Panic Attacks & How To Row Your Boat Back To Saner, Calmer Shores (v1.1)

Panic Attacks & How To Row Your Boat Back To Saner, Calmer Shores (v1.1)

Dec 06


“Worry is a waste of time. If you can do something, do it. If you can’t, let go and let God.”


Panic Attacks & How To Row Your Boat Back To Saner, Calmer Shores (v1.1)
By David Sunfellow
NHNE Pulse
December 6, 2012

OK, something has happened (or hasn’t happened) and you notice that you are spending a lot of time worrying about it. What could happen. What might happen. How your life will probably be ruined by whatever real or imagined event you are pondering. You begin to feel panicky. Not too much at first, but the more you ponder your circumstances, they worse they seem, and the more panicky that makes you feel. A little voice inside you is telling you that you are over-reacting, but you are too upset to listen to it. And you don’t want to believe this voice anyway. So you keep focused on the problem. The more deeply you examine the situation, the more evidence you discover to support the idea that things are really awful. Terrible. Getting worse. By now, your thoughts and emotions are out of control. They are looping around and around. You’re starting to feel sick. Your head hurts. Your stomach aches. You feel like you might throw up. You’re having a full-fledged panic attack.

Now that you are in the middle of an emotional hurricane, how can you row your little boat back to saner, calmer shores?

1. In order to gain control of your inner world, you first need to realize that your thoughts and emotions are energy, like money. If you spend time and energy worrying, you are investing your time and energy into making yourself more upset, more fearful, more paranoid, more needy, more pathetic. If, on the other hand, you invest your time and energy in actually changing the things you are concerned about — or letting them go if they are things you can’t change — the burdens that once terrorized you, begin to fade and blue, cheerful, hopeful skies return.

2. It is an act of supreme laziness to allow your inner world to run wild. Yes, it is easy and familiar. And there is comfort in that. But the comfort you gain from choosing the path of least resistance is not worth the terrible price you pay. Bottom line: There is nothing noble about letting your thoughts and emotions run wild. It is immature, ineffective, self-destructive, and selfish.

3. Not controlling the forces within yourself not only hurts you, but it hurts everyone around you, especially those who are closest to you. That’s because the forces you are unwilling to control — your upset feelings, your fears, your negativity, your paranoia — spills into the world around you. Essentially you are asking, and often forcing, others to deal with your inner tornadoes. This causes those around you to feel resentful and you to feel weak, powerless, and needy. And this, in turn, leads to resentment on your part that the people around you are not helping you as much as you want them to. The only answer to this vicious cycle is to end it by taking responsibility for your own energy and not asking, demanding, or expecting, either overtly or covertly, for others to make you feel better. That’s your job. And since you are an adult now, not a child, you gather the many aspects of yourself together and let them know that there is a new sheriff in town. Instead of allowing your car (consciousness) to be driven by whatever fearful aspect of yourself pops up, you let everyone know that your car will now be driven by you, in a mature way. No more wild-eyed, childish, undeveloped parts of yourself are getting behind your steering wheel. From now on, you are in charge. You will be happy to listen to whatever fears and concerns the other passengers in your car have, but they are not going to be allowed to drive.

4. To the degree that you are able to use your thoughts and emotions constructively, your world (both inwardly and outwardly) begins to change for the better. Problems begin to be solved because you are actually using your thoughts and emotions to solve them, rather than make them worse. And the more successful you are, the better you feel about yourself. You begin to realize that you have the inner resources you need to master any situation that comes your way. You are not a pathetic, needy, victim after all. Instead, you are a child of God, a powerful spiritual being, a powerhouse of creativity and resourcefulness more than a match for whatever situations come your way. And this, in turn, allows you to be able to genuinely help others. You have extra time and energy because your world is in order, and by virtue of cleaning up your own inner messes, you can help others do the same.

