Email Helps Dude I’ve Never Met!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

So my counselor friend and former officemate, Molly Kasper, contacted me about a client she had that had been experiencing anxiety and even panic attacks, because she thought he could benefit from my approach. She’s one of my go-to couples counselors, so maybe she was seeing him in marriage counseling or something. I don’t remember the details, but he was definitely having panic attacks, and I think they involved traveling. It might’ve been flying, or maybe just driving, too. He wanted to travel more but the anxiety was keeping him trapped.

So I wrote something to help him and emailed it to Molly, which she then forwarded to him. I had no contact with him, and I wouldn’t know him if he fell on me. I don’t even know his name, but I was so elated when I saw Molly later and she said he was fine, and that the travel anxiety was gone. Really?? Yes! And it wasn’t just the email, because I recommended some books as well. I think she said he read at least one of them, and it might’ve been Somebody Should Have Told Us by Jack Pransky, a really simple and powerful book. So that was very cool to hear.

And this was all before a post called You CAN Breathe: How To Have A Panic Attack, or else I would’ve sent that, too. Anyway, here’s that email. And know that it’ll be totally redundant for readers of this blog! That’s sort of the point, though. This is really simple stuff that I’m doing my best to share. Speaking of which, feel free to share it with anyone you know that might benefit; it worked for this guy, so maybe it will help them as well. So cool… Enjoy 🙂

Hi Molly,

Just copy and paste below if you wish… And that was fun writing it! I love this stuff. I might make it a blog post for other panic attackers. And I included some essential stuff to go ahead and help him on his path to enlightenment as well. Why not? Haha. Peace to you!

Hello Friend,

Rest assured that panic attacks can be overcome. What it takes is education and then practice. You will become a master of feeling. Not suppressing and resisting, but also not freaking out and/or wallowing in a story. There’s a fine line in between those two states, in which we’re present with an energy, knowing that it wants to move. In fact, a feeling is energy, so it has to move. So you’ll learn to literally relax into it without a single thought or label of good or bad. And anxiety is just one of these energies. So you’ll learn to say yes to it instead of the instinctive no. Because that hasn’t worked. Resisting it only makes it worse. And the good news is that the same rules apply to all energies in the body, including stress, anger, sadness, etc. We get out of the way and let them move when they want to.

You’ll also learn that these energies are an inside job. They do not come from outside of you. We are living in the feeling of our thinking, of our perception, meaning that whatever the mind is thinking produces a feeling in the body, 24/7/365. Like the law of gravity, it is the law. All the time. And we have two radio stations, so to speak. Only two. One is the voice in the head that’s often critical, negative, mean, and talks very fast. It also exaggerates and lies. The other, though, is the voice of built-in wisdom or plain old common sense. Or gut feeling, instinct, or intuition. Or the voice of the soul or the spirit if you’re so inclined. But “plain old common sense” works just fine, because they’re all just different words pointing to the same thing. This voice is softer, and it doesn’t try to compete with the chatterbox. And we sort of ask it something and then we let go, and we listen. And we practice and eventually this becomes the only way in which we think. High quality thinking that’s built-in instead of low quality thinking that we learned as a kid. And over time, that loud, annoying voice becomes a little gnat that we can’t even believe we empowered so much! Because it hits us more and more that nobody else even hears it. It is literally “invisible nothingness” to the rest of the world. I and I alone decide how much power to give the thoughts that are in my head. Wow, so cool…

The manual for feeling is chapter 11 of The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s called Pain, the Price of Freedom. This is essential for all humans! Also see my blog post on 6-28-16 about this exact chapter: http://ashleypennewill.com/essential-topics/feeling-without-the-story-huge/. And the rest of the book is amazing, too. But this chapter is really helpful. And the book starts in chapter 1 with a sample dialogue of the voice in the head that’s spot on. And honestly, it’s hilarious! But start with chapter 11 and read it again if it helps, anytime you feel to. Even years down the road, it’ll always be there for you, and it’ll always be true. It is timeless.

