When Fear Rules !

Tag: agoraphobia

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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Allowing Fear to Rule your Life !

by on Feb.22, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, Uncategorized

What a distasteful thought ! The mere thought that you would somehow make a choice of ” allowing fear to rule your life “, is offensive to imagine, but you know it is true.

I do not think anyone with a conscience can rule out all fears in life, as we do live in the real world with all its imperfections and yet all its possibilities. With that in mind,
we each make conscious or subconcious decisions throughout our day and our life to either challenge ourselves and our fears, or to avoid in order to create a sense
of safety, of perceived comfort, even if just for the moment, or a day. Somewhere, rolling around in your thoughts is the reality that avoidance eventually leads
to anxiety because we are reinforcing and empowering our fears.

Yes, as unpleasant the thought is that we allow fear to manipulate us each day, it cannot be denied. Whether it be avoiding rejection or the potential failure and embarrassment,
we too often repress what we think and feel, making excuses to ourselves rather than trying something new, or adapting to what we think others expect of us, even to the point that we may
lose sight of what we really want and need to feel ” in control of our lives “. Consider, that to a more significant degree than you may be ready to admit, your life and personal growth are ruled by your fears.

However, you can do a great deal about overcoming your fears, if you are attacking your fears in the right way !

In my opinion, most of the clients I see with significant anxiety, phobias, agoraphobia and panic attacks are intelligent, very well-meaning people with rich potential but often, in one
area or another in their lives, never learned to effectively set boundaries thereby creating a sense of imbalance, and therefore anxiety and conflict. So many of them are adapting
or approval-seeking personalities, where the want for approval and acceptance becomes a habit that they may not be aware of unless challenged. Whether manifested by being a Caregiver
who invests more energy into helping others but repesses his or her needs, a perfectionist who is so intent on performing and doing that he or she becomes overwhelmed and burns out,
a conformer who habitually adjusts and adapts to what he or she thinks others expect, or the peace-keeper who avoids conflict at all cost, there lies an underlying source of conflict, which leads to anxiety and often panic symptoms.

The good news ? Adapting or approval seeking personality types can make changes to take more control of their lives and thereby their symptoms.

The bad news ? It is hard work as it requires some uncomfortable self-reflection, and step by step planning and DOING ! A plan must be forged, usually with a professional therapist to guide
you and keep you on path. The temptations to give in to old habits and compulsions are strong, but through desensitization techniques and therapy that is reality based, thoughts, feelings and behaviors can be altered to a more healthy and self-esteeming point where one develops a greater sense of self, feels control over their previous anxiety symptoms, and most importantly, feels more control over their life.

How rewarding is that !!!

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
CEO, The Benhaven Group, LLC
www.OneStepataTime.com
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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Feeling Out of Control !

by on Apr.13, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Feeling Out of Control ?

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 desirable 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 explore 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 affected 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 affect 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 truly exploring 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.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

CEO: The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com ,
www.PanicAttacks.com , www.Self-Esteem.com

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Were You Manipulated by Somone Lately ?

by on Mar.17, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Were You Manipulated by Someone Lately ?

Let me ask the question a little differently. Did you ” allow ” yourself to be manipulated or controlled by another person today, or this past week  ?

Over just the last month I have heard some all too frequent and painful words pass by the lips of some half-dozen new clients who were experiencing Panic Attacks or Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms.

These anxiety symptoms can easily be over-whelming, and not surprisingly, had caused each person in their own way to avoid doing things in their lives that many would take for granted, like driving on the freeway, going into a large-box store, 
enjoying a social life, making changes in their careers or just leaving their homes… for fear of having an anxiety attack..

Here is just a sampling of what I have heard :

     ” I just feel numb emotionally, I just don’t feel joy anymore. When did I stop thinking, feeling and doing for myself. I am certainly not selfish, but I have really gone so far the other way on my life because I have been so dependent on approval from others. I hate this feeling !”
     