5. If you have spent a lot of time building negative patterns, it will likely take you time to reverse the process. A mature attitude towards this is simple: “I’ve spent years getting myself into this mess, so I accept the possibility that it may takes years to get myself out. That’s fine. I’m an adult. I can handle that. I will start today step-by-step cleaning things up and reversing the tide. Whenever I realize I have fallen into old patterns, instead of feeling discouraged and berating myself (which I now realize is a selfish and self-destructive waste of time and energy), I will turn my efforts back to controlling, in positive and helpful ways, my thoughts and emotions. Feeling bad about myself not only makes me feel bad, but it reinforces old patterns. I will not use my energy this way any more. From now on, I’m investing all my time and energy on building a new me. One who is capable, happy, healthy, and productive.”

6. As we begin to use our time and energy more positively, we are likely to slip back into the deep, destructive ruts we have carved into our psyche. Slipping is fine. Staying there isn’t. Sometimes, all it takes is realizing we have slipped back into an old patter, to pull ourselves out. At other times, the rut is too deep. When that happens, one way we can pull ourselves out of old conditioning is to change the channel. Instead of sitting around allowing ourselves to replay old patterns, we get up and go for a walk, spend time in nature, breathe deeply, meditate, watch an uplifting movie, listen to some beautiful music, visit a museum, or, the biggest game and channel changer of all, do something nice for someone else. Then, after the cycle has been broken, we can return and begin harnessing our energy for positive goals.

7. On rare occasions, we are not be able to extract ourselves from a deep rut. Attempting to control our thoughts and emotions doesn’t work. Changing channels doesn’t work. We’re stuck. In cases like this, we can and should ask God/Spirit/our Higher Selves to help us. Actually, we should be God/Spirit/our Higher Selves to help us all the time. But if we are super stuck, we can ask with greater conviction.

8. Finally, as near-death experiencer Anita Moorjani is fond of saying, “how we feel about ourselves is more important than positive thinking”. More than anything, we should strive to feel good about ourselves. What this means is connect with the deeper, truer part of ourself where everything is not only fine, beautiful, and perfect, but where our human shortcomings, no matter how awful, are seen as entertaining, humorous, even delightful. Yes, there is a part of ourselves that actually delights in our human challenges. We should, too. Actually, we NEED TO if we are going to be really effective — and happy — in this world. (There are many NDE stories that explain and elaborate on this idea. I will include a few excerpts from one below).


Amy C Near Death Experience 4720

Original Link

My Guide stood by at a certain time… and he lovingly stayed as my support while I had a kind of life review. I never felt chastised at all, even though I know I’ve been very cruel at times and have hurt many people. I’ve lost my temper in horrible ways and I have had great trouble with forgiveness, and yet, I felt only love and understanding through the entire life review. What it felt like to me was that I was being given the opportunity and gift of being able to stand back and more fully understand and love myself. I was able to feel exactly what others around me had felt during my life. I understood how everything I did and said and even thought had touched others around me in one way or another. I was able to even enter the minds and emotional centers of many who had been around me, and understand where they were coming from in their own thinking; how their own personal views and lives’ experiences had brought them to the places each stood. I felt their own struggling and their own fears; their own desperate need for love and approval — and more than anything, I could feel how child-like everyone was. With every person I viewed, including myself, I was able to see and feel with a Higher Mind and Eye. And the feeling I had toward everyone was nothing less than what a loving mother would feel for her own children at toddler age.

It was actually comical at moments. I could feel how the “Elders” as I will call them (these are those who are Helpers on the other side, who have mastered themselves in many or all ways, and help work with us) see us and find so much humor in the way we do things. It might seem brutally annoying to consider when we are in the midst of a great argument or drama that is playing out in our lives that the Elders view these things very much like when a mother sees her two year old scream and cry and bop another child on the head with a stuffed animal. The mother doesn’t want her child to “fall apart” and become hysterical and cry. She feels for her child, but at the same time, she sees a little bit of comedy in how seriously the child takes what is usually a trivial drama. She continues to love her child and thinks the world of it, hoping it will go on enjoying the day, living and learning.

