When Fear Rules !

STOPPING ABUSE

A Child Abused, What Would You Do ?

by on Jun.08, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

This trip to San Clemente was another eye-opener. I came here to spend time with my grand-kids, but also to research and work with organizations that attempt to help children who are being abused, emotionally, physically and sexually, and often all three. I have found some very active organizations that work hard to serve these children, and one in particular worth mentioning  is the Center for Community Services in San Diego. Of course, my talking about these kids or some of the special people who are out there trying to serve these kids in need does little to help the problem, because  most people are aghast when they hear about a child suffering abuse, but because it is so uncomfortable a thought, it gets shoved away somewhere in the deeper recesses of the mind.

On the other hand, if you would go to the CCSSD web site and actually go to one of their functions, actually ask questions and get involved, you may get hooked ! I am not talking about just throwing money at the problem, although that would help, but REALLY getting involved. No matter where you live, you can go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. So many who would abuse children get away with their heinous deeds because of the lack of outcry and support.

When there is domestic abuse, to me one of the worst types, it is often covered up by parents, or dealt with internally by the family without bringing in appropriate services. The issue is often that of not wanting to bring shame upon the family. ” We thought we could handle it “, is what I have heard. While any child being abused is totally unacceptable, when it is a parent, sibling, or other relative who is the abuser, it is especially ugly and harmful because the abuse is done by someone loved and trusted. Think how that screws with the mind of a child. Who in the child’s world can be trusted !!! How does it feel as an adult when one feels there is no one to be trusted ? But a child !!!

One of the last cases I worked with that is a horrible example of what can happen is a 19 year old who was raped on a college campus. Well, you might say, that is not a child. However, her reactions to the rape and the fact that the incident went unreported by the young lady because her father forbid her to say anything to anyone, sent off alarms in my mind. This young lady shared with me because there was no one else she could trust to share with, but all my attempts to find her therapy and appropriate guidance was met with, “No, my dad would kill me.” Yes, my radar was functioning at full power and I gradually drew out of this child that she had been physically and emotionally abused by her dad since she was about fourteen, and within the last year, he began crossing the line sexually. In hopes that her father would eventually stop hurting her and love her again, she forbade me to expose him.

I cannot go into any more detail, first because this is a case I am still working on, and secondly because the details would turn your stomach into knots.
I was able to get her to leave her home and go to her Uncle and Aunt for protection, but even they could not deal with the evil behavior of her father. Out of fear and shame, they kept silent and actually allowed the abuse to continue under their own eyes. Without anyone willing to press charges, my hands were tied. This young lady ended her life at 20, as the only way to escape her abuser. I will forever be haunted by the fact that there was nothing I could do, but i would hope that a few of you may also be haunted by the picture that might be forming in your minds of this young lady’s ordeal, and that you will get involved in your community. Contact CCSSD if in San Diego, or go to  the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence  and see what programs and services exist in your state, in your backyard, Yes, your backyard because domestic violence happens ever hour of every day in just about every community in our so-called civilized society.

Don’t AVOID ! Do something that will add even more meaning to your life ! Do something to help protect these kids.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:  www.RuledByFear.com

Website/ Newsletter / On-Line Support Group : www.OneStepataTime.com

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Selfish, Self-Serving and Abusive

by on May.20, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

As I read my last Blog entry entitled ” Fear…It Rules Our Lives !”, I almost did not publish it as it seemed to harsh, even for me.

I wrote in Sunday, but held off publishing until Monday with the idea that I might soften it up a bit.
Then, I got an awakening slap across my face as I received an urgent e-mail from one of the kids I have worked with for three years. She is a very special child who once lived on the streets by herself at eleven and twelve years of age. Could you imagine yourself or one of your kids surviving that ordeal ? If you have followed my Blog at www.RuledByFear.com , then you might be aware that this child adopted me as her grandfather, a title that I see as an honor. This young lady worked so very hard and against all odds to get off the streets.