     ” I feel overwhelmed, and it is paralyzing as if I cannot move forward. And I am now realizing it is because I have conformed and run my life based of what I felt other people expected of me or needed from me. How pathetic is that ? ”

     ” I am so angry, actually more angry with myself for allowing other people to control my life and not doing anything about it .”

     ” I feel this sense of depersonalization, like a loss of awareness as to who I am and what I really think or feel because I have spent my life seeking approval from others. What am I, chopped liver ? ”

     ” I am “adapted out” …I am like a chameleon, conforming to the needs of others, putting my energy into them and with very little coming back to me.”

     ” I don’t trust myself because I have made bad decisions in my life, and each time I feel like moving forward in any area of my life, my anxiety symptoms get worse. ”

There are many  people out there who are selfish, self-centered and lack empathy for others. They are often those personality types who just like control, and possibly without realizing it, do not listen to you or consider your thoughts and feelings. They may take you for granted, may feel entitled or in other ways show disrespect. While I might argue that some of these very individuals have deeply buried insecurities themselves, these are personality types that often take advantage of, and consciously or unconsciously would manipulate and control you for their own agendas.

As you might have gleaned from the above comments, most of the people I deal with as a therapist are experiencing significant anxiety, mostly in the form of Panic Attacks or Obsessive-Compulsive thoughts and behaviors. In my opinion, at the heart of why many are experiencing  these mind and body numbing symptoms, is conflict. They are, no doubt, feeling overwhelmed by their symptoms, but at the source, more often than not, there are ongoing personal / emotional conflicts that are more fundamentally overwhelming, but being ignored or avoided. As they navigate through the sometimes choppy waters of life, attempting to not just survive, but find a meaning and purpose, they must make fundamental choices. In the case of the majority of my clients, they are more typically adapting personality types, Caregivers, Conformers, Perfectionists and Peacekeepers.

These adapting types seek approval, a sense of belonging and a feeling of acceptance and appreciation on one hand while at the same time trying to realize and care for their own needs to feel worth and value, a purpose and meaning for who they are and what they do with their lives. Often, they come to realize that their  dependency on approval has blinded them, causing them to ignore what they really think, feel and want to accomplish. The result is that they are not feeling emotionally  in-control of their lives.

Now, as suggested before, most do not realize this at first as they are coming to me initially focused on finding an immediate way to eradicate their symptoms, and I certainly understand why that is their priority ! However, once I am able to open the door for them to see that there is, most often,  a reason for all these ugly and dark symptoms, reality comes rushing back and stares them in the face which is why I hear the comments above.

So, stop and think: 

How many times were you controlled or manipulated today ?

How many times did you think something but said nothing for fear of rejection or embarrassment ?

How many times did you go along with someone you disagreed with only because you wanted to avoid a conflict or keep the peace?

How often did you find yourself going over-board to do for others, but did not express your needs?

How many people are there in your life that you really do not like but you still go out of your way to do for them because you want them to like you ?

How much have you given up of your self esteem and confidence because you have allowed yourself to become dependent on others for that approval or acceptance?

How many times did you join in on gossip even if you knew it was hurtful to someone else,  but found yourself sucked-in just to fit in and be accepted ?

How many times did people around you seem to dismiss your opinions, and just turned the discussion around to what they thought and felt ?

How many of your apparent friends tend to find fault or otherwise blame, shame  and guilt others, including you, when someone doesn’t agree with their position ?

How often have you allowed the  ” just be happy with what you have ” comments by others, even family, to interfere or totally derail some personal or career option that you dared to have a thought to explore ?

Why not take a personal inventory of your friends, family and others that you interact with in your life. How one-sided are some of these relationships ? How much emotional conflict is there in your life that you are just over-looking ?

Could you be allowing people to manipulate or control you ? 

