When Fear Rules !

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Why Are Some More Vulnerable to Anxiety

by on Jan.25, 2018, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 Webster defines Vulnerable as : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage.  

 In my professional experience, being vulnerable and the extent of that vulnerability is what makes many of us more susceptible to anxiety symptoms, whether in the form of panic attacks, obsessive worry, agoraphobia or compulsive behaviors.  

If you choose to believe that everyone who experiences significant anxiety has chemical imbalances, that is your choice, and maybe that takes some pressure off thinking there is nothing you can do but live with it.   But, in MY reality as a Psychologist, the majority of us experience these symptoms because we have subconsciously or knowingly placed ourselves in situations in our lives that have made us vulnerable, by doing things or avoiding experiences that would make us less vulnerable.  

What if it is  our THOUGHTS that trigger chemical reactions which then trigger symptoms.  Our thoughts, which are the result of years of thinking and feeling negatively and never learning to deal with people and issues more effectively may be the problem.

Now of course, all of us were developing our way of looking at the world and dealing with that world from infancy on-ward. So, our perceptions of the world, the good and the bad, were developing even before we had reached the ability to REASON.  We were experiencing fear and how to protect ourselves or avoid even before we knew what those terms meant. Many of us developed a dependency on APPROVAL, possibly becoming Caregiver, Conforming, Peacekeeper or Perfectionistic personalities well before the age of six or seven.  Have you ever noticed that the more logical, analytic personality types suffer less anxiety symptoms ? They derive more of their sense of worth and value from what they DO, and need less approval directly from the mouths of others. Just a thought !  

Unfortunately, for those of us who developed a dependency on approval and a want to avoid rejection and disapproval, needing approval is often a key issue in making us vulnerable to conflict and anxiety. Look at your life ! There are many good things about you, but your dependency on approval is not one of them.

Now, IT IS OK TO WANT APPROVAL ! But the degree to which you have avoided expressing your thoughts and  feelings, not taken a chance to try something different, not attempting to take the ” road less travelled ” for fear of upsetting someone or possibly failing, are signs of dependency. Every time you avoid someone or some issue for fear of failure or rejection, you place yourself in a vulnerable place.  

The more you avoid, the more you psychologically beat yourself up. Your self image comes from what you perceive you have done with your life. Avoidance is toxic to self esteem.  This creates emotional conflict.

We CAN do something about being vulnerable ! We can at any time we so desire, begin to take steps to explore where and when we avoid people and issues.

We can look hard at the opportunities we secretly wish we had attempted to try on for size.

We can look at talents and interests we never allowed ourselves to expand upon because we never gave ourselves time.

 We can look at people that we never expressed ourselves to because we chose to avoid conflict.  

We can make a serious effort to  explore issues of avoidance.  Set goals for yourself to face people or deal with issues you would normally avoid. Take that course you put off. Expand your skills at you job so you are not as vulnerable when it comes to finding another job.  

We can take steps to deal with some of the difficult people in our life, but small and frequent steps or bites. The FREQUENCY with which you challenge yourself and your self-imposed limits and boundaries allows you to experience feelings of growth and pride, and with repetition,something changes. Then, gradually increasing the magnitude of these changes,taking little bigger bites and then increasing the frequency of those successes lets the confidence build.  

When dealing with friends, make sure you find a balance by asking them for things instead of you always doing for them.   Even with your kids, stick to your guns when it comes to discipline. Make them face consequences instead of being afraid they will not love you. Otherwise, again, you are vulnerable to their games.  

You need to remember that although you may share many genetic connections with your parents, you are NOT limited or restricted in your life because of anything they have done or not done with their lives.   

The acorn CAN fall as far from the tree as you allow it to.   We learn much from our parents. But if you have the sense and awareness to know that some of the things they did were wrong, then you have every opportunity to make sure your life does not go that way.  

Sometimes we become angry with ourselves because we see that we are giving in to that notion that we are destined to follow in the footsteps of “sick” parents. Maybe we perceive that to be true because we lack faith in ourselves. But the reality is, that the only ones that can really screw up our lives is US. Some people should never have been parents. But if you are unfortunate enough to have experienced unhealthy parents, rejoice, as you have learned what NOT to do.  

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist, Coach
The Benhaven Group

Blog: RuledByFear.com
www.RuledByFear.com
 

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They walk among us, the Sociopaths.

by on Dec.29, 2017, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, Bullying, STOPPING ABUSE

It was said by Mark Twain that “ Truth is stranger than fiction !” In my line of work as a therapist, I have never been able to desensitize to the fact that when you are dealing with human beings, the truth is often more painful, destructive and bone chilling than fiction, yet at the same time ignored, denied to oneself and rationalized as, “ No, that could not happen !

