Sunday, March 12, 2006

Agoraphobia Strategy: The Principle of Non-Resistance

Here is a strategy to use your mind to overcome the panic attacks that are part of agoraphobia:

Practice non-resistance by trying to have a panic attack.

Go ahead. Try to hyperventilate. Try to get dizzy and faint. try to sweat and get your stomach tied up in knots. Try to make your mind spin out of control.

Guess what? If you actually try to bring on a panic attack you probably won't be able to. Trying to bring on a panic attack is probably the best way to avoid having one.

So why does this work?

Think about it - panic attacks rely on tension and anxiety to fuel them. In the case of agoraphobia, a lot of the reason people with agoraphobia have so many panic attacks is because they fear having them so much. In other words, panic attacks rely on tension between you and the panic to occur.

Here is how to ensure that you will have a panic attack:

1) Worry about having a panic attack.
2) Avoid all situations where a panic attack might happen.
3) Set the goal for yourself of never, ever having another panic attack no matter what.
4) Try to ignore any tension in your body that feels remotely like panic.
5) Try really hard to brace yourself against and actively fight off a panic attack through sheer will and determination if you start to feel one coming on.

If you do these things you are sure to increase the number of panic attacks you have because you are increasing the tension between you and the panic.

To stop having panic attacks, its better not to resist them. If you start feeling panic just go with it. Accept what is happening, face up to the symptoms, and just let some time pass. Whatever you do, don't put up a fight against it. When you give up the fight against panic, paradoxically, it will lose its power over you.

I was watching a movie the other day where a man with a gun tries to kidnap a girl and hold her for ransom. He threatens to shoot her if she does not come along with him. Ironically, she was about to commit suicide when he found her, so she does not care if the kidnapper shoots her. She even asks him to go ahead and shoot her to save her the work of jumping off the roof of the building. Because the girl actually wants to die and is inviting him to shoot her, the kidnapper cannot scare the girl into following him by threatening to shoot her. In effect, he has no power over her.

That's how it is with panic. If you stop resisting panic attacks and try to force a panic attack on yourself instead, the panic will loose its power over you. I know it sounds strange and you may be very skeptical, but try it. More times than not, when you try to bring on a panic attack, you find it absolutely impossible to have a panic attack.

When panic loses its power over you, you are one giant step closer to overcoming agoraphobia.

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