I recently had my first experience of a panic attack. It was awful and terrifying. It felt like my whole body started clenching, I struggled to breathe, and I saw scary things that weren’t really there. My aunt is a preacher and was with me at the time. She immediately grabbed my hands and started praying for me very loudly, calling on Jesus to drive away the evil spirits that were attacking me. Suddenly it all stopped and I was able to calm down. I don’t know exactly how long it lasted because I was so terrified. But now my aunt says I have a demon infestation in my house and she wants me to go through a healing program with one of the deliverance ministers on her church staff. I am really not comfortable with that idea, but my aunt is a very forceful woman and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. I really don’t know what to do. I’m terrified about the idea of demons in my house, and even more of them possessing me. My aunt says this is happening because God wants me to return to church and get more serious about my spirituality. I feel like my aunt is just trying to control me, but at what if she’s right? Is what I experienced really caused by demons? Can they really do something like that? I found your article on deliverance ministries and was surprised by how negatively you view them. So I wanted to ask your opinion about my situation because I really don’t know what to do and I’m really scared about being attacked again. If what I experienced wasn’t caused by demons, then why would it stop as soon as my aunt started praying for me? I’m very confused. I hope you are able to give me some advice.
My sympathies for your terrible experience. Panic attacks are indeed very upsetting because we feel that our bodies and minds are temporarily malfunctioning. As you now know, the emotions experienced during these attacks can be quite overwhelming. I’m glad you reached out for advice because you’re asking some very good questions. It’s always wise to do your own thinking when someone hands you a diagnosis–especially when you feel an internal check that maybe their analysis of your situation isn’t entirely correct.
Understanding Panic Attacks
Let’s start by getting a better understanding of the internal mechanics that are happening during a panic attack. As a human, you have three main components to your being: your physical body, your non-physical soul, and your non-physical mind. Your mind can be further broken down into your conscious and your subconscious. Each of these elements is capable of having their own thoughts and reactions to their companion elements, as well as to your life experiences. So you’re a very complex little thing, and that makes diagnosing the true cause of something like a panic attack a bit tricky.
Panic is an intense form of fear. Each of your components (body, soul, conscious and subconscious) are capable of feeling fear for their own reasons. Since your elements have different concerns and priorities, they react fearfully to different kinds of triggers. Your body, for example, will panic if it experiences intense physical pain. If you were to step on a burning coal by accident, your body would instantly recognize that it is in danger of being severely harmed, and so it would panic.
Now once one of your elements starts panicking for any reason, all your other elements become stressed by sensing that their companion is in some kind of crisis. It’s very useful to understand about this “domino effect” of other elements becoming stressed as a reaction to what a single element is doing. When you’re trying to sort out what your true cause of fear is, it’s very important to figure out which element is initially feeling fear, and which elements are simply reacting to the idea of one of their companions being stressed.
Let’s use an example to make this more clear. Suppose Wanda is feeling extremely stressed about her financial situation because she just got fired from her job and doesn’t know how she’ll afford to pay her rent that is due in a few days. The fact that Wanda is so stressed is causing her to be very irritable and short with other people. Wanda has a daughter named Hannah. When little Hannah senses how upset Mom is, Hannah also becomes upset. Hannah doesn’t understand why Mom is so upset, but Hannah needs Mom, so Mom’s emotional state seems very important to Hannah’s own well-being. So now we have two different individuals stressing out. How can we calm everyone down? If we only focus on Hannah and try to talk her into calming down, we won’t have much success because Hannah’s stress is really a reaction to what her mother is doing. If we want to fix this situation at its core, we need to focus on Wanda and help her with her current crisis. Once Wanda feels better, Hannah will calm down as well because Hannah’s stress is just a reaction to what Wanda is feeling.
This same kind of dynamic is what’s happening inside of you during a panic attack. Usually in these cases, a single element suddenly starts to panic. Other elements then react to what that first element is doing. Their reactions typically match the intensity of the first element’s reaction. So if the first element is very upset, the reacting elements will also become very upset. If the first element is just mildly upset, then the reacting elements will show mild upset as well.
What makes a panic attack so scary is the intensity of fear being expressed by all of your elements. But even though you feel overwhelmed in the moment, understanding about that internal chain effect that’s happening helps you have hope that these things can be resolved. The key is to backtrack and figure out which element is triggering the whole thing. In these situations there is usually one element being the Wanda and several acting like little Hannahs. Focusing on the Hannahs won’t get us very far. We need to try to help the Wanda element directly. As the Wanda element calms down, the Hannah elements will change their reactions accordingly.
