When Fear Rules !

Tag: Anxiety Attacks

Why Are Some More Vulnerable to Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist, Coach
The Benhaven Group

Blog: RuledByFear.com
www.RuledByFear.com
 

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

by on Dec.14, 2017, under Bullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think about this ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group

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Out of the Ashes !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
CEO, The Benhaven Group

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Feeling Out of Control ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR THE NEW YEAR ???

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

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Why Not Say Merry Christmas ???

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

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

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

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

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

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Rebecca’s Story / Conquering Panic Attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Can You Teach Me to Become Fearless Again ?

by on Sep.22, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I had not talked to her in at least two months. I had wanted to gradually break any dependency she had on me, because she finally had a family that loved her. Besides, I loathe dependency as it weakens the spirit, and causes a spiraling down-turn in one’s motivation, creativity and momentum to find one’s purpose in life, to be special.

Make no mistake, I am all for support and reliance on others as long as it is part of a plan to teach an individual how to help herself or himself. However, I see an ever-increasing desire on the part of some to create a dependency of others on them, all for the purpose of having control and power.

This is not a conspiracy theory, just one of those cycles in the history of mankind. Keep your eyes closed to this and you will find out the hard way.

If you are someone who has followed my blog over the years, then you might remember previous articles about this child who came to me for help when she was just ten years old. She was a homeless child, living in a cardboard refrigerator box, on the streets of “Gotham City”, having escaped the grasp of her prostitute mother and the certainty that she would be forced to settle for her mother’s life-style if she did not take her life into her own hands.

However, this was the real world, so although Joy [ her name of choice ] , had successfully separated from her mother , the following four years found her vulnerable to people of lesser conscience, who would emotionally, physically and sexually abuse her, because they could.

Working with her was so very rewarding for me, and yet very painful as I saw her relentless efforts to escape the almost daily reality of abuse that she had to endure. She seemed fearless and undaunted, maybe because in her eyes, she had no choice. This was survival. So if some guy at the bar offered her a meal for a feel, it was not who she was, but just what she had to go through. Through her eyes, miraculously, she saw every abuse as a motivator, as a stepping stone to finding a path off the streets and into the arms of a loving family. Many times I felt helpless as she
endured what I could not imagine at the hands of those whose selfishness and neediness would have destroyed the average child, or adult for that matter.

Once she was in a family, although not without complications, I found myself relieved but somewhat depleted, thus some time has passed since my last article. Then, last evening, she contacted me. After the usual chatting to catch up, this now fifteen year old said something that I found invigorating. ” Can you teach me become FEARLESS again ? ” Oh, she loved her new family for sure, but at the same time, she felt somewhat lazy and, listen carefully, DEPENDENT ! It was wonderful to have people looking out for you. It somehow felt good to have rules to follow and rewards for good behavior. It felt safe, and yet it didn’t, as she had become less reliant on her own skills to survive. Dependency can do that to the best of us.

We talked about her wanting to become a child advocate, a person who could teach others how to recognize and be less vulnerable to the manipulators, controllers, and in some cases, sociopathic types among us who prey on the perceived weakness of others. Now that was a discussion that I found motivating.

Do you long to be FEARLESS ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
www.PanicAttacks.com
www.ObsessiveCompulsive.com
www.RuledByShame.com
www.SelfEsteem.com
www.OneStepataTime.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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