A great book about our thinking is Somebody Should Have Told Us by Jack Pransky. This is also one of the main books that I recommend, and you’ll probably have to order it from Amazon or something. It’s a very relaxed, conversational book about how we all have wisdom built-in and how our body “feels our thinking” rather than feeling the world directly. In other words, our experience of life is happening inside-out and not the other way around, as I mentioned before. And it sure seems like it’s the other way around! I highly recommend this book to anyone. A very relaxed read, too.

The Space Within by Michael Neill is another book that might even take Somebody Should Have Told Us a bit deeper. I’d read Somebody first, though, to till the soil for this one should you feel to read it. And yes, feel. Not over-analyze in the head, like I’ve done a million times! And we’re free to over-analyze as much as we want, but it’s painful. These books explain it all very well, and then we finally have a choice of living a different way. Michael Neill has the same background as Jack Pransky. Definitely worth a read. And look for the deeper feelings that he talks about, starting right now in this moment! Also my blog post on that: http://ashleypennewill.com/other-cool-topics/deeper-feelings-of-peace-in-you/. This is the opposite of a panic attack, and it’s living inside of you right now, as the ground or foundation upon which all other feelings come and go. Amazing.

And finally, you might also benefit from something online called Panic Away. Part of it is a book in pdf format that’s a pretty quick read. Half is about general anxiety and half is about panic attacks. Start with the panic attack part. The “21 second countdown” works, too. Know that it might seem scary at first. You’ll get used to it, though, and then these attacks will roll right through you faster and faster and then they’ll start to whimper out. And then eventually they won’t come at all. You got this, and I’m always here to help if I can.

One more thing – if it’s old stuff that’s the problem, old gunk that’s stuck, including trauma, I’ve been trained in something pretty amazing called EMDR. It’s designed to get right to the source, clearing out those old energies of pain and enabling wisdom and insight to come through even more. So that’s always an option. The stories I’ve written about it are here: http://ashleypennewill.com/category/emdr-mind-blowing-sessions/. So that’s always an option if it resonates. You’ll feel it as you read the posts, if it’s a “yes” for you. And when we get cleared out, that natural source of peace comes through even more. Because it’s already there; it’s just been covered up. You got this, and I’m here to help if I can. All the best.

You CAN Breathe: How To Have A Panic Attack

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a client that had a super amazing first session with me. She has a LOT going on, and it’s big stuff. All at the same time. And there’s a lot from her past as well. And as I’ll write about sometime in the future, the present heals the past. So things come up now that remind us of past things that need more healing, whether we’re aware of it or not. And those energies want to leave, but the feeling gets really amplified and is sometimes overwhelming. Never forget Chapter 11 of The Untethered Soul 🙂

So she came in and had been feeling “hopeless and overwhelmed,” to the point that she often had trouble catching her breath, maybe for a month or so prior to coming in? Panic attacks. Not fun. But they’re not a very big deal now! And after just the first session. Why? Because she got the education she’s needed the whole time, the education we’ve all needed this whole time. Panic attacks are not rocket science, but nobody explains them to us. So we freak out, which is a perfectly normal reaction for someone that hasn’t been educated about them! But she got the education and then got several chances to practice, all in that first session. So now she had some experiences to go with the education. Awesome.

So we were talking about her situation, and at one point her breath started to get shallow. This was the beginning of a panic attack. I love when people have them in my office, because again, it ends up being such a profound experience for them. And they’ll never be afraid of a panic attack again. They might not like them, but they won’t be ruled by them. So her breath got short and she began to panic a bit. And I had her relax and simply find her breath. I reminded her that she CAN breathe. Her racing mind wanted to tell a story of “I can’t breathe.” And of course we’re feeling our thinking, and that doesn’t feel good! So the whole thing spirals and gets worse. But it’s not true. At no point could she not breathe. So I reminded her that she’s absolutely fine. Stay calm, don’t think or analyze, and simply relax into your breath, even if it’s shallow. Open the chest. Feel those energies and put the breath there, wherever you feel them. And then after a minute or so, her breath opened up. It deepened. And she started to feel better. All that energy moved out of her system, gone forever. Wow.