So now that we understand all of that, how can you sort out what your own trigger element was? There are some useful clues to look for. Try to think back to the environment you were in at the time the attack occurred. Close your eyes and try to visualize that space and what was happening in it shortly before the attack happened. What was going on? Do you remember seeing or hearing anything that upset you? Did your aunt use a certain word or phrase that made you suddenly feel upset? Did you see some kind of disturbing decor or feel alarmed by some color or texture?
Your body usually won’t hit the panic button unless it feels directly assaulted. If you were to get trapped underwater, your body would start to panic once it realized it couldn’t access the air it needs. If you were to catch on fire, your body would panic due to the pain you would experience. But for bodies to trigger the kind of panic you experienced, something very extreme and clearly physical has to occur. It doesn’t sound like that was the case for you, which means you can rule out your body as the trigger element. Now I understand that you had many alarming physical reactions (inability to breathe, muscular clenching, etc.). But such symptoms are very common when the body is reacting to sensing panic in another element. This is the part that confuses many people: they assume that dramatic physical symptoms must indicate a physical cause of distress. But no, it is far more common for extreme physical symptoms to really be caused by the body reacting to a different element. So unless you can recall something pretty dramatic and physically threatening happening to your body, it’s very unlikely that what you experienced was triggered by your body, and that means we need to keep looking.
Your conscious mind is rarely the triggering element in these situations. The way that your conscious is designed makes it a highly reactive element, and that means it very rarely takes the lead in an internal crisis. With your body and conscious ruled out, we need to keep looking.
Your subconscious is a very good candidate for triggering a panic attack. One of the main reasons for this is that your subconscious is the only one of your elements with access to all of your life memories. Your subconscious not only manages your entire memory database, but it is constantly referring to that database for help in deciding how it ought to guide you in a particular moment.
Suppose your friend wants to take you out to dinner and suggests two different places. Your subconscious will now sift through its memory database to see what your previous experiences of dining at those places was. If it finds data that one place gave you stomach cramps, it will tell you to vote for the other option. Or suppose one day a car almost hits you when you’re crossing a road. The next time you come to a street crossing, your subconscious will instantly note how similar your physical environment is to the environment that you were almost run down in. It will then sound the alarm that you need to be extra cautious in crossing the street.
As you can see from these examples, your subconscious is very concerned about keeping you from harm, and so it is constantly scanning your surroundings, looking for any signs of danger. What it defines as a “sign of danger” is based on the information it has stored in its massive memory database. The most distressing memories in that database are marked as priority files, and that means they are the first ones your subconscious checks when it’s comparing your current situation with past situations in which you felt threatened or harmed.
Now your subconscious performs its highly detailed memory file scans with incredible speed. In fact it is so fast and efficient that you are not aware of how much scanning it’s doing most of the time. The only time you feel consciously affected by your mind’s analytical efforts is when your subconscious identifies some cause for alarm in your current situation, and then sounds an internal danger alarm to let your other elements know that a crisis is at hand. But just as a blaring fire alarm causes you to instantly stress before you see any flames, your subconscious’ danger alerts often do not come with any specific explanations for your other elements. Instead, they just panic at the sound of the alarm without knowing exactly what’s wrong.
Just like in the sci-fi movies, your subconscious has different kinds of alarms it can sound. There are mild warning signals and extreme “red alerts.” When a subconscious is the triggering element of the kind of panic attack you experienced, it has sounded one of its “red alerts.” In such cases, it’s actually common for people to not be able to explain why they are so upset because the subconscious intentionally withholds that information. There are many reasons the subconscious acts secretive like this, and those reasons are all about protecting your elements from extra stress. But the important thing to understand is that your subconscious does have logical reasons for sounding its “red alerts,” and those reasons all come down to your mind feeling like it has very good reason to think you are in grave danger based on things you’ve gone through in the past.
Now in real life, subconscious triggered panic attacks often occur when there is not any real danger around. Instead, the panic attack itself feels like it is creating a problem where none existed. So what’s going on here? In these situations, the mind is usually sitting on some extremely upsetting memory files of things that happened to you in the past which you’ve never had time to put in proper perspective. For example, when Shane was 5 years old, a huge black dog leaped on him, pushed him to the ground, and started biting and clawing at him. For a little boy, this was a terrifying experience. At the time, adults rushed to Shane’s aid and pulled the dog off of him, but no one ever talked with Shane about what happened to him. Instead, the subject was dropped and everyone just moved on. This left Shane’s mind to do its own threat assessment of what just happened to him.
