The Three Stages of Panic Attack: Observing the Pattern

Observing the Pattern: The Three Stages of Attack

How do we reject worries?
We will note from the above diagram that there are three places these anxieties might occur. In area #1 and #2 they are still called 'anxious thoughts.' Once they have entered area #3, they have turned into anxiety.

With the entrance of every worry, we slowly lose our confidence in our ability to rightly handle life.
Step #1   Outside our mind - irrelevant

These potential anxious thoughts are of no concern to your life because they are irrelevant. They can't get near to you. What might worry one person, often does not at all worry another person. One person might worry about being alone, another about tests.

Anxious thoughts trouble us as much as they are relevant to our lives. For instance, the elderly man has no concern as to whether he will be drafted. The family that lives in Illinois is not concerned about sharks biting people because they do not live near the ocean shore. There simply is no need.

Step #2   Inside our mind - relevant

Only the thoughts that we will perceive as relevant will enter the sphere of our minds. Once it is in our minds, then we need to discern or evaluate it. The more relevant this thought is to our lives, the more carefully our minds will need to analyze and evaluate it. This evaluative process mostly goes on without us knowing it. This is why most of us just worry. We are not conscious of the anxious thought stage.

Overcome Anxiety: Finding Peace, Discovering God - a bookOur success or failure of properly evaluating these anxious thoughts depends on the degree our minds are renewed by the truth of God's Word. Usually, the worry will combine some truth with a lie. This makes it hard to judge its veracity. It is not easy. The tendency is to get confused and put off the decision. The more decisions put off, the more likely a false thought will be accepted as a trustworthy thought. Let's look at an example.

The mother sees her child misbehaving and is tempted to scold him to get him to behave. She is concerned with how others might think of her if her child misbehaves. The anxious thought arises that others might see her and think she is a bad mother. (Rarely are the participants aware of the attack). Ideally, she can humble her heart and trust herself and her child to the Lord in a quiet prayer. Or because of the fear of man, she can overreact by scolding the child. She scolds the child not because she cares for the child but because she cares about her acceptance by others. Scolding is the only way the child responds quickly.

The child's behavior of course is a problem. The issue seems to focus on child obedience, but the real issue is on her concern as to how others perceive her. This is her heart concern.

In this case, she could respond with God's truth stating that she need not be concerned with what people think. Instead she should think of the child's real need and evaluate the problem with her experience. She should humble herself and pray for wisdom as to how she should rightly respond to the child in that specific situation. Perhaps, after quieting her heart, she will think whether the child might be sick or is extra tired.

In any case the anxious thought about the need to keep the child in line because of her need for self-acceptance is rejected as an outright lie. She chooses to do what is right in God's sight. She chooses God's patience so she can love the child. She later thinks whether discipline or some sort of training at at home is needed.

Humility is needed to be able to catch what God is saying. Meditating on the scriptures develops sensitivity to God and His perspective. This is what the renewal of the mind is. A 'worry' journal will train us to discern these anxious thoughts as they come into our minds before they turn into worry.

Step #3   Inside our heart - influential

If this mother accepts this thought to be true, then she will respond wrongly. She will scold the child and justify her scolding. Justifying a sin is the same as building up ones pride. Because of this incident, she might not come to church anymore. She will lie and perhaps make excuses about not being helped. But she really doesn't want to be embarrassed. She becomes lonely and more troubled. She might get bitter against the church for not accepting her. The church does of course accept her but she doesn't accept herself.

In the end, our perception of our circumstances might be very contrary to the facts. Depression can easily set in because we are overwhelmed and have lost hope for a solution.

Taking Control of Your Mind

What would you do if while stopped at some stop light, a man from the sidewalk would come up and claim, "Hey, this is my car. Out!?" You will immediately use your mind to reason why it is not his car.

- You bought it (history)
- Your name is on the title  (evidence)
- You have been driving it  (experience)

You don't get out and say, "Well, maybe you are right. Maybe this is your car. Are you sure? But, if you think so, then here are the keys." You know the truth. The truth (facts) affirm what proper action and thought is.

Instead, you do a little reasoning, discard his allegations and drive off.

The same is true with dealing with anxious thoughts. We must not just accept their presence as equivalent to the right to exist. The anxious thought is 'claiming' itself as valid and that we have to accept it as true and then accommodate it by taking certain actions. It is like giving the keys to the one claiming the car is yours.

Earlier we mentioned the importance of not dulling your mind. Hopefully, you now can see why. We need to take full control of our mind so that we think only what is true and good. Renewing the mind is taking the Word of God each day and constantly going over what the facts are. This is the way one is able to fight off a number of attacks on our minds.

This is what the song writer did in Psalm 94.

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom