When Panic Was Triggered by a Dream
Interactions with the subconscious can lead to development of healing metaphors.
Posted January 16, 2023 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
- Panic attacks can be triggered by dreams.
- Insight derived from the subconscious can be very helpful in therapy.
- Reports of past lives may represent metaphors that can be used within therapy.
In the first part of this post I described “Benjamin,” who developed dizziness and an inability to walk following a roller-coaster ride. He required the use of a wheelchair to get around school. Within 10 days of initiating therapy, he learned to use positive talk, how to calm himself with hypnosis, and allowed his subconscious to help him improve further. Immediately thereafter he was able to walk well, and was able to win at a Model UN competition, for which he had been preparing for months.
The Panic Attack
When I saw him a week later, Benjamin said that he had developed a panic attack over the weekend. He explained that he had gone to see a movie with his family during which he developed a headache. He fell asleep in the car later, and then awoke with a start. He felt dizzy and nauseated, which caused him to panic. He said he felt detached, as if his soul had separated from his body.
I observed that it was notable Benjamin panicked after his victory at the Model UN and after he had already resolved his initial dizziness. I suggested that there likely was an underlying issue that needed to be resolved to prevent Benjamin from developing further symptoms and panicking. I suggested that we might be able to figure out what’s going on by interacting with his subconscious through muscle testing as I had taught him previously.
I instructed him to flex his elbow and to resist me when I pulled his arm. When his arm remained strong it meant his subconscious was saying “Yes,” when it was weak it meant “No,” and when it was in between it meant “I don’t want to say.”
Would it be OK at this time for Benjamin to know if there is something bothering him of which he is unaware?
Is there something bothering him of which he is unaware?
Can you tell Benjamin what it is?
Benjamin thought for a moment. “I see a World War II plane going down.”
“That’s odd,” I said. “What does this mean to you?”
“It feels like I’ve flown this plane,” he said.
“I have a question for your subconscious,” I said.
Did Benjamin fly this plane?
Did Benjamin fly this plane within the past 10 years?
Did Benjamin fly this plane in his imagination?
Did Benjamin fly this plane in a past life?
Was he scared in this plane?
Did it crash?
What does this have to do with Benjamin’s dizziness?
“The roller coaster reminded me of the plane!” exclaimed Benjamin. “And when I woke up in the car and panicked, I thought I was in an Indiana Jones movie! I thought I was in a plane that was crashing. That’s why I panicked!”
“That makes sense,” I said. “Maybe the loop-de-loops felt like being on a plane that is spiraling out of control.” I thought for a bit. “It’s sort of like post-traumatic stress disorder from another life. I think I know how to help you overcome this.” I suggested we talk again to his subconscious.
Are you willing to help with the plane trouble?
Can you go back to the pilot in the plane and reassure him that even though the plane crashed, he survived in Benjamin? Can you tell him that everything turned out all right?
During the subsequent six weeks, Benjamin did very well. He reported occasional dizzy spells that resolved with use of hypnosis. He had no further balance issues. He even had a great time during his family vacation to Nepal, during which he flew on several planes without difficulty, including on a small plane in China.
Before his panic attack, Benjamin’s subconscious was unwilling to discuss the possible reason for the trigger of his dizziness. My approach of asking the subconscious whether it is prepared to disclose certain information allows the patient to control what he is ready to reveal to himself, and makes it less likely that the therapeutic intervention might lead to psychological distress.
Unconscious Essential Reads
I do not suggest to patients that they explore past life experiences as a routine part of the therapy I offer. However, if a patient brings up a memory that is attributed to a past life I accept their report and work within that framework, as demonstrated in Benjamin’s case.
That being said, Benjamin’s improvement in this case might have been related to therapeutic utilization of metaphors provided by the subconscious—that is, the crashing plane image could have represented his difficult experience on the roller coaster, and reassurance of the pilot helped reassure Benjamin that he was now safe.
More information about the subconscious and its use in helping teenagers, as well as samples of Benjamin’s subconscious inspired poetry is available in the 2021 book "Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center," by Ran D. Anbar. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.