"It will pass" he said. In front of the gray building, probably the grayest building of the whole Scotland, we were watching the medics getting on the silent ambulance that was called for me an hour ago. He was an ordinary-looking old man, perhaps a senior staff of the University, and it was obvious that he was having an innocent but great pleasure in being a witness of a panic attack that somebody (I) just had had. "I also had panic attacks" he said, "and they have gone…" To be honest, I did not realize the importance of these words at that moment, as I was quite busy with my thoughts: Medics did a huge mistake by ignoring my obvious heart attack. It was unbelievable that they simply informed me what I had – a panic attack – something that I saw only in comedy movies before, played by certainly weak characters. "It cannot be panic attack" I said. "My heart pounded so fast that I could not even stand on the floor. Can panic attack continue for an hour? It was terrible!" In the following days and perhaps weeks, my behaviors were exactly the same as a typical (indeed prototype) panic-attack sufferer (and, of course, I realized this much later). With an increased awareness, I went through lots of checkups to be told repeatedly that my heart was OK, my lungs were fine, and I was not going crazy. Each time, without any satisfaction on the results, of course, I was asking how it was possible that I felt so bad – physically – like being in a kind of hell, while there was nothing “really” wrong, and somehow, my mind created all the trouble. This unbelievable but shocking information of self-sabotage made it worse… And, it took 12 years to understand what the man actually said. During that awesome period, I had at least 30 panic attacks. They occurred when I am depressed, fine, happy, sad, while sitting on a bench, walking outside, having a dinner, smoking, talking to my friends, on the plane, whenever they could make the most damage. Just after my aha moment (see the first writing of this series) and when my all problems were solved one by one by themselves, I tried to induce one more panic attack, this time knowingly, to better evaluate the dynamics of this mysteriously fantastic experience. I did almost everything I could. Held my breath, spun around myself to have some nausea, run arbitrarily to increase my heart rate, thought about all that irrational fears I had. And, guess what? Nothing happened… Was not that ironic? Until that moment, I suffered from a great number of panic attacks, prayed desperately for overcoming them, tried a variety of techniques to handle them, while they kept coming and coming for years… And, suddenly I was unable to experience any. Even a single one. "They have gone…"
I am not sure if the old man had similar realizations (perhaps his own, personal aha! moment) I have had, but his words were giving certain hints (if I could be ready to absorb) that
(1) if one has a panic attack, there is a great chance that s/he will have more,
(2) once appear, they become important experiences in one’s life (causing paradigm shifts),
(3) they (a series of panic attacks) can definitely end at a certain stage of life.
In fact, it is the potential of the intelligent to have more than enough panic attacks, as these unwanted activities are mentally energy-consuming experiences; they are sustainable only on active minds. So, in this part, we will analyze the dynamics of these unique experiences to understand them, as well as to see how to “deal” with them. Experienced readers (of the previous parts) probably have guessed: Yes, a panic sufferer should actually do nothing, as there is nothing to solve; in fact, they keep coming as one tries to solve them (so literally, the sufferer paradoxically calls them).
Panic attacks are directly related to all previous issues that we have considered so far: (1) depression, (2) anxiety, and (3) irrational fears. Now, I take the liberty to emphasize the previous loops for these specific issues the better illustrate how panic attacks can strongly be formed. First, the loop for the depression is as follows:
1.1. You are in depression.
1.2. You look at the world with depression glasses.
1.3. You reject the fact that the world has depressive components.
1.4. You consolidate the idea that you are the one who sees the world deformed.
1.5. You try to change yourself but gain more depressive thoughts.
1.6. You strengthen your depression.
1.7. So, you are in depression.
So, in the case of depression, one’s deformed view of the external world is the main cause of the infinite loop. In the case of anxiety, however, one’s deformed view of the internal world (self) is responsible:
2.1. You suffer from useless anxiety (alarmed, alerted, panic).
2.2. You look at yourself with anxiety glasses.
2.3. You consider both useful and useless anxiety as a single state that must be eliminated.
2.4. You naturally and occasionally visit the bottom of the pyramid, but do not acknowledge its naturality.
2.5. You try to transform yourself into a non-anxious person, which does not exist.
2.6. You strengthen your anxiety and push yourself upward.
2.7. So, you suffer from useless anxiety (alarmed, alerted, panic).
As I emphasized earlier, depression and anxiety form a greater (outer) loop; they create each other, while the structure of this outer loop is personalized and may not be directly observable due to the customized timetable of the internal clock. But, the relationship is important since breaking the loop of anxiety can reduce the chance of depression, and vice versa. Now, we need to take a look at the 6th items in both depression and anxiety loops. "You strengthen depression/anxiety by looking at the world/yourself with depression/anxiety glasses." The required mental energy to sustain these practices (act of strengthening) are based on irrational fears, since, otherwise, your mind would reach steady state without oscillations (as thermodynamics say so). But, irrational fears have their own positive feedback mechanism (of course, to make sure that you suffer, what else it could be?):
3.1. You suffer from an irrational fear of an object.
3.2. You prepare yourself to fight with the fear of the object via imagination.
3.3. You imagine your unbearably fearful status when you face the object, even when there is a little chance that you will face the object (or there is a hundred percent chance that you will face it).
