The following exchange took place between me and a man who had been suffering for more than a year from crippling anxiety attacks. I post it in hopes people with similar conditions may find what I said to him useful.
On July 8th, Ron wrote to me to ask for my help
I'm not sure if you remember me. I wrote to you approximately a year ago and I was very interested in Emergence Therapy. I still am. Especially now since I feel I have gotten much worse. I had an incident on Thanksgiving of last year where I took too many antihistamines within a day and felt like I almost died. I didn't have any money and couldn't go to the hospital and the doctor's was closed on that day so I felt like I just had to stick it out. And I did. But ever since then, I feel like I have been in an almost constant state of panic or shock.
I was wondering if there is yet anyone around the A****** area that could help me. Or if not, I was wondering if you could help me. I just started thinking about your type of therapy last night and this morning, when I realized I have a really hard time seeing any alternatives to what could be happening other than the worst things possible in my mind, such as constant suffering for the rest of my life or death without being able to live happily ever again. I also am having a lot of somatic symptoms on my left side of my body with twitching and numbness and heavy heart beat and muscle pains and other random pains and dizziness and weakness and a hard time sleeping.
I am wondering if I have post traumatic stress disorder even though I really did not go through anything that traumatic compared to what some people go through. Anyway, I have been going to tons of doctors and psychiatrists and therapists and nothing seems to help anymore. If you could help me, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much!
Several days later, I wrote back and said . . .
Yes, I do remember you. I'm so sorry to hear you are struggling so.
As for helping you, know there is no substitute for face to face help, especially if you have medical symptoms. Moreover, while I would be fine with you writing to me and describing what has been happening, if you want my help, I also need you to be under a doctor's care, especially if your symptoms are as serious as you say.
This said, what I would be willing to do with you would be to dialogue by email, in hopes that a better healing path will emerge for you. To be honest, the possibilities of this happening are pretty good, given you are willing to hang in there and try.
I also need your permission to anonymously post what we exchange, as perhaps what we uncover could be of help to others with similar difficulties. This is, after all, a large portion of why I spend so much time doing all this.
This said, if you are OK with all I've asked, then the first thing I need to to do is to write down a brief historical list of what you have done to help yourself, starting with last November, and going forward in time to the present. Simply write down, briefly, the person, place, and date you did something, what you did and how it turned out, starting with the day after you took too many antihistamines. What I'm saying is, please do not yet write down anything about the day it happened. For now, just begin with the following day.
Please know that even if something you did failed, it still may give us clues as to what has happened to you. Thus, please write down the details, even if something made you worse. Also, Ron, know that most times the person him or herself does not even notice some of the most important stuff, even when they actually write it out, and even when they themselves practice Emergence. So don't worry that you believe you know already everything you are about to tell me. I'll be looking for the "holes" in what you know to emerge, meaning, the stuff in between what you write.
Finally, please try to imagine you will be better soon. Simply allow yourself to visualize yourself calm and peaceful. And while this may not be the cure, it can be the very medicine which allows you to have the strength and courage to discover the cure. So do give it your best.
And don't lose hope. You can succeed in helping yourself.
With warm regards,
On July 13th, Ron wrote back and said . . .
What type of doctor's care do you want me to be under? I am currently seeing a therapist and chiropractor, and every time I go to a doctor, he or she just tells me I have anxiety and should be on anxiety medication.
I am definitely willing to hang in there and try. That is pretty much ALL I do. I just feel completely exhausted.
Yes, you can definitely post our exchanges as long as they are anonymous.
Okay, as for a historical list of what I have done to try to help myself starting with Thanksgiving 2005, I do not think I can remember all the details, but I will give you things I do remember.
The day after Thanksgiving 2005, I actually don't remember much at all, to tell you the truth, except for maybe that the whole house was really dirty and gross, and all kind of food was sitting out, and everything was disgusting and made me think of how many germs there probably were. I just remember the day that it happened and all the horrible twitching that happened during that night time while I was asleep. I don't know why I can't remember it, but I can't.