When child minds with very little life experience try to analyze why bad things happened and how likely those things are to reoccur, the final conclusions formed are usually quite flawed. This results in very strong fears taking root which children then carry into adulthood. Today when adult Shane sees a large dog running on the other side of a large park, Shane’s subconscious instantly sounds a red alert that Shane is in extreme danger. It does this because according to its memory files, a large dog viciously attacked Shane in the past and seemed likely to kill him if adults hadn’t intervened. Today Shane is alone on his walk, and his mind factors that into its threat analysis. An isolated Shane means there is no hope of a rescue should that beast attack. Shane’s mind also clocks how fast the dog is moving, and it’s very fast. These are all the factors Shane subconscious needs to feel entirely justified in triggering a red alert. When this alert sounds, Shane’s entire system reacts with intense fear. His body expresses that fear in physical ways: a racing heart, constricting lungs, trembling muscles, etc. Every body has its own default fear expressions in these moments. While Shane’s body is panicking, his soul and conscious are also panicking. Your conscious is what you use to focus, and suddenly Shane can’t focus on anything. Instead, his mind feels like its jumping all over the place and he can’t form a coherent thought. Both your body and conscious play important roles in receiving data from your physical senses (ears, eyes, nose, etc.). But with both of these elements in a panic, Shane’s vision becomes blurred, his heartbeat is pounding in his ears, and his skin seems incapable of registering any touch. Meanwhile, he is seeing a false image of that huge beast running directly towards him and of course that makes him panic all the more.
Since you experienced some hallucinations, let’s learn more about those. Your subconscious controls all of your memory files. Every memory file contains a ton of sensory data: sights, sounds, textures, etc. Memory files also contain emotions and records of your internal thoughts. So there’s a lot going on in these files.
Now when your subconscious goes on red alert, there are always certain memory files that it is especially focused on in that moment. Those “priority files” are ones that contain information which seems especially relevant to your current situation. In Shane’s case, as he freezes in the park, his subconscious is focused on the memory of that beast attacking him as a child.
Now the reason you have any hope of focusing on tasks in your daily life is that your subconscious intentionally keeps most of your memories out of your conscious’ way. It is your conscious that you rely on to focus on your current surroundings and on the person you’re having a conversation with. Picture your conscious like a man who is standing at a large, clear window, watching what’s happening directly outside of his house. Since the window is clear and unobstructed, the man is able to clearly see what’s happening around him. But suppose we take a photograph of the man’s wedding day, blow it up to the same size as the window pane, then stick it on in front of the man’s face. Now when he tries to look out his window, all he can see is that photograph, and of course that makes him think of his wedding day.
When your subconscious triggers a panic attack, what sometimes happens is it allows the memory it is focused on to move into the realm of your conscious. When that occurs, very upsetting imagery from that old memory file suddenly gets thrust in your conscious’ face. But unlike photographs, which are flat, static images, the images contained in memory files are moving and three dimensional. When that kind of imagery is suddenly thrust into your conscious, it feels extremely real. Depending on how much imagery there is, and how complex it is, you might even feel like you have been instantly transported to a different place.
Sam is a soldier who had terrible experiences on the battlefield. Now Sam is at home, walking through familiar city streets. Suddenly, several loud noises occur which Sam’s subconscious interprets as gunfire. Instantly his subconscious goes on red alert while focused on some specific, terrifying memory files from Sam’s war experience. As some of those files cross over into Sam’s conscious, Sam sees his city surroundings morph into a battlefield from his past. He looks down and sees that he is wearing his military uniform and holding an automatic gun. He looks up and sees a large enemy tank barrelling towards him. So Sam does what any soldier would do: he runs, shoots, ducks, and dodges trying to defend himself. The problem is that Sam is not really on a battlefield–he’s actually on a busy city street, and that means he’s now running directly into traffic. Cars are swerving wildly trying not to hit the crazy guy who is running right in front of them. But Sam can’t see the cars at the moment. Even though his eyes are functioning just fine and collecting all the right sensory data, Sam’s mind is too frazzled to process that data at the moment, so it is ignoring it.
