Captain Tom Bunn L.C.S.W: Therapist & Founder, SOAR Program

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Bio:

Starting in 1980 with the original fear of flying program at Pan Am, therapist and airline captain Tom Bunn, L.C.S.W., has dedicated over 30 years advancing the treatment of flight phobia. His SOAR program designed to automatically control claustrophobia, anxiety and panic when flying can be found at http://www.fearofflying.com

What do I do best?

Open up the whole world for people who find it difficult - or impossible - to fly. I’ve focused exclusively on this problem for years. Now, no matter how doubtful a client may be, flying can be made not only possible but comfortable. It’s not just about knowing that flying is remarkably safe; it is also about learning to be comfortable even though not in control and not able to escape.

What makes me the best version of myself?

This reminds me of what someone said about becoming a surgeon.A person can’t make it through the training unless they are obsessive-compulsive. Then, to be human enough enjoy doing what they have learned to do, it takes years of personal development.

What are my aspirations?

I still want to completely break the code on controlling anxiety, fear and panic. I used to be obsessed about proving something. I don’t think anyone who wasn’t obsessed would risk flying fighters and racing cars. Looking back at it, it looks pretty stupid, really. I would’t recommed anyone do it. And, I’m sorry for anyone who feels they have to.

As it turns about, reaching goals doesn’t do it. We are multi-faceted. What does it is enough therapy to bring every facet into awareness, and then into acceptance.

My Biggest Success?

Reaching self-acceptance.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Walking toward the ramp where my squadron’s F-100s were parked. My g-suit (to keep from blacking out in high -tress maneuvers was worn over the legs of my flight suit. My parachute was slung over one shoulder. I had my helmet, my checklist, and my clipboard in hand. Plus a three digit number, the “tail number” of the F-100 I had been assigned to fly that day. As I walked to the planes, I knew they were, mechanically speaking, a bomb with the fuse already lit. The question was, how long is the fuse? Will the plane  I’m assigned to fly catch on fire and possibly blow up today? Or will that happen later? No way to tell. The only remaining question, “Are you going to do this or are you not?” And knowing you are, it’s all settled. In spite of the challenge, it was the commitment to do it - no matter what - that makes it possible to continue calmly . . . as if driving to the supermarket.

My Motto?

I don’t like mottos. I don’t like affirmations. Fighter pilots learn that being you are right is a fatal mistake. Survival requires question everything you do and think. After all, what is really certain? If we can’t accommodate uncertainty, we can’t accommodate reality.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

In college, I attended a conference at Union Theological Seminary. Walking through the corridors with another student, we came to a closed door. As an elderly man started to go through the door, he paused, stepped aside, and held the door for us. Because of his clothing, his being stooped, and because he deferred to us, I took him to be a janitor. After we were out of earshot, the other student said, “Do you know who that was?” I said, “No.” He said, “That was Reinhold Neibuhr.” I was shocked. The man I thought was a janitor - the world’s leading theologian - had opened the door for a couple of nobody students.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Tokyo, for the attention applied to detail. Venice, for reasons I can’t put into words.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

The F-100. As the Air Force’s first supersonic jet fighter, one out of three built crashed. Attempting to fly it took over 300 USAF pilots to their death. There is something awesome about such a wild and dangerous machine. It even looks mean and sharklike. See https://fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/airdef/f-100-crew.jpg

My Current Passions?

Working on how to control panic and teach clients to control it automatically and unconsciously.

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