When Fear Rules !

Tag: agoraphobia

Feeling Overwhelmed ???

by on May.28, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I bet you know what it feels like to be overwhelmed ! I think we all experience that feeling at one time or another, just some more than others.

I could imagine feeling overwhelmed when the boss comes in to your office without any pre-warning and announces that your position has been eliminated.

Maybe feeling overwhelmed would occur when a company you work for is downsizing and you have been given the responsibilities of two other employees.

I could certainly imagine a person feeling overwhelmed when they get a call informing them that their home has burnt to the ground while they were on vacation.

You do not have much choice in any of these examples, as you either sink or swim. But at least you know what you are reacting to.

A picture that comes to my mind is that of a person with that anguished look on his or her face, with hands covering the ears or the side of the head. That is an understandable and almost international symbol of being overwhelmed , and why not, since the anxiety symptoms one feels at that moment originate in the brain.

Once one’s brain chemistry is activated by whatever we perceive as threatening our status quo, the fight or flight mechanism takes over and triggers symptoms throughout the body.

That does not mean there is something wrong in the brain, but that your brain chemistry is simply reacting to the overwhelming thoughts and stimulation.

You can feel dizziness, light-headed, even feel like you will faint, maybe your is heart beating a little faster than normal, maybe that feeling of just wanting to run or hide…to escape. Weakness in the limbs, shortness of breath and tingling in the scalp are not uncommon.

Hmmm, actually sounds like an anxiety or panic attack. However, if whatever is creating that sense of being overwhelmed can be seen and understood by the person experiencing the symptoms, he or she may escape a full blown panic episode because the person MAY be able to identify the source, and talk himself or herself down. For others, it may take more time to  recognize what is happening, and the anxiety may in fact flow into a panic attack, which will eventually pass but leave the person feeling like he or she was hit by a bus. Typically, that’s it ! Not fun, but not at all life threatening.

Emotional Conflict, where conflicting thoughts and feelings are present, and are worsened by our avoidance of the issues or people who are creating that conflict, creates the same sense of “overload”. In other words, having strong thoughts and feelings about an issue, but remaining silent in order to avoid rejection, possible failure…which means avoiding the conflict.

How about your approaching graduation from college, but having no idea of what you want to do with your life. Maybe a woman who gave up a career to have children, but feels torn by her desire and passion versus guilt of wanting to return to work. How about feeling guilt over avoiding an intrusive parent who meddles in your marriage.What if you have been in an abusive relationship for so long that you feel “stuck”.

 

The difference between these examples and the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph is that 1] the individual experiencing the anxiety may not be fully aware of what is causing the symptoms, which can make the experience even MORE overwhelming, and 2] if the person is aware of what is stimulating anxiety, he or she is also faced with OPTIONs and CHOICES, which always tends to create even more inner turmoil.

The previous examples are obvious, in your face situations or conflicts, so you have a pretty good idea what you are reacting to, and knowledge of the source may help to ground you, and cause you to immediately look at steps you must take to deal with the crisis or traumatic event. You are less likely to think your reactions are signs that you are  losing it or going crazy !

However, in the latter examples, these tend to be ongoing issues that we avoid looking at or dealing with and tend to keep them suppressed. The key word here is “avoid” ! We avoid over time which tends to eat at our self-esteem and our sense of trusting ourselves to do what is best for our own personal well-being. So what happens when you are faced with avoiding a conflict with someone in your life with the attached fear of ridicule, embarrassment, failure or rejection versus failing to do what is best for YOU and your mental and often physical health ? What happens to your sense of self-worth ? Where do you draw the line ?Where do you set boundaries ?

Well, in my work, I see people every day who are experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, NOT because there is something wrong with their brain chemistry, but because CONFLICT is present and their avoidance of that conflict is creating overwhelming inner anxiety. Sadly, when they come to me, they are so wrapped up with their symptoms, and the true source for their anxieties is so repressed because of fear, that the symptoms actually can act as a distraction from the source issues.