Here’s where we come to another important, yet very bizarre principle: you don’t see with your eyes, you see with your mind. Your eyes, ears, nose, and other sensory organs are just collectors of various kinds of information. But it is your subconscious that interprets that data. Is that dark spot on your carpet a piece of lint or a bug? Your eyes just report that there’s a “dark spot.” It is your subconscious that interprets what that dark spot is. Once again your subconscious relies on its memory files to make these interpretations, which is why your first impression of something is often wrong. Because your subconscious wants to protect you, it’s biased towards looking for threats. If you have reason to find bugs threatening, you might find yourself feeling startled at the sight of that dark spot on your carpet, and assume it is some creepy spider before you take a closer look and realize it’s just a bit of lint. Your initial startle was based on your subconscious leaping to a “worst case” scenario, then sounding a “mild threat” alert so that your other elements will raise their guard. In cases of “mild threat” alerts, your subconscious often explains what the threat is. In this case, it tells your conscious “there’s a spider nearby.” This sharing of specific information results in your conscious forming the thought “Yikes, that’s a spider!” Your subconscious then prompts you to move closer to check if its analysis is correct. You move closer, and your eyes collect more data like a bucket scoops water out of a river. Your subconscious then processes that new data and realizes that nope, it’s not a bug after all. You now feel your frazzled nerves settling down as your subconscious cancels its alert and your other elements relax. And of course all of these intricate processes happen with lightning speed because you are such a complex and highly efficient little being.
Now in the example of Sam, his hallucinations were built on fragments of memory files. Sometimes hallucinations will only pull from a single file, other times they will mash together bits and pieces from several memory files. It just depends on how many memory files your subconscious is focused on at the moment, and how much of that data it allows to spill over into your conscious. As a general rule, your subconscious wants to protect your conscious from these kinds of leaks, but when your subconscious gets too overwhelmed and distracted, mistakes happen.
The important point to realize here is that even when your subconscious is causing the hallucinations by letting memory fragments move into your conscious, that doesn’t mean those fragments will play in a clear “I’m having a flashback” kind of way. Sometimes these things are clear, as is the case for Sam, who finds his current battle scene all too familiar. But it’s just as possible for your subconscious to produce a mishmash of memory fragments, which can result in you experiencing a terrifying array of images, sounds, smells, and even textures that aren’t a clear replay from your past.
Whew! This is complicated, right? But now things get even trickier, because your subconscious is not just the manager of your memories. Your subconscious also has its own original thoughts. It even creates its own movies. For example, your dreams are created by your subconscious. By now you’ve no doubt noticed that your dreams are not just replays of old memory files. Instead, they seem to stir together bits and pieces of memory files with new, fantastical imagery. You dream of your mom walking through a purple forest. You see a dinosaur walk out of the ocean. You jump off a cliff and find yourself flying. Dreams are wild, and dreams demonstrate just how capable your subconscious is of inventing its own creative spinoffs of things you’ve actually experienced in real life.
And then you start hallucinating. Well, when hallucinations are caused by information being transferred from your subconscious to your conscious, there are three kinds of information that can be involved. First there are actual snippets from real life memory files. Second, there are files your subconscious created which contain its own creative modifications of things you’ve experienced (such as a purple forest, which combines your real life exposure to forests and shades of purple). Third, there is all of that data that your senses are collecting right now–the stuff that your mind is too busy to deal with.
When all three of these categories merge, you can end up with a hallucination that is part real, part flashback, and part fictional. For example, as Shane stands frozen with fear in the park, watching a snarling beast run towards him, he is experiencing an information merger. The park he sees is the same as the park he is actually standing in, so that information is based on the data his senses are currently collecting. The beast he sees is a freaky combination of the dog who is actually running in the park (which is brown) and the dog who assaulted him in the past (which was black). The beast he sees running towards him is also huge–much larger than either dog was in real life. When Shane was originally attacked, his mind recorded the dog as being larger than it actually was, and that exaggerated memory record is now affecting Shane’s current hallucinations. It is quite common for minds to exaggerate aspects of experiences that upset them. When those exaggerations are added to the mind’s memory database, they feel very real, and people will swear that those exaggerated details are correct, when really they are part of the mind’s fear response.
Okay, so how does all of this help you? Think about the details of those hallucinations you had. Do you recognize any of those details as being pulled from real life memories? For example, did you see a familiar threat or hear scary noises that you’ve heard before? Did you find yourself suddenly remembering upsetting things that have happened to you in the past? The sudden resurfacing of traumatic memories during panic attacks usually indicates that those attacks were triggered by the subconscious. When this is the case, it means the best way for you to prevent panic attacks in the future is to focus on getting psychological help. In these cases, the mind is getting triggered by something in your environment. When you aren’t actually in any danger, these kinds of overreactions demonstrate that your mind feels extremely stressed by things that have happened to you in the past. That stress can certainly be relieved, but to do so you need to be able to discuss it with someone who is good at helping minds calm down. Talking to a counselor could be very helpful in these cases, and the sooner the better, because you don’t want to keep having your mind flipping into panic.
Soul Triggered Attacks
So now that we’ve talked about your body, conscious and subconscious, let’s consider your soul’s role in panic attacks. Of all your elements, your subconscious is the most likely to trigger these kinds of attacks, but it’s important to realize that your soul is also capable of panic, it just does so for different reasons. While your body will panic over extreme physical threats, your soul can panic over spiritual threats.
So what threatens your soul? While your subconscious cares about keeping you safe, your soul cares about things like morality and Divine judgment. If your soul feels forced to conclude that you are morally despicable according to your own definition of that term, then your soul might panic. For example, a man whose mind starts producing sexual fantasies about children might experience soul panic. The man’s soul needs to feel he is a moral person. Many people feel that pedophiles are immoral scum. If our man’s soul shares this view and it observes his mind expressing pedophiliac thoughts, his soul will panic and think, “No, I can’t handle the idea of being such a horrible monster!”
Among souls who really care about pleasing God, Divine judgment is a very loaded topic which can easily trigger distress. If a soul is given reason to think that God hates it or is planning to chuck it into some kind of hell in the next life, soul panic can occur.
It’s useful to realize that soul triggered panic attacks can be just as intense and debilitating as subconscious triggered attacks. Once your soul hits its own “red alert” switch, your other elements will react with extreme stress. Now in many of these cases, the subconscious will actually try to protect the other elements by essentially telling the soul to shut up. The soul and subconscious have such different priorities that they often struggle to sympathize with each other’s problems. Because your subconscious directly manages your body and conscious while your soul sits off to the side, your subconscious’ distress is often viewed as more important because it affects more of your elements. This is why severe panic attacks are more often triggered by the subconscious than the soul: because many of the soul’s attempts to trigger an attack are blocked by the mind before your other elements can fully respond.
The fact that your mind tries to keep your soul walled off at times results in your soul feeling isolated and miserable. Soul stress should not be viewed as less important just because it doesn’t interfere with your ability to breathe or make your body shake uncontrollably. Anytime one of your elements is very upset, you need to deal with that stress directly, not tell that element to suck it up. Stifling stress always makes grow worse in the longterm.
All of your elements have a form of emotions, but for your soul, emotions are its primary language. While your subconscious prefers to think with imagery, and your conscious prefers words, your soul prefers feelings. This results in soul driven panic attacks have very intense emotional elements to them. When there are also hallucinations experienced, the imagery for those hallucinations is often being supplied by an outside party. This is because your soul does not have access to your memories like your subconscious does, and so it can’t just cobble together a bunch of imagery that it finds distressing. But your soul will emotionally respond to images that get thrust in its face by outsiders, and here is where we come to the role of demons.
Demons & Panic Attacks
While demons are quite capable of manufacturing original terror material, they primarily operate as opportunists. This means they’d much rather fan existing sparks into a flame than try to build a fire from scratch. Demons have limited resources, and it’s just easier for them to work with the tools at hand than try to invent their own.
Now unlike your soul and conscious, demons can see the contents of your memory files. This gives them quite an advantage, because it means they know you better than you know yourself. Demons are also able to accurately interpret your soul’s current agendas and attitudes, which they consider to be vital information when they are deciding how to attack you.
To deal with demons well, you need to strike a healthy balance between respecting their power and understanding their limitations. Yes, demons are very malicious creatures with some terrifying tactics and some major advantages over you. But demons are also very limited creatures who can only interact with you when God allows them to do so. God never gives demons free rein over you. Instead, God allows demons to mess with you for the purpose of giving you important growth opportunities. There is always a positive spiritual lesson to be gleaned from an encounter with demons. Focusing on that lesson is far better than focusing on the demons themselves.
Demons have the most influence over you when you give them your full attention, so it’s best to avoid doing so as much as possible. Of course when demons get in your face with their terror tactics, it often feels impossible not to give them your full attention. But demons don’t torment humans with no reason. They always have a deeper game that they are hoping to accomplish, and if they can see that they aren’t making any progress, they’ll back off and regroup. What this means is that the best way to counter demons is to figure out what they don’t want you to do, then focus on doing that with gusto whenever they are around.
Demons have their own issues and their own personal reasons for wanting to see humans miserable. It benefits them when you feel rotten, which is why they will try to prod you in that direction as much as possible. For the most part, demons will try to be subtle and covert when messing with you. They find that they have a higher success rate with humans when they remain undetected, so demons use a whole array of tricks to try to prevent you from noticing that they are around.
