Panic arises when the mind is so overloaded by distress that allcoherence is lost. Fear roams the mind at will, breaking down everybarrier. Because the mind-body system is arranged to restorebalance by any means, this total incoherence lasts for only a shorttime. Panic is one of the most frightening experiences anyone canhave, but it is almost always temporary. Panic attacks, which strike some people without any external cause,depend upon memory of past trauma, as do all anxiety attacks.Images generated inside the mind become triggers, as if they wereexternal events, and the chain reaction of fear follows of its ownaccord. Because old images can revisit to cause harm long afterthey are viewed, it is vitally important to protect young childrenfrom seeing the kind of terrifying pictures that the mediabroadcasts during catastrophes. Children who seem to have nofearful response to events like those of September 11, 2001, areoften postponing their reactions until much later. Those of us whogrew up during the Cold War can attest to the horror we felt formany years after seeing photos of atom-bomb testing, yet I neverremember showing any of this inner dread to my parents. It wasprivate, and especially frightening for that reason. However acute, panic isn't the measure of how extreme a crisis isexternally. When jets are about to crash - and this happened on thedoomed planes involved in the terrorist attack as well as insidethe twin towers - people become quiet and turn to tell one anotherthat they love them. Such calm often leads to acts of bravery: fromcell phone conversations that were held from the jetliner thatcrashed in Pennsylvania, we know that on at least one plane, thepassengers resisted the terrorists even though they knew withcertainty that they would die.
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