Truth is real, and although often ignored at our own peril, there are consequences for when it is not dealt with openly and upfront.

Now, as a Psychologist for some forty-two years, I have specialized in dealing with severe anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and agoraphobia with some real success. But, the use of medications to extinguish the anxiety, in most cases, was only putting salve on the wounds, not fixing the causes or source for the anxiety. I was never satisfied with this, so for those not wanting a temporary fix, but a successful treatment to find and eliminate the source, I had much success. I will stress that at least fifty percent only wanted the medications, and would find themselves getting worse over the years.

Having had panic attacks when I was younger, and working through the causal factors, gave me a heads up to help others, but it was still a challenge.

One thing I learned, and this is an over-simpllification, is that most of the anxiety that was experienced by my clients was due to conflicts or issues in their life that they were avoiding, for fear of failure, rejection, ridicule for shame. They had learned, mostly since childhood, to avoid conflict. Most of them had at least one person in their life that they just could not please, and that list of persons grew as they went through life. They were addicted to pleasing, adapting to fit in, and conforming to seek approval. They were already setting themselves up for conflict.

It is my impression that at least a third of the population are caregivers, conformers or a subtype of perfectionists who fit into this group of adapting personalities. The rest are either so focused on success and are less emotional so they do not need approval, get their dose of approval from what they do, or have less empathy and less a realization as to how things they say or do effect others so that they experience less anxiety and conflict.

Then there are the Sociopaths who take this lack of emotional need for approval, to another extreme. These manipulative, often very successful, charming personalities have the natural characteristic to look for other’s weaknesses and use them for their own advanatage…..

This is a true story, of Maggie, a wonderful, bright but adapting and caring personality and her battle to deal with manipulative people, one being a sociopath, and her struggles to find her way. It is a sad story, but a true story. It was the most challenging and tragic story, with only saving grace being that she wanted it to be THE story that would save others.

I was not her therapist, but took on the role of a Coach, because she came to me through a website and chat room I offered every Sunday evening. The goal of this service was to reinforce skills that I taught to my clients, but also to find a source of therapy for each person that was not able to be seen personally by me for face to face therapy. I never met Maggie, but talked with her on the phone and we communicated by writing. I came to know her very well.

It has taken me six years to be able to write this book, but I promised her I would do so in her name and to hopefully prevent at least one other person from falling deeper into the grips of a sociopath.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “ I do not know any sociopaths !” My response is that you most likely have such a personality within your extended family, friends, colleagues and do not realize it. Charming for sure, but if you dare explore most closely, they are selfish, say what you want to hear, but do what they want without a hint of care for how it effects you. They are specialists at manipulation. They use awareness of what you might be sensitive about, mistakes you have made, to have leverage and use the tools of blame, shame or guilt to have control over others.

I can say that at this moment, I know of mothers and fathers who are sociopaths, High School Principals who are sociopaths, parish priests who are sociopaths and therapists who are sociopaths. These are real people, who can entrench themselves into your life as they have my clients. To be armed to protect yourself from their manipulative ways, you need to know they exist and set strong boundaries while at the same time finding healthy ways to meet your emotional needs.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group

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Needing a Sense of Pupose !

by on Dec.24, 2017, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have previously held the belief that people, by nature, want to feel a sense of worth and value to their lives, not just exist, or be dependent. Further, I always believed that people thrive when they have goals, feel they are doing something meaningful and purposeful on a day to day basis. Don’t people feel a little “high” when the have stretched and conquered an issue, problem or challenge ?

I guess I still believe all that, because, everyday in my work as a therapist, I see that most of the clients who are experiencing anxiety or depression report that they feel stuck or trapped in their lives. They often begrudgingly report that they have given in to their fears of failure and rejection and have become complacent. Further, they painfully admit to themselves that they have avoided change, options to grow and stretch.The slippery slope of avoidance can take a person down to the point that he or she cannot see any chance of digging their way out. Avoidance warps our sense of self, diminishes our self-esteem which further limits our ability to change and grow.

How many mornings do you wake up excited about what you are planning to do that day ? When was the last time you felt you were doing something really meaningful in your life ? Do you have goals at work that get your adrenalin pumping ? Do you feel a passion in your life ? Do you feel your relationship with your spouse and kids is where you want it to be ?

You cannot truly avoid the reality of avoidance in your life ! You may deny it to others, but you know. It haunts you in your private moments.

When I sit with most of my clents, what I see behind the cloudiness of their symptoms is often the reality, that somewhere along their life, they lost their sense of purpose.

