When Fear Rules !

Tag: anger

Why Don’t We LISTEN ?

by on Jun.23, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Once we learn to talk, it seems like we become so enamored with the sound of our own voices, that we never learn to LISTEN.

In my work as a therapist, that is my number one tool to help people, JUST LISTEN. If I take the time to draw out of the other person what is on his or her mind, it is only then that I can be of any significant value in helping my client resolve whatever issue [s} that brought them to me. One of the reasons people do come to me is that there is no one else they can trust to hear what they have to say since most people in their lives are oh so ready to tell them what to do, but not so ready to just LISTEN.

I mean, coming up with answers for everyone’s problems is hard work, but just listening is easy. By just allowing the other person to talk, or even more by encouraging them to share with you, you are opening up a form of communication for which you can feel satisfied that you were truly of help, while at the same time, allowing the person being heard to feel validated, as opposed to feeling he or she unable to solve problems.

In so many cases, when I listen as a professional, or even just as a friend, I can see the look on the face of the person I am listening to lighten up as if to say, ” I DO have the answer in my head, I just needed someone to help me get them out into the open “. Listening helps the other person feel respected instead of embarrassed that they needed someone else to solve their problem.

Think about it ! Would you rather just have someone tell you what you should do, or help you draw out the options in your mind and assist you in making decisions that are natural to your personality’s needs ?

Then there is the issue of agendas !!! This is a BIGGIE ! Can you tell another person what to do without allowing your own biases to  interfere or rule what you say ? What if what is good for you is not good for her ? Can you be neutral ? Oh please, really !!! We often worry so much about what other people think or say about us, how much does that influence what we might say to another person if what they are bringing up touches a nerve in us ?

Then there are the parents who are trying to teach their children how to deal with life, but are so busy dealing with that life themselves that they end up preaching instead of really teaching. Do you really want your child to just echo what you think, or to understand, to have some insight into what they need to do ? I listen to parents talk to their children all the time, and very seldom do I hear that they are teaching the child to think, but instead……

……..Well, as an example, a child I have grown to know very well was adopted by a very loving family this past year. This child has survived  crisis after crisis, disaster and abuse heaped upon upon more abuse. Now with good, wholesome parents, she is having to learn so much about living WITH a family, as opposed to feeling all alone.  Think for a second how hard that might be when you have had no guidance for maybe thirteen years of your young life, but then all of a sudden, you have more guidance and  rules than you ever knew existed. Now, there are proper words to use, proper things to say, to dress, eat and yes, to think and feel.

Now again, her new parents are very loving and well-meaning, but when there is a problem she is experiencing as she tries to fit in, belong, and be accepted in this new world, she comes to me for answers. I have frequently said to her that as much as I will always be there as a friend to help her through the difficult times of those teen years, that she needs to go to and trust her new parents. She knows that she should but then says, “They do not really hear me, they don’t listen. I know they love me and I love them, but they don’t want to hear anything uncomfortable. If I go to them with a problem, it always turns into them telling me what I should think and feel, let alone DO !  Do they think I am stupid ? I know what I am thinking, and I know that I am feeling a lot of mixed up feelings, but I just need them to listen ! How can they love me if they do not respect me ? How can they respect me if they think I am stupid and do not know my own thoughts, or have my own feelings. Sometimes I feel like one of those dummies that sit of the man’s lap and my mouth is moving, but they are not my words.”

Listening, TRULY hearing what is being said and what is felt is one of the most wonderful things you can offer another human being. And, it is so much easier than having to have all the right answers .

 


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:

www.RuledByFear.com

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

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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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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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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

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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

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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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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

 

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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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