If you dare to explore taking greater control of your life, I invite you to join us in our free on-line Support Group Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET at www.OneStepataTime.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

CEO: The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com ,
www.PanicAttacks.com , www.Self-Esteem.com

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Use it or Lose it !

by on Feb.25, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Use it or Lose it !

That old saying has often been one used to refer to one’s physical strength. If you do not exercise a muscle, it atrophies, or weakens over time. Even for a person who was in good shape after exercising every day, not continuing that regimen eventually leads to loss of muscle tone and endurance.

Sometimes, doing what is good for us is hard work. Even when there is a very desired and tangible reward for our efforts, often we falter and give in, settle or get comfortably-uncomfortable. Now just think for a minute about something you would like to do , change or accomplish in your life. How long have you thought about it and what excuses do you make to yourself for not moving forward ?

When I was talking with members in our on-line support group last evening, I went off on somewhat of a rant as I often do, as I witnessed a dynamic that I so often see. Many members had made some really positive efforts in the past to face their fears and overcome anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive thoughts. Some were able to see that they were indeed able to do things now that their anxieties prevented them from doing before. Others were just beginning the journey of truly discovering why they were having Panic Attacks or OCD, and what conflicts existed or what changes needed to be made in their lives.

I do not get frustrated as the moderator and Coach, but I feel their frustration, as I see the potential in each of them being squandered. I am anxious, in a good way, to see them experience success and realize that their anxiety symptoms are there for a reason. The sources for their anxieties must be discovered and meaningfully dealt with, along with learning to desensitize and take control of the resulting symptoms. Something I have pressed all my clients to realize is that it takes a huge effort to make the needed changes in their lives if they wish to really and honestly feel control over their anxieties, and their symptoms. It is so much easier to mask the symptoms with medications or alcohol, and when that fails, take even more. I am not saying medications are not helpful, and in fact they are often needed in the beginning because we have such limited faith in ourselves, but medications do not necessarily ” cure ” the sources of anxiety.

I believe it is very possible to take control of panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but it is so easy to sabotage one’s efforts. Last night in the Support Group I was especially pointing out that even for those who had experienced some very real successes in facing their fears and not just of symptoms, their continued progress depended upon a continuing, consistent effort, with repeated exposure to what they fear, or they risked atrophy like the unexercised muscle. They have to challenge their fears and self-doubts until it becomes a new habit to feel in-control.

One member openly shared that after quitting his job and going full time to school to challenge his status quo, all the good things he felt for all his efforts faded within a month of returning to his old job due to need for sustaining income. I had suggested he continue with at least one class to keep some momentum going, but it just did not work out. He felt so good with the challenging classes he took and what he accomplished, yet once he left that atmosphere, he slipped back into the old mode of negative self-talk and self-sabotage. Why ? In his own words, “I did not embrace what I had accomplished !” So although he did experience good things, his perception of himself was not radically altered by the positive experiences. Two successful semesters do not neutralize a lifetime of negative self-talk and avoidance.

Another member who had been extremely limited in the distance she could travel outside her small comfort zone, worked hard for a while to stretch and over-come her fears so that she could work a rather good job. However, once accomplished, she settled into that new area of comfort and resisted further stretching and exposure to the point that she has restricted her growth again.

It IS hard work, but if it is something you really want to do, something you really want to change or accomplish in your life, you can do it, but you must identify the enemy, the Goliath that stands ready to thwart your efforts. That giant sabotaging enemy is your self-confidence, esteem, and the self-sabotaging self-talk that has developed and has filled your head since childhood. You need to recognize that you have pictures in your mind of yourself that restrict your personal growth. You must become fully aware of those pictures and thoughts and challenge them every day like a modern day David slaying Goliath. You must chip away at your sabotaging negative self-talk by exposing yourself in reasonably significant bites, not overwhelming yourself, but feeling some anxiety so you know you are accomplishing something significant for you. In my mind, I altered the story of David and Goliath where David would sneak into the enemy camp and gradually but persistently take from the enemies supplies so as to cause gradual diminishing of their strength. A plan, is a huge component of a successful campaign. That Plan must include persistent, step by step weakening of the negative thoughts by replacing them not just with positive thoughts, but with actions that defy the negative and work against past habits of avoiding and escaping. You must challenge your fears over a period of time and in a way that it becomes the new you. Like remodeling an older home, it is hard work and takes time, but it can become a thing of greater value and the best craftsmanship. You have to be dedicated to taking better care of yourself, not forsaking others, but making sure you are the priority. The result is that you will have more energy to put into other people and good causes because you are replenishing your needs.

