Your ever-dutiful LiveReal Agents,
digging through the mountains of information
to get to the bottom of it all . . .
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(Note: This forum is not designed to replace professional services.
The LiveReal Agents are not acting as doctors or medical professionals
- just normal folks trying to figure things out.
So we recommended for individuals to view the information below,
as with all other information,
with both an open mind and a clear skepticism, accepting this only
if it makes common sense).
Imagine . . .
- you are walking down the street, with nothing happening in particular . . . and suddenly you feel short of breath. Then you notice your heart is racing, you are sweating, and you feel absolutely terrified for no apparent reason at all.
You ask yourself pretty scary questions: "Am I having a heart attack?" "Am I going to die?" "What's wrong with me"?
What's going on?
In some cases, this is a "panic attack." What is a panic attack?
See a very "G"-rated mainstream perspective here, and "10 Facts about Panic" here.
See another mainstream description hereat Oxygen.
(Notable mainstream excerpt: "The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown.")
But if you feel like digging a little deeper . . .
"Panic attacks" (or what are sometimes called "Panic Disorders") are the label psychologists give to episodes where individuals experience overwhelming feelings - anxiety, terror, fear - which seem to happen for no reason at all. They seem to just hit a person, from out of nowhere.
And one of the more baffling aspects of this experience, in a way similar to the experience of anxiety, is how individuals often don't know exactly what they're terrified of - they just experience terror, for no clear reason, and terror "of" nothing they can make sense of - a kind of "terror without an object."
In a way, it would almost be easier if a bear was chasing them - then, at least they would know what was causing the fear and panic.
So one of the main difficulties of panic attacks is the seeming irrationality, randomness, and inexplicability of it all, experiencing feelings for what seems to be no reason at all.
So how do we make sense of them?
In popular mainstream's own words here, "Twenty years ago Panic Disorder was poorly understood even by most experts . . ." (Now, of course, the experts today, in exactly the same form as experts twenty years previously, believe that they and they alone have found the real cause. What is it? "a DNA abnormality." Oy.)
We, your LiveReal Editors, were not satisfied with that view.
So we kept digging, and found some interesting angles.
Panic as Old Feelings Resurfacing
One perspective we came across describes panic attacks as old feelings that are resurfacing.
"Emotional illness is a storage disease."
- David Viscott, Ph.D.
By "old feelings," we mean this:
At some point in the past, perhaps a person experienced an overwhelmingly terrifying situation (who hasn't?). The experience was so terrifying, in fact, that it was "too much to handle," or the emotions were too huge and powerful to "process" completely.
This is the equivalent of "information overload," such as when you are told to memorize fifty different names or numbers in ten seconds flat - except in this case, the overload is emotional, not intellectual.
In another way, the experience could be described as similar to clicking on too many computer buttons too fast; the computer stalls for a while, then has to race to catch up in "processing" all the clicks. When an overwhelming experience happens, too many "buttons" are being pressed too fast; your mind will stall for a while, and then, when you least suspect it - perhaps when you're walking down the street - your mind suddenly races to catch up in "processing" all the clicks.
So what actually happens when we're flooded with feelings we can't handle? Well, our "minds" are equipped with defense mechanisms which help divert the feeling away - which saves us from being overwhelmed - something like like damming up or rechannelling a raging river to protect the nearby village. We don't consciously do this, it happens "on its own." And this is what can popularly be called "repression."
But these feelings - like the river diverted into another channel - do not magically dry up and go away; rather, they get stored, like books in a library. (There are many theories on where and how they get "stored" - they're stored in the "subconscious," they're stored in the body, and so on, but for now, it's not too important.)
We keep this emotionally charged "memory" at a distance through our "defenses." These defenses, which serve the purpose of keeping those old emotions at a safe distance, require energy to stay functional.
One view of a "panic attack," then, is that these defenses, momentarily, stop working - and the old emotion (terror) bursts forth, like water from a dam that is cracking - and hence, we experience terror seemingly out of nowhere, for apparently no reason.
(Note: as with essentially everything in the field of psychology, some experts swear by this model and believe it completely, and others do not. So we suggest taking a look at it, see what makes sense to you, and take it or leave it accordingly.)
Panic as Detoxification
An analogy of addiction might also be helpful:
Suppose a person regularly abuses a serious drug, such as heroin or alcohol.
Then a person stops using the drug and quits cold-turkey. What happens?
Well, the person typically goes through some rather rough experiences - they are often haunted, for a time, by such experiences as sickness, vomiting, nightmares, hallucinations, and so on. (See, for example, the movie Trainspotting, where a character quits heroin cold-turkey).
Why does this happen?
(Note: Many counselors don't know, and don't ask why it happens - they just know that it does, they just know to expect it, and they know some things about how to handle it).
One theory states that the earlier period of drug use builds up poisonous "toxins" in the body. When the drugs stop coming in to the body (when the user quits), then the body is ridding itself of those "toxins" - purifying and cleansing itself through the vomiting and sickness and so on. In other words, the symptoms of sickness are really the body's healthy urge to try to make itself healthy.
Panic attacks might be an example of the same type of thing happening, but on a different level, an emotional level. We go through life feeling "negative" emotions everyday stress, getting upset, hurt, confused, angry, etc etc, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, often half-experiencing them, "stuffing" them away, and storing them.
But then, if we are ever "still" - for example, during a meditation practice, or even on a smaller scale, like walking down the street - this is something like the experience of not taking the drug any more. Then we start to experience the purge of toxins. In this model, then, a "panic attack" is a kind of cleansing purge of emotional toxins.
The good news, then, is that if you can withstand the purging process and persevere to the end, you will come out the other side, healthier and much better off than before.
So how does this happen?
What To Do About it
If the above model makes sense, then what can we do about it?
Again, mainstream advocates suggest this array of possible solutions, including therapy (Does Therapy Work?), drugs, and others.
What do we suggest?
As usual, we suggest the LiveReal Products.
It seems to us that, if the model above is at least somewhat accurate, the solution lies in the ability to "unload" the baggage and burden of one's old emotions - to get in touch with one's old emotions and release them.
How is this done?
Well, as one example, with a compelling story of one man's journey through the experience of doing this, we suggest a look at Cure By Crying by Thomas Stone, a LiveReal Product.
Cure By Crying describes a model that is more thorough than the one described above, as well as practical techniques to get access to the old pain in order to clear it.
While according to Stone, these "techniques" did work for him, we also are aware of a different method to access these old emotions or make "the unconscious, conscious." This consists of the technique described here, a stillness exercise by Roy Masters (a more complete version of this is the Champion Product in the Psychology Arena of the LiveReal Products.
Then, talk to us,
talk to others in the LiveReal Discussion Board,
and compare notes with everyone
so we can all figure out what works, and what doesn't
in our ongoing pursuit . . .
The LiveReal Products,
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