This was a big light bulb moment for me, because I had entertained the dark idea, during my life, that every little less than perfect action of mine, was being watched “by God,” and judged with anger or great sadness. I felt constant guilt for my mistakes and belabored over the dread of “being watched” with severe or at least very stern eyes. I wanted to please, and I believed that I was so often falling short. This had been a maddening way to live. So getting the chance to view others from a much Higher Frequency was wonderful, to say the least. And knowing how much love I felt as I watched or sensed others’ in their personal situations, made me want to live more in joy rather than guilt and worry. No one was mad at me.

I was able to explore the mind or energetic pattern of one of my life’s sworn enemies — someone I couldn’t imagine forgiving for what I’d witnessed. And yet, coming back from my NDE, I could feel nothing more than such a flood of Love for this woman that I dived in at the chance to write her a letter and tell her how much I loved her, and to ask for forgiveness for the energetic weight I might have held over her from my own dark thoughts and anger. She could have been my own firstborn. That is how much I adored her at that time. Because I was able to feel the Divine Love for her that the Essence that ‘God’ is, feels toward her, I too, couldn’t help but love her in a similar way. It was such a surprisingly marvelous feeling to relinquish the burden of my own anger and judgments — much of which I hadn’t even carried, consciously most of my years.

Surveying all of this, I want to note, that I felt a Higher part of me that had compassion on the ME that was so ignorant and juvenile. It seemed to understand what I was working with, in every detail, and it only wanted for my joy. I felt that toward my own self, if that makes any sense. I desired to have my lower self Awaken, and to be filled with Love and Joy. I wanted for my lower, child-like self to be kinder, to be more Conscious, and to find Peace.

I am forever grateful for my Life Review and what I took from it.


I came back with this Knowing that despite what SEEMED “good” or “bad” before… it now became united to be only, “Good.” Because I trusted and knew that everything was in it’s right place… even when people made decisions that I didn’t agree with myself, I still felt that in the overall picture, it was ALL “Good.” I had this knowing as well, that there was the essence or spark of the Highest (as I’ll refer to ‘God’) in EVERYTHING. In every mineral, vegetable, animal and human and beyond… I just knew that the Highest waited within everything to expand and create and grow and experience. I lost all desire to analyze everything in life, as I’d done before through religious examples, by trying to judge everything little thing as being either “good” or “bad.” I wasn’t concerned. We are all just consciousness experiencing life, and learning how to love, create, and develop to the Highest we can be. I knew to choose what felt right for me and to trust more. That when something felt unjust or imbalanced, to do what I could to work toward harmony, but to not worry about that which I had no control over. I know that eventually, even without our taking over the controls, the Universe is so full of Order, it always finds a way to Balance everything, because the Universe cannot exist without perfect Balance. And it will continue to exist.

For similar life-changing perspectives from other near-death experiences, read “6. Life Reviews from God’s Perspective” in “The Light & The Light Review” (pdf) and Near-Death Experiences on the Purpose of Life.



• Twelve “Any Time, Any Place” Survival Tips (v3.2)
• Shadow Work: Insights From The Pathwork Lectures
• The Pathwork Lectures On Relationships

What Near-Death Experiences Teach Us
• How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth
• The Essence of Near-Death Experiences (In 8.5 Minutes)
Near-Death Experiences on the Purpose of Life
• Powerful, Life-Changing Near-Death Experience Quotes
• NDE Stories
• NHNE NDE on Facebook
NHNE NDE on Twitter



  1. Howard Schwartz

    Know the bad effects of judgement, certainly mine, I nevertheless take this change to relate some pretty harsh judgements concerning your advice about handling worry and panic attacks. Rather than practical tips, for for real people so much of the essay seemed to reproduce our culturally specific myths about human psychology (often called ethno-psychology for folk-psychology).

    I’ve learned of such things, when I worked for years as an academic sociologist. Our culture has a way to give or remove status, to praise or criticize based on a series of age categories. You know know, we generally consider the very young, and very old as beings less than regular, competent adults. As research shows, we also treat both and speak o both in similar ways -as if they were less capable, and we had superior ability to speak, act, think and feel in some sense appropriately. Various traits, and tendencies are “bound” to categories like baby or senior as steriotypes about how they perceive and think.