She doesn’t have an anxiety disorder or anything like that. Rather, she has a very powerful mind (and so do you, because there’s actually only one level of power – max!). And her body is always responding to what’s going on in the mind (as is yours and mine, right here and right now – we’re always feeling our thinking). So she had panicky thoughts, whether conscious or not, and this created panicky feelings in her body. But remember Chapter 11! These are energies – albeit really strong ones – that are trying to leave. They want to leave. They have to leave. So relax, get out of the way, and let them. But whatever you do, don’t try to think your way out of it. That’s what we instinctively do, and it mucks everything up. So in my office that day, she experienced how to relax into and surrender to a panic attack. And it only took a few minutes. Bam!

Can you see how cool this is? All that we talked about – that we’re feeling our thinking, we have a good source of thinking built in, and feelings are neutral energies that want to leave – was lived by her in that super comfortable chair in my office. It was an experience now, and not concepts. And it happened several times. I was so psyched! I could tell that it was very life changing.

She came in a week later and felt way different. No problems breathing. Woohoo! I can’t tell you how much this stuff pumps me up. All she needed was some education, and she went from constantly being short of breath to… no problem. Now, the situations in her life were still there, since they’re all in the process of unfolding, but it felt more spacious in her body. And she’s still dealing with some tough stuff, but her body isn’t carrying all of it, all the time. She’s learning how to attach, deal, and detach. One thing at a time. And her body feels different. After only one session. So cool! So there we go, please share this with any panic attack folks you know! Because there is hope, and lots of it. They just need education and then life will give them practice, right on time. And I’m always here if I can help.

Contraction… Optional!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

This is pretty cool… And sorry for all the posts on anxiety recently, but they’ve been coming into my world and so I share them. Here’s the deal, though – they’re SUCH good illustrations of how all feelings work; anxiety is just a more extreme version. So it’s great for teaching purposes. Here we go… So my friend has a history with his dad. They totally love each other, but my friend finds his anxiety triggered by interactions with his dad. He’s been learning about what we talk about here, though – that most of our feelings are our body giving us information about our thinking. A brilliant feedback system, if you will. So he’s learning that he’s creating the anxiety based on thinking, most of which is invisible. Like is he a failure in his dad’s eyes, that kind of thing. His body is saying, “Dude! This is what you’re thinking. Take a look and decide if this is how you want to be thinking. Make sure these thoughts are 100% true. Maybe you believe these thoughts and maybe not; I’m just trying to get your attention to make sure you can see them. Bring them to the surface and take a look.” Well said, body…

So my friend is exploring this new way of seeing things, and he noticed recently that he had been texting with his dad, but without the anxiety. Woohoo!! This is cause for a major celebration. You see, anxiety is a contraction of the body. The body is tightening up and closing. This is how the body reacts to thinking such as, “I’m probably somewhat of a failure in my dad’s eyes. And he is totally qualified to be a universal judge of failure.” Both of these statements are probably wrong, by the way. And even if the first one is right, the second one is always wrong! So it nullifies the first one. But the body will still contract if this is what we’re thinking.

My friend now knows the rules of the game, though. He has learned Human 101. So he’s been able to ask his body what kind of thinking is responsible for the anxiety around his dad. And thoughts like the ones above have floated right up to the surface for viewing. They’ve been been brought from being unseen to being seen, and the anxiety is the reason why. Thank you, anxiety! Thank you, feelings! What valuable information to be given. And he was able to process these thoughts, either by himself or by talking to someone like me. He was able to think about them with his good source of thinking that’s built-in. The high quality thinking that came with the package. Call it inner wisdom or common sense, same thing. He is able to ignore the chatter and only listen to this, his inner best friend. A wise version of himself that’s always been there. And he’s seeing that he has been believing lots of false thoughts. Lots of 1+1=3. And he isn’t doing that anymore. And how do we know? Because the same text conversation with his dad that used to trigger anxiety doesn’t anymore. Or it triggers less of it. Good job, dude!