I was twitching while I was sleeping or while my body was at rest for about 3 weeks. I went to the doctor a couple of times and she kept saying that nothing was wrong with me and that it should wear off within a few days when the medicine got out of my system. My girlfriend was with me in my bed every night. I would get really nervous when I felt the twitching and reach over and hug on her or hold her close to me.
One time when I was with her when she would touch my skin it would make me jump almost in pain like she was directly touching a nerve and it made me want to get really, really angry at her and yell at her but I didn't. I just told her to stop after a while. We were sitting in the living room watching TV when she was touching my left arm and it was really irritating me.
I actually did feel better for about a month and then I got a kidney infection and had to go to the emergency room. That was some pretty bad pain. I really hated sitting there waiting for them to give me the pain medicine and then having to wait for them to give me pain medicine again later. I was really scared when she said she had to give me antibiotics or it might have been an antihistamine, I'm not sure. But I was really scared when she told me when she was going to inject it but when she did I felt much better physically.
I was mostly okay through Christmas and New Year's Eve even and had fun drinking and hanging out with my girlfriend and playing musical instruments and watching the New York ball drop on TV. But in January, I started having severe stuff happen. When I tried to jog to try to get out the anxiety, I would become even MORE exhausted and feel like I was being pushed over from my spine from the inside by my own body and I could barely stand up.
I called the psychologist I had at the time and he freaked out and told me I needed to go to the psychiatrist because I was in an emergency situation and needed to get on lithium immediately. So, this REALLY freaked me out and I started calling psychiatrists until I found one that could see me on Saturday morning. I started on the lithium but it did not really seem to do anything at all. I got much slower but I still had the symptoms of getting dizzy and weak when I got scared of anxious about something that I thought might accidentally kill me even after a month of being on the lithium.
I also found some lady online that told me to take a blood glucose 6 hour tolerance test and I did it and I thought everything seemed fine. She told me that it definitely showed me that I had a blood sugar problem and that is what was causing all this. Ever since then, I have noticed that when I eat certain foods, I feel worse or sometimes better and I am nervous every single time I eat. I went to this alternative medicine place called Progressive Medical that told me that I have heavy metal toxicity in my body and hypoadrenia and hypothyroidism and candida but I go to a regular doctor and they tell me I'm fine. I don't even know what to think at all!
Okay, I think I wrote way too much already and am not sure if it is in order at all for you. I don't think it is. I still have a lot to go though. Let me know if you want me to be more specific with less details or what. I know you only wanted some brief descriptions so I have no idea if this is way too much or what. So, let me know if you need for me to cut it down and make it shorter or if you want to hear more.
Thanks so much!
P. S. By the way, did you say that there is no one in the A****** area that does emergency therapy yet? Also, I would not be averse to coming out to where you are or figuring some way to get some face time if you think it would definitely be a help to me. I'm just really tired of spending my money on things that don't help me. I'm exhausted from working jobs I hate to get the money to try to heal myself. I'm not saying I don't believe what you do works, I am just very, VERY skeptical of everything these days.
Later that day, I wrote to Ron and said . . .
Please don't worry if you end up writing a whole freaking book. Just talk to the page like you are talking to a safe friend. You never know what will surface in the midst of writing things down, even things which you've already told people a thousand times. I myself spent a lot of years on the edge of madness. At times, my journals were all that kept me alive. And the only thing that gave me any hope.
There's no one doing what I do outside of my area yet. I'm sorry, Ron. I'm fighting the same ignorance as you are. And beliefs that border on black magic, such as that what is new is all useless and quackery without ten years of statistical nonsense to back it up. Even so, I'm also not God either, so I don't claim cures. I only use an approach no one else uses yet; I look for patterns of blankness on the screen on peoples' minds, the emergence of patterns in the chaos of peoples' thoughts and feelings. This, and the personality theory I've written, seem to guide me almost magically at times, especially when there has been an obvious trauma. It also steers me clear of blame and a lot of useless digging into things like the faults your parents had or the things you never learned.
When I mentioned a doctor, I meant some kind of MD. Yes, I know it hasn't worked, but your symptoms are very physical and ruling out stuff is important. I'm not sure about what to tell you about this though, and I would keep asking your therapist what he or she thinks, even if you annoy the shit out of him or her. And if he or she has another referral to an M.D., perhaps, to someone more open minded, then perhaps it would be worth the effort.
BTW, I am glad you're seeing a therapist, even if it still hasn't turned things around. As I've told you, I believe face to face contact is really important, even if only to have human contact which is focused on two people trying to find the solution.
As for what you're written, it's a good beginning. And rather than to jump to any B. S. conclusions, I need to just continue with what we've started.
What I'm going to do now is called, "book ending." I'm literally going to ask you to write about what happened right before that day. Thus, I need you to write about the day or days before all this happened, up to the highlights of the whole month on November if you remember well enough. If not, don't worry. Remembering is not how Emergence works. Sorting what you can and cannot see on the screen of your mind is how it works. After all, we're only looking for a pattern to emerge, some life event in which your present symptoms occurred before.
Keep in mind that if, while you are writing, your mind jumps to a scene totally out of context, simply go with it and let your mind lead your pen. Don't worry at all that what you write seems to have nothing to do with what we are working on. The mind is an incredible machine, and it will give us what we are looking for, even if only in an imaginary scene.
Anyway, what I'm looking for here is for you to find a time before the event in which you can freely picture. Look for details like what you can see in the room and what you were wearing and so on. Please write down only what you can picture. Or write that you cannot picture.
Basically, what I'm trying to do right now is, I'm trying to get you to be able to picture freely what happened right before that day. This will give us some clues as it will begin to define the wound in your mind. And as you've already told me you cannot remember that day, but can remember that night, perhaps we've begin to zero in on something.
Now at the risk of insulting you, I need to remind you yet once more that all we are trying to define is what you can and cannot picture. Your logical mind is not the problem. Nor is your willingness. You seem very very willing. The problem is that something happened to your mind and now you cannot remember that day. A hundred years ago, a guy named Pierre Janet would have told you, you are suffering from a kind of amnesia, and he would be right. What he never knew was that all injury involves this kind of amnesia. It is one of the main things which makes healing so difficult.
Keep writing. And please don't worry that I won't write back. Thus, I may be slow to reply at times. But I will.
Lastly, try to picture a time wherein you had no symptoms. Even a time long ago. Now try to use your mind to climb inside what you picture, and use this place to rest.
Try to hold onto your hope,
P. S. Don't worry about being skeptical. It doesn't insult me. I only claim to be willing to try, and that is never a bad thing. Only a frustrating thing at times.
On July 20th, I wrote and asked . . .
Hope you're feeling better.
And Ron responded with . . .
No, I'm really not feeling better. My mind races almost constantly and I just cannot make it stop. It is very tiring. It seems like no matter how many emotions I get out, there just come some more right behind it. It is very tiring. I am just very tired of everything. I do not know if getting help in person would make this any faster or easier but I definitely would be up for the option if it were at all possible. What can I do to help myself?
P. S. Just to let you know a little more, I'm working at a job I really hate, I never feel like I'm rested, my body is so overwhelmed that even things such as too much carbohydrates cause it to act up and buzz in weird places or cause me to get really tired or anxious, I am paying for chiropractic and energy work and all these things that make me feel better for a grand total of 30 minutes at the most and then my muscles go back to being just as tight as they always were. I am very tempted to just go back on some type of medication so I don't have to feel this mental or physical pain anymore.
That day, my advice to Ron was . . .
Look, I know you are hurting and that nothing has helped so far. But the thought that a trip up to me would help you provokes some pretty serious questions in me. For one thing, there's the time. It takes time to heal, even though I frequently am able to help people to make permanent changes in the first session. And if you are having to travel from so far away, I wouldn't want you to think I am a miracle cure. People in pain frequently dream of such a thing.
On the other hand, I am not closed to you seeing me, and no matter whether you are a thousand miles away or a mile away, I would not turn you away.
I would even consider seeing you for a number of hours in a row on one of my days off. Or even on two of my days off, for instance, on a Tuesday and then on a Thursday. Before I would agree to do this with you though, I would want you to do the preliminary work which would set all this in motion. Here is what I suggest.
 Lists, Ron. Make lists. Make lists of your symptoms or of your trauma details or of your sock drawer. And make them no matter how many times you have written the same things down. I say this because when the mind races, the pen can help. Period. So try this. Try making a list first thing tomorrow when you get up. Make sure you allow yourself enough time so that you do not have to rush. And if you find yourself rushing anyway, deliberately and forcefully get yourself to slow down by purposely trying to write your list in the neatest handwriting possible. Award winning handwriting. God damn excellent handwriting. Print it if necessary, in block letters if need be.
Next. The list must then go into a small container, a wooden or stone or ceramic box or jar, one with a lid on it. You should acquire this box with a single thing in mind; it will be the container for your most important thoughts. Know however, that these lists are good only for the 24 hours in which they were made. Next day, take out yesterday's list and tear it up or burn it. Then make your new list.
Yes, you will repeat what you wrote. Many times, in fact. Ignore this. Simple make a new list as if you have never made one before.
Again, lists expire in 24 hours. Do not use the old list. Ever.
 Use food to slow your mind. Eating is a very good way to come out of shock. And you are definitely in the state of shock much of the time. How can you know? Because experiencing time at a significantly altered rate is sure way to know you are in shock. And that you are reliving a trauma, which is just another way to say, a prior shocking event.
Use this knowledge to challenge your mind's perception of time. When your mind races, test the world around you, perhaps by observing the second hand on a watch and then counting out loud, these passing seconds. Do this for a whole minute. A whole sixty seconds. Then stop. Then breathe. Then physically get up and move.
If it comes right back, do it all over again. Do it until you are exhausted, if necessary. It will work eventually. But you must keep trying.
And if this still does not help? It will. Apply yourself. And use this knowledge; that the single best way into anxiety is to alter your conscious experience of time. Period. You can do this, Ron, although it may take you a bit of effort for you to learn this skill.
And if it is still hard for you? Lists, Ron. Use lists of time passing. Second by second, if necessary. In this case, write by number the seconds passing, page by page, until you slow your mind down. Use special pens or pencils; crayons if need be. If nothing else, your hands, and mind, will get tired and you will begin to slow down naturally.
 Do not force sleep. If you have been doing this, stop this now. Instead, try altering as many things as you can to see what, if anything effects your sleepiness. Try sitting up and dozing. Try sleeping in the opposite from normal position on the bed. Change the light. Change your pillow, or add pillows. Add an an ocean based sound machine. Or a CD of the ocean. Or of birds. Or winds.
White noise based sounds are best though. The ocean, an air conditioner, a ceiling fan, and so on.
Still no good? Get a tread mill and count steps. Ride a bicycle. Lift weights. And count what you are doing. Counting repetitions is better than forcing sleep. And you will sleep, even if only through sheer exhaustion. Know, however, that this sleep will be enough to keep you alive, no matter how bad it gets. You will not die. At worst, you will only be very fucking annoyed and angry. And tired.
 Challenge your environment as to whether it is safe or not. What I mean is, leave lights on, look under beds, ask your girlfriend what she hears, have her talk to you until you sleep, let her rub your face softly, and so on. Do everything you can to create a safe space.
Visual things work well too. Candle light is great. Get a hundred fucking candle is need be. Know that flickering candle light acts just like white noise to the eyes. And to the mind.
Perhaps you might find a water based fountain, something which visually lets you see water flowing. Why a water fall? Visual water falls are a good way to make you feel safe. Don't worry why. They just are.
 Get angry at your condition. I mean this. And then, let it out by using a tennis racket on a loose weave pillow. What I mean is, get a pillow and a tennis racket. If you do not have these things, go to the cheapest store in your neighborhood and buy them. Buy a cheap metal tennis racket and an open weave (like burlap) pillow.
Now sit down in front of the pillow and hit it with the racket. Do not worry that you feel silly, or do not feel angry. Simply hit the pillow as hard as you are tired of all this shit. And hit it again and again and again. Then rest. Then hit the darn thing again.
Try doing this while you shout to the air, "I'm tired of all this shit!" "Why me!" Say these things over and over and over until you get yourself worn out. Then immediately go rest in the presence of the white noise or ocean sounds. And if you finally fall asleep for real, just let it happen. Your chores and life tasks are no where near as important as making a difference in your mind. In other words, your most important goal right now is to reclaim some of your ability to HAVE A SAY OVER HOW YOUR MIND RACES. You have a right to manage your own mind. Get angry and reclaim this right.
One more thing. Have someone witness you releasing this anger. Some one who cares about you. And some one who can tolerate what looks like violent behavior. You can even have them join in with their own pillow and tennis racket. Silly? Perhaps. But the body knows what to do if only you just get out of its way. Just try it until you feel something shift. Then get better at it. You will.
OK. So these are a few things to try. Not Emergence therapy per se, but just the same, good solid things to use to help yourself to heal. Know that if you were here seeing me, that I would be telling you these same things. And want you to do them.
Finally, know this. Being tired of everything failing simply means you have been courageous enough to repeatedly try to help yourself. Be aware of how much recognizing this effort matters. And do not give up on yourself. I, myself, went a long time wanting to give up and then trying again before I healed my own anxieties. Now, I'm so glad I did.
Do not give up.
The next day, Ron wrote and said . . .
I didn't even see that you had written me back until just now. That stuff you said sounds REALLY COOL to me! I WANT to beat the shit out of something. I WANT to write lists over and over... I just thought it was all crazy stuff. I thought I was insane for wanting to do it and for doing it. And plus, I actually can't think of anyone that would want to watch me beat the crap out a pillow with a tennis racket. Everyone I know thinks that anger is bad... I like your idea but I actually am afraid of it. I will do it though. I also like the slowing my writing down idea. I suck at it. My handwriting is HORRIBLE these days. Also, I didn't know that getting mad at my out of control thoughts will stop them. Will it really? I thought I had to understand them and accept them. I like trying to force them to stop. That sounds good and easier and more right now. Well, I'm off to try some of them. I will talk to you later. Thanks for all the help you are giving me!
I have so much advice from so many people as to how to get better. One of the main problems is I really don't want to do anything. I am really, really exhausted. I don't want to go to my job that I hate, I don't want to hang out with my girlfriend, I don't even really want to get up in the morning. I am back on lithium again but it does not seem to help as much as it used to. I don't even want to try any of the therapies that anyone has given me anymore because they don't seem to work. I am just really, really tired. My body has tons of physical symptoms of exhaustion, too. I don't want to get off lithium and end up with my mind going wild again. Plus I just don't like doing anything that people tell me for some reason. What is up with that? I guess I just don't believe it will work. Any more advice?
You wrote... "Any more advice?"
Stop looking for a quik fix and stay with one solution until you've given it a real chance. You can't get to Rome by following more than one route at a time, and trying to desperately find a quick fix will guarantee you fail. Just try sticking it through with one solution. And yes, I know you're hurting really badly.
Hang in there,
P. S. Ron, what I just said, I say from my own personal experience. Doing this and failing in fact is a good part of why I know so much about so many other peoples' solutions. I did the same thing you are doing. And desperately failed for years. And while I now know a lot about solutions which fail most times, I also know them to fail this way from my own personal experiences.
Conversely, one of my heroes, William James, once wrote a book about how people from all religions and even atheists have emergences. Of course, written a hundred years ago, James called these events, "conversion experiences." Even so, what he said was that people heal in as many ways as there are minds.
My point. Stop looking for the right one and just stick with each one until you know it fails, not just until you get desperate and move to the next one. Please.