She was abused so badly on the streets, yet maintained her efforts to get off those back alleys and street corners, and have a life. I admired her efforts and together, we found a path for her to now find herself in a loving home.

But then the slap ! ” Grandpa, my other grandpa just did something horrible to me !!!” I won’t go into details because it makes me too angry and distracts me from what needs to be said here.. But it is what it is ! It took me more than two hours to open her up to tell me what happened. She totally blamed herself for being STUPID ! She has again been a victim of sexual abuse, and her parents and I are going to again begin to pick up he pieces. Makes me sick, and my heart is still heavy. She feels like she is a marked person, as most victims feel.

Yet, the only thing she really did was open her heart to someone because she so wanted to be loved, accepted and to feel she belongs. She knew he was a difficult man who had previously acted as if he did not like her, and saw her as an intrusion into their family. She thought that since he was family, she would just have to try harder to get him to love her.
She had NO idea what he had in mind.

At some point, her abuser realized he could take advantage of her want for love and approval and he played  her like a fiddle. He said all the right things. Took walks with her and listened to her imaginative stories. He played on her sympathies as he had lost his wife a few months back. Then, when he was done with her, he told her that no one would believe her and that he would tell stories about how she wanted him to do things to her. Anyway, she was just a bad seed and would end up back on the streets ! Oops, I am getting angry again.

Sure, steps will be taken to have the abuser face consequences for what he did to an already fragile, now fourteen year old child, but the man’s selfishness and self serving act is another scar on this child’s life, marring her ability to ever trust again. Beyond that, she wonders why God is punishing her. She asks, “Did I do something to deserve this ?”

Typical of many children, but also adults who are victims of sexual abuse, this child felt shame for not realizing she was being played. She described a “black slime” inside of her, a combination of feelings of guilt, shame and anger toward the abuser, but more toward herself for being so blind.

Can you even imagine what it will take on her part to ever trust again ? We have begun the process of releasing that “black slime” by allowing her to vent, by helping purge the anger and to realize SHE  did nothing wrong, but want love. We have prayed and sang her favorite spiritual songs to help her remember that she is loved by her family and by her God.

She does have much to learn about love and trust, and about the evil agendas that lurk in the hearts of some who can justify and rationalize through their warped thoughts, their selfish unbridled needs and malicious deeds. But then, don’t many of us have critical issues to learn about needs for approval and love ? Don’t many of us find ourselves victims of emotional, if not physical and sexual abuse, because all we really are looking for is that approval, that sense of belonging, that craving for someone we can really trust? Don’t many share those same needs and therefore find themselves vulnerable as targets for abusers ?

Can she be loved for who she  really is, for what is in her heart, or only for what she can do to satisfy the cravings of the another ?

Well, I will be busy doing my part to glue her back together, hoping I can find a little bit of that old “fight until you win ” attitude that led her off the streets, but please pause to think about how many children are abused every day. See what YOU can do in your community to have a voice for these kids. And realize that the dark side is out there, it is real in way too many people, whether they be father’s , mother’s and sadly, grandpas.

Get involved with anti-abuse groups like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence . Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING !!!

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Any thoughts or questions ?

Please share !

Remember my Blog, www.RuledByFear.com

Also, to receive our free weekly newsletter, or have the opportunity to join our free on-line Support group on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET, go to www.OneStepataTime.com

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Fear…It Rules Our Lives !

by on May.14, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Fear…It Rules Our Lives.

None of us can escape the effects of fear. In the Big Picture, most fear death or suffering. However, on a more day to day basis, fear pops up and rules much of our lives at either a conscious  or subconscious level. Fear creates a sense of being out of control in some way, and we certainly do not enjoy that sensation

Our fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment and retaliation play havoc in our lives as it snuffs out or limits many of our efforts to stretch, try new things, speak our minds,  and allow us to truly feel more “in control” of our lives.

There is a dark side in people, yes all of us. I know, we do not like to think that of ourselves, but really, we have dark and angry thoughts about others. We might gossip and say hurtful things about another person. We might justify and rationalize anything from cheating a little on taxes, driving over the speed limit, and of course cheating in relationships.
Hopefully, many of us have a conscience that keeps that dark side at bay, or at least recognizes the need to pull the reigns in on our behavior when it crosses that imaginary line where guilt. shame or fear of consequences awaits to pounce.

But the reality is sadly evident that not everyone has that degree of conscience. I see so many of my clients suffering from the emotional conflict which leads to anger, which leads to guilt for allowing their dark feelings out as they have been victims of needy, abusive, manipulative or controlling people. That is a mouthful ! But the fact is that many severe anxiety or panic attack symptoms and obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are symptoms people experience because they do feel emotional conflict in their lives. One frequent source of such emotional conflict is when we allow, yes I said “allow” people to use and abuse us. We feel anger when people do harm to us, but even more so, we often feel anger with ourselves for being suckers, or gullible in the face of the users and abusers.

For many of us, our want for approval and acceptance, our desire for community, to belong, and our need for validation by others causes us to be sitting ducks for those who recognize  our adapting, conscience oriented natures.

How can we take control ?

First, realize the truth that not everyone has the same morals and ethics, i.e., conscience.

Secondly, recognize the users and abusers in your life.

They may be the “needy ones”,the users, who you know are selfish, self-absorbed, habitually blame everyone else for the ills of the world, but never seem to be there when you infrequently need them.They can make up stories to defend their positions, and come to believe those stories to be true even in the face of contrary evidence. They can be extremely defensive and try to turn the tables on you by using guilting tactics. Do you know anyone like that, hmmm ?

Then there are the “controlling and manipulative ones” who prey on their knowledge that you seek approval and acceptance. They can be charming, and are often quite bright and astute at using shame, guilt and veiled threats as tools to get you to succumb to their wishes. They often try to divide and conquer by saying things to cause you to doubt people in your support system, because they know if they can separate you from the crowd, you are more vulnerable. That’s the “divide and conquer game”. They can lie without flinching, without as much as a bead of sweat. They come in all different sizes and from mild to severe degrees of evil intent. It may be the stock broker who swindles you, a boss who sexually harasses you, or the full out sexual, physical or emotional abuser.

Most often, the adapting conscience-bound personality types, once abused by this type of damaged soul, will not say anything to their support people for fear of looking foolish and weak. Especially when physical, sexual and emotional abuse occurs, the abuser fully takes advantage of the shame and guilt routine to shut their victims up. One tactic the abuser may play out is to keep repeating the mantras, “You must have really wanted me to do this or you would have stopped me “. Or the classic, “Look how angry you feel, look at the dark side in yourself, see, you are no better than I am !”  Then of course there is the line, ” No one will believe you, and you will just end up feeling shame and guilt for what has happened, so you cannot tell anyone.”  Finally, and one of the ugliest games, ” You will not say anything because you know I would come back and hurt you or others that you care about. So just suck it up !”

So what can we do to protect ourselves ?

Take stock of the people in your life and remember step one and two above. Don’t be naive and gullible.

If you are dealing with one of the “needy ones”, start setting limits and boundaries as to if and when you interact with that person. You might respectfully approach that person saying that you are sharing what you honestly feel when he or she treats you that way,  and then give him or her an example of the behavior that is unacceptable to you. If that person seems to have insight into what you are saying and makes an effort to change, great ! If they repeat the hurtful behavior again, cut it off ! They are damaging to your self-esteem. And, that person will not change until they recognize consequences for their hurtful behavior, which seldom happens as too many just avoid saying anything. You may be doing them a favor by at least trying to help them face their sabotaging behaviors. However, don’t hold your breath.