Then your Plan MUST include a Support System of individuals of like mind and experience who have felt what you have felt so that you can each offer the needed support and keep one another focused, on-target and accountable. Our On-Line Support Group is an example of that which is needed as I find that family is often not the best support for an individual experiencing anxiety symptoms for a myriad of reasons.

I invite you to explore your options and consider taking on the challenge of joining us in out Support Group and developing a Plan of Attack to really take control.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com
www.PanicAttacks.com
www.SelfEsteem.com

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Why Panic ?

by on Jan.26, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have often said that one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle that truly needs to be understood and dealt with is finding the source for the panic attacks a client is experiencing, although I fully realize that the primary focus of the client initially is just getting rid of these anxiety symptoms and being comforted by hearing that this is not a sign that he or she is going crazy. 

Not knowing the source, which amounts to not understanding why this is happening, leaves a person feeling vulnerable and out of control. Not surprisingly, feeling “out of control” is how most people explain how the symptoms make them feel. Medications may lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms, but the haunting thought of them returning is anxiety-producing in and of itself. ” What if the medications wear off or just stop working ?”

As the therapist, I focus intently of listening to my client, getting a feel not only for a peek into their personality and its needs, but also to pick up on bits and pieces of his or her history to see if I can identify emotional conflicts that are more often than not an indicator of the source of the PAs. At times the conflicts and issues are easy to pick up on as I listen not only to my clients words, but more so, the emotions behind the words. At times I meet a client that is harder to read, not because he or she is resistant, but because the client’s personality is such that they tend to habitually blow things off, minimize issues because they feel it is just how life is for them. It is what it is !

One such client came to me as he was obviously in significant emotional pain over having these anxiety symptoms and it was seriously effecting his performing his job. That was a problem, especially because he was a very high-achieving young man, and had responsibilities for a wife who wanted a family. He had to get his act together, but just did not see why this was happening to him.

I pressed him further, and although a rather modest guy, he had in past years created business of his own and had been quite successful. However, although he did well for five years making six-figures and garnering considerable respect in his field, his company was subjected to the fall-out from the banking and housing crisis and the banks stopped lending, and his business died a sudden death. He moved on, because that is what you are supposed to do, and took a significantly lower paying job just to be a responsible person. When his very successful business ended, he was able to pay all debts, so he did not feel guilty, or a failure. I could hear something in his voice, and when i asked him whether he thinks of starting another business since he had proven to be quite good at it, his response was, ” Well, I have thought about it many times, but now I have a wife and we do want to start a family. I cannot take that kind of risk. I mean, I would love to do it, but it would not be fair to her.  And besides, every time I allow myself to dream about starting a business again and being my own boss, the symptoms get worse. How can I seriously think of creating my own business again when I am having these anxiety symptoms ! ”

Now there is a hint that would slap you in the face unless you had your head buried deep in the sand. Once we talked about it, he realized how conflicted he was between giving up on himself as an entrepreneur, and doing what was “right” for his wife and future family. And when he heard himself say that the anxiety symptoms seemed to increase in frequency or intensity whenever he thought about starting a business again, I could see the look on his face that said, ” Did I just say that ? Could my anxiety symptoms be a way of keeping myself from doing what I really love to do, be my own boss again ?”

