Doing The Work for Panic Attacks & Anxiety

without your story you're perfectly fineOver the past few weeks I have been feeling a lot of angst and a lot of self pity. Old tapes in my psyche of feeling isolated have been haunting me day and night. This leads to nervousness and anxiety. And all this was making my life extremely unpleasant to live.

I really wanted to feel better but I hadn’t been able to figure out what to do. Then a few nights ago while I was lying awake (again) thinking about the sad state of affairs that is my life (again, an old tape that plays in my head that is not true- but in the wee hours of the night, is very convincing), I remembered the beautiful soul Byron Katie and her method of Inquiry known as The Work. I have done this exercise before – when my daughter was getting ready to go away to college- and it really helped me. So I decided to give myself this gift again.

Specifically I am going to do a Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet (You can download one for yourself here). I watched a video on Katie’s website where her daughter explains how to fill in this sheet, so I am going to give it a whirl now…

I am going back to my earliest memory of a panic attack. I am in the playroom when I was about 7 years old. My family is all there with me: mother, father, sister and brother. We are watching a movie together. It nighttime and we are in our pajamas. Tomorrow is school. I am nervous about going to bed, because I am afraid of the dark. I start to have anxiety and feel disassociated from my body. I cry out for help, “I don’t know where I am!” Everyone laughs at me.

1. In this situation, time, and location, who angers, confuses, or disappoints you, and why?

I am so confused and angry at my parents because they laughed at me and didn’t help me.

2. In this situation, how do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?

I want my parents to acknowledge me. I want them to comfort me. I want them to recognize that I am suffering and try to help me.

3. In this situation, what advice would you offer to them?

How can you be so selfish and wrapped up in yourselves that you don’t even try to help your own daughter? It’s hurtful to laugh. My parents should grow the hell up and realize their daughter is in pain and frightened and needs comforting!

4. In order for YOU to be happy with this situation, what do you need them to think, feel, say, or do?

I need them to stop laughing, and tell my brother and sister to stop laughing. I need them to feel tremendous compassion for their little daughter who is frightened of the dark. I need them to hug me and comfort me and tell me that they will do whatever it takes to get me the help I need.

5. What do you think of them in this situation? Make a list.

They are mean, hurtful, ignorant, immature, stupid, and selfish.

6. What is it in or about this situation that you don’t ever want to experience again?

I don’t ever want to feel so helpless and frightened in my own home with my own family. I want to feel safe and protected.

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Now apply the 4 Questions to each of the statements. (This is “The Work”.)

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I am so confused and angry at my parents because they laughed at me and didn’t help me.

1. Is it true?

Yes

2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?

No. Maybe I was exaggerating my fear for attention and freaked myself out. I did exaggerate a lot as a kid. I don’t know what I want.

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

I react with anger. I judge them and hold them responsible for my pain. Even years later I see them old and content and I still carry the vestiges of that blame and anger around inside me. It distances me from my parents.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

I would be free of the anger and judgment I hold towards them. I would feel lighter and kinder and more loving.

Turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation

I’m confused and angry at MYSELF because I laughed at me and didn’t help me.

I made fun of myself in my diaries. I used to draw cartoons of myself being awkward and making fun of myself. In high school and college I smoked pot even though I knew it was making the anxiety worse.

I’m level headed and filled with forgiveness towards my parents because they laughed at me and didn’t help me.

They did the best they could with what they had. They both worked hard and had 3 kids to raise and we went to parochial school which was expensive. They wanted me to go to bed at my bedtime so they could have some rest at the end of the day.

They DID help me.

They spoke to the principal. My mom came into the school. They paid for therapy. Years later they even came into NYC where I was living to be interviewed by my therapist.

I am mean, hurtful, ignorant, immature, stupid, and selfish.

Very much so. To myself, to my parents, to my family. I disrespected myself and my family until I was in my 30s and had my own child. I never grew up. I lived in a selfish, immature, inwardly focused, hurtful world where I was the center and everyone else was to blame.

I continue to live in a hurtful and ignorant way when I forget to be kind and compassionate towards myself today. I see myself in my minds eye as being less than and different from others. I know this is not true.

I know I was made whole and complete and remain that way. The only thing that gets in the way is my thinking when I am unconscious.

My parents should grow the hell up and realize their daughter is in pain and frightened and needs comforting!

Turn around: I should grow the hell up and realize that I am in pain and frightened and need comforting!

Yes! Very much so. I needed to stop the self sabotage and hatred. What I did to myself was like beating a dead horse. I was frightened and in pain and instead of helping myself through self comfort and love I turned on myself and became full of self loathing and hatred. I saw myself as less than others and believed it. I tried to cover it up to the outside world, and that’s why I was never authentic to anyone. I was always playing a role.

To the outside world I projected that I was fine and in control. I was smooth, my life was good. Inside I was filled with pain and fear and all that self loathing.

And living this way is what I believe kept me anxious all those years. Not investigating these old feelings is what is making me feel bad in my life today.

To do: Breathe, love myself, give myself that gift every morning of 10 minutes of meditation (how did I let that get away?…). Stay present. Show up in every situation, do your best, project kindness…

and most of all:

Forgive my younger self for what I did to myself back then. I was scared, angry and confused. I punished myself because I didn’t know what else to do. If I knew better I believe I would have done better. When I think of my younger self, I need to muster the same amount of compassion I would have if my own children made a big mess of their lives and then tried a better way. I need to support myself every step of the way emotionally. If I feel anxiety creeping back in, I know what I need to do to help myself. No pity pot, just take action and move forward. And remember to have gratitude to be in this place of awareness today.

Thank you Lord.

I wish you peace,

Jill G.

To learn more about the Work, see here: http://www.thework.com/index.php

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2 Responses to Doing The Work for Panic Attacks & Anxiety

  1. Marilyn says:

    Hi jilly. Wow this is some blog. Sorry your suffering right now but you know this too shall pass as it always does. Unfortunately you can’t put a time limit on it. I know you and I know you have it by the horns now and you will bat it away. You are not that person anxiety makes you feel I know this too. I’m gonna tell you that you are companionate and caring and special believe me when I say this because you help so many people. So it’s head up let time pass and you will get throught this

    Luv and a great big hug Maz xxx

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