Also, make sure you are spending time developing and nurturing other healthier friendships, so your fear of being alone or without friends dose not cause you to allow yourself to be an on-going victim.

When dealing with or recognizing the ” controlling-manipulative types”, remember…

Document things that are said and done with dates and times and verbatim notes.

Share your experiences with trusted friends and, a counselor, the police. DO NOT GO IT ALONE !

Remember the divide and conquer routine, the tactics to use shame and guilt ? The abusers lose their power when you share what you have experienced because they do NOT want to be exposed. You have nothing to be ashamed about, but if you have a support system in place early on, as soon as you recognize who you are dealing with, you are much less likely to be emotionally  manipulated by the abuser as you feel the support and are reminded of the fact that you are not alone.

I have sadly dealt with many victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Some of the worst cases have been domestic violence, abuse within families. Many have suffered more severe and long lasting trauma because they did not follow the above advice no matter how I pleaded. I know it is an uncomfortable topic, but to ensure your mental, emotional and physical well-being, you need to realize that the reality exists.

Any thoughts or questions ?

Please share !

Remember my Blog, www.RuledByFear.com

Also, to receive our free weekly newsletter, or have the opportunity to join our free on-line Support group on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET, go to www.OneStepataTime.com

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Emotional Pain is Real Pain !

by on Apr.21, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

So this child comes to see me because there had been a minor accident where the child had fallen down some steps and sprained an ankle. The child was in obvious pain, wearing a cast and on crutches. You might ask, why is this young child seeing me, a psychologist ? Isn’t this the domain of a medical  doctor or physical therapist ?

Then there was an adult client, about forty, who was experiencing increasing and unexplainable pain in the  hips and legs,  as well  as some numbness which caused  depression as it limited this person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

Of course, I will never forget the thirteen year old child who would not, could not talk…since kindergarten. They called it Selective Mutism. About to graduate from eighth grade and make the transition to high school, this child was terribly fearful of being rejected and made fun of in high school, and that there would be no way to survive in that world without being able to talk.

In each of these cases, the clients were referred because there was no known reason for their pain or physical symptoms.

The fall that the child in the cast had experienced was over a year ago. Tests and examinations by the pediatrician and a neurologist found no reason for the physical pain over a year later.

The adult with the leg pains and numbness had been through every test known to man, and then some, but there was no known source for the symptoms, as real as they were.

And the child of thirteen with Selective Mutism wanted so much  to talk, and the doctors had no answers. This child had been to other therapists, but apparently, no one was listening.

All three of these individuals in pain were being thought of as fakers, malingerers, making up symptoms to get attention. Of course, there are many people who might fake pain for one reason or another, as that can be a means by which to avoid issues in their lives.

I certainly see my share of individuals who express physical and emotional symptoms, and yes, are faking it in order to make a case for being placed on Disability.
The only real pain they  feel is the whiplash as they are shown the door. There are way too many people who are truly suffering and need and deserve assistance. And our social security disability system is bent and yes, broken by the weight of malingerers and those that feel entitled, but with no cause.

But what if the pain was real !

Yes, and it was real in all three of these cases. After exploring the situations and life conditions of these clients, I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with Conversion  Disorder, where real physical symptoms in the form of numbness and pain were real, but caused more by emotional conflict or trauma, not medical or physical issues.

Emotional pain is REAL and can paralyze a person emotionally, let alone cause physical symptoms and pain.

In the case of the child who could not walk on the previously injured foot, this child  came into the last appointment without crutches and although wearing a brace, was putting full weight on the foot. We had talked about emotional pain, and as soon as I opened up the topic, there were tears welling up. Why ? Because the child had been bullied and felt rejection at the hands of a new student in school that my client had befriended, who then subsequently began telling lies about my client to cause my client’s friends to abandon this child and go to the bully instead. That caused significant emotional conflict and pain for this very sensitive child so that my client had not discussed what had happened and what was felt with anyone so as to avoid possible further rejection and embarrassment. The pain was real, but it  was emotional pain that migrated to the part of this child’s body that was most vulnerable, the previously injured foot.