Unlike God, demons are not omnipresent. Instead, they can only be in one place at one time. Be very cautious about looking up information about demons online because most of the stuff you’ll find will grossly exaggerate what demon are capable of. Demons themselves will also exaggerate their abilities to you so that you will think they are more powerful than they actually are. A vital thing to keep in mind is that compared to the God who created them, demons are as powerful as carpet lint. So while demons can certainly terrorize us humans, they are infinitely outmatched by their Creator. Despite what many religious communities teach, God is not the least bit threatened by demons, He does not struggle to keep them in line, nor do demons have any hope of messing up the Divine plan. So when you see all of those religious people praying around the clock to fell demonic strongholds, tell angelic warriors where to strike next, and basically help a doofus God figure out how to keep His own creatures in line…yeah, that’s all a ridiculous waste of time and effort. The idea that there is any true strife occurring between God and demons is utterly laughable. Demons have no advantage whatsoever over their own Creator. Since you were created by the same God they were, and since that God is always monitoring what is happening with you, you are never abandoned in the clutches of demons (although they would love for you to think you are).
Now I said earlier that demons prefer to be covert in their dealings with humans. Panic attacks are not covert. Neither are things like demonic possession or chairs that fly across rooms. Demons do crank up the drama, and they love being theatrical. But the more dramatic the tactics are, the more invested demons are in accomplishing specific goals with their target humans. So what’s your defense strategy here? Figure out what demons don’t want you to do, and do it with gusto until they get frustrated and back off.
Despite all of their advantages over us, demons have one major weak point which we can easily exploit. Demonic agendas are always the same. Sure, there can be a lot of variation in the surface details, but the core agenda of demons is always consistent, and once you realize that, the playing field gets a lot more equal.
Demons get aggressive for two reasons: because they are frustrated, or because they think they’ve figured out a quick way to get you where they want you. Where demons want you to be is entrenched in soul attitudes which are direct opposites of the ones God encourages you to cultivate. God will always lead you towards the soul attitudes of reverence, submission, dependency and trust. Reverence is about acknowledging how supreme God is and respecting Him accordingly. Submission is about yielding to God as the Supreme Authority in your life. Dependency is about recognizing that you are a creature who is incapable of sustaining yourself, therefore you need your Creator to help you in every aspect of your existence. Trust is about understanding that God’s motivations towards you are positive and that even when He puts you through tough experiences, He does so with your long-term best in mind. In other words, hardships are brought into your life on purpose by a God who is giving you opportunities to grow. You can reject those opportunities, but the point is that He is intentionally creating them for you to give you the option of developing in ways that you couldn’t do otherwise.
So can demons trigger panic attacks? Yes. But once you understand that demons are very invested in influencing your soul attitudes, then you can get better at identifying when they are the ones attacking you. When demons are involved, there will be a spiritual agenda that surfaces at some point, and that agenda will always be pushing you away from embracing those four soul attitudes that God tells you to have.
So was your panic attack really triggered by demons? Or was it really triggered by psychological distress due to traumatic experiences that you haven’t had a chance to work through yet? Well, what’s complicating this situation is the presence of your aunt and her rotten spiritual advice. Even if demons didn’t directly trigger your attack, they are clearly trying to use it to their advantage, so let’s look at some of the specific ways they’re doing that.
A False View of Divine Judgment
Your aunt tells you that your panic attack was a form of Divine punishment because God wants you to go to church. To put it simply, that’s a bunch of bull. If God was actually peeved with you, you wouldn’t need your aunt to tell you so. God always goes direct with His convictions, and that means He would tell your soul exactly why He was annoyed with you. He would also show you what you could do to immediately get back into a good place with Him (see Recognizing God’s Conviction (Charts)). There’s only one way to bring Divine punishment down on your head, and that is to intentionally give God a bunch of soul snark. There are plenty of souls unloading the snark all the way through church services, so merely going to church does nothing to improve your soul’s attitude towards God. At the same time not going to church does nothing to harm your soul’s attitude towards God. So the fact that your aunt is trying to link these two unrelated concepts indicates that she was being quite the handy little demon prop in that moment.