3.4. You replace your fear of object with the act of fear, without realizing the reflection.
3.5. You are afraid of “fearing of the object” rather than being afraid of the object, but do not acknowledge the transformation.
3.6. You think that we have a fear of the object although you do not (it has been deformed).
3.7. So, you (think that you) suffer from an irrational fear of an object.
To summarize, we reach the following important conclusions: (1) depression has its own loop with a weak link, (2) anxiety has its own loop with a weak link, (3) depression and anxiety form an unbreakable outer loop based on the human nature, (4) depression and anxiety loops are energized by irrational fears that have their own loops with breakable links. This is where it is personalized; a depressed person can deal with the depression loop (targeting its weak link) and an anxious person can deal with the anxiety loop (targeting its weak link), while a person who directly engages with an irrational fear may deal with the weak link of the associated loop. Here, we recall that such “dealing” efforts actually correspond to prevention of useless efforts (again, see previous writings).
Panic attacks basically reside on the top of the anxiety pyramid such that dealing with the anxiety loop should prevent them. However, this is not easy to say, if one has already reached the top. Due to the consumption of energy, the sufferer would eventually go back to the lower stages of the pyramid, while, for the intelligent, the required energy is easily recovered to rise back to top. This busy schedule may prevent the sufferer from dealing with the anxiety loop since one cannot properly think in a panic state. Specifically, a panic attack has a perfect loop without a weak link:
1.1. You panic.
1.2. Your body reacts.
1.3. You focus on your bodily and mental functions and be afraid of consequences.
1.4. So, you panic.
A panic attack always ends, but usually with a great frustration. Both body and mind are tired, as lots of energy is consumed (this is why it certainly ends). Since its loop is perfect and unbreakable, the panic sufferer should not try to stop it (once started) and should not avoid it. Its ultimate prevention is breaking the anxiety loop (see above) in a systematic way; not trying to avoid the panic helplessly when it starts.
Now, I will consider the basic irrational fears that fuel the anxiety loop and elevate the sufferer to the top level of the pyramid, i.e., panic attacks. Understanding these particular fears can be helpful to stop the subsequent level-ups and to eventually stop the series of panics. I will particularly focus on three irrational fears and one bonus (as I could experience them, according to my own notes); for each fear, there is a straightforward solution. This solution is based on a realization and is constructed on logical grounds. This is why it does not work (it is basically a trap) since the solution assumes that the fear is rational. A solution (reached unfortunately by the panic sufferer) simply shifts the attention to another irrational fear, whose solution (as if it should be solved) can be more difficult. This is how panic attacks become stronger and stronger.
A. Fear of Death: As much as I experienced and learned from some experienced sufferers, the most basic fear during a panic attack is the fear of death, independent of one’s belief about life and death. In fact, most "first experiences" of panic attacks are based on this irrational fear. Many symptoms during a panic attack go well with the fear of death; heart palpitations, shortness of breath, difficulty in concentrating, blurred vision, sweating, nausea, feeling to faint… Of course, you must be dying, what could it be?
Some readers might already find it strange (in the previous reading and also now) that I categorize the fear of death under irrational fears. Now, I will go one more step and reveal the secret: there is actually no fear of death; hence, it is absolutely the most irrational fear one can have. Let us remember that irrational fears are not actual fears, they are concepts hidden behind fear of fear of things such that the mind cannot solve them as they are out of reach. From this perspective, fear of death is the ultimate irrational fear as it is immediately replaced by higher-order fear of fear of death.
To further elaborate, note that the fear of death does not have the two basic properties that a rational fear should have (this is why your mind immediately elevate it to the fear of fear form):
You can have a fear that something might happen; death will definitely happen;
A fear is associated with the result of an event; the action of dying does not have any result (to be experienced) from the perspective of the dead person (independent of one’s belief).
As all irrational fears, one can easily maintain the fear of death via the infinite loop described above. Take a look at item 6, now in this loop: "One thinks that s/he has the fear of death although s/he do not (it has been deformed)." So, the question is: what is the exact thing (rational and resolvable issue) that one is actually afraid of, and which is hidden under the fear of death, deforming it into fear of fear of death? In some other words, what makes you be afraid of fearing death (an irrational action), since you have associated the dying action with another phenomena? Is it because you will leave loved ones behind? Is it because you enjoy the life so much that its end will be a disaster? Is it because you will be buried under a soil and decomposed by a variety of small creatures? Is it because you will disappear forever? Then, what is forever? As this is a very personalized area, I am unable to continue with each type of issue; but, the quest here is to reach the basic rational fear (the functional one) that looks like the fear of death and that can be elaborated, thought, and resolved. I have to emphasize that the fear of death discussed here is not related to urge to live (e.g., why one must be careful in traffic) that is the basic instinct of all creatures; experienced fear-of-death sufferers should already have realized that what they feel is completely different than such an urge (and also realized that her/his cat does not think philosophically about death).