    Thus, to say to an adult “Get a grip, you are acting like a baby.” is a put down in our culture, while saying to a small child, “You acted like a grownup!” is a compliment. The like a child comment may come from an adult overtly crying in front of other adults, or displaying socially inappropriate emotions in general (e.g., Arly Hochchild’s famous books on Feeling Rules: The Social Management of the Heart). Thus we believe babies, as a group, cry – express emotions without having much control or making direct decisions about them, adults have various kinds of self control and self responsibility, so they can defer immediate gratification through impulse control — etc. etc.

    So much of your advice seemed to evoke these steriotypes that all of us learn way before we learn about meditation, theories of the soul and monkey mind, etc. Chances are high we selectively accept such beliefs as conform to the steriotypes we learned earlier, which by the way are COMPLETELY different and absent in other cultures.

    With this pontificating: Much of what you said advises adults, generally, to not act like babies, like the young, and act like competent adults are known to act. This does not seem real advice to real people which, in my view would require knowing much of the details of some worry or panic, what a person is actually capable of, believes, or is actually willing to do, what the mix of environment and sourrounding people and support or outside pressure is, the details of what we now know are hardwired emotional responses in all humans – and how it developed in a particular one.

    In sum, good practical advice usually requires knowing details about the particular context, outer and inner within which a problem occurs.

    And so much research, even of great human beings and scientists, shows they in fact do not perceive, feel and behave in the ways the steriotypes about adults claim. Indeed, many critical scientific discoveries happend because a person, filled with driving emotion and anxiety, doggedly pursued a course of action that appeared irrational, unreasonable, even harmful to their well being.

    Decades of work with fear based problems – PTSD, phobias, panic attacks make it clear that people fail to change if they attempt to “take responsiblity” as adults, decide where to invest their emotional/mental, energy, etc. Usually, they need others to slowly desensitize them, and reintroduce the triggerin scenes under controlled conditions, condition into them peace inducing cues – -. These techniques work very quickly to eliminate miseries, that a person may have suffered for years, trying to achieve self control. Such processes are very low level ones, entraining patterns on the level of how rats are conditioned by simple reinforcement.

    The processes that produce folk knowledge, and folk psychology are different than those of reasoning, investigation, even intuitive higher knowledge. They have ways of being transmitted between cultural members, and those that question them are sanctioned in various ways, just as they are if they vary from any other cultural, social norms.

    So that is the caution I convey — admittedly with possibly many more words than needed. I hope at least some of this is food for thought, and useful to consider,

  2. Joseph Dillard

    Dear David, Your point that the developmentally more evolved can helpfully interface with those who are more self-absorbed if they take on the nurturing attitude of a good teacher or parent is a core principle that stands the test of time. However, much misery, both within oneself and toward others, is caused by a lack of clear internal and external boundaries, and the imposition of such boundaries is often experienced as a lack of freedom and persecution rather than as a context in which to experience greater freedom. This is a basic paradox; both are required. NDEs and mystical experiences emphasize the former while Howard Schwartz’s thoughtful response leans toward the second. And this is where I part company with “love is the answer.” Boundaries and structures must be equally emphasized as valuable aspects of love if one is going to stick to that formulation (love is the answer) and that tends not to be the message from NDEs and mystical experiences and therefore not from those who study them. Consequently, help can lack the concrete structures, contexts, and boundaries that people can hang on to, that takes them to the next step. In my work, Integral Deep Listening, this issue is largely addressed by encouraging people to access the personifications of their life issues and their dream characters in ways that provide concrete, individualized, testable recommendations for dealing with things like panic attacks. To then combine that advice with the best they know from “experts,” and run both through the filter of their own common sense. People are inspired to see a bigger picture and to put their worries into a context that makes them relatively meaningless when they read accounts like Amy’s, but bridging that inspiration and the day-to-day immersion in particular subjective experience is the challenge. And therefore concrete tools like cognitive behavioral therapy do things that near death and mystical experiences, in my opinion, do not do and are not meant to do. I am not arguing either/or but both/and: context and structure. NDEs and mystical experiences are excellent at supplying a healing context; things like CBT and the areas Schwartz points to are needed to provide the structure. In my opinion, therapeutic models that marry these two exist but are not yet broadly available.