The child who never talked is now talking non-stop ! Why ? Because, as this child finally felt respected and understood, the child learned that the emotional pain at being bullied and rejected in Kindergarten had caused the response of shutting down the ability to talk so as to not have to deal with the kids who were the source of the emotional pain.
So instead of feeling weak or “crazy”, the child understood what had happened and gradually took steps with me to free the voice from the emotional prison it had been enslaved in for over eight years.

The adult with the ever increasing leg pain has not yet faced the causal issues or the source of the emotional pain nor has the client realized the power of the mind it’s ability to convert emotional pain to physical pain and symptoms. I have a challenge ahead of me in that case.

How about you ? Do you have pain or physical symptoms not explained by a medical diagnosis ? On the other hand, is there someone you know and care about who is experiencing physical pain, and you have thought that she might be faking ?

I am just offering food for thought !

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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Avoidance of Conflict

by on Mar.17, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Avoidance Of Conflict

It is so very important to realize that there is almost always a reason why a person is having panic attacks, intrusive thoughts or obsessive worry with compulsive behaviors.

Certainly, trauma can cause these anxiety symptoms, but I rarely find that among the majority of my clients. Stress can surely add to the symptoms, but most often I have found that stress only aggravates the anxiety symptoms.

What I find in most cases is that personal conflict is typically the source. Whereas stress can come and go, conflict hangs over our heads until we deal with it.

Conflict ?

Yes, like feeling trapped in a go-nowhere job but avoiding taking steps to create opportunities to change for fear of failure or rejection.

Maybe feeling stuck in an emotionally, physically or sexually abuse relationship, but avoiding taking steps to remove yourself because of your fears of being alone, or the fear of retaliation.

How many times we want to express ourselves toward someone who is controlling, intrusive or manipulative, but end up avoiding and repressing what we feel.

Key word is avoiding, since avoidance effects how we see ourselves. Avoidance can cause us to feel weak, erodes our self-esteem and leads to our not trusting ourselves.
Of course, when we doubt ourselves, what do we do next ? We WHAT IF ourselves and then we avoid !

There is a reason why the more adapting and approval seeking personalities have more anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms. Their need for approval and want to avoid possible rejection or exclusion makes them fair game for the more manipulative people in the world. All you caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are really good people but you need to learn to set boundaries with people who would  take advantage of your adapting natures.

In future blog articles, I will address some ways for each personality type to make changes so they might feel more in control, and thereby begin to take control of their anxiety symptoms. I look forward to your comments.

Meanwhile, take a look at our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Afraid to Expose the Abuser ?

by on Mar.05, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

Afraid to Expose an Abuser ?

A young woman working at her first real good  paying job, but is being sexually harassed by her boss as are a number of other woman who work there. No one else has ever dared expose this supervisor even though the abuse  is done openly, with witnesses. “ I can’t afford to lose my job and not be able to make my house payment”.

A woman married 27 years is afraid to tell her husband how much it hurts when he puts her down, demeans her when she offers any suggestions. She fears his flare-ups of anger and is having panic attacks.

A young lady, just legally an adult, takes her life because it is the only way to escape the pain of her father’s sexual abuse. The thought of exposing him meant she would lose any chance of her father ever returning and being the man that once loved her and protected her,

Another young person is a victim of cyber bullying, and takes an overdose to deal with his pain.

Unless you are a victim of some form of abuse, you may not be able to fully grasp the effect that it has on one’s life. FEAR is paralyzing !

I can see the effect that the abuse has had on my clients. It is obvious  that being a victim of abuse can CHANGE a person, often creates issues in future relationships, demeans and effects self-esteem, and leads to anxiety symptoms including panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive issues.

I have known that feeling. I had that feeling revisit me a few years ago when a sexually abusive father of the young lady I mentioned above threatened me with, ”You don’t know whom you are dealing with. I can destroy you !”

