully aware of everything that is happening. It’s just like being in a wonderful daydream and you end up feeling refreshed and positive.”

Rohan was most surprised at how Russell could relate to him. “He’s just got this special way with young people. He can connect on a level and doesn’t talk down to you at all. From the first time I met him he was clear and open about the whole process and was keen for me to understand that we were working together for a positive solution. He does set ground rules and give you homework, but that’s exactly what I needed. That framework makes you committed to the whole process and he guides you through it like a mentor.”

After a couple of sessions, Rohan says he was more open to the idea of getting on a plane and in the final two sessions, alongside the hypnotherapy, Russell taught him a range of strategies and techniques to help him cope. A total of four sessions completed the therapy and Rohan was then faced with the ultimate challenge; to get on a plane and get through a flight calmly.

“The first flight I took was straight after the therapy. I was fine in the airport, but when I stepped on the plane I could sense some of those old feelings coming to the surface again. Straightaway, I put what Russell had taught me into practice and regained control. The strangest thing was, whenever they brought the food out all I could smell was my aftershave. It was astonishing. Russell had told me that would happen, but to experience it was mind-blowing. It did mean that I just didn’t get those thoughts of being sick in my head. I even ate on the plane for the first time in six years!”

Since then, Rohan has taken flight many times and his parents are both relieved and overjoyed at the transformation. “It was like a big boulder had been lifted off all of our shoulders,” says Karishma. “When your child has an issue, any issue, it has a massive impact on family life. What Russell does is offer the whole package. He doesn’t just treat the child, he embraces the needs of the whole family. He allowed us all to see the issues clearly and that meant we could support Rohan in the most effective way. I would recommend any parent who is finding it difficult to understand why their child is behaving in a certain way to go and see Russell.”

And what does the future hold for Rohan now he has conquered his fear? “Russell’s Freedom From Fear programme has opened up the world for me. It was always my ambition to travel and see as much of the world as possible and now I can! I can’t thank Russell enough!”


I can help you because you know I understand. To book a consultation in Dubai, please call my team on 055 286 7275.


BACK TO MAIN NEWS PAGE