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Healing Panic Attacks, Anxiety and Fear

Article published in Tone Magazine, July-August 2007

I was 18 years old, living in Bucharest, Romania. My mother had died a year before. My father had a new relationship with a loving woman - Eliza.


That night when it first started, Eliza and I were home, chatting. At first there was tightness in my chest. A feeling of fear – like a cold, tight grip in my abdomen – had been with me for a while. I had no name for it. To me it was “being afraid without knowing why I was afraid”. The chest tightness was followed by tightness in my head and throat. It felt as if there was something inside my head expanding, wanting to explode. The blood vessels around my throat got congested, and my heart started racing. I thought I was having a heart attack. It felt like I was dying.


As soon as my father arrived, he called an ambulance. The heart palpitations lasted for a while. I tried to talk, but the teeth were chattering so intensely, that words came out unintelligibly. My entire body shook and trembled. By the time the ambulance arrived, it had all calmed down, and I was feeling better. The paramedics mentioned the words – new to me – “panic, or anxiety attack”. What was the cure? They shrugged.


Throughout the following years, anxiety played softly, in the background, and at times trumpeted into other panic attacks. I had left my native country to meet new growth and challenges in a different culture, different climate. I was finding my way through life without a manual of instructions. Bouts of depression alternated with anxiety, and all my doctor could do was prescribing pills. Neither pills, nor talk therapy made a positive difference for me. At times I thought I was going crazy: the anxiety attacks would “strike” at times of rest, either at night, or when at home, alone. Once I was at the movies, when I felt my heart racing and the chest and head tighten. I ran to the washroom telling harsh words to myself. Wasn’t I capable of enjoying a simple pleasure like watching a movie? Did I have to feel sick just when I was at play? What was wrong with me?


Then, in January 1999, I started seeing Ofra for a different breed of therapy sessions. After an initial session of Foot Analysis, I embarked on a journey of weekly sessions of holistic reflexology, energy therapy and body-mind techniques with this little woman with a B.A. in Biology and Genetics. I had no concept for what she was doing, and her guidance while I was on her treatment table, was like nothing else I had heard before.


Ofra would find an entry point – physical or emotional – to trigger the emotion “du jour”. The fear was the first one to come up. I was instructed to feel it, pay attention to where I felt it in my body, and breathe into it. What it did was allowing a completion of the unresolved emotional business from the past. The process was far from comfortable, but the peace I would find after each session was incredible. And it would last, and it would grow. At first I resisted the process. I was so used wanting things to be different than they are, that I was protesting: “But it hurts!” I would complain to Ofra. To which she would reply without emotion: “So hurt!” “Allow yourself to feel what is”.


The first session, as the energy of fear was allowed to “do its thing”, took me through a stage of intensifying fear, then a peak of the fear, all through which I was breathing consciously and allowing my body to move as it wanted to; and then a stage of letting go, of relaxation. For the first time in my life I learned that it was OK to feel fear. Also, for the first time in my life, I learned to let the fear go – this was the relaxation stage. By the end of the session, I was calmer than before the session, and calmer than I had felt in a long time. Ofra would cover me with a sheet and leave the room for five to ten minutes. Those moments alone, cocooned under the covers, reminded me of my early childhood, feeling safe in my mother’s arms. It felt good. The good feeling stayed with me, and in the big picture, in the long run, it freed so much energy for me that I surprised myself and everyone else who knew me, by taking some very brave action in my life.


The energy of fear changed so much since that day when I was 18. My understanding of what fear is, its purpose and the energy-mindful way to address it has helped me both in my own life, and in my healing practice. As the Law of Attraction would have it, many of my clients come to me with problems of unresolved fears and anxiety. Having experienced tremendous healing myself, I understand where each person is, and I know from first-hand experience that healing is possible. With the energy therapy work, fear doesn’t disappear completely from a person’s life. If a hungry lion would chase me in the jungle, I would be feeling fear and run for my life (not sure about the “fight” part – with me it would likely be “flight”). But in this day-to-day life, the intensity of the fear and the frequency of its occurrence have changed, and are changing. Sometimes people come to see me before surgery; after our work together, they go to the hospital in a state of peace and trust. Research has proven that a relaxed state increases a patient’s chances for the surgery to succeed, and speeds up recovery.


Artists often find that the block to their creativity is often an unresolved worry or fear. When resolved, they re-connect to the source of their inspiration, and creativity flows.


Under the layers of unresolved fear, lies pure Joy. I often see a person clearing fear on the treatment table, and then going into a healthy bout of belly laughter. I used to do the same with Ofra. This was the time I’d tell her my best jokes.


One way I regard fear, which I like sharing with my students and clients, is as a shadow on the wall. Placing my hands between the lamp and the wall, I pretend that the shadow formed is a threatening monster. Even though it is a valid human experience – everybody can see shadows! – Shadow itself is not real. Light is real, it is made of particles, photons, energy, something! The shadow is made of nothing; you can’t take it to the lab and analyze it. It is merely an obstruction of the light. If we regarded fear similarly, as an obstruction of love, we would relate to it differently, would we not?


I see fear as energy, seeking to prompt us to take action. In other words, fear can be addressed as information. All that information needs is our attention: the only thing we’ve always denied it, in our reactive attempt to avoid it. Give it your attention, the message will be delivered, and the messenger on its way out! Part of the session for my clients is often a message delivered from their subconscious mind into their awareness, about some change they need to take. The healing becomes learning, and learning expands us. Addressing the fears becomes a holistic, spiritual way to live with mindfulness, allowing what is, and living courageously and inspired.


Have a Clear-from-Fear summer!


 "From the withered tree, a flower blossoms." - Zen Proverb