Out of fear of failure or rejection, or due to the erosion of self-esteem that comes from avoiding challenges to their personal growth, they often do not consciously realize that they have lost a sense of meaning to their lives. They are just so focused on how they feel, which is either anxious or depressed, that they are unaware that much of what they feel is a result of the complacency that has crept into their lives, the lack of intimacy they are experiencing, the lack of involvement in anything truly special for which they could feel passionate.

So, ask yourself, when was the last time you felt passionate about anything special going on in your life ? It is never too late to embrace change !

Yes, I know change can be scary at times. But when you set a reasonable goal to face something or someone you have avoided, and then create a hierarchy of steps to approach that person or issue, each step can help to motivate the next step to be taken.
Nose of
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

www.RuledByFear.com

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Bullying…All I did was try to protect my daughter !

by on Dec.14, 2017, under Bullying

I am currently seeing a client, and adult male, whose daughter was being bullied over a period of three months, at the private school she was attending. The father, let’s call him Bob, was terribly upset that this was going on as he was paying out the nose for his daughter to attend this well known school, and expected that she would not be subject to bullying there. Financially, this was a burden for him, but he has two daughters that he hoped to protect from such issues.

Recently, the bullying reached a more intense and therefore tragic level when his daughter was being hazed at an assembly at school and in the hallways. They were calling her names and saying terribly embarrassing things to her , and she was visibly shaken and shared with her parents that this was happening, and that she was experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. Bob, no stranger to anxiety and depression, and loving his daughters more than himself, was beside himself.

Although most adolescents going through this do not share with their parents, and often become victims to suicide, this is a very loving and close family, so they knew there was something going on, and she knew that her parents would not blame her for doing something to bring this on.
The parents immediately set up therapy for the daughter, and Bob went to the school and talked to the Assistant Principal who said he would take care of it. He did not deal with it, for whatever reason. Whether
the administrator was insensitive to to issue of bullying, or maybe was anxious about talking to the parents of these students, some of whom were highly influential in the community, or possibly major contributors to the school, I don’t know yet.

The next day or two, nothing was done, but the Assistant Principal approached Bob’s daughter in the hallway at school in front of other students, asking whether she had anything to do with vandalizing one of the bullying student’s car. It was proven that it was not her, but she was further embarrassed by being accused in a very public place, instead of privately in the administrator’s office. What is wrong with this picture ????

Not getting the help he was expecting from the administration, he went back after work one day to see if he could catch up with the administrator and reinforce how serious this was for his daughter. He did not find him around, but in walking by the gym, he saw the group of upper class students that had bullied his daughter.

He was upset that they had potentially put his daughter’s life at risk with their bullying, and so he could not pass up the opportunity to go up to this group and “warn” them to leave his daughter alone. Admittedly, he used some very colorful language to make his point, but when he was done, one of the students, a male, came up to Bob and admitted he was part of the group that bullied his daughter, apologized and reached out to shake Bob’s hand. Bob accepted, and in that moment, that is all Bob wanted is for the students to know that words hurt, and he just wanted it to stop.
Even Bob admitted that the bullying stopped according to his daughter after he made his points with the students.

Now Bob is preparing for court since the parents of these bullies pressed ‘menacing’ charges against Bob.They are calling him a bully, when their sons and daughters were bullying his daughter. He is sick about it and was having panic attacks. “All I did was try to protect my daughter when the authorities failed us.”

What do you think about this ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group

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Any Questions about Anxiety, Panic, OCD or agoraphobia ?

by on Dec.06, 2017, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Dear Readers,

After reading some of the many articles I have provided to you here at Ruled By Fear, I am requesting that if you have any questions, just ask.

I know how painful it is to be limited by fear and anxiety, whatever shape it takes on in your life. I would like to jump start the process of helping you to take greater control of your life.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC

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Out of the Ashes !

by on Oct.21, 2016, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

This is not about politics as much as it is about human nature, and the psychological forces at play in the development, or unravelling of a society.

It appears that many of us have become apathetic, lazy minded and avoidant, forgetting what it takes to be truly self-sufficient, independent, proud of our achievements and successful as an individual… and as a society.

Oh, there are still some who have the old work ethic, and realize you do not get anything for nothing, that believe the old adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. But there is an ever-growing wave of people becoming willingly or unknowingly dependent on others, especially on our government to think and do for them. That wave will grow to a tsunami, as that government, past and present, left or right, seems to be no longer there to serve the people, but instead to control the people so that government becomes bigger and stronger and ultimately too powerful to challenge. Fear takes over and so the citizens deny what is obvious, so as not to have to deal with the inevitable….they AVOID !