These are just thoughts for you to consider and I welcome your comments here or e-mail me at RuledByFear@Gmail.com  !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

To Sign up for FREE Newsletter  and join us in our Free Support Group On-Line most Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET go to:

    www.OneStepataTime.com

7 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

You Can Run, Not Hide From Anxiety 1

by on Apr.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Do You Really Want to Control Anxiety  ?

When I see a new client, I naturally believe he or she wants to know how to control anxiety in his or her life whether that anxiety comes in the form of panic attacks, phobias, intrusive/obsessive thoughts and worry or compulsive behaviors.

The first thing I do is make every attempt to know the personality of that client, because the way a person thinks and feels, the way the client has learned to see his or her world and deal with that world is most often a huge factor as to why they are experiencing the anxiety symptoms.

So, I attack the problem in a two ways simultaneously, looking at and dealing with both the SOURCE issues as well as building a plan to help the client face the fear of the anxiety symptoms through gradual exposure to the perceived fear. If you as a client are not dealing with both issues, you rarely will succeed in taking control of your symptoms.

However, the approach I have just described has allowed the vast majority of my clients to overcome their anxiety issues.

Now, there are situations where medical or physical issues may be causal factors or triggers for anxiety, panic or obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I always look into this possibility with each client. In fact, I have found those cases  to be few and far between. Truly, I have found that physical issues often exacerbate already existing anxiety, but are not as often the cause. In fact, I have found such physical factors to often be a distraction from seeing the real issues as those physical issues become the focus of both the client’s and physician’s attention.

There are certainly cases where significant trauma will bring on severe anxiety symptoms, but again, I find that to be less often the case. Trauma can cause a person to feel “out of control” in their lives, allowing them to feel more vulnerable and fearful of worse to come, or bring on symptoms like PTSD.

What I do find to be most commonly the source or trigger for these anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms is personal conflict which when avoided, causes one to feel out of control in their life. I have written numerous articles on the danger of avoiding issues in our lives as avoidance brings on an erosion in ‘our trust of ourself’, and therefore creates that sense of being weak, vulnerable and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Interestingly, as is typical, I had no less than three clients this week who had made significant progress in controlling their anxiety symptoms who returned to me saying that they were experiencing a small return of symptoms. I reminded each one of what they had discovered as the source of their anxieties, and the light immediately went on in their minds.  Each had one of those “Aha Moments” where they realized they had indeed made progress but lately had dropped the ball as to their efforts to be more in control of their lives.

One realized that after making significant effort to challenge himself to not settle for a mediocre life, and after going back to school and discovering he had a voice and could express himself to others, he had slipped back into his comfort-zone and  had given up much of his momentum as to making needed changes in his life. He immediately saw the cause and effect of his falling back into avoidance mode which led to a resurgence of anxiety symptoms. You can run but you cannot hide from yourself and what you really want and need to feel a worthwhile and purposeful life.

Another had made some significant decisions to change her dependent ways in relationships, realizing she had repeatedly placed herself in unhealthy relations with others who were not equipped to give back emotionally. She took steps to set boundaries, to take better care of herself, an she set a deadline for the present destructive relationship to end. All was good as she felt more in control. However, doubt crept into her thoughts as the date for the unhealthy other person to leave was drawing near and my client felt uncomfortable kicking this person out, even though she had given him ample notice and time to find alternative housing. Her caregiving personality and compulsion to take care of others, to be needed, was rearing it’s head. But as she realized what it was, she re-affirmed her right and need to set the boundaries and follow through with her plan to be independent of manipulative and controlling people in her life. Two days later, she reports the anxiety lessening.

The third client had experienced very significant reduction in anxiety once she realized that the source was her habit of placing herself in risky situations with other men which could obviously create havoc in her marriage and turn her life upside down. She needed a lot of attention and that need allowed her to rationalize that a little flirtation could do no harm. But it created conflict within her and therefore panic attacks. In therapy, she took steps to work at her marriage, learned that if she expressed her needs, her husband was more than willing to oblige her. Although her husband loved her very much, he did need a course in “intimacy” and reminders that a marriage does not run on fumes. All was going well, but a change in his job was taking him away more often which had stoked  her feelings of abandonment. That had caused a resurgence of negative thoughts and caused some return of anxiety symptoms. However, once we talked and she realized what was happening, she became creative and she and her husband began having “an affair” on the phone with each other, planning for things they would do when he returned. That got the embers flaming and brought her doubts to ashes.

The bottom line, taking control of significant on-going anxiety symptoms takes  a lot of soul searching and a willingness to face needs, and overcome barriers to meeting those needs. Avoidance is always destructive. You can run but you cannot hide. You cannot stop in your efforts to take control.

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

5 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

I am not crazy !

by on Apr.04, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So  this young woman came to see me because she was having panic attacks mixed with obsessive thoughts of getting sick. These thoughts were popping into her mind out of the blue and she was developing rituals where she would feel compelled to wash her hands more and more frequently.

” I am not crazy, I have never experienced this before. What is happening to me ? The doctors have run all these tests and say there is nothing physically wrong, nothing ! I have to find some answers. This is effecting my work and my relationship. ”

I asked a few pointed questions to get a feel for what was going on in her life as well as to begin to develop a picture of this woman’s personality. She reported no significant issues or changes, no traumas. But what I did see was a very caring and sensitive person who was both fearful of her symptoms, but was also hiding a good dose of anger. She tried to blow off any questions I asked about anger, but the more I suggested that her anger might have more to do with how she felt, the angrier she got. I though she was going to get up and leave, but then the tears started.

I asked her what she felt she was crying about, and she responded, “There is nothing horrible going on in my life, but your right, I do find myself getting angry at so many little things. This is just NOT like me. I get along with everyone, and everyone seems to like me. ”

However, as we talked more, and I shared with her my thoughts that she was indeed NOT crazy, but might be reacting physically and emotionally to conflicts and issues because I sensed she was a Conformer/Non-Conformer personality type, her eyes grew wide open, and I could see her mind digesting it all.

The Conformer / Non-Conformer tends to always want to please others, bending, adapting and adjusting to what she thinks other people want from her. This is a highly adapting personality, who wants approval, to belong….and it tends to NOT deviate from the norm. However, all that adapting leads to inner frustration, a realization that he or she is forever, and habitually giving up on what they want and need. So, the anger with herself for not saying “No” and stretching herself so thin to avoid rejection and disapproval causes conflict. Like all adapting personality types, the conflict leads to resentments and symptoms, because speaking up and setting boundaries is risky, but that non-conforming inner child says, ” Whoa, wait a second, I have needs too.  And by the way, I’m tired of living my life never taking some risks, never expressing my opinions and sharing what I THINK AND FEEL.”

The more this young lady and I talked, the more she began to express herself about people that seem to take advantage of her, those that do not seem to respect her boundaries, and relationships that are so one sided.

Just a thought !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

7 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Caregivers Vulnerable to Anxiety

by on Mar.25, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

In my last blog I ended with the comment that :

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.

So let’s  look at the Caregiver personality.  Caregivers are definitely adapting personalities who want approval. In fact, although it may feel uncomfortable to think this at first, Caregivers are “dependent” on that approval to feel that deeper sense of worth and value, which gives them a purpose and meaning to their lives.

In order to secure that approval, Cargivers tend to develop a game plan of “being needed “ by others. They develop a sensitivity to what others need, and we might call that “intimacy”. Often they will give the proverbial shirt off their back as they are truly caring people. These are good people to have around !

However, their “need to be needed” can become a compulsion, meaning, they over-extend themselves, can be taken advantage of by either very needy selfish people, or controlling and manipulative people. They must learn to set limits and boundaries when putting energy into helping others. They need to recognize that in their efforts to be there for others, they are all too often NOT there for themselves.

I often see Caregiver types experiencing panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. What I have found is that those anxiety symptoms are often triggered by the conflicting emotions they feel as they gradually realize, often subconsciously, that they are giving more, but feeling less approval and respect and instead feeling taken for granted or worse.

Caregivers often do not express their needs for fear of appearing needy, and thereby losing their position as the caring person. In fact, their is a huge difference between having needs and being needy. Neediness, in my mind, conjures up a picture of a selfish, self-absorbed person who feels entitled.  Caregivers, like most adapting personalities, have needs and must learn to express those needs. Caregivers must also make better choices as to whom they invests energy into, because when the caregiver feels taken for granted or used, anger and resentment can develop below the skin. That anger and resentment is so much in opposition to the caring and intimate personality, that it creates a sense of inner confusion, a sense of being out of control emotionally.