Oh yes, he got it ! So besides working with some tools we discussed to deal with the anxiety symptoms whenever he felt them coming on, he realized that his best weapon against anxiety was to focus on the source. He needed to make a compromise rather than a sacrifice, a deal with himself to develop a plan and gradually create and take steps to build his business, but step by step so there was less risk.  His wife could be a part of his business. He was in conflict because he was giving up on a very critical piece of who he was and is, instead of focusing on doing what he wants and needs to do to feel in control of his life, but taking appropriate steps in palatable bites rather than leaps as he did when he had no other responsibilities.

What about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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Fear Grows in an Atmosphere of Avoidance

by on Aug.18, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Personal Growth comes only when we stretch, explore and challenge our own personal status quo. Many of us do not realize how much time we spend AVOIDING options or choices to grow, as avoidance can become a habit as it is often the result backing down from fear, which in turn leads to a feeling of weakness and self-doubt, leading to more avoidance.

Some may just be lucky that they are either “wired” for success or grew up in an atmosphere that nurtured the idea of taking risks to grow and not be as  vulnerable to the fears of failure, rejection, ridicule or embarrassment. But then, there ate others whose early years were so fraught with challenges that they used all their mental energy to escape being ever again so vulnerable to fear. Don’t we marvel at the person who, against all odds, comes through life so motivated to take on challenges and build empires ? In some ways, these individuals were forced by the dark side of life, and some of the darker people they came up against to see evidence that they could persevere, that they were witness to the fact that what they did to survive demonstrated an inner strength. That inner strength created a momentum that was hard to stop, as they were not ruled by fear.

Then there are the rest of us mere mortals, good people all in all, from loving families, maybe somewhat over-protected and under-challenged. We may not be Supermen or Wonder-Women but we CAN ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS if we can escape our fearful thoughts, which although often meant to protect, most frequently detour many of our efforts to grow outside what is comfortable,  leaving us comfortably-uncomfortable.

So how do we achieve great things when up against our fearful thoughts, and the self-doubt ?
First, we might recognize that many of the anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors we experience might just be a reaction to feeling trapped in our so-called comfortable lives. When we give into our fears and avoid, we feel a sense of inner weakness, a feeling of not quite being in control of our lives. Could that feeling possibly trigger an anxiety reaction, which then in itself creates more of a sense of being out of control, just maybe ? But once truly recognized and with a carefully laid out plan, we can step by step, with a support team around us, begin to challenge our fears.

The following are comments from a client who has experienced significant anxiety in the form of Obsessive- Compulsive symptoms but has begun to seriously explore why he was having these anxiety symptoms that all but paralyzed him in his life. He asked that I share what he has experienced as he talks himself through his fearful and sabotaging thoughts :

” I hate this job ! I think this is a euphemism for I hate myself for being in this job. 

Whoa, let’s look at reality ! I am disappointed that I am not doing more to change my situation, but that is no reason to hate myself. Besides, I am now taking steps. They might not seem like much, but they are steps. I am taking a class this Fall to give myself a bit of a challenge and get my feet wet. I am starting to read a Calculus textbook to refresh myself. I am making plans to contact a past college professor, to see if he has any suggestions on how I can achieve my new goal of teaching at the college level.

I am the one who is living my life. If I am not happy then I should do whatever I can to make myself happy. If others do not approve, are skeptical or negative about what I want to do to make myself happy, then I need to realize that while I am sorry they feel that way, it is my life, my happiness that I need to pursue, not theirs.  So they can either help or get out of my way. If they cannot be supportive, I must go around them as they are symbols of the fears and negative thoughts that I have allowed to hold me back.

