WHEN PANIC ATTACKS!


(Today's tip is excerpted from my new book, Feel Happy Now!, available in the UK now and in the US from January 2008. See the 'Want to Learn More?' section at the end of the tip to learn more...)

When I first learned NLP, I worked in a more directly therapeutic role than I do now. For whatever reason, I wound up seeing a lot of clients who had 'panic attacks'. The structure of a panic attack is an interesting thing. In nearly every case I came across, there was a defining incident - a time where things had been truly painful on the inside. It might have been a time of being out of control or when the person felt as though something was happening to their body and they had no control over it.

The actual panic attack, however, came anytime they felt what they believed to be the onset of another 'out-of-control' experience. In other words, what made the experience so uncomfortable was the attempt to shut it down. It was actually the fear of fear - panicking now about the possibility of panicking in the future.

I remember one particular client who came to me with such bad panic attacks that she arrived at my office lying down on the back seat of her boyfriend's car with a coat over her head. I asked her to come in, gave her a cup of tea and then told her I was taking a poll and needed to know the answer to a very important question: what are the two silliest words in the English language?

After a bit of confusion and some curious thought, she came up with the words 'French fry' and 'parka'. When it came time to take her case history, I asked her to tell me all about her problem with one caveat - instead of the phrase 'panic attack', which I explained was much too scary a term for me, she was to substitute the word 'French fry'.Instead of telling me about the out-of-control feeling, would she mind substituting the word 'parka'?

We then had a fascinating, fun and funny time discussing how many times a week she had 'French fries' and what it was about 'French fries' she found most scary, and eventually I had her tell me about her first 'French fry'.

In addition, she talked about that horrible 'parka' feeling and how whenever she felt herself begin to 'parka' she would immediately begin having a 'French fry'.

Sometimes when I tell this story people think I was being disrespectful, but think about this - for two years this woman had been unable to leave her home without a coat over her head, and within 10 minutes she was laughing about it. She was beginning to access her own good feelings in relation to the problem situation - and those good feelings would be the key to her finding her own solutions.

Here is an exercise you can do to notice the incredible difference introducing good feelings into 'bad' situations can make. Be kind to yourself by doing it with something that's only a little bit uncomfortable until you get the hang of it.

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DISCLAIMER - if you're dealing with something really traumatic, only do this with a qualified (and open-minded!) helping professional.
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Today's Experiment:

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1. Choose something you would like to feel better about in your life. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is awful/terrible/helpless and 10 is wonderful and completely resourceful, how do you feel in relation to it?

2. Talk out loud about it for at least three minutes in a high, squeaky 'Mickey Mouse' voice. Be sure to really go for it - 'slightly squeaky' won't do the trick.

If you feel silly talking in a Mickey Mouse voice, you might hop about on one leg instead. If that still feels too silly for something as serious as your problem, talk in the Mickey Mouse voice while hopping about on one leg!

3. Notice what's different when you think about the situation now. How do you feel about it on a scale from 1 to 10?

With love,
Michael

PS - I used these techniques (and others) recently when working with a woman who suffered from panic attacks in London. The story was featured in The Daily Express in an article entitled "Mr. Happy Changed Our Lives" - you can read the text of the article here:
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/6657

If you would like to read the preface and introduction to 'Feel Happy Now' online, click here:
http://www.geniuscatalyst.com/public/feelhappynow.php


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