Detonators and detachment
I don’t claim to know much about bombs but here it goes. A trigger actuates the detonator – the detonator makes a small spark – the spark sets off the adjacent explosive. Boom! In fact, the detonator spark itself is pretty hopelessly feeble. It only causes the bang because of its proximity to the explosive.
We can use this metaphor to describe the genesis of a panic attack. All humans will react to a stimulus (e.g. a scuttling spider) with a small detonator spark, so that we can work out whether we are in danger. But what if our subconscious decided in the past to react to spiders by placing a big bucket of gunpowder right next to the detonator? Before we can do our risk assessment, bang, the gunpowder goes off.
Panic attacks are deeply unpleasant outpourings of sympathetic nervous activity. The body is flooded with chemicals (catecholamines), which prepare for “fight or flight”. This results in a wide variety of distressing symptoms. Tight chest, breathlessness, palpitations, sweating and nausea are common. The emotions of fear and dread are both threatening and very real.
But what if you could be trained to separate your detonator from the bucket? Hypnotherapy can really help you to do this. You can learn to put a safe distance between the two components. Alternatively, you could lay a thick, hypnotic safety blanket over the bucket. Or you may prefer to become detached and disassociated by temporarily inhabiting an alter ego, who can simply observe everything from a distance, whilst remaining unemotional and disinterested.
Phobic panic attacks are deeply distressing. People with strong visual imaginations are frequently at risk. Fortunately, the imaginative ones often make excellent hypnotic subjects. With practice, obsolete thought habits can be replaced with newer, more useful ones. So why not learn to go walkabout for a while with your alter-ego. In the meantime, the weak-kneed detonator spark will still be there, but the bucket of gunpowder will be covered up and safely out of harms way.
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