And here’s what it looks like if it comes back. He notices the anxiety while interacting with his dad, and instead of shutting down and thinking, “Oh no, it’s back” he relaxes into it right away. And he says to himself, “Yes! Sweet! There must be some more BS I can see. I know how this works now, so I’ll just take a look under the hood of my mind. But first, I’ll relax my body and totally open it, using lots of breath and putting the breath in the tight places. Relaxing and opening, relaxing and opening. And then I’ll take a look. But I don’t have to identify with this feeling right now or be afraid of it. I’m going to relax into it instead. It’s not me; it’s just by body giving me a temporary feeling to get my attention, so no big deal. I’m going to relax my body and see if I can handle this same exact situation, but without such a heavy feeling.” So cool…

Send this to people with anxiety, please! Let’s eradicate this. It is not a condition of the body. It is not a disease or a disorder. It is actually a really awesome illustration of how our body is constantly reacting to what’s going on in the mind. It is a really awesome illustration of how powerful our minds are. Our thinking, in an instant, can cause tight muscles, pounding heart, sweating, stomach issues, etc. Wow! I’ve just seen too much now, and I’ve seen too many people get better, with this simple understanding. And then practice, lots of practice. But you’re going to live anyway, so might as well practice. So cool… Peace out, and let me know if I can help!

Song: You’ve Lost, That Tin-gly Feel-ing

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

There’s that well-known scene in the movie Top Gun when Maverick (Tom Cruise) sings to Kelly McGillis in the bar. It’s the Righteous Brothers song, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Well, we’re changing that up a bit. And yes, I know that’s totally cheesy… But this is a great illustration of anxiety and how misunderstood it us. And how simple it actually is when we understand it. And how ingenious it is as a way for the body to communicate to us. Here we go…

So I was traveling a while back and having breakfast with an old friend. He mentioned that he’d had this tight, tingly feeling in his chest for a couple of weeks. That’s a long time to have a tight, tingly feeling in your chest, by the way. One that you’ve never had before. So I just sort of listened without rushing in. Because it’s annoying when Counselor Guy tries to fix everyone all the time. That ain’t how it works. Relax and let the game come to you.

So I did just that, eating my breakfast and listening, and do you know what he said next? “I think it might be anxiety.” (So it took only 2.3 seconds for the game to come). My readers can certainly guess what I said next: relax for a minute and just take a breath into it. And if it is anxiety, then we’ll know because it’s your body trying to get your attention that something’s bothering you. So I asked him what it might be. But don’t try to figure it out; just relax, breathe, and ask the questions. Then see what comes up. He said that most of his life’s stressors are pretty much the same as they’ve been for a while, so it didn’t seem like that. Things like his job. His job had ramped up a bit recently, but he’s done it for years and he’s seen it all by now. So he didn’t feel like that was it (notice the word “feel”… nice).

Then he said he wondered if it had to do with another situation regarding a loved one. He wondered if he’d been too invested in this other person’s life. This person had some important things going on, and when my friend thought about it, he realized that he’d been totally worried… on behalf of the other person! What a nice thing to notice. He noted that this person is an adult and will be able to survive the situation just fine, and he can let it go. He can help him or support him, but he doesn’t have to worry about it. His body doesn’t have to latch onto it.

