Boundary Psychology: Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Posted on by John Olesnavage

Why That Panic Attack Might Be Your Best Friend

You’re driving along and it hits you, seemingly out of nowhere.  Shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations, fear that you are out of control and might crash at any moment.  Many people have experienced an acute panic attack at times when they are highly stressed (whether they are aware of the stress or not).  When this occurs the typical response is to fight the feelings of panic and ensuing physical manifestations.  Problem is, the more you fight it, the worse it gets.  Some people try deep breathing or some other stress reducing exercise, designed to control and overcome the symptoms.

What I ask people to do, based on my own experience and education, is to treat the panic like a friend not an enemy.  Our body is composed of millions of cells, each with its own brain.  Panic and anxiety, are really our physical self trying to be heard.  The message is usually that we are out of balance.  Balance and integration are the result of mind, body, and spirit  engaged and working together.

When anxious symptoms start you should welcome them like a friend and learn to laugh at yourself.  Yes, laughter.  Laugh at the way you are trying to control the anxiety and panic in your head.  Laugh at the way you are staying in your head while ignoring your body, and likely your spirit.  And, listen with humility and gratitude as your body speaks to you.

Our boundary of self must be flexible and whole to work well.  Anxiety is the wake-up call that flexibility is losing out to stubborn efforts to control life through will power.  The cure for inflexibility is play.  Restore play and you will see anxiety for what it is, your body’s effort to tell you that you are out of balance, and that you are human after all, just like everyone else.    

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