Power corrupts, it is only a matter of time. So, many in government see the opportunity to not only preserve their positions, but to grow in personal and accumulated power. Again, this is a part of human nature for some with less conscience and moral fiber to delude themselves, or justify that they are doing the right thing. They know better than we do as to what is good for us.

We are on that path, and it may be irreversible because too many do not see it, or don’t want to see it. Odds are, It is just a matter of time now. Civilizations go through these cycles, and it appears as though we are presently descending into that abyss. However, there is the possibility, if we look at our world’s history, that out of the ashes we will again see a more rational people emerge, realizing that the principles this country was created upon are necessary as part of a moral and ethical compass…and a reality that there is no perfect world or society. There will always be the WORKER BEES, DESERVERS, WOULD-BE WORKERS with SPECIAL NEEDS,the GREEDY ONES and the USERS.
The WORKER BEES are those who adhere to the ethical and moral view that you do not get anything for nothing, that each must do his or her share, must through sweat and tears make a living, provide for their families and prepare to eventually be DESERVERS. We might refer to the WORKERS as those with conscience or a moral compass.

The DESERVERS who have put in their time and sweat as Workers, have made a living for themselves and their families and now wish to retire in some form of peace and tranquility while still being fruitful by sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the next generation of WORKERS.

The WOULD-BE WORKERS who are seeking to be full-fledged WORKERS, but need direction, internships, emotional support and opportunity, and are not looking for hand-outs or a free ride.

The WORKERS with SPECIAL NEEDS who have become DESERVERS, who have the ethical and moral fiber to be WORKER BEES, but through no fault of their own, have suffered ” legitimate” physical or mental ailments that limit their ability to perform as WORKERS, thus needing special assistance.

The GREEDY ONES, who manipulate and control others for their own gain, rationalizing that all is fair in love, war and politics. Many a Sociopath and Politician may come to mind. A lack of true moral compass is a common characteristic. They can lie with a straight face, or even a smile as they deceive, all for their own agendas. The WORKERS don’t see what is happening at first, because they do not want to see the DARK SIDE of mankind.

The USERS, are those who can justify living off the WORKERS, capable but lacking confidence or the drive to become all they can be. They rely on scamming the system, and playing the game to reap rewards without putting out true effort. They are the one’s who feel ENTITLED. The USERS may willingly or unwittingly give up their option to be WORKERS, aquiescing to the short-lived promises made by the GREEDY ONES. Once the GREEDY ONES see the benefit of manipulating the USERS, an inevitable and a very unholy alliance is formed where USERS knowingly or unknowingly, become puppets or pawns.

The GREEDY ONES can amass great power, and can use that power, plus the tactics of SHAME, BLAME and GUILT to cause the WORKERS to acquiesce and surrender more of what they earn to provide support for the USERS. The end game is unlimited control for the GREEDY ONES, until the inevitable occurs. The WORKERS rebel, and the GREEDY ONES begin to self-destruct as 1] they can no longer provide for the ever-growing needs of the USERS who have become totally DEPENDENT and 2] they destroy one another as they compete with other GREEDY ONES for more power and control. The USERS then rebel, and class warfare ensues. Remember the GREAT SOCIETIES such as Rome. The society implodes !

In either case, as part of the instinct for survival, the WORKERS will eventually be reborn from the ashes, and with less tolerance, if any, for the USERS and the GREEDY ONES.

And the cycle begins anew ! Why ? Because on the road to becoming a more evolved and conscientious society, we slowly forget the nature of mankind. In time, there will again be WORKERS who are willing to give, USERS who are more than willing to take, and GREEDY ONES who cannot help but fall into the trap, the cycle of power and control and of feeling they are special and above and beyond all others. Human nature is predictable ! We can pray for enlightenment ! We might even learn from the past and recognize what is happening, but the window of opportunity is short-lived and the tendency to avoid thinking, feeling and dealing with the dark side of mankind is so strong. What do you think ?

Just my opinion, but if we as a society provided job opportunities and training, as well as took major steps to prevent fraud in our programs meant to assist people, we would not be promoting dependence, but instead, pride in one’s achievements.

Is it just me, or does it seem like if the money our goverments wasted would be put into infrastructure jobs and manufacturing, the materials needed to re-build America’s roads, sewers , water and electricity grids, we would have a lot more people feeling that pride, worth and value in themselves and our Country.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
CEO, The Benhaven Group

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Feeling Out of Control ?

by on Dec.25, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Sheila had not driven on a freeway in twenty-five years, although she had never been in a major accident. Her anxiety and fear of having a panic attack had seriously limited her options and choices for both a social life and a more desireable career as she was always searching for alternate roads to travel.