  3. Marie Rhodes

    I can speak only for my self. I have learned acting on panic attacks can be dangerous. So can acting on advice of others who want to help. I found that staying in the feeling and allowing it without running away from it brings me back to sanity. To forgive and love our selves is the most important thing we can do. Thinking other should love us when we can’t love our selves is wishful thinking. People can love us but we are not to receive it. We are to caught up in our own misery and suffering. Their is only one REALITY the one we create for ourselves by our thought, words and actions. Taking responsibility for those helps change the negative feelings to more positive ones. No matter how much someone is loved that does not seem to change or help another person. Kindness and compassion can help for a short time. But in the end it does not bring lasting change to that person. Only when the person finds the truth within themselve to love them selves will they feel the love they so much want from others. Helping others is helping ourselves because the other is us. When you think of those out their as others, not caring perhaps we need to look at our selves and see that maybe something of our selves is being refledted back to us.
    Complaining about the cruel world and no ones cares may be our reality. I don’t believe it has to be. That is my belief and it works for me. I don’t feel that it will work that way for everyone.

  4. Joseph, if you are talking about mystical experiences in general not emphasizing healthy boundaries and borders, I agree with you. But when it comes to near-death experiences (and their kin) not emphasizing healthy boundaries and borders, I disagree. As far as I can see NDEs represent the most healthy, balanced, sophisticated, nuanced, all-inclusive, full-blown path to health and wholeness that humankind has yet received. If we examine these experiences deeply enough, all the bases are covered — and covered in ways that far exceed any of the philosophical, psychological, or sociological systems that human beings have cooked up so far. I think the lack that emerges from NDEs is not a lack of vision, but a lack of understanding and application.

    Speaking directly to your point, if you look at the core truth that NDEr Anita Moorjani learned and came back to share, there are boundaries everywhere. Her primary discovery was that she needed to love herself; to take care of herself and her needs first; to stop being a doormat for others, or other forces. She also discovered that the primary reason she contracted cancer was because she failed to do this. Her personal boundaries were not strong enough to prevent her from internalizing a culturally-hyped fear of cancer.

    Along similar lines, great multitudes of NDErs report that after they return, almost every aspect of their lives change. Unhealthy relationships are left; unhealthy careers are abandoned; unhealthy lifestyles, food, clothing, perfumes, etc., are replaced with healthier, more natural ones. In other words, all kinds of boundaries are put in place that were previously ignored. The bottom line: there is a systemwide effort to take conscious control of every aspect of one’s life so that it becomes a greater reflection of love, harmony, truth, beauty, connection, etc. Not all NDErs do this in a good way, but when we stand back far enough, this general impulse is extremely clear. At least that’s how it looks to me.

    Setting aside the suggestion that NDEs do not provide a full-blown path to wholeness and healing, I do agree with you, Joseph, that a balanced approach is needed. I also agree with you that therapeutic models like the one you’ve developed can be very helpful.

    Howard, the piece I wrote was attempting to deal with general rules and principles. I realize there are exceptions and that general rules need to be tweaked according to the specific needs of individual people. I also realize there are people that do not have the ability to use, or even understand, the ideas I shared. My mother is a person like this. For various reasons, this paper would sound like gibberish to her. Because she lacks the ability to understand and apply these principles in her life, others have needed to care for her, her entire life. So, yes, there are exceptions and what I wrote does not adequately deal with the vast array of needs that human beings bring to the table. I also agree with both you and Joseph that other tools and perspectives may be needed when dealing with such issues.

    Marie, I thought what you shared was beautiful. I especially liked how you ended your sharing with “That is my belief and it works for me. I don’t feel that it will work that way for everyone.” Amen.

