"The Breakthrough Expert" Christopher Paul Jones, who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and phobias, shares his top tips for getting over a fear of the London underground.  

Why do I feel afraid?

Travelling on the London Underground is considered, by most visitors to and residents of the capital, a necessity rather than a pleasure. But if you suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety, travelling on the tube can be terrifying.

When someone has a phobia of the London tube, they have made an association in the past linking fear to that experience, therefore creating a negative trigger or stimulus response to tube journeys.

This happens all the time with humans in both positive and negative ways. Certain tastes and smells, locations or objects can take us back in time to a memory and the feelings that went with it.

The brain can generalise our fears so well, that one strong negative experience can be enough for us to react with fear whenever we are in a similar situation or emotional state.

Whenever you experience or think about Tube travel in the future, your mind fires off the fear reaction, your body fills with adrenaline and you respond with fight, flight or freeze and while this is an important survival response, we can link fear to situations where we are not in any real danger. If you are travelling on the tube you have no way to release the sudden adrenaline rush, so your body will start to shake, your heart can begin to race, your fear becomes compounded, and the whole process becomes a vicious cycle.


How can I change my fear?

First get precision on exactly what you’re afraid of. Is it being stuck in crowds, being underground or something else? Is it a combination of things?

Start a phobia journal so you can begin to notice the patterns, i.e. the time of day you travel or the length of time you are underground. The clearer you can become about what triggers your fear, the easier it is to start to deal with it. Also, check out the new tube map that shows which parts of the journey are actually underground and which parts are in the open.


Next challenge your thinking with these questions:

  • What specifically are you predicting will happen if you take the tube?
  • How likely (0–100 per cent) is it that this will actually happen?
  • When you predict catastrophes, do they actually come true?
  • How many times have you been wrong in the past about your fear of tube travel?
  • What actually happened?
  • What is your inner voice saying to you about your fear? E.g. “We’re going to get stuck underground.” or “I will get crushed in the carriage.”
  • Ask yourself where that inner voice comes from.
  • Is it loud or quiet?
  • What would happen if you change the tonality of this voice and make it like a chipmunk or really slow and boring? What does it do to how you are feeling?


Next, look at changing the way you respond to the tube

The key is to think of, or imagine, a time when you felt completely calm and relaxed e.g. sitting on a beach or being around people you love. 

Now imagine going back to that time and notice all the images, feelings and sounds that go with this event. When you have fully connected to this positive event, squeeze your fist to create a link between the emotion and the gesture, and as the emotion fades release your fist. 

Keep repeating this exercise with as many positive events as you can think of. Then test it by squeezing your fist and notice how you feel. If it’s strong enough, just the act of squeezing your fist will bring back that calm feeling. If it’s not strong yet—keep repeating the exercise until it is. The next time you are on the tube or feeling anxious thinking about it, squeeze your fist and if the new conditioning is strong enough, it should reduce the negative feelings.


About the author

Christopher Paul Jones, aka The Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and even their phobias; from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work, Christopher has helped 100s of people "let go" and get their lives back. He even cured his own morbid fear flying, to the extent he was able to take a sightseeing flight through the Pyrenees—strapped to the outside of a helicopter! If you have a fear of tubes you can download a free kit and audio tracks from Christopher here.


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