Chuck was so caught up with his obsessions over germs that it all but paralyzed him from doing anything to pursue his desire for a meaningful relationship or a more challenging career. How could he even think about making changes in his life with all these anxiety -driven fears dominating his thoughts ? What girl would give him a second look when she realized his life was ruled by these fears of contamination ?

Rick was a productive guy with a potentially awesome career, but his anxiety and compulsive rituals of checking everything from doors being locked to “repeatedly” searching for errors in his work had negatively effected his performance to the point that his job was now in jeopardy.

Patricia loved her job, but all of a sudden her ability to travel was threatened by these panic attacks that came out of nowhere !

So, if you have ever experienced panic attacks or the companion symptoms of obsessive-intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, I do not have to tell you how overwhelming these symptoms can become and how much they can effect your life. Panic attacks, which often seem to come from ” out of the blue “, can quickly become an all consuming and draining experience as they leave one feeling such a very real sense of being out of control.

What could be the reason or a source for these life-altering symptoms ? Not wishing to over-simplify, but to at least get you thinking about why this might happen, I would offer the following points for you to consider. One of the common elements with each of the examples I offered above is the issue of being an adapting personality type. In my opinion, being an adapting person, one who is aware of and sensitive to the reactions, thoughts and feelings of others around them, is a gift but can feel like a curse. While being aware and sensitive is a characteristic that could enhance one’s personal life and career, depending on the depths one has “learned” to bend and adapt to please others, one can lose their sense of self because of their dependency on approval and acceptance. In too many situations, there are many of us who have “learned” to depend too much on the approval of others to measure their personal worth and value, and their sense of identity.

Dependency breeds a sense of doubt in oneself. What do I really want to do with my life ? Am I pursuing what I want, or putting all my energy into what I think people expect me to do ? Do I just settle, and stay below the radar, or do I challenge myself even when others say I should be happy with what I have now, so don’t rock the boat ?

Do I stretch and put more energy into being there for others while ignoring or seldom expressing my own needs ? Do I conform to the “shoulds” or do I experiment with potential options in my life ? Do I avoid conflict at all cost ? Do I push myself to prove my worth and value but hesitate to reward myself for a job well-done ?

If you have experienced panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, please just consider that there are most often, in my humble opinion, reasons why this is happening to you. You may need to feel more in control of your life, which, if lacking, may cause you to experience panic and OCD which creates a more immediate sense of loss of control and at the same time may distract you from what is really going on.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR THE NEW YEAR ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
President/CEO, Benhaven Counseling, LLC
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog : www.RuledByFear.com
http://www.facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Why Not Say Merry Christmas ???

by on Dec.25, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I just stepped off the elevator at a very beautiful, palm-treed and lush resort where my wife and I chose to spend Christmas. It was an awkward moment as this resort is a very popular destination for families of all nationalities, faiths and backgrounds. When a middle aged gentleman hopped on the elevator, we wished him a Merry Christmas. The look on his face was one of being startled. He responded with a “ Merry Christmas “ , but then added, “I do not know what to say when I meet someone or pass them by them. Is it alright to wish them a Merry Christmas or will they be offended ? So I just don’t say anything ! “ Now, turns out that this man was happy to respond in kind after his initial hesitation, but how seriously pathetic is it that we feel the urge to avoid, to hold back offering an expression of greeting during the Holidays that has been so traditional throughout our lives. We have every right to CELEBRATE our faith and beliefs, as long as we are respectful of the faith and believes of others who are like-wise respectful.

So, in fact, it seems as if seventy-five percent of those we greet have no problem responding, but at least half of those have that expression on their faces as if to say, “ Is it alright ! “ If they don’t respond, we just smiled and walked on. If they returned a “Happy Holidays”, we accepted and respected that response and again smiled, and moved on. But when they bid us a Merry Christmas in return, it frequently led to some extended friendly words about how they were enjoying their Christmas vacation. That is how friendships are born.

