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Let's Talk About Panic


**photo credit: Rosalind Bank


I get it, you get it.  For me it only started when my kids began driving.  While I'm sitting in my peaceful suburban bubble working away, the dulcet sounds of drilling and leaf blowers have been a mainstay.  That piercing sound that goes right through your soul is something I continue to be startled by but not wrecked by.  Now take two lovely teenage girls and put them in a car for the first time.  That anxiety of a crash, a siren, a sharp crack of the breaks down the road, metal on metal, now that gets my attention.  I can no longer work.  My body is in a state of massive shut down, sweat drips from my temples uncontrollably as I visualize some morbid tragedy and some kid, my kid, making a bad decision.  My stomach is weak and I'm trembling.  My breathe is shallow and scared.  All of this is fight, flight or freeze.  I know plenty about it.  Primitive echoes of how to protect oneself from a saber toothed tiger.  Totally unnecessary to the current situation.  My heart is pounding outside of my body.  I feel I might collapse.  I use the wait ten minutes rule.  And voila, I recognize that I have lost touch with reality for about a second, but I am not going crazy, schizophrenic, heart attack or utter collapse.  I have my breathe to bring me back home.  I wait.


It's fun working with panic, anxiety and even anger because the relief is in the moment.  Teen and young adults who have little experience regulating themselves can teach themselves to do it!  A little meditation, the Calm App, a moment of pause, legs up the wall, a walk around the block, a hot shower, a cup of tea, some lavender oil, a quick call to a friend.  You can do this and so can I.


Creating space to pause is the method.  Probably invented by Yogis 5,000 years ago through prayer and meditation, your mind becomes quieter.  It stops telling you you're no good.  It just lets you rest, restore, relax, be yourself, calm down and reset.  But I need my anxiety to get things done, people say.  No, not so much.


Last night I was speaking with a young couple over zoom of course.  I first reinforced how loving they seemed and helped the man to accept that talking was OK and that he was doing a great job of supporting his partner.  Then she described that when she gets frustrated/unheard she goes from zero to 60 in ten seconds.  Then she starts getting flooded and cannot control herself, starts hitting and punching whatever is in her way.  This is the child's response to "NO." When I asked her if that sync-ed up with her childhood experience it was there in living color. Her parents were not patient with her as a child and it left her feeling other/different/disrespected.  Like instead of making any effort to understand their child, they simply dismissed her.  Now when her boyfriend casually dismisses her she becomes enraged. Just like with anxiety, you can slow your roll.  I asked her what that would look like and asked her boyfriend to help her with it.  Now they have a plan to practice.  We also mentioned the Imago Dialogue which is helpful in getting to understanding.  


When Israeli commando pilots were in Europe on missions a psychologist did a famous experiment.  Instead of counting their flights from 1 to 40, they tried counting down from 40 to 1.  What a difference perception makes.  What we see as stuck now becomes something more squarely in our control.  


So keep your cool.  Calm is the way to get things done.  Trust me, I've been working at this longer than you have. 

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