I am intelligent. I am capable. I care about people. I can do this !!! ”

It is hard work, but aren’t you worth the effort to do more of what you are capable of doing with your life  ?  The more you avoid, the more conflict you feel within yourself, the angrier or more frustrated you become. You need reasonable goals with reasonable steps, and then allow each step to motivate you to the next move. 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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One Step at a Time !

by on Oct.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD


When you see someone do something really special, accomplishing something that you see as significant or making changes or challenging some problem or issue in his or her life, what goes through YOUR mind ?  Does it motivate you and cause you to seriously explore options for change ?  How quickly do self-defeating thoughts pop into your head, like
” Who am I kidding, I can’t do that “?

Are there things in your life that you always wanted to do, but always seem to put off ? Are you “comfortable” with your job, but wishing you could do something more ?  Are there personal changes you would like to make, like lose weight, learn a language, take classes to learn a new skill ?

Do you allow your need for approval from others prevent you from expressing how you really feel or think about some issue ? Are you reluctant to express your needs to your partner or a close friend ? Do you create a facade of everything being good in your life, yet yearn for more ?

What stops you ? I know, life gets busy and you just do not have time, right ? Or, is it that you just cannot see yourself making changes in your private thoughts, in your minds eye, so to speak ?

These are emotionally complex issues to unravel, but the reality is that as much as you may want something, or desire to change something in your life, if you cannot see yourself doing it, whatever it is, it will not get done  ! Your self doubt, fueled by fears of failure, rejection, embarrassment and even success will derail your efforts.

Your inner fears fill the airwaves of your mind. The negative self-talk that is reinforced by those fears has had years and years to develop, so there is a strong resistance to change.

So with all those doubts swimming around in your mind, how can you navigate through them and defeat them ? I have always stressed that the best way to accomplish change is to do so in STEPS and with a Support Team around you. Your fears usually are so well embedded in your life that you cannot make changes if you attempt to do so in leaps that will overwhelm, or without people around to goad you along, and validate your efforts to change.

Creating goals is great, but they must be behaviorally measurable, something you can see and feel. The steps to accomplish those goals must be defined and reasonable. So, just as an example, what if you wanted to get in better shape ? The key is that you must exercise but do so with a plan. You must define steps, like being able to carry out certain exercises, starting at a point where the task is doable, and gradually and consistently practicing that step and adding a layer of difficulty a little at a time. The confidence from the success on one step can propel you to the next step. It will take consistent and persistent practice and stretching to gain any real momentum, because you have to build a history in your mind to over run the history already there of avoiding, giving up and seeing yourself as a failure. This applies to anything you want to change, like being able to do public speaking which would open up other career doors, over-riding panic attacks while driving so you gain freedom in your life, or being able to express your thoughts and opinions rather than avoid doing so for fear of rejection, failure or embarrassment.

That momentum is critical to your success ! That momentum can help you ride a wave that can outrun your past negative thoughts and fears. One Step at a Time, rather than throwing yourself into the deep, has a much greater chance success as it gives you the opportunity to see yourself as successful ! Each success adds to your arsenal of positive self-talk to compete with those previously un-challenged negative and self- deprecating thoughts. Taking frequent small bites rather than a huge gulp  can reduce the risk of

choking !

As much as a step by step approach and persistent practice is crucial, so is the need for a  support system I mentioned before to encourage your continued success. Not only does a team of cheerleaders validating your progress help create momentum, but the thought of disappointing them adds to your efforts.

In truth, this is just common sense, but yet many of us abandon the idea of a step by step approach, as we think it is a sign of weakness. In truth, the “all or nothing approach” seldom works and most often causes a person to shut down, or avoid further steps as we feel overwhelmed.

What do you want to change ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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A note from a young girl fighting her way out of panic !

by on Oct.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

When we start making progress, we may also still have times of fear and we may begin to slowly feel like not continuing to try because we feel scared once again or for some reason, we seem to lack motivation. Personally, I’m having this issue now and I don’t quite know why.

I want to get better, I was improving, and now my will power seems to have lessened. I never understood why one would be afraid of success. Maybe we fear though that once we trust ourselves, and let our guard down, we’ll become blindsided. Maybe we also think that once we tackle one thing, another thing we find even more nerve wrecking will come along. Maybe we just grow impatient. We don’t see all the results right away so we lose motivation, we stop practicing. The problem is however, that once we stop practicing, we start telling our minds that we’re slowly giving up, and we can’t do that.