That conflicting set of emotions can lead to anxiety which can lead to symptoms which cause the Caregiver to feel even more out of control, i.e.,  panic attacks, phobias or  intrusive-obsessive thoughts. Just a thought or two for you to contemplate.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

7 Comments :, , , , , , , , , more...

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

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Panic Attacks and Phobias Often a Distraction from the Real Source of Pain !

by on Feb.26, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Panic Attacks and  Phobias Often a Distraction from the Real Issue !

 

 

So often, clients come to me because they are experiencing over-whelming anxiety, even debilitating panic attacks, or phobias that are interfering with their lives. These  symptoms I refer to as the Presenting Symptoms.

 

Of course, once I get a better picture of the client’s personality, I can help him or her develop a game plan to deal with, significantly reduce or eliminate the presenting symptoms, but that is only half the battle. The real issue is WHY he or she is so susceptible to these anxiety symptoms, to the point that they can take over one’s life.

 

In truth, one of the first things I think about when meeting a new client is, “what is causing this person to feel out of control in some way in their life”. That  real issue, the real fear of being, in some perceived way, out of control mostly runs deeper than the phobia or anxiety symptoms being manifested or presented.

 

But then, I always remind myself that it is the anxiety symptoms that are initially creating pain, and we must bring some understanding and relief of those symptoms before we can deal with the underlying  but real issues of control. There is a delicate balance that must be struck in therapy between the presenting symptoms and the underlying fears and issues.

 

Often, as I am working with a client to set up and carry out a plan to face and take control of the presenting anxiety and symptoms, I will pick up some pretty strong clues as to what is going on beneath the surface.

 

If you are experiencing significant anxiety, panic attacks , agoraphobia or other phobias, you need to think seriously about the fact that in my experience, there ARE underlying issues which are often not dealt with, and therefore, allow you to remain vulnerable to more symptoms later. Without realizing it consciously, the presenting symptoms may even be a way of avoiding deeper control issues, of distracting yourself from the source issues because those issues may be seen as just to complex, painful or forbidden to deal with.

 

In today’s mental health climate where therapy is under the pressure of managed care and Insurance company reviews, the real issues are less often uncovered.

 

So, when I see a client who has been in various therapies for panic and anxiety, and after 30 years has not recovered but in fact has had symptoms return in a more viral form, as in agoraphobia, I know that the root issues that cause her to feel out of control have not been addressed, and the presenting symptoms have taken over her life.

 

For example, I have seen clients  with IBS or digestive problems become  phobic about eating in public or going places socially where they fear their symptoms will flair up, only to find that they have underlying insecurities and fears of rejection from childhood that have never been dealt with, so their physical symptoms, though real, are actually stress induced, and unconsciously allow the person the excuse to not venture in to socially threatening situations.

 

I have seen clients over the years who manifest phobias about being sick, especially vomiting, which have developed into a fear  of getting pregnant because of the possibility of becoming nauseous during the initial stages  of the pregnancy, or being around infants who get sick and bring germs home from school. Yet, in therapy, we might discover that the phobia, which represents being out of control on one’s bodily functions momentarily, is more a result of a childhood and adolescence where the client felt anger towards herself for always adapting and conforming to the wants and demands of others, as she attempted to gain approval at all costs. As an adult, and without full conscious awareness, she had over-corrected to ensure she was in control. Those fears and feelings of being out of control as a adolescent and adult may have caused her to be ultra sensitive to any perception of her body feeling out of control, as in sickness or vomiting. On top of that, maybe the fear of getting sick allows her to maintain a distance from people in her life, so that prevents her from developing a dependence on people, something she may fear because of the lessons of the past,

 

When we feel out of control especially when we avoid dealing with issues and conflicts in our lives, and if that pattern of needing approval and acceptance from others becomes a primary way to feel worth and value, we are more vulnerable to anxiety symptoms. When we avoid, we perceive ourselves in a negative light, and we do not trust ourselves. This is damaging to our self-esteem. We become angry with ourselves as we perceive our apparent weakness, which often causes us to avoid that much more. We often continue to have these underlying issues of not feeling in control, especially in our personal lives and relationships. Since the pattern or habit of avoiding persists and we but never deal with the the issues face to face, it can often lead to symbolic issues of not feeling in control such as in some phobias, A lot to think about !

