The brain has an emotional alarm system designed to keep us safe. When people suffer from panic attacks, phobias or post-traumatic stress, this is because the alarm has gone off and the emotional part of our brain does not feel it is safe to switch it off.
What happens is this. There is small structure in the brain known as the amygdala that has access to our emotional memories and learned responses. It evolved in the distant past and its job is to match new circumstances to what is already in the memory store and alert us to anything that previously represented a risk and might do so again. In the distant past, this might had been a movement or a flash of colour that could have signified an approaching predator. The amygdala would then have triggered changes to help the body to get ready to fight or flee the danger – pounding heart, racing pulse, quick shallow breathing, etc.
Now imagine this. A woman, who has had a highly stressful day, is waiting in a long supermarket queue, worrying whether she’ll be out of the shop on time to catch the bus to collect her little girl form school. It is one pressure too many. The amygdala responds as she I under threat and she starts to feel her heart pounding strangely and her breathing quickens. She becomes terrified she is having a heart attack and that makes the symptoms escalate – her palms sweat: her chest feels as if it is bursting and she struggles to breathe. Soon she feels overwhelmed and may collapse or run out of the shop. The amygdala fearful that this may happen again, files the facts that were bright lights and lots of people queuing when the ‘threat’ occurred. Then, when the woman, is queuing in the post office the next day, the bright lights and queue may be sufficient for the amygdala to trigger another panic attack in response to the new ‘threat.’
Phobias start the same way – the amygdala makes associations with what was going on when a person first felt threatened, not all of which may be relevant. So whiles it is understandable that someone who is attacked by a vicious dog may well develop a fear of dogs generally, it could equally be the case that someone develops a fear of broken glass, because on a previous occasion when they had a panic attack there was broken glass lying near to where they collapsed. Agoraphobia develops when someone is too frightened of panic attacks to leave the house.
In the case of post-traumatic stress, someone who is in the back seat of a car when a collision occurred may find it frightening to travel in the back seat again but there may be other, unconscious connection with the accident too, such as the smell of petrol. So the person may experience seemingly inexplicable panic when filling up their own car with petrol.
Fortunately, human givens practitioners are taught a simple, and effective way to deal with all these circumstances. If a traumatic memory is causing panic attacks, phobias or post-traumatic stress, they can use a powerful painless visualisation technique. A procedure known as the rewind technique, to take the emotion out of the memory and enable the memory of the event to be stored away as history, instead of one that continues to intrude on eh present. The memory remains, and always will remain a deeply unpleasant one but no longer is it emotionally arousing. This method can work swiftly and reliably even in the most extreme of cases.