I stand right upon the edge
A perilous drop below
My heart it pounds outside my chest
My body has all but froze
I know the rope will hold my weight
I’ve seen it so many times
But what if it snaps, my bones will break
I need to control my mind!
The sweat is dripping down my neck
My vision seems impaired
Please just let me catch my breath
I’m really not that scared
Don’t push me! I can do it myself
You’ll make me slip and fall
They laugh as if I can’t be helped
They know I’m trying to stall
What use for me to come out here
And leave without any fun
I shake my head to ignore the fear
And close my eyes and jump!
Panic sets in with the illusion of lost control.
When panic causes you to be inactive by conceding that there is nothing you can do, it prevents you from taking appropriate action within your control. Maybe the logical decision in the end is to do nothing at all, but it needs to be your decision, not a frozen reaction.
Panic can come about when something unexpectedly happens out of nowhere. If it is something immediately dangerous, you may curl up in fear. If it involves losing control over something important, you may be overwhelmed with the trouble that will ensue. In each case, a natural knee jerk reaction comes about that prevents you from using the faculties at your disposal. Your mind freezes and is unable to think through the situation. In a sense, you have caused yourself to be in awe of the adversity in such a way that it cripples you. But consider a different reaction: no reaction at all. Very little time is necessary to actually let the circumstances properly sink in, the most important part is that your mind remain fluid to allow it to happen. In that short amount of time, even a split second, you will be able to react in a logical manner. And often, not reacting at all, and letting the circumstances play out without any added drama, is a legitimate choice in the end.
Panic can also come about when something happens that you didn’t want to happen. You may have prepared for its inevitability, but being confronted with the actual situation turns out to be a different matter altogether. Because it is you who has shown an aversion to it, consider the possibility there is no reason for panicking at all. Give the situation an opportunity to manifest your fears. Often, what you fear will not come about, and even if it does, you are still in charge of how you react.
Sometimes what you don’t want to happen is the act of panicking itself, because you know you won’t be able to control it. An interesting characteristic of this kind of panic is that it has no logical basis, and you know it has no logical basis. The influx of panic doesn’t come about because you are scared of some object or situation, but because you are scared of the reaction you know you are going to have.
If you expect this kind of panic, you can combat its effects. If you’ve experienced true attacks of panic, you know that it is not reasonable to rely on your mind alone to steer you through it. It is too occupied with fending off the attack. I have found, however, that if you have something permanent to reference, you can anchor your actions upon it while still letting your mind finish its bout. Maybe this is a sheet of paper with your thoughts when speaking, or instructions to fall back on when carrying out a difficult task. By having these artifacts available to you, you are reinforcing your own control by deliberately moving the focus outside of your body. If you choose not to run from the panic, if you choose not to fight the panic, but rather ignore it and go about with what you need to accomplish, it will eventually fade away. Every time.
- Do you worry about what other people will think when you take an action? Does this cause you to doubt whether you should go through with it? Do you have any proof that this reaction will occur? If you do have proof, what actual concrete harm will come to you if someone reacts poorly?
- In a pressure situation, have you made a mistake that has caused you to subsequently make more mistakes and lose control? Have you tried pausing, collecting yourself, and identifying the steps to reclaim control?