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

 

14 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

How About Me ?

by on Feb.18, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

How About Me ?

A client who I had treated for panic attacks, and had been doing quite well, came back because she had just experienced the worst anxiety she had in over a year. However, this time she understood why and what she needed to do about it.

 

Lara had conquered her previous panic attacks because she gained insight and took steps to deal with the sources of that anxiety. She had been a great mother and wife, and daughter, taking care of everyone and pretty much had put her life on hold while taking care of three kids, her ailing mother, and her selfish and needy husband.

 

Gradually she had realized her need for approval and  her conforming personality had pretty much caused her to set her needs aside. She always knew what each of the kids needed almost before they did. She acted as a buffer between the kids and their father, because he was often more a child then her kids were. She took care of everything for him.

 

Now the last of the three kids was off to College, and mother had past on, it was her turn to have a life, or was it ?

 

“I was just sitting at the kitchen table sipping my coffee and the anxiety just came over me and I wondered, why is this happening again? But I instantly realized that while staring out the window, I had been thinking of all the things I would like to do now that I have time. But then my thoughts drifted to how I would have to adjust any plans I had to please the last remaining child, my husband. I thought of going to the orchestra with my friend Melissa, but then thought about the look on my husband’s face if I was not home for dinner. I thought of taking a weekend to go visit my daughter for Mother’s day but then could feel the displeasure of my spouse that I would be gone over-night.

 

Yes, I had made gains setting boundaries with the kids whom I had previously spoiled. Yes, I had gradually allowed the caregivers at my mother’s nursing home to take over more and more of her care until she  died, but my thoughts of freedom from all the responsibility were hitting a snag. I still had to set more boundaries with my husband, and I realized he was a “mission impossible”. I felt that trapped feeling and the cold sweat came to my forehead as I realized that my transformation was just beginning and I was actually facing my biggest hurdle.”

 

Lara’s husband knew how to make her feel guilty. His comments would sting as he knew his wife was a caregiver and needed all the approval she had received in her role of mother, daughter and wife. He had become quite dependent of his wife and did not want any changes. He had many bouts of being jealous of his own children when he felt they were getting more of her attention. He had little insight a to what she was going through emotionally, burning out and feeling anger and resentment. He expected to be taken care of as this was the wife’s role as it had been his mother’s role.

 

Lara and I got busy creating new boundaries and steps to deal with her grown up husband-child. She created a plan that would see her gradually taking more time for herself while at the same time, step by step, cutting back on her “duties” that were expected by her husband. She would verbalize her plans and make sure there was prepared dinners needing to be warmed, but she would have plans to not only be with friends, but take some courses and revive her interests of her pre-marital years.

 

She practiced being respectful but firm in setting those boundaries. She did not attempt to defend herself, but simply stated when she had plans, giving her husband ample time to adjust and make plans on her own. She made sure he was taken care of, but not always requiring her to be at his feet.

 

She did not expect him to just swallow the changes. This was the greatest fear. As in the past, he would mention that if she did not perform her wifely duties, what is the use to being married. Those comments would shut her down because she had become dependent on him emotionally and of course, she would never think of disturbing her children’s lives with divorce.

 

But things really were different now. Now she must plan for the very real possibility of a life without him. But she knew that it would be up to her, not him to start that ball rolling because, what would HE do without her ? She would work to be less dependent on him financially, she would finally talk to an attorney to know exactly what her rights would be if there was a separation. She would take it in STEPS and not be overwhelmed.

She would just take life a day at a time and experience freedom and see where it led. She would develop a life of her own and take time to develop a healthy support system of old and new friends and no longer isolate herself in her previous roles which only made her MORE dependent and fearful of change.

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

8 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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 ?

10 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Success Over Fears !

by on Feb.05, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Success Over Phobias and OCD !

Yes, you really can overcome phobias and obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals, but it takes hard work and a focus on changing the situations that cause you to be so vulnerable to your fears.

We all have fears.  We all have avoided situations or people because of our fears. And when we avoid, somewhere in our brain there is a message being imprinted saying, “I was not in control”.

Depending on the frequency and intensity of those situations and memories, and of course, what else is going on in our lives that might stroke our self-esteem, we might be less affected. However, many many individuals allow situations where fear rules to dominate and they find there is a pattern of avoidance in their lives that  leads to a feeling of vulnerability. It is that vulnerability that I watch closely for whenever I see a  client as I know how the avoidance-vulnerability cycle can make a person more susceptible to irrational fears, phobias , panic attacks and OCD.

Frequently I have the awesome opportunity to see a client challenge those fears and WIN. Let me offer you an example in hopes it will make my point more clear. A young man, in his early twenties, came to see me more as a follow-up to reinforce what he had learned in therapy years before. I remember oh so well the pain I saw in his eyes when just a few years ago, in his late teens, he came to me totally engulfed with his obsessive and irrational fears that he was gay. Now if he was actually homosexual, then we would have worked on his self-acceptance and coping skills while dealing with society’s prejudices and fears. I have gay clients who are not in conflict over their sexuality. But in this case, he was not gay, but yet found himself constantly having intrusive thoughts and then avoiding places or situations that might bring those feelings to the surface where he might be exposed.

Besides working with Cognitive-Behavioral therapies to help him challenge his fearful thoughts, we had to get to the source of his being so vulnerable, get to the root of why his self-esteem was so fragile that he would give in to those thoughts when his conscious mind knew he was not gay.

In his case, he had never applied himself at school and his grades suffered which meant that college was not a realistic thought. He was bright, but he had an independent side that just did not do things like others. He had a strong aversion to following the crowd and doing the expected. Now, out of high school, and doing it by the skin of his teeth, he really did not know what he was going to do with his life.

Seeing his parents  struggle through life, to some degree he just felt that is how his life would be. His lack of effort, not setting or achieving goals, had led him to have  very little faith in himself. He felt very out of control, especially once he was out of the protective and structured environment of school.

He had a father who was very negative and critical since he too had not accomplished much in his life and just blamed the world for his lack of achievements. His father soothed his frustrations with alcohol as so many do. My client saw himself self-medicating in the same way.

How could my client escape the shadow of his father? How could this young man have the confidence to face his fears when his self-esteem was so beaten down ? He had never really taken control, set goals or had seen himself meet those goals, so he had little faith in himself.

Once I realized this, and was able to gradually get him to see that his life was a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that his fearful thoughts of being gay were mostly, if not entirely, a symbolic fear of being “out of control” in his life, he was able to take steps to build a plan with me that when put into action, step by step, led him to begin rebuilding his self-respect and awareness that he really could do some really meaningful things with his life.

He took on some challenges, but fell off the path a few times. He accepted that  set-backs were normal, and although they took some of the vim and vigor out of his efforts for a few days, he would throw himself back into taking steps to accomplish his new goals of doing something purposeful and meaningful with his life. Managers at his job were taking notice and giving him more responsibility, which he was able to see he could handle quite effectively. He finally was feeling some control in his life. He was finally beginning to TRUST himself.

He has miles yet to travel, but as he takes steps along this journey, he is realizing that his fearful, obsessive thoughts are happening so infrequently that he almost does not pay attention to them at all. When he does find himself attending to them, he immediately looks at what is  going on currently in his life where he might be avoiding and settling, and gives himself a swift kick, a jolt of reality, to get back on track.

Just think about the power of avoidance and the fear that is generated by that avoidance. This young man worked very hard to face what he needed to change in his life. He faced the fact that he had created a deep hole because there were things in his life that he was NOT taking control of, so his subconscious mind seized on that sense of being vulnerable and played with his mind when he was idle, or in his dreams. It was not really about being gay. Not that being gay has to be an issue, but for him, it was a significant symbol of being out of control, of somehow failing and rejecting himself.

Just food for thought !

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist
Coach

12 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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

94 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!