Demons love dishing out bad spiritual advice to people who are in some kind of crisis, because when we are upset, our judgment tends to be poor, and we are more likely to accept a bunch of guff as truth. Does God ever use terror tactics to discipline snarky souls? Absolutely, and He can scare the pants off of you much more effectively than demons can. But God just isn’t the volatile volcano that many people make Him out to be. Instead, He is very reasonable and gracious and very easy to succeed with. This means that if you find yourself wondering if God is mad at you, the very fact that you’re unsure indicates you haven’t received any clear communication from Him regarding what you’re doing to tick Him off. God always communicates when He wants us to change course, He doesn’t just explode on us without warning. So your aunt is grossly misrepresenting God regarding His motivations towards you. She’s either doing that out of ignorance, because she honestly doesn’t know any better, or she’s doing it maliciously. Either way, this experience should cause you to label her as an unsafe source of spiritual advice.
So are demons really “infesting” your house? No. Demons are too busy to sit around infesting. While humans think demons are permanently camped in places with a “haunted” reputation, in reality, demons just visit these places more often and pull off occasional theatrics to make humans believe there are spirits permanently residing there. From the demonic perspective, we humans are very gullible dopes who are very easy to deceive.
The good news is that you don’t have demons infesting anything. Are they sniffing around for opportunities to push you closer to your aunt’s misguided group? Sure. They’ve got her there, ramming bad spiritual advice down your throat and using classic peer pressure tactics to get you to join her church. But at the same time, we see your own spiritual discernment kicking in as you sense that auntie is giving you some bad advice. God will often speak up in these moments and give us countering advice to steer us clear of demon cons. That’s what it sounds like you were experiencing, and happily, your soul was leaning towards listening to God.
So what about the prayer thing? The timing of your panic attack stopping when your preacher aunt started praying for you has to mean that she has a big sway over the supernatural realm, right? Wrong. Your aunt has no power over demons, nor does she have any sway over God. God really isn’t a fan of all of the bossy prayers that we humans like to throw up in the heat of the moment. Yelling at Jesus to do thus and so is just downright rude if you think about it. What’s reverent about flinging God’s Name about as if the mere sound of that word will force Him to do your bidding?
Setting all of the egotistical guff aside about the so-called “power of prayer”, there are three explanations for the timing you observed. If you experienced a subconscious triggered panic attack, then your mind could have calmed down simply due to the sensation of your aunt physically touching you. Physical touch is extremely symbolic to humans, and compassionate touch often has a big impact on our state of emotions. You almost get hit by a car and you’re reeling with shock when your friend pulls you into a tight hug. What happens? You feel your emotional distress rapidly subside. You trip and are on your way to falling flat on your face when your friend grabs you in a tight, face saving grip. What happens? You calm down. When other people touch us in a way that we perceive as coming to our aid in a time of crisis, it usually has a very calming effect on us. The more powerful we view the person who touches us, the stronger the effect of that touch will be. You view your aunt as a very formidable person with a lot of spiritual clout. Usually her intensity feels like a negative to you, but when she grabs you in a time of crisis and starts behaving in a way that says, “I’m on your side”, suddenly all of her intensity is very comforting.
This touch principle is so consistent and so potent among humans that many try to use it as a tool to abuse and control others. Because the emotional effect of touch is greatly amplified when the receiver is in distress, and because people typically only ask for help when they are feeling distressed, both psychological and spiritual counselors are in a prime position to abuse the power of touch. This is why I am adamantly opposed to any form of physical contact between counselor and client: it’s just too risky. Clients are highly vulnerable and prone to reading all kinds of things into a counselor’s touch that they shouldn’t. One well-timed touch can easily cause a client to start feeling dependent on a counselor to the point that they stop critically thinking about that counselor’s advice. The only way to protect clients from this kind of harm is for counselors to keep their hands to themselves. In my opinion, any form of touch in a counseling session is grossly unprofessional and demonstrates a shocking lack of concern for the client’s safety. But that’s me. Plenty of other counselors enjoy the power rush that they get over seeing how moved their clients are by receiving compassionate touches, so they go for it and don’t concern themselves with the long term effects. Well, no, that’s not okay. When you are dealing with people’s minds and souls, it’s your responsibility to be the more mature one, to think about longterm effects, and do what is for their best even if it’s not what either of you want in the moment. I’ve had plenty of clients who were in desperate need of a long, loving embrace and I really wanted to give them one. But I didn’t, because that is a line that should never be crossed in a counseling relationship.
So then, psychologically, your aunt’s reaction to you in distress could easily have been interpreted in such a way that her behavior helped your panicked mind rapidly calm down. That’s the first possibility.