Our Government has not yet banned the expression, Merry Christmas, but I know there are some who would want to do just that from my discussions with them. We must stop LIVING IN FEAR of people’s reactions to our freedom of expression, not just about Christmas, but to our entire belief system as Christians. I know my share of people who are of the Moslem or other faiths. I respect their beliefs as long as they do not infringe on mine. But this effort by some to be “ politically correct “ is damaging to the very fabric of America, and is truly a destructive force. Our silence to these issues energizes those who would take control. Now, don’t be naive. There are forces out their whose main goal is that of control. Control is power, and power leads to destructive forces and changes that shatter the very moral fiber of this Great Society. Now, there is no doubt we have made mistakes as a country, but we have learned some painful lessons from those errors in judgement. We are better for that ! It is natural for any government to become bloated with power and lose sight of what is good for the people it was intended to protect. I am not Republican or Democrat [ they are all the same anyway ]. I am an American and a Christian, and I respect the beliefs and rights of others who do not infringe on my rights and beliefs, plain and simple.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
President, CEO, Benhaven Counseling
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog : www.RuledByFear.com
http://www.facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Rebecca’s Story / Conquering Panic Attacks

by on Sep.07, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Growing up, no one warned me about how much pressure and scrutiny an 18/19 year old was put under. I always just assumed that by the time I graduated high school I would know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But graduation came and went, and I still had these huge life decisions hanging over my head. “What are you doing with your life,” “Where are you going to college,” “You know that career doesn’t make enough money to support yourself,” “You better start now or you’ll never go back to school.”

If it wasn’t difficult enough to make these decisions while pleasing myself, imagine the horror of making these decisions while trying to please every single person I ran into that asked these exact questions. Having the adaptable, people-pleasing personality that I do made these choices even harder. How would I please everyone? Hearing the disappointment in people’s voices when you tell them you aren’t going to college or you don’t have a major picked out can really eat at your brain; it sure did bother mine. Should I just enroll in college because it will stop the badgering of questions? I mulled these thoughts over often. I never could seem to escape the questions. It didn’t matter if I was at work or at church on Sunday; they always seemed to be there. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the questions were coming from those with pure intentions, but I also don’t believe older people really understand the disapproval they show when you are 19 years old without a mapped out plan of what you are going to be when you grow up. It also didn’t help the fact that I seemed to be the only one my age who was having these issues. All of my other friends had left for school in other states, leaving me feeling alone and confused.

So there I was, 19 years old, not enrolled in college and working 30 hours a week at a job where I was not very happy. I decided to drive to the gas station after dinner one night in March. Gas was cheaper the next town over so I made the extra 10 minute drive, not thinking anything would happen. Everything was fine until I let my overactive brain cloud my judgment. Driving gives you time to think in silence, which can be good, I guess. For me it just gave me time to think about how much of a failure I felt as a daughter and person. I mean I thought my whole life was supposed to be put together already, I was so behind.

“I can’t breathe” I thought as my heart started to beat out of my chest. Staring at the dim brake lights in front of me I tried to focus on driving as my sweaty palms tightly choked the steering wheel. I didn’t know whether to pull over and turn around or keep driving. My throat tightened as it became hard to swallow and I sat in my car terrified. What the heck is wrong with me?

That became the new question. Obviously, I made it home safety and I would love to tell you that that was my first and only panic attack, but I wouldn’t be writing this article if it was. 
Shortly after that incident, driving in general became something of complete difficulty. It didn’t matter if I was driving three minutes to church, being in the car felt like an eternity. I battled with the thoughts that something was seriously wrong with me. I even made a trip to the emergency room one afternoon because my throat felt like it was suffocating me for hours on end with no relief. They sent me home with a packet on anxiety and some judgmental looks.

Anxiety. Panic attacks. How could this be happening to me? I’ve always done the right thing. Why would God allow me to go through this? What did I do wrong to deserve anxiety?
The pressure from home didn’t help my mental state. I love my mother dearly, but she didn’t and still doesn’t understand panic attacks and the effect they had on me. I could tell she was disappointed in me and herself for not being able to “fix” my problems. The thoughts of being a failure to her made my panic attacks even worse. I would cry at night – the idea of suicide entered my head more than once, but I knew it wasn’t the answer.

Life became very dismal and along with my anxiety came his buddy depression. I could barely make it through work and back home and my social life quickly diminished. Before too long I became house bound with panic attacks, no longer sleeping through the night, and deathly afraid to be left alone in fear that the next panic attack would leave me dead and alone.

By the grace of God, my story doesn’t end there. Life seemed impossible but somehow I was given the strength to keep fighting. During my sleepless nights I did a lot of research on panic attacks and methods to reduce them. I also began searching for some medical help. I met Psychologist, Gene Benedetto in the summer of 2013. After months of suffering alone, I was finally ready to reach out and try to figure out why this was happening to me. Talking to Gene helped put things into perspective. I realized that unlike what my brain was telling me, I wasn’t crazy and another people were dealing with the same issues I was having. I worked through a lot of personal issues sitting in his office. Although my mind was always somewhat distracted by the clock; waiting for what felt like an eternity for that hour to be up and to go back to the safety of my home. I visited Benhaven on and off over the next couple of months. It was difficult to see him regularly when I could not make the 15 minute drive myself. After Christmas, I decided I would not return. I had been put on Zoloft for my anxiety and it seemed to be working. The constant overwhelming feeling of choking had subsided enough to where I felt I could live a little and no longer felt the need to seek out help.