    Joseph, Howard, and Marie – thank all of you for sharing! I really appreciate your feedback. All of you said things that were helpful and insightful.

  5. Marie, I also wanted to say that I think your suggestion about feeling your feelings and not trying to suppress or run away from them is really important. That point should probably have been included in what I wrote (maybe I’ll add it to version 1.2). The Pathwork Material, which is linked at the bottom of the post, emphasizes how important this is. If we are defended against negative emotions; if we run from them or try to force them to behave without feeling and understanding them more deeply, we get into trouble. Thanks for mentioning this!

  6. Linda

    Hi David,
    I was going to comment on this article last week when it was originally posted, but didn’t have the time, and now am glad that I was able to see the commentary and your responses. My initial reaction, being a person who is involved with someone who has significant trauma/PTSD, was ‘right on!’ When my Sig. Other has been in these states, I have termed myself a ‘prisoner of his emotions.’ I realized though, that it was myself keeping me a prisoner and that it was my choice as to how to react to him when he went into PTSD/trauma mode. I was thinking that your first few ‘recommendations’ may have been the result of having been in a role where someone close to you had panic attacks or PTSD and you couldn’t get away – possibly/probably causing a version of PTSD/trauma reaction within yourself. I read now in your comments that your Mother in fact acted out in these ways.

    I respect you and your work so much, David, and after my first reaction of ‘right on’ – mainly because I just went through something with my S.O. – I kind of quickly went to ‘where is the understanding of how trauma works? Where is the compassion?’ I think that Robert Scaer’s works probably deserve a read, or re-read if you are already familiar with him. “The Body Bears the Burden” is a great work to start with. I feel that your honesty and integrity will make the next version of this document filled with real healing tips for both the person experiencing the PTSD/trauma reaction as well as those who are in close quarters.

    Many blessings to you,

  7. Hi Linda. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    You’re right that part of my post was written from the perspective of someone who has been personally affected by other people having a difficult time managing their mental and emotional energies. I think these are archetypal issues that we all have to wrestle with. Like most males, I tend to be more of a self-contained person, but I also have a turbulent inner life, so the advice I offered comes from trying to harness my own inner tornadoes as much as it comes from being affected by the inner upsets of others. Like humans everywhere, especially men who tend to be more out-of-touch with their emotions than women are, I also have a tendency to project my emotional instability on others so I don’t have to face and deal with my own. I’ve learned that some kind of projection on my part is usually engaged when I get overly upset, reactive, or uncomfortable by the emotional instability of others. So the rabbit hole goes deep, and I am dealing with it inside and out.

    You might be interested to know that I originally wrote my suggestions for someone I have a close relationship with. A few months after writing it for them, I re-read it and thought it might be helpful to share with others. While most people found it helpful, a few folks wrote in and said they felt it was a little harsh and lacked compassion. Because of this feedback, I asked the person I originally wrote it for what they thought: Did they feel what I wrote was overly harsh, or lacked compassion? They told me, no, they felt the directness was really helpful. They needed something with a tough-love, no-nonsense charge to help them break out of the cycle they were in. I think they probably felt this way because they knew I loved them and had compassion for them and their challenges. That said, I can understand why others might think what I wrote would be MORE helpful if it was written more compassionately and also acknowledged, more directly, that it is very important to pay attention to the distressed voices within us (not just control them).

    Which leads to another interesting point: Many of us are becoming increasingly aware that every issue needs to be seen from multiple perspectives. Because of this, it is really challenging to say anything in a truly balanced way. In the first place, we are all bound to write about something based on our own experiences (which, by nature, is limited). We are also bond to emphasize some things more, other things less, and overlook some things all together. Which is why I am grateful for forums like this one where others, like you, can help fill in the picture!

    Concerning Robert Scaer, I haven’t read “The Body Bears the Burden”, but it sounds interesting! Thanks for the recommendation — and for taking the time to share your thoughts about this very important topic. Being surrounded by caring people who are willing to deeply explore topics like this one is one of the things I am most grateful for in my life.

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