The second possibility is that your mind simply got a grip shortly after your aunt started to pray. This was your first attack. If this was mind triggered, then your mind has managed to hold back its stress up until now, but is now starting to breach due to stress overload. Panic is a state that every mind wants to escape as quickly as possible, because panic interferes with the mind’s ability to do its normal tasks. So your mind would have scrambled to shore up its defenses as soon as possible, especially if it did not detect any actual threat in your environment. If this was the case, you really should seek psychological counseling soon, because breaches like this indicate the mind is feeling very strained due to an overload of stress and you need to find ways to bring those stress levels down. If you don’t, breaches will occur more often and last longer.
A third possibility is that God supernaturally intervened and helped your mind regroup faster than it was capable of doing. This sort of thing happens a lot. But if this was the case, you need to understand that God did not act because your aunt ordered Him do. God takes orders from no one, but He doesn’t let snarky prayers interfere with His agenda, either. God helps people when and how He wants to help them, regardless of who is or isn’t shouting Jesus’ Name.
Now regardless of whether your calm was brought on by the natural mechanics that God hardwired into you or due to Him miraculously intervening, what is clear is that demons then moved in on the situation to try to get you to falsely interpret how your aunt’s prayers influenced things. Notice how they’ve got you viewing the timing of your calm as evidence that your aunt’s spiritual evaluation of you must be correct. You wrote: “If what I experienced wasn’t caused by demons, then why would it stop as soon as my aunt started praying for me?”
The Illusion of Timing
If two things happen close together that does not mean the first thing caused the other. We can understand this logically, but emotionally, we often assume a causal relationship where none existed. Knowing that we humans are prone to linking events that shouldn’t be linked, demons capitalize on this all the time by carefully timing their theatrics. First they tell Sorcerer Fred to say his mumbo-jumbo from his special book of incantations. After Fred finishes cursing things in Latin (why is it always Latin?), a demon throws a bowl across a room. Conclusion: Fred just moved an inanimate object through the air using the power of his new “how to throw objects around a room” spell.
Timing tricks are the only reason humans think magic spells are real things or that you can actually make things happen “through the power of the spoken word.” Humans are so gullible in this area that demons can get by doing the bare minimum. They don’t have to throw something every time Sorcerer Fred chants his spell. When Fred chants and nothing happens, they just tell Fred that he did it wrong and Fred believes them. Humans are quick to blame themselves when their magic rituals flop because if we blame ourselves, we can still keep the dream alive that there really is a bunch of supernatural power available for us to get our greedy mitts onto. But is there really some mystical power that we can tap into? Sadly, no. And are there any supernatural beings out there who we can grind under our thumbs? No, not that either. The best we can get are demons who temporarily pretend to be serving us just so they can get us to further buy the lie that we are potent little gods in the making. False servant acts happen a lot of those hokey exorcism routines that so conveniently occur while someone’s making a film for YouTube. While many filmed exorcisms are just carefully rehearsed theatrics, some have actual demons getting involved and intentionally behaving in ways that will make everyone revere the human exorcist. Why? Because demons know that as long as you’re worshiping some fatheaded healer, you won’t be worshiping God. Remember that demons are always trying to lead you towards rebellious soul attitudes.
So what do you do now? First you need to think about your experience in more detail as I’ve explained and see if you can sort out if this was a psych issue, a soul thing, or just demon theatrics. Mind triggered attacks will usually result in you focusing on some very upsetting things that happened to you in the past. Soul triggered attacks will usually leave you freaking out about either a major moral problem or the idea of supernatural beings coming after you. Demon triggered attacks will typically either spike your fear of them to extreme levels, or plant a fear that God has either abandoned or rejected you. Consider what kind of thoughts were swirling around in your head after the panic attacked subsided, and think about what kinds of elements showed up in your hallucinations. Did those elements seem to make you feel more stressed for psychological reasons or spiritual reasons?
Regardless of whether demons triggered this event or not, they are certainly trying to use it to their advantage. What should we do when demons are sniffing around us? We should focus on embracing the soul attitudes that they don’t want us to have. For a list of those things, see Understanding Soul Attitudes (Chart).
There are always positive lessons that come out of these things. Realizing that your aunt is an unsafe source of spiritual guidance is a positive lesson, because now you can be extra cautious when she starts passing out the advice. Realizing that God doesn’t just beat on you out of the blue for no reason is another positive thing you’ve gotten out of this. And realizing that your spiritual advancement isn’t dependent on how many hours you spend on a church pew is another nice plus. But that said, spiritual advancement doesn’t happen without effort. You need to be intentional about thinking critically (which you’re doing), and focusing on the right soul attitudes. And of course you should always ask God for any feedback that He wants to give you, because His take on these things is always the most beneficial.
This post was written in response to Chloe.
Looking for advice? You can submit an anonymous request through the Ask a Question page.