The point of this is not only how fear prevents us from exposing abuse and abusers, but how our not exposing the manipulative and controlling actions of others , especially when taken to abusive levels, empowers the abuser and weakens us in our own eyes.

I am sure you have heard it all before ! By avoiding the exposure of abusers, we give them more control over us. And yes, I understand the fear. But please understand how that avoidance effects you, prevents you in some cases from taking steps in your life that you always thought you would take someday, only to see that you opted for what was comfortable.

Abusers I have had contact with are insecure people with their own dark secrets who spend a lifetime hiding those insecurities with their ugly behavior. As an example, after being personally threatened in the example above, I did some long and involved investigative work, and detailed documentation, and I found that the father who molested his daughter to the point of her death had been exposed to homosexual activities as a child under the watchful eye of his own very abusive father. Do you think that might have caused some deep insecurities and a need to prove his manliness, leading to his needing to over-power and abuse woman ?

Avoiding the reporting of abuse of any kind is a life changer even as much as the abuse itself.

If their is or has been any sexual, physical or emotional abuse in your life, talk to your therapist.

Remember, abusers always try to divide and conquer. They want their victims to feel alone, and try to convince them that no one would listen to them anyway. Don’t hide the abuse any longer ! Build your support system between your therapist, organizations like NCADV { National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Nicole Brown Foundation,
Rape Crisis Hotline, an attorney, and EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission}, etc.

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Wounded Warrior Project & NCADV

by on Feb.21, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Please consider pledging to :

The Wounded Warrior Project  and

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

These are just two of the organizations that I feel are doing great work on behalf of others in need.

There is so much pain in our world. Do your part if you can !

Coach

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The Slippery Slope of Avoidance

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

The Slippery Slope of Avoidance…

We all avoid at times don’t we ? It is probably wise to avoid cheating on our taxes  due to the consequences, although some may choose to do so. I certainly would choose to avoid walking up to an enraged man with a gun.

Some of us are more risk tolerant than others, but we all have our limits. It is wise to protect ourselves by avoiding certain people or situations that could truly harm us isn’t it ? The REAL question is, where  do you draw that line ?

I have many clients who are dealing with controlling, manipulative and even abusive people, and  find themselves avoiding these persons in different ways.

If it is someone you do not need to deal with, it might be wise to pick your battles and move on. However, what if it is a boss or supervisor, or even a friend or family member ?

I typically see these situations arise with clients and they cause a great deal or inner turmoil, and OFTEN LEAD TO ANXIETY SYMPTOMS because AVOIDANCE of these people or situations leads to a slippery slope that is potentially damaging to your self-esteem.

Commonly when it is a boss who is abusing his or her power, four thoughts come to my mind.

First, do all you can to be less vulnerable to that boss. That means always keep your skills, certifications, training and networking in good order, never allowing yourself to become too comfortable, even lazy about making yourself as VALUABLE as you can be. In this way, you are less vulnerable to that boss, or that job. Always be looking as to where your constantly improving credentials and knowledge could be used at another place of employment.

Secondly, carefully document with times and dates  as well as notes as to examples of a bosses abuse of power. Documentation comes in handy and is something that can make a supervisor and his company nervous. Build a case while trying to find ways to work with this person, but without allowing yourself to be truly abused.

Third, talk to your boss or the offending person about specific issues he or she  has about you, with steps you can take to improve. In other words, don’t avoid talking to the boss.

You initiating meetings to talk and find ways to improve is a sign of you taking some control, and is also a good part of what you will document too. Avoidance gives the boss power over you or at least he or she thinks so.

At this point, if you see no change in the bosses abusive ways, you can opt to meet with his or her boss or the Human Relations Department to share concerns and ask for intervention.

