Who knew feelings of panic were trying to tell you something?
Panic is a good thing under the right conditions. It’s a survival reaction to anything that seems life-threatening. The confusing part is that sometimes we panic when our hearts and souls feel threatened, not just when we are in physical danger. Our souls are so sensitive that they can set off panic whenever we are faced with circumstances that demand more than we can give.
In our culture, panic is usually seen as a senseless reaction that happens for no good reason. Few people with panic symptoms feel justified because the causes of panic are often unconscious. They think they can handle the stress, but their body says otherwise. In fact, panic attacks are a good sign that you may not be as okay with a situation as you think you are.
Many of us act like our hearts and souls have no limits. Instead we decide how we think we should feel and then tell our bodies to go along with it. We tell ourselves that nothing is too much for us—or shouldn’t be—and we persist in enduring situations that threaten our emotional or even physical health.
People with different physiologies and neurological styles may differ in their vulnerability to feelings of panic, and of course you must always check out a possible physical cause even as you explore emotional reasons. But once you have ruled out anything more serious, think of panic as an emergency report from your deep interior that your energy reserves are being dangerously depleted. Often these messages from your heart and soul have been disregarded so long that only something as dramatic as a panic attack can get your attention that something is wrong.
If you look at panic kindly, as an alarm from the red-zone status of your maxed out nervous system, you can begin to understand why it happened. Perhaps you’ve been determined to keep doing something that is actually bad for you, just because you had a pre-set goal or feared alienating others.
Or maybe you’re taking a big step away from your previous identity, discovering your individuality or making a dream come true. A part of you may desperately need assurance that it’s okay to go forward, that abandonment won’t be the price of freedom. At the very least, panic is calling for more conscious processing of a situation, begging you to become aware of its possible cost to you.
Panic attacks may be the body’s only option to make you pay attention to what you can stand. The real reason for panic is to get you to be totally honest about what a situation might be taking out of you. Do some things feel like too much for you? Might you hate something you’ve been told you should love? Has someone scared you, but you’ve dismissed that feeling as silly? What truth have you talked yourself out of realizing?
Instead of judging panic as an unnecessary inconvenience, try to figure out what doesn’t feel safe, what is out of sync with your welfare, and what form of replenishment may be needed. Absolute self-acceptance is the first step in figuring out panic’s message.
Understanding panic requires you to take your inner reactions seriously, listening for their alarms. You might find that the panic is caused by outside pressures telling you to do more than you can. Or it might be a mistaken belief of your own, shushing you or pushing you to stay in a bad situation because it doesn’t think you have the right to object.
Whether it’s a personal belief or outer demands, it may take some figuring out with a wise friend or therapist. But if you remember that panic is a message to take action on your own behalf, you will transform panic from a frightening symptom into a valued guidance system. It’s dedicated to reminding you that your heart and soul have needs, too.