How are you going to trust yourself if you lose the motivation to do so? Try and remember first and foremost that you have been successful to some degree. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re confidence will return. However, these are some things to consider. If you’ve been successful, why are you still scared? If you were motivated before, why did that begin to change? It could be a simple answer or a complex one. All the same, it should be considered.

BG

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I Use to Pray for Rain !

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

I listened very intently as she expressed both her excitement over her progress, but realization that even a few days of avoiding anything stressful, including the homework I had given her, caused her to doubt herself and, yes, feel some of those pangs of anxiety and panic.

Her homework was to face her fears, every day taking steps to face the situations where panic had occurred. We broke the steps down into very reasonable bites, and they were steps that she could adjust so she felt more in control.

She had in fact, allowed her anxiety to take control of her life. She had been housebound, what we call agoraphobic. She could not shower, so was reduced to a sponge bath at the bathroom sink. She could not wash her hair, which was not onlya hygiene issue, but an especially devastating state of affairs as she had always been so proud of her appearance, and one of her special treats was to have her hair cut and styled once a month. So then, although in her early forties and reduced to living with her parents, she was all but a prisoner in her apartment. Her ” fear of fear ” had grown to the point that she had no faith in herself to do much of anything, I am sure this is very hard to understand for someone who has never experienced panic attacks, but it has become very common to see in my practice.

If only she or those around her that loved her and were witness to her initial slide onto the abyss of anxiety, and then depression, would have seen to it that she entered effective therapy at the time of onset. Unfortunately, she was an adult when all this began, when she first experienced panic attacks, and in her mind, the answer was medication. Pills might have reduced some of the anxiety, but it did not get to the sources for the panic, so after an initial few weeks of improvement, she relapsed even further into her fears.

I was witness to that slide into hell, but could not stop it from happening as she would not embrace therapy or face the needed changes in her life. Oh, there were causes for the panic attacks. Overprotective parents, a heavy dose of intrusive behavior on the part of the mother, some paternal physical abuse, and a boyfriend who actually reinforced her dependency on him due to his own insecurities, all led to her feeling weak and very emotionally conflicted. Now that she had become so dependent, there was no way she could truly imagine being otherwise, although she was so depressed as to what her life had become.

I was more than thrilled when she contacted me and said, ” Coach, I am ready ! I cannot stand this any longer. I got rid of the boyfriend, I am setting boundaries with my parents, I am on very limited medications, and I want a life !
I felt something had truly changed. I actually could sense that her pain at giving up her life had come to a point that it was over-riding her fears of making changes. She was angry, and we could use that anger to challenge each fear, step by step.

Over the ensuing weeks, she took steps to face her fears. She challenged her fears and was able to shower. Within two weeks, she was washing her hair. Recently, after practicing just sitting in her car, realizing she was not going to die no matter what anxiety she experienced, and focusing on the fact that there were still many things she could do, and wanted to do in her life, she drove that car, at night, to a Burger King. Can you imagine how HUGE that was for her ? If she can do what she has done so far, although commonplace for many others, there is no limit as to what she can do if she continues to guard herself from people who would abuse, manipulator control her, if she would refuse to compromise away who she is and what she wants just to please others, and if she continues to face her fears in steps that SHE controls.

“Coach, I use to pray for rain. On those days I felt I had an excuse to go nowhere, and felt less guilt. I tried to convince myself that when the weather was better, I would try to embrace life again. Now for the first time in so long, I really think I can have a life ! ”

I hope this true story encourages at least one other person imprisoned by their anxiety, to seek help, embrace the needed changes, and take back their life.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

BenhavenCounseling.com

Blog: RuledByFear.com

www.OneStepataTime.com

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