Forth, once you find a better position at another company, which means that your boss has not changed his or her behavior towards you even with  all the positive steps you have taken, ask for an  exit interview  where you can tactfully express your feelings and reveal your documentation.  In this way, the boss  will have to face some consequence for his or her behavior especially if you copy Human Resources and his boss and have that exit interview become a part of your personnel file.

There are more difficult situations where an even more involved process , such as harassment charges need to be  brought  against a boss, but you need documentation and  witnesses.

Avoiding these situations and steps only empowers abusive and manipulative people.

So what happens when the abusive or controlling people are family members or friends.
Well, I see this even more often with clients. An intrusive mother who is step by step destroying a daughters marriage. An abusive parent who physically, sexually or emotionally abuses their own child, even when that child has become an adult.
A so-called  boyfriend who works to control the woman he professes to love, however, due to his own insecurities, step by step erodes her self esteem through verbal abuse in order to make sure she does not find someone else.

Abusive people come in all shapes and sizes, and yes , sadly and  quite often are siblings, parents, children and others who you give a piece of your heart to. Avoiding setting boundaries, or creating distance with these persons can be spell disaster to your self-esteem.

Confronting people such as these often leads to them trying to turn the situation back on you. They often feel no apparent shame  in playing every guilt card they have in their arsenal. So, especially if you have tried to talk to this person about how you feel, or when you know in your heart it will mean nothing to them, I would recommend you get involved with counseling, make sure you have a healthy support system  of people in your life who are affirming. Then  create consequences, letting the abusive family member know that you are no longer going to deal with him or her on their terms, on their turf, and that you are removing yourself from their grasp in whatever way you can.

It is not avoidance when there is NO  DEALING EFFECTIVELY with them. But you cannot avoid making changes in your life so you are not dependent or continue to be a victim to such control and manipulation. Trying to change these  people or do something to have them “see the light” is fodder for a great movie, but it is seldom real life.

Your Thoughts ?

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Comfortably Uncomfortable with Life ?

by on Jan.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

You like to feel that you are in control of your life, don’t you ? You want to see yourself as an independent, emotional but yet logical person who makes sound decisions.

I bet you would like to see yourself reaching for goals, taking on opportunities in your life that will cause you to feel a greater sense of worth and value, a feeling of purpose and meaning. At the end of the day, don’t you want to be able to look back on your day and feel you accomplished something, stretched a little further, took a step or two that will lead to better and greater things in your life ?

I might be presuming too much, but I still will bet on the above even though many of us do not feel all that much control in our lives. I mean, we want it, but often we find ourselves avoiding difficult people or situations, opting for more comfort and apparent safety.

Well, with all my years offering therapy to clients experiencing panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, one of the most frequently seen sources for those symptoms is that my clients WANT more freedom and independence, want to be proud of what they are accomplishing, but at the same time have found themselves avoiding any serious efforts to set the needed goals and steps to accomplish those goals.

What it comes down to most often is FEAR. Yes,that four letter word is represents what many of us experience and what keeps a huge percentage of us comfortably uncomfortable. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, of being embarrassed, maybe being wrong. Why are we so vulnerable to fear ? Let me remind you that you are not born with fear, it is LEARNED.

So stop and think, where did you first start feeling fear ? Did you have a fearful parent ?
Were you over-protected and warned constantly to not take any chances or risks ?

Fear is powerful as it NUMBS a person’s emotions and efforts to challenge life. Now, no one escapes fear, it is just a matter of intensity and the degree to which it holds back your personal growth.

I recall talking to a person who came to see me with the diagnosis of depression and secondly a social phobia. His face, I remember, was emotionless, and his voice monotone.  He had the appearance of a robot from an 1960 alien B-movie. My first thought was, what do I DO with this young man. Then i remember talking to myself, as I often do, and saying, THERE IS A REASON !

I probed, and I must say with some frustration at not getting any affirmation that I was hitting any buttons, until I finally realized that this young man had been subtly bullied during his early years, had no one to share his frustrations with and be coached as to how to handle difficult people or situations, and so he gradually but surely shut down.

