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INSIGHTS, NLP /// Sep 6, 2016 8:00:00 AM

How to deal with having a Panic Attack, using NLP

Posted by James Hayes

How to make stress your friend

‘“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Your heart's pounding, you’re sweating, your hands are trembling, and no matter how much you breathe you're struggling to get enough air, fear is taking over. The more you fight it, the more debilitating it feels and the worse the situation becomes.

You want to relax. You want to be okay and regain your confidence. But panic is a habit that has you and you have no idea when it may occur next, or what to do about it. Until now. Read on for leading edge NLP tips and techniques for dealing with panic attacks.

#1 - What you resist persists, what you accept you can affect

Have you ever noticed in the middle of the night when you are desperate to sleep (maybe it's a big early day tomorrow) it seems to be the one thing you are unable to do? And the more desperately you require it, the harder it is?

It is, after all, pretty hard to get to sleep while simultaneously riling yourself up about how you aren't asleep yet.

Ever notice that’s how it is with most things you resist?

Resistance in the case of panic attacks looks like dreading them happening, awful-ising them when they do happen, and judging yourself about them after the event. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is the surest way to guarantee they continue to occur. Bringing fear/anger/shame to something you are already fearful/angry/ashamed of is like trying to fight fire with gasoline. It doesn't work.

Bringing acceptance to the situation (and yourself), on the other hand, is a different story. Acceptance relaxes your psychological grip on the problem and is the first step in the possibility of letting go of it all together.

#2 - Realise that there are no panic “attacks” – only panic-ing

Why do you need to realise that? Because panic attacks – aka “panicing” – is a process, not an event. Making it an “event” that “happens to you” psychologically takes control out of your hands and disempowers you from a solution. There is nothing you can do about an event occurring.

What’s actually true is that it is a process that you are engaged in, and incidentally are tremendously skilled in. You are so good at panicking that you probably do it better than anyone else you know, without even thinking about it. In fact, that’s the problem – you are TOO good at it. You are capable of running it with such intensity on autopilot – that’s mastery! The good news is all skills learned and mastered can be unlearned and atrophied.

#3 - What is the positive intention behind the process you are running?

What is the good it is “trying” to do for you?

All processes and strategies that you as a human being execute – whether it’s panicking, brushing your teeth, or planning your finances, all have a positive intention. That means they are trying to do something good, even if in reality they aren’t working so well.

In the case of panicking, the positive intent behind the panic may be to remove yourself from danger or keep you safe. Ask yourself – what is the positive intention behind the panic?

Once you have yourself the answer, ask another question: is the strategy producing the result you want?

If it’s not, what new strategy would be more empowering? Being able to see clearly the design behind the strategy of "panic" and whether or not it's working is essential for further relaxing your psychological grip on the problem. If there is some part of you that believes the panic is useful and necessary, it will be that much harder for the system to let go of it.  

#4 - Get curious – what is the process of panic-ing?

How are you doing it so skillfully? What do you need to do on the inside to “panic” yourself? Get curious, and map it out, as if you were to teach someone else how to do it. Is there a movie that plays inside your mind? Do you remember specific memories? Are there certain things you need to tell yourself? In what order do things occur on the inside?

Now, of course, this all happens in a nanosecond – that's how good you are at running the strategy. This step will require you to slow down and bring awareness and curiosity to what’s happening on the inside as it occurs. It may even be something you need to do after the event.

Why does this matter? Because behind every emotion and physical response is a thought process. You are in the habit of running a very specific and very powerful set of thoughts and in a very particular sequence. Change the thoughts, i.e. modify the movie that plays on the inside, and you will modify the emotions and physiology that follow.

#5 - When you feel the process begin, get experimental, interrupt it and change it with this technique

If you know what the sequence of your strategy is – if you know what movie plays on the theatre screen of your mind that facilitates emotional panic - you can get creative. Next time you feel panic come on, check what movie is playing on the inside and what thoughts are occurring, and scramble them. Interrupt the strategy.

If the mental movie is threatening and there are intimidating characters in it, try turning it into a cartoon. Push that movie right back so that it is the size of a post-it note. Give the people in the movie big Mickey Mouse ears, a Pinocchio nose, and Donald Duck’s voice. Drain the colour from the film and make it black and white. Make the whole thing as ridiculous as you can – and notice the change in your state emerge.

Do this a few times and you will notice it gets harder and harder to run the original “panic” strategy. If you interrupt and change the habit of thoughts occurring on the inside, you will modify the pattern of emotions and physiology occurring on the outside.

Conclusion

Behind every outer game (emotion and behaviours) is an inner game (thoughts), and by changing your inner game, you can make changing your outer game a cinch. By using the steps in this article, you too can reorient your inner game and do away with “panic” so that your mind-body-emotions are working for you, rather than against you.

 

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FURTHER READING
The history of NLP, part 4: Satir’s contributions to NLP