So we finished breakfast and hung out some more that day and then we parted ways. And then I got a text the next day saying you know what, that feeling has been totally gone since after we talked about it. Bam! Hells yeah. Love that. Classic stuff, folks. No anxiety disorder, nothing wrong, and certainly no need for medication in this case. All that was needed was an understanding of how this system called the human works and how the body communicates to us about what’s going on in the mind. He was worrying a ton and wasn’t even aware of it, so the body said, “Hey dude, you’re worrying too much. Just calmly think about it instead. Use your wisdom/common sense.” And the voice that the body used to say this was that tight, tingly feeling in the chest. Isn’t that just super cool?? I love this stuff…

Folks, all we’re doing here is learning more about what’s going on. Learning some facts. Psychology has never had facts. It’s been a bunch of theories, and that’s just not good enough. That’s why counseling has always been so hit or miss. I mean, let’s face it, the track record is not that impressive, especially since it’s already 2015. I don’t think anyone can argue with that. It’s time to evolve! I’ve been fortunate to learn some facts about how we’re feeling our thinking and that we have good thinking built in, and I’m doing my best to spread this far and near. And upgrade the field of psychology along the way (good luck with that). There are others out there doing the same as well. It’s like turning the Titanic, though, but we might as well get the ball rolling. So there you go. This is pretty cool. And if you know anyone who is a “victim” to anxiety and doesn’t understand they’re creating it from scratch with their thinking, then please share this! It just takes learning and then gentle practice. Peace out!

Client Melts Anxiety From Jerk Boss

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

A client of mine does not like where she currently works. It used to be a better fit for her, and then a new boss came in. And everything changed. Then little things would happen that made it even worse. Not a fun place. Not a fit. My take was that life was making it pretty clear that she had done her time there and that it was time to move on. She had gotten what she needed from there, and they had gotten what they needed from her. Whenever she would mention a new “little thing” that had happened, I would just remark that of course that happened! How can we be surprised? That’s to be expected. It’s not about that specific thing, like the new receptionist being not nice. It’s about the fact that her time there is done. The new receptionist is just a symptom for the real cause, which is that… her time there is done. It’s like a water fountain that was really flowing and then had been turned down to a trickle.

So she came into work one morning and as soon as she walked in the door, her boss said something like, “Come see me in my office after you get settled in.” I asked the obvious question with a smile on my face – “How did you feel after hearing that??” Of course we all know the answer – totally anxious!

Let’s stop the frame right here, because this is where it gets interesting. This is the moment of truth. This is where we have a choice between two totally different ways of living. And she nailed it. Her past self would’ve freaked out and been a basket case as she headed to his office. Her current self has been practicing, though, and she stopped the freakout in its tracks. Thank you! The whole world rejoices… First, she breathed and let go of the anxiety. She let it be there but without making a problem out of it. And it became substantially reduced, as it does when we simply let it. Feeling, check.

Then she moved on to thinking aspect of the situation. She calmly told herself that all she had to do was go talk to this guy. She’d see what he had to say and would respond accordingly. She didn’t have to try to predict the future with a story that would make her feel worse. So she went to his office. As she was listening to him say some things that weren’t totally totally true and that were even somewhat ridiculous, she was able to just smile and nod her head. She didn’t protest or argue, because it wouldn’t have made the situation any better. She was aware of her elevated heartbeat, but she knew there was nothing wrong with that. That’s what happens when you’re summoned to the principal’s office! It’s called adrenalin and cortisol pumping through your system. That’s normal. No big deal.

She made it out of the meeting just fine, and she was very proud of herself for how she handled it. The morning is the most anxious time of the day for her anyway, by far – that’s how her body is now. So to be ambushed by the boss as soon as you walk in the door is quite the test for her. A major test. And she passed! She passed big time. I was very proud of her. She did exactly what we talk about here. Learn another way. Practice it. Develop it. That’s all. It works just like anything else, be it a sport, a musical instrument, dancing, a foreign language, technology, or whatever. She did great. Now maybe her boss will come in…

Client Likes Panic Attacks!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a client who just blew me away. He’s a smart kid who’s in his late teenage years. He came in reporting feelings of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, fear of the future/unknown, and issues with death and dying. We did the normal first session teachings that you’ve read about here, and then we applied this new way of seeing things to his specific concerns. He seemed to really get it. We decided that two weeks would be a good amount of time to pass before he came back in.

So he came back in, and I asked how the last two weeks had been. He said he was feeling much better about things. Yes! I asked about the panic attacks, and he said they were now “no big deal.” Yes! I asked if he had had any of them since we had met, and he said that he had had two of them. One lasted for two minutes and one lasted for thirty seconds. I was trying to contain my laughter and tears of joy… It gets better, though. He said, “I kind of like them now, because they force me to stop and kind of meditate.” Remember that the teaching on panic attacks is just like any other feeling – stop, breathe, and welcome it. Totally allow it, but don’t hold it. Let it go. You can even demand more intensity, and watch what happens. You get less fearful of it and it goes away. He did this and it seems that they’ve been exposed as being not so bad. Remove the fear and welcome it, and you have a little kitty instead of a huge tiger. He actually said, “It kind of makes me feel invincible, as if anything that could be stress-causing can’t touch me.” YES!! We’ve talked quite a bit about our reality as a spiritual being and not a body, and he hit the nail on the head in this context. If you’re spirit and not a body, then you literally are invincible. The body is never invincible, but you are. You ain’t a “meatsuit.” He got a big taste of this. Whoa.

At this point, we were about five minutes into the session, and I didn’t know what we’d talk about the rest of the time. Hilarious. I scanned the notes from the first session and asked him about the rest of the things we had talked about. What about death and dying? No problem. He had a 24-year-old cousin die of cancer back in Fall 2012, and this shook him up quite a bit. It helped a lot to just really talk about death with somebody for the first time. I might’ve told him about how I actually feel closer to my dad since his death over a decade ago – I don’t remember. And my dad and I had gotten along just fine. I had also seen a gifted psychic a year after his passing, and that was a real game-changer. Understatement… That was a game-changer for my whole life. “Logical math guy” had to open up to the fact that the rules I’d grown up believing were not even close to valid.

I had also recommended a documentary on Netflix called The Afterlife. He watched this and loved it, saying it helped to see other opinions and viewpoints. The movie features a couple of medical doctors (i.e. trained scientists), and they approach the afterlife and near-death experiences from a totally logical, scientific viewpoint. They gather data and do all of those “scientific” things. That really appeals to me, as my readers know by now. Speaking of which, I just learned of a professor named Gary Schwartz, Ph.D, who studies the intersection of science and spirit. Cool stuff. Anyway, death and dying no longer seem to be an issue for my client.

I asked about fear of the future and fear of the unknown, and he said there’s still some of that. I said that I have some of that, too. He knows what to do with it now, though – stop and let go of it. Any feeling will pass. Any thought will pass. He can let it go and then remind himself that it’s just that pattern of fear of the future and of the unknown – no big deal. He reminds himself that he’s here now, so just live now. Great job.

We had covered all of the bases from the first session, so I asked about his daily life and how he can incorporate this major simplification. He said he can just live – go to school and work and keep it simple. He was getting stressed in math class recently, so he walked out, sat in the hall, and just breathed and let it go. He walked in feeling much better, and he had friends who could let him know what he had missed. Excellent! He was watching a depressing movie one day, and he felt himself feeling pretty bad and thinking negatively. He paused the movie, stopped, and released. He felt much better and watched the rest of the movie. In each case, he stopped a snowball while it was small and let it melt. Then he continued what he was doing. Yes!

Another thing he said was really awesome. He works at a restaurant, and it sounds like it’s not exactly his dream job. He’s found joy in helping his co-workers, though. He noticed that when he helps them, and it could be in very simple ways, it makes them happy. And this makes him happy. Yes! I explained how we have a warped concept of giving and receiving here on Earth. We think that when we give something, we lose it. When we receive something, somebody else loses it. This sure seems to be true in the material world, but with things like love and happiness, we give in order to receive. If you want love or happiness, give it away freely and watch what happens. Great stuff.

