Attachment between person and person is critical. As oxygenated cells bring life to all parts of your being, so does attachment.
Attachment is the sense of irrevocable belonging, and the calmness and resilience that pours naturally from that feeling of belonging.
Attached individuals are easy to spot if you know what to look for. They don’t fear relationship; they don’t either voluntarily or involuntarily push away from it. They wouldn’t engage in emotional game, aversion, or outright war. They are comfortable with themselves and comfortable with others. Their inmost being is convinced they belong and they know they can trust others.
Being attached to at least one other human being is the basic and unspoken goal of life.
It is what we are created for.
In contrast, anxiety is, at the deepest level, feeling alone. The abysmal feeling of having to fend for yourself and control all circumstances to stay afloat. That sense of aloneness is layered with fear upon fear: fear of people, fear of rejection, fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of the possibilities, fear of everything. Fear overwhelm. Panic.
The cause of anxiety could be genetic, situational or learned.
It does not matter the cause, however; anxiety can be quieted with felt actions of attachment.
Anxiety is fearing alone.
Attachment is knowing connection.
So logically, the way to save someone with anxiety is affirming – beyond a shadow of their overwhelming blinding doubt affirming – their connection with you.
If someone close to you has panic attacks, someone who is attached to you, please take note. This is for you. As the parent, spouse, partner, best friend of someone with anxiety, you have the ability to give relief. This ability is your responsibility.
It cannot be just their problem to solve on their own. If they were able to fix it alone, they would have done it already. Nobody chooses to have panic attacks. Nobody chooses to singe their whole body in a fire. And when somebody is stuck in the middle of an inferno, they need someone to pull them out.
In an attached pair, each actually moderates the blood pressure and heartrate of the other. If babies are too hot or cold, skin-to-skin with a parent will help them learn to regulate their body temperature. A baby’s heartrate actually syncs with their mother while being held close.
The same works for bigger people.
If a child, teenager or adult who is attached to you is near panic-attack, how you act toward them has the power to either push them over into full-out panic or claw them back away from the edge.
Don’t get frustrated and walk away, abandoning them. Don’t tell them they have no reason to be feeling this way. Shame increases anxiety. Acceptance calms it down. Don’t try to say the things that are logical to you. Because, in that moment, nothing is logical, nothing is steady, nothing is sound. Not even their own mind. You have to be that for them.
Speak quietly and gently. Hold them close, front to front, so they can feel your heartbeat. Rub their back. Hold their hair. Take big breaths for them. With them. Hold them until they can breathe steady by themselves. This will pass.
You are regulating their systems and bringing them naturally out of the emotional flood of panic.
This is your duty if this person is attached to you. They just need to be grounded. They just need to know through all their systems that they belong. That you are there for them. Eventually that will trickle through to their thinking brain and it will stop panicking.
And if you are the person having a panic attack and you really just situationally are by yourself, the same physical acts of attachment can help. Comfort. Press your hand on your chest (sternum). Lay on your stomach. Tell yourself that it won’t be like this forever. That it will pass. That you aren’t alone. Think so hard to steady your breathing so you can stop gasping for air.
We are meant to be attached.
Help bring your loved one out of the inferno. Be with them until it passes. Remind them of their connection. Assure them of their belonging. Confirm them of their humanity.
There is no time frame in bringing someone out of the internal fire of a panic attack.
It takes as long as it takes.
But if you keep using attachment as a firehose to douse their attacks, eventually their panic will turn to ash that blows away in the slightest breeze.