B. Fear of Going Crazy: Some unlucky panic sufferers "solve" their fear of death by realizing that they do not die during a panic attack. Good. But, instead of stopping panic attacks, this eventually causes a major shift in attention by replacing the theme to another irrational fear, usually the fear of going crazy (indeed fear of fear of going crazy). The intelligent should congratulate her/himself if s/he already started panic attacks with this fear.
If one has not experienced any panic attack, it is almost impossible to describe her/him how the mind becomes so strange during such an experience. Two particular phenomena, which may sound enjoying to a non-sufferer, are derealization and depersonalization. In derealization, everything looks extremely dreamy and unreal, unfortunately in a very shocking way. In depersonalization, one’s self (or some body parts) looks strange and unreal, again in the most terrifying form. Although both are very natural consequences of the peaked anxiety in the intelligent’s mind, temporary detachments from reality reduce into the irrational fear of going crazy between the panic episodes. The strategy should again be not trying to solve this irrational fear; it is not the actual fear to be solved, it is unsolvable as it is replaced by the fear of fear of going crazy. Instead, one should seek for the underlying rational fear whose subject is fear of going crazy (not going crazy), e.g., by asking "what is so wrong in going crazy?" The fear itself should never stop or distract the sufferer asking this question to find the subject. Is it because one wishes to control everything, and craziness means uncontrollability? It is because a crazy person cannot communicate with the world? Is it because loved ones will behave differently when one becomes crazy? Is it because one becomes somebody else (a stranger)? What is then being oneself? Once the rational fear is found, it can easily be resolved by identifying conditions and status.
C. Fear of Doom: Some even unluckier panic suffers "solve" the fear of going crazy by realizing that depersonalization and derealization experiences are limited to panic states. A further (an unfortunate) support is provided by the popular culture: "if one thinks that s/he is crazy, s/he cannot be crazy (as s/he is sane enough to realize what is crazy or not)." Although it is not my job, I would immediately oppose this idea: Even if you convince yourself that you are not crazy since you are able to think (and be afraid) of being a crazy person, you can still be a crazy person as this idea of "realization means not being crazy" can be a product of your crazy thoughts and prevent you from realizing that you are crazy. Perhaps, "if one thinks that s/he is crazy, s/he cannot be crazy" is something you made up and nobody heard about this false logic, since you are crazy?
In any case, a shifted sufferer may meet the fear of doom, which is often (and unbelievably) much stronger than the fear of death and the fear of going crazy. Because, in this particular irrational fear, one may think that even death cannot end that panic state, which is unbearable. So, being doomed, one may suffer from this extreme state of infinity; and, as this idea itself is unbearable, a very short infinite loop is established in one’s mind. Specifically, with this fear, time itself becomes deformed and one can experience an exponential increase in the panic state, almost like a singularity, until all energy is consumed (as time actually flows). The fear of doom is of course an irrational fear, as it is reduced into the fear of fear of doom between the panic episodes. This realization can be helpful to identify that one cannot have a permanent fear of doom, since the idea conflicts with itself. If you go out of a doom, it was not a doom (I can hear “easy to say”).
D. Crisis of Solipsism: Finally, some unlucky and very dedicated panic sufferers may "solve all irrational fears with logic", which will lead them to solipsism. Solipsism is actually a philosophical view (so it is supposed to be enjoyable) that one cannot prove the existence of things except the self. When it is deformed into a fear, however, this quite "dull" thought can be extremely strong, as if one is having a nightmare (life), but s/he cannot wake up. If everything, including things and actions, is unreal (matrixism), how you can escape from this unreality? For those in the crisis of solipsism, I would suggest reading philosophical texts, starting with Descartes, however it can be unbearable (reading them with the fear of solipsism). The bottom line is that, solipsism cannot be a source of fear, since you are actually unable to prove that there is any reality at all, and what is supported by solipsism can be the reality. So, it is a matter of acceptance or rejection, rather than a possibility of an upcoming event with a result (a rational fear).
As this text so far might have provided overwhelmingly large numbers of items to think about, I find it useful to wrap up the results for the intelligent who suffers from panic attacks. First, panic attacks reside on the top of the anxiety pyramid; so, you should target breaking the anxiety loop 2.1-2.7. You may find it useful to read the text on the anxiety (if you have not done) to understand how you sabotage yourself to build anxiety from the bottom to the top. If you are occasionally experiencing panic attacks, you will probably have more episodes (sorry to tell) until you leave your anxiety routine (imagine how long it took, literally years, for you to be able to reach the top). On the other hand, a series of panic attacks definitely ends; how many you suffer depends on yourself. When a panic attack starts, allow it to happen. It is when your anxiety reaches the top; trying to prevent it will make it longer (like you release the energy via a narrow pipe) or postpone it to a nearby future. If you have learned certain useless techniques, such as breathing exercises, keep using them if you have already internalized them (already convinced yourself that they are useful), since they have already become a part of the self and their removal will open a gap for the anxiety to replace. Otherwise, breathing exercises, and mindfulness in more general terms, are useful when you are not anxious, e.g., perhaps between panic attacks. Learn them in long terms, to make your life more enjoyable – not as safety tools to escape from your panics (as they do not help at all).
So, enjoy your panics before they are all gone.