Well, that’s the tale for today. Whenever a client seems to really “get it” the first time they come in, I get excited about seeing them the next time. Life sometimes throws the kitchen sink at them in that time, which of course I warn them about. It doesn’t always happen like that, though. Anyway, I always want to see how they are when they return. This guy blew me away. I told him that the same things he’s been doing will work for the rest of his life. This is literally Human 101, the Laws of Living on Earth. They will not change. Life might throw more at him, but never get discouraged if it messes you up. Just get back on that horse. Feelings are still temporary and the voice in the head is still not the voice of truth. There’s no reason for him to come back in unless something big comes up or he wants to go deeper into some of the things we talked about, like the spiritual stuff. That’s his call, and I’m here if he needs me. But for most of what life will have in store for him, he’s all set as his own therapist now. And it’s times like this when I really love my job.

Anxiety Attack Unplugged

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client was telling me how she hasn’t been going to the gym very often in the last couple of months. I had been seeing her for about that amount of time, and she had told me in our first session that she had been drugged and raped by a bunch of muscle-bound guys about ten years ago. She said that ever since that happened, she has had anxiety attacks when she sees the gym where those guys worked out, sees big muscle-bound guys, or hears the word “rape” or “gym.” These are triggers that tell her body to go into a certain mode in which she gets tense, she sweats, her hearts races, and her breathing speeds up. This is the anxiety attack, or panic attack.

A good analogy is that the mind is the software and the body is the hardware. When she was raped, her mind basically got programmed to freak out at the triggers mentioned above. When any of these things happen, her body follows her mind’s instructions and in only a split second it starts to react with the panic attack. She has a prescription for Xanax, which relaxes her body. It does a great job at treating the symptoms. If a person is really tired of this game, though, then it might be time to treat the cause. Let’s go right to the source, the mind, and change the software. And that’s what we started to do that day.

So we’re sitting in my office, and she mentions that she hasn’t been going to the gym very often recently. I replied that I thought she said could not even drive by gyms, much less go inside to work out. My asking that question is all it took and her body started freaking out. She got tense and started to sweat, and she said she was having an anxiety attack. “Here it comes,” she said. Her heart was racing and her breathing was quick and shallow. She began to reach for her purse to take a Xanax. I asked her if she would be willing, since she was in a safe place, to hold off for a few moments and just surrender to the panic attack. Breathe and feel and let go. She could always take the medication.

She wasn’t thrilled at the idea, but she agreed. So she just sat there and let it be there, breathing and feeling, and she experienced it directly without a story. I reminded her that she was in a very safe place, and the Xanax would still be there anytime she wanted to take it. Let’s just try it another way, the opposite way, this one time. Let’s just sit still and surrender to it.

She was shaking and sweating. I had her breathe and relax into it as much as possible, just feeling it without any words. Don’t call it anything, and definitely don’t tell a story about how it happened, why it happened, whose fault it was, etc. She said she really felt embarrassed that it had happened. I told her to just let herself be totally, completely embarrassed in that moment. Be embarrassment itself. Just surrender to it and feel it all the way through.

After about five minutes, she smiled and said it was passing. She literally could not believe it. She said this was the first time she had had one of these anxiety attacks without taking Xanax. She didn’t know that she could weather this type of storm. I told her about the hardware/software analogy and told her that in only five minutes, we had gone to the cause of the problem and had essentially told the body that it didn’t have to freak out anymore at these triggers. There’s nothing wrong with taking the Xanax, unless of course you want these attacks to finally lose their power. If this is what you want, the irony is that you have to go there and let it be. Go into it. Let it consume you. Invite it and meet it head on, face to face. The trick is to do this and only this, though. No story, no reasons, no victims, no good, no bad. No words or language at all. Just feel it. In that feeling, you might learn that it can’t really touch you. This is true acceptance, and it’s very powerful.

NOTE: Be very careful if you experiment with this. My client was in a safe place in my office when she did this. Also, there’s a time and place for medication. I am in no way saying that medication is bad or that you shouldn’t take it. I’m also not saying that panic attacks are no big deal. They’re very scary and powerful. But this post is meant to show you that they might not be as powerful as we think if we take a deeper look.

