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Ask a Facilitator: Can The Work Help with Agoraphobia and Panic Attacks?

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:27pm

Q: How do people with panic attacks and agoraphobia work with the four questions? In your experience facilitating people, does The Work help cut through them? Or have you heard of something more useful or to be used in conjunction? I have experienced EFT, CBT, Sedona Method, etc.

A: Byron Katie was agoraphobic before she began to question her beliefs. I was too, to a much lesser degree, but my "thing" was panic attacks. I had them on and off for years. They were provoked by nightmares, and also by loud noises. (Or, as it happens, my thoughts about nightmares and loud noises.)

My most direct experience with this is with myself: I had my last one in the middle of the night during the School for The Work in October of 2002; it lasted about two seconds before the inquiry took over. There was a loud noise in my hotel room, which turned out to be the air conditioning kicking in. I was fairly fresh from the experience of months of planes circling my post-9/11 New York City neighborhood, and the noise sounded like one of the planes to me. The sound woke me up; I made the association to planes, and then to terror attacks, and suddenly my heart was racing and I couldn't breathe. Almost instantly, the inquiry became alive in me; I realized I was believing my thoughts ("It's happening again." "I'm in danger.")—thoughts I had previously questioned many times. The symptoms stopped immediately.

I'm sure CBT, EFT, and other cognitive techniques help people with panic disorders, as does medication for many people; a therapist could better answer that question. I can tell you this: working with the fearful thoughts that lead to the symptoms of panic attack and being unable to leave the house can't hurt, and might enhance the effectiveness of whatever course of treatment is indicated.

The time to do The Work is when you are not panicking; otherwise it's not a search for truth, but an attempt to feel better, and therefore not as effective. You could start with core beliefs like, "The world isn't safe," "I will die," and "I need to protect myself." Use the One-Belief-at-a-Time worksheet, available at It's a self-directed self-facilitation tool which is done as a written meditation.

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