Learning to Settle in With Panic
It almost seems like one day we wake up and begin to take an inventory of our lives. And, usually, that inventory is spurred by some kind of unsettled feeling that we have; a feeling that something isn’t “quite right,” that something is “off.” So, we navigate around trying desperately to find any answer to our problem or a direction to take that will be shorter with no detours. Many times we find, after we think we’ve “Got It!”, that those quick fixes or short cuts are temporary. At some point our inventory catches up to us and plans its sneak attack. It somehow knows that we still have work to do; that we’re looking at the wrong things. We wake up in the middle of the night, with our heart pounding and our mind racing and re-playing a Talking Heads song which makes us ask ourselves: “Well, how did I get here?” And that one line, that one quote sends us running. Our inventory now has a name, and its name is Panic.
Rather than panic, hyperventilate, or whatever you might normally do to put distance between that unsettled feeling and yourself–just sit. Stand still. Slow down. Stop fighting the thoughts, the feelings. Answer that knock at the door, open it and welcome panic into your home. Invite it in like any other guest who comes to visit, offer them a drink and have them get comfortable. Panic is your friend, your good friend, who is sending you a message to look at yourself—the visit isn’t “good” or “bad,” it just IS. Then you can say, “Hello, panic. It’s good to see you. This is how I’m feeling today.” Acknowledging panic, rather than turning it away or refusing to answer the door, lessens the impact, the fear and the “what-if’s” that we have about it. We can choose to separate it, rather than allowing it to be us. We can acknowledge our strength to look at and to take ownership of our Shadow-side, turn on Peter Gabriel and listen to confirmation: “When I allow it to be, there’s no control over me. I have my fears, but they do not have me.”
As we know, intellectually, there is no easy fix! What there is, though, is a PROCESS. In this process we are allowed to try things on, to see what fits and what doesn’t, what resonates with our spirit-with our selves. Art Therapy is a process-based, creative-language, therapy that can help with panic and anxiety. By using art materials to express your panic, you are able to then put distance between you and that feeling. You can dialogue with what’s on paper and visually see what is causing you discomfort. It takes the mystery out of what’s locked up inside your head of what you can’t see.
As a person who has invited panic into her home several thousand times, I have found a “Feelings Journal”, an art therapy technique, to be helpful:
- Get a sketchbook
- Draw or use magazine pictures to show how you are feeling
- Write, either on the art page or use another page, about how you are feeling. You can also verbally dialog with your picture at this time and talk to it as you would a friend. Your pictures may have a heavy/dark feeling or a soft/light feeling to them, depending on your mood or perception.
By keeping a sketchbook, you are able to keep all your drawings together and in time look for recurring themes or images. Also, one important aspect to remember when doing art therapy is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to express how you feel! It just IS.
The Creative Journal by: Lucia Capacchione
When Things Fall Apart by: Pema Chodron
“Once In a Lifetime” by: Talking Heads, Remain In Light, 1980
“Darkness” by: Peter Gabriel, Up, 2002
Here are some examples from my personal “Feelings Journal”: