The last time it happened was a year ago… I was in a room with about 5 other people who were having a conversation in a language I could not understand. One person is dominating the conversation and the others aren’t really saying much. Inside me the frozen feeling begins to build. The more the guy talks, the more frozen I feel: like a trapped animal. The feeling inside me is getting angry now about this guy who won’t stop talking but I am frozen and I can’t move. I have had this feeling before and I know what is the outcome – making a scene, shame and embarrassment. Then after, losing friends.
When the stuck feeling reaches its terrifying peak, I am suddenly able to speak again. The words come out aggressively; ‘I’m going now!’ I jump up, put my coat on and just leave. People seem alarmed and look at me like I am a crazy person; I don’t care; I just want to get out and never see these people again.
I get outside and that’s when the shame takes over. I am hating myself for being a social freak: am I the only person in the world who gets frozen and then reacts like a madman?
My boyfriend is angry and embarrassed about the scene I just made at his friend’s house. He doesn’t understand why I couldn’t wait just 5 more minutes so that we could leave together in a polite way. I don’t know either. All I know is that when it starts to happen, I can’t stop it. This is the way it has been since I was a teenager, perhaps even before that.
I now know that the situation I described above is a panic attack. It was not something I was able to stop or control and each time it happened to me the feeling of being frozen and feeling terrified, seemingly about nothing, was the same.
I did not realise that I was having panic attacks and had developed grand theories about what was happening to me. I believed that people were draining my energy from me (for example by talking too much). I know now I was wrong about that. What was happening to me is that some people / some social situations were a trigger for me to experience a panic attack. The trigger was not at all rational and was something deep in my unconscious. My kind of panic attack would bring on a stress response in which I would become frozen and unable to move.
Earlier this year my healing journey led me to expolore the trauma in my subconscious and I was able to clear this panic response. I know now that I will never panic or be frozen in that way again and that is truly freeing.
Following this very deep healing, I have had a lot of realisations which may apply to you if you are also an introvert and have a tendency to hide away from life in your cave. I realised that my life was planned around avoiding situations where panic attacks and the feeling of being trapped could potentially happen. You can imagine that there were a lot of situations I told myself I had to avoid because my panic response trigger was unpredictable. Overtime, avoidance and trying to control situations became habitual. I thought these decisions were formed on the basis that I was an introvert, not so; they were decisions based around avoiding triggers and panic.
It seems to me that all introverts are controlling when it comes to socialising. The way they control is mostly based on avoiding situations. An introvert imagines a situation and then decides whether it is a ‘safe’ situation for socialising. For example, when deciding whether to socialise (or control the situation) I may ask who else is going to be there. Based on the answers I receive I may then decide to avoid the situation.
When we hide away in the introverted cave we are trying to control life. We know that in our cave we can be safe from panic attacks, anxiety or shameful feelings. We make up all kinds of grand theories about why we are right to hide away from life in the cave, when really, wherever we avoid or hide in life, at a deeper level than we are aware, we are acting out of fear.