She’s Getting It!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

A client called this morning to reschedule our next session. We had met only once, so this would be only our second session. Two weeks ago, she came to my office at the recommendation of a common friend and began to learn a new way of living. At the end of that session, I explained that she had just learned some very powerful things that could be applied as soon as she walked out the door. She would leave my office, go back out into the world for a period of time, practice what she had learned, and then return to discuss. What did you do well? What could use improvement? It’s all purely about learning – there is absolutely no self-criticism. If you got into a fight or an argument, that’s fine – we just roll back the film, replay it in super slow-motion, and break down exactly when things started heading south and why. Then you go back out into the world and practice some more. Wash, rinse, repeat. Life will invariably bring you exactly what you need to practice on. And you get better and better with practice. It’s so cool for me to see. People do this stuff that they learn and it works.

After the first session, this client wanted to come back one week later to really keep on it. That’s not a bad idea when learning something new. A conflict came up that week, so we moved it back another week. This brings us to when she called this morning. So it has been two weeks. I said that we could set up something soon or wait another week to keep that same day and time – of course it’s up to her. She replied that overall she was doing fine and waiting another week would be no problem. Then she casually said that she had started to have a meltdown at work recently, but she used what she had learned and avoided it. She’s had panic attacks at work before, by the way.

She sounded very non-chalant as she said this, but on the other end of the phone, I was jumping for joy. I was high-fiveing the air (if that’s how you spell high-fiveing). I said, “Wait – you almost had a meltdown at work and you avoided it? You mean to tell me that you simply learned some things from some dude, applied them in your life, and the result was avoiding a potential freaking panic attack? Do you realize how huge that is? You did it! Do that same thing for the rest of your life and it’ll be so much more peaceful than it otherwise would’ve been – no comparison!” I get kind of excited about these kinds of things…

After my initial happy freak-out, I asked her exactly what had happened. She said that she had been at work at a stressful restaurant job and suddenly felt a very strong wave of dread about being there. This was the moment of truth. In the past, this dread had lots of power to take her down. Now she was armed with some pretty powerful knowledge, though. Instead of letting her mind race out of control with thoughts of how terrible the situation was and how bad it would be if she were to have a panic attack, she stopped. She breathed. She felt that dread without labeling it, and she let it go. She reminded herself that it was just another day at work, and there wasn’t anything that bad about it – not bad enough to justify freaking out, anyway. Maybe it wasn’t her ideal way to spend the day, but a panic attack out of nowhere? No way. Not anymore.

At this point, the dread was stopped in its tracks and revealed to be not that bad. When we don’t stop to investigate something like this, it can grow in power and even spiral out of control. The voice in the head tells a story that supports it. The feeling is assumed to be crippling. It’s not, though. It’s just not. Go see for yourself, although for some people it helps to first do this in a safe place like the super comfortable chair in my office. When a person gets the hang of doing things this way, s/he is no longer afraid of unwanted feelings. They have been exposed.

This client used new knowledge with great success. The result is that she now has her first real-life experience to go with that knowledge and to support it. That day marked the first day of the rest of her life. Before that day, she had little power. Now she knows that she is very powerful. It’ll take more to rattle her, and as she keeps living and practicing, it’ll take more and more. This is the path of inner peace. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty cool…

NOTE: All of these client stories are told with no identifying information and of course with permission from the clients. My only interest in sharing these stories is to help more and more people find peace, and these clients are interested in the same thing. There is no pressure on the clients to allow their story to be told. Finally, note that these stories are always told at a certain point in time.

When they are told, it is unknown how the future will unfold. Feelings are powerful, thoughts are powerful, and the past is powerful. New and old issues might emerge after progress is made. If that happens, though, we know how to deal with it. In these cases, I’ll write up the rest of the story if and when appropriate. As said before, it’s all about helping more and more people find peace.