It became NORMAL for him to observe from afar but not interact. He could get lost in books or games of isolation, where he could feel safe and, there’s that word, COMFORTABLE.

Now as a young adult attempting to navigate through the waters of life, he seldom left the dock and saw no reason to seek adventure. Goals, maybe just to survive. Risk, but why ? Little by little he and I established a very step by step game plan to stretch and experience life, because only with such stretching and experiencing, could he allow himself to FEEL.

You may feel this is an extreme case, but please take a good look at what you are doing and experiencing in your life. Do you need to do some more stretching ? Are you Ruled By Fear ? How much more could you attain if you took STEPS, not leaps to taste more of life and do things that would cause you to feel more meaning and purpose, RIGHT NOW ?

I welcome you thoughts !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Am I Becoming Needy Again?

by on Jan.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Am I Becoming Needy Again !

First, I think there is a huge difference between having needs and being needy. Having needs, emotional needs that is, happens to be a normal part of being a human. It can be seen in a special bond between two friends, it can be seen between a parent and child, or it is demonstrated by the intimate interaction between two loving, caring people, where they look out for each other as life companions, and are aware of each other’s struggles and need for affirmation and support.

Being needy, on the other hand, conjures up in my mind a person whose needs are so all-encompassing that he becomes selfish, where he is less aware of the needs of others and withdraws into a world where he feels entitled, and blames others for all the ills in the world. In this world of his making, he is not taking responsibility for his own sabotaging behaviors and attitudes that drives people away. Instead, he simply reacts to what he sees as rejection and as affirmation that the world is an up hill struggle,

However, a person with needs can sometimes visit the fringes of that needy world if he allows himself to get too comfortable, maybe even lazy. You see, our self-esteem is fragile.  The very heart of one’s self-esteem depends on one’s perception of his personal worth and value, his purpose and meaning in life. If he is not actively creating personal goals, and attaining those goals, he can become more dependent on his affirmations coming more heavily from others instead of from what he is doing with his life. THAT is risky !

Dependency on others for feedback as to our worth and value is a typical part of many of our lives. There are those who are much less dependent, to be sure. There are personality types that truly derive  the bulk of their esteem from what they do like some logical, analytic personality types.

However, the vast majority of my clients are adapting, approval seeking caregivers, perfectionists, peacekeepers or conformers. Understandably, since I specialize in working with individuals experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am almost always working with adapting and approval seeking personalities. NOW, let me make myself clear. My clients are not weak. They are caring and sensitive personalities who often allow their want for approval and acceptance from others to dominate their lives instead of focusing on their own needs for personal growth. These people are the ones you want around when you are in a jam, and they are the ones you can depend on, but, they can at times put too much energy into taking care of others, fixing another person’s pain, or conforming to please and make everyone feel better that they forget to realize and take care of their own needs to achieve and grow their own self-esteeming behaviors that are less dependent on affirmations from others.

That dependency on others for their self-esteem rather than focusing a portion of their emotional energy on doing things in their life that build their self-esteem causes them to be more vulnerable to feeling rejection when certain persons do not respond to their often silent cries for affirmation.

I was reminded of this issue when a client of mine realized that he was feeling more needy lately. Then he realized that he had been more focused on his relationship with his girlfriend and had settled into a entry level job and had become lax in thinking of his career goals. He was feeling comfortable, yet uncomfortable because he was finding himself too dependent  on that relationship for his self-esteem and  because he had temporarily stopped focusing on his career. Dependency breeds a sense of vulnerability, and that leads to inner conflicts that lead to anxiety symptoms.

Take a hard look at your life, and assess whether their is a balance between the the esteem you derive through the affirmations of others as opposed to affirmations that come from within as you see yourself accomplishing goals, stretching to challenge your fears and not allowing yourself to become TOO comfortable with the status quo.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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