I didn’t realize until later on that I had stopped going to see Gene because I wasn’t ready to change. I wasn’t willing to put the effort into stretching and desensitizing myself to my anxiety symptoms. And I certainly wasn’t ready to open the can of worms that was causing all my issues to begin with. Anxiety became my new normal. I knew the limits I could live within to feel comfortable and as long as I stayed within them I could live my life just fine.

But after a while, fine wasn’t good enough. I was healing slightly, but I still didn’t feel like myself; just an anxious, unhappy version of myself that I really didn’t like too much. You see, if you don’t ever work on the root of the problem, the symptoms aren’t ever going to really disappear. Anxiety gave me an excuse not to answer the questions of my future, but having never dealt those issues never made them truly go away.

So time passed slowly as I adapted into a new “normal.” It had been a year and a half since I started having panic attacks and nothing had really changed. My meds did soften the effects of my panic attacks, but I was never willing to put myself in any situations where anxiety might arise.

That was until my boyfriend dumped me. It really is crazy how some of the worst things in life turn out to be for the good. So there I was alone, yet again. My first love, my best friend, my confidant left me without a reason to be seen. And I was crushed. I had so much banking on our relationship and I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I was again faced with the question of what I would do with my life; no longer able to hide behind a stable, hardworking man who was willing to drive anywhere for me so that I was never uncomfortable. But this time, I was ready to answer that question. I was finally ready to push myself to do something. Not because my mom, my friends, or the random lady from church wanted me to, but because I felt confident in myself.

I quickly signed up for a dental assisting program in my area. I traveled back and forth to school the weeks before classes started, filling out paperwork and trying on scrubs. Most of those trips started and ended in phone calls to my mom who assured me I could finish those drives by myself. As I continued to make the drive to classes something miraculous happened, the drive no longer seemed overwhelming or impossible. I was finally able to start trusting myself to get in a car and drive places. I even began driving to my boyfriend’s house, after we started working through our previous issues.

Six months later, I finished my dental assisting program at the top of my class. It was a tough 6 months, but worth the effort. I also pushed myself to go on several interviews way outside my 20 minute drive comfort zone. I had never been more proud of myself than I was in those months. I had done this. I had made a decision and stuck with it, no matter what anyone else thought.

With that program completed and a job lined up, I finally felt ready to return to Benhaven Counseling. I was finally mentally ready to make the steps needed to continue to push myself into becoming a stronger person.

One of the first lessons I learned from Gene was breaking everything into steps. Choosing not to look at myself as a failure for not being able to drive to California and back by myself, but taking reasonable bites often until they built up to longer drives. I also began to take steps to learn how to distract myself. Couponing and donating the items to a local charity became my way to calm my fears before pushing myself to go further on a drive. I continue daily to make the conscious decision to push myself, not allowing my anxiety ever to control me again.

The journey has been tough and there are still many twists and turns in the days ahead, but for the first time in my life, I’m not completely worried about my future. I have learned that I can trust myself to make decisions and that it is okay not to listen to everyone’s “advice.” I encourage all those reading to take the first step if you haven’t. Confide in someone you trust about what you are going through. You are not alone in this and there are so many people around you that want to help.

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Destroyed by His Words !

by on Aug.07, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Destroyed by His Words !

He is a Narcissistic Sociopath, and although he is very real, I will give him a fictitious name, Lucius. Upon my exposing him for what he was, he actually bragged and boasted about the “tools” he possessed that allowed him to control and manipulate people, both in business and in his personal life.

Lucius recognized as a teenager, that the things he said and the way he treated people caused them to be “like putty in my hands, allowing me to mold them into thinking and doing what I wanted”. As he became an adult, his awareness of his power over people grew by leaps and bounds. No one was safe from his manipulation, even his own daughter.

Being an attorney who specialized in medical malpractice suites in which he was ruthless and gained a mind-numbing reputation, Lucius would explain how he got a dopamine rush, a surge of adrenaline, realizing the power he had over people. He used that power not just in building a rather successful practice, but systematically taking control of his wife, their sexual interactions and her life by making her a victim of abuse that weakened a once strong woman with a career of her own, turning her into an emotionally weak, dependent blob.

My stomach turned and I felt nauseated as I knew that there had been many a victim who fell prey to this man’s initial charm and gradual degrading of their self-esteem as he manipulated his potential victim’s thoughts and behaviors by using tools such as blame, shame and guilt. Oh he was good at it, and he knew it. The smirk on his face said it all.

Lucius knew that I was aware of what he had done to destroy his own daughter’s will to live, and what he was now attempting to do was use his skills of manipulation and control to shut me down. He calmly said,
” You do not know who you are dealing with ! I can and will destroy you ! No one will believe anything you say anyway ! ” He was using fear tactics, which he was quite accomplished at due to his lack of conscience.

Then he said something I will never forget. “Everyone has made mistakes. Every man and woman on the face the earth who has a conscience has something they regret, or have done or avoided something for which feel shame or guilt. I know how to find out about a person’s past, and I will find a way to take advantage of whatever weakness or fear that a person has and I will use that knowledge to take control ! ”

Yes, he was a narcissistic sociopath, but what is critical to understand is that the only real control he would have over his victim would be if he or she gave into their fear.

Someday soon I will share the rest of this true story.

Something I learned from all of this over time, and now forty years of practice, is that there are far many more borderline or full-blown sociopathic personalities among us breathing the same air we do, every day of our lives. Their narcissistic and self-absorbing care for themselves and superficial show of care and concern for others is of course a tell-tale sign. But their ability to lie to our faces, and effectively try to find and take full advantage of the weakness in anyone who would challenge them, has at times made them all powerful. One of the primary strengths, and at the same time weaknesses in some of us that make us potential victims to manipulation is that some we have a conscience, are capable of feeling guilt, and have less of an ability to recognize evil in other people.

When many of us come up against people like Lucius, we just want to walk away , avoid them.
What can you do to defend yourself from such people ?

First, be aware that many such people exist. Watch for the signs, as they can lie to your face without flinching. If you can feel something uncomfortable, don’t ignore what you feel.

Don’t be mesmerized by what other people say about this person, think for yourself ! There have been many times in history where the minds of intelligent people have been paralyzed by the charisma of a charming, well-spoken person. All the while, below the surface may smolder the agenda of a selfish, control-seeking personality. There are many instances in history, where a person with a charismatic nature, who speaks well and seems to have their act together, takes over the minds of others who may know better but avoid being the one to speak up. Although I admired much about John F. Kennedy, the “Bay of Pigs” issue comes to mind where it is reported that many in his Cabinet had serious issues and conflicts with his decisions, but never expressed their warnings.

Realize that many controlling and manipulative people will say what you want to hear, but do what they want to do. So listen to their language. Do they follow the rules of respectfully dealing with others, or do they have some uncanny way of creating diversions and chaos, and then do their deeds amongst all the chaos and before the smoke clears ? When questioned, do they really answer the concerns others express or turn to comments that are an attempt to make you feel that if you do not agree with them, you are somehow a racist, a bigot, or an uncaring person ?

Life can be hard at times, but good hard work and effort to better yourself builds pride and character. If someone offers you something for nothing, it is a pretty good sign you will end up with nothing,

If you are an adapting or approval seeking personality, you are easy prey for the narcissistic, manipulative personality types. They can smell the want for approval and acceptance in other people.

Once a person gets sucked into the space of the narcissistic sociopath, a dependency is formed on that person’s approval. Then, after becoming a victim, you may not be willing to admit to yourself that you were suckered, so you say nothing, and that avoidance causes you to feel even less in control of your life, which makes you even more vulnerable.

This phenomenon occurs in business as well as personal relationships. How many people do you know that are stuck in unhealthy marriages, where one of the partners shames. blames and guilts the other to silence their legitimate complaints ? Why do so many remain in those unhealthy, esteem destroying relationships for so long ?

Express yourself and your feelings about persons that your gut tells you are manipulative, controlling and lying, but don’t spew hatred. Speak respectfully and repeatedly, saying as an example “ I appreciate your thoughts and opinions, but I do not agree with you !” Then don’t get dragged into defending yourself as the other narcissistic or sociopathic personality type will surely try to convince you that you are wrong. Just repeat yourself !!! In this way you are respectfully expressing an opinion without feeling the guilt of being hateful or mean, thereby not triggering so much shame within yourself. I have had many a client who was a victim of emotional or sexual abuse, whose abuser would try to turn the shame and guilt machine on them big time by saying, “ See, you are feeling so much anger towards me right know, which makes you feel dark and ugly inside, so you are no better than me !”

So, think hard about this as the abuse may be more subtle, but it is still abuse when a person uses words to manipulate you. Don’t allow fear to rule your life, you deserve better than that.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC
www.RuledByFear
www.FearRulesYourLife.com

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