When Fear Rules !

Tag: Caregivers

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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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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Feels So Good, Hurts So Bad !

by on Dec.01, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

You know what I mean by an “adapting” personality, don’t you. I am referring to those caregivers, conformers, perfectionsists and peacekeepers who value relationships with others, who bend, adapt and adjust in an effort to please others because, well maybe it just feels good to do so.

At least at the time it feels good because they treasure the approval, appreciation and possibly respect that they ‘hope’ to glean form being there for others. While many may rush to say they have great empathy for others, the adapting personality types truly do, but at some risk to their emotional well-being. They probably make up a third of all the people walking on the face of this diverse planet we call Earth.

So often however, many of the adapting personalities come to the slow and troubling realization that they put out a great deal of emotional energy into others, where the return on that emotional investment seems
to lessen, to dwindle, to be taken for granted over time. See, many of these adapting personalities are truly dependent, dare I say compulsive in needing that approval from others, to feel worth and value. The role of being there for others, fixing or taking care of those they perceive as in need, being so very productive and maybe avoiding emotional conflict becomes their goal, a primary purpose in life.

When the adapting personality types wake up to anxiety symptoms, even panic attacks, it is often a reaction to the realization that they have invested so much energy into being there for others,
needing that approval like the body needs blood, that they feel emotionally bankrupt, spent and depleted. Sometimes there is resentment and anger felt towards those whom they feel have taken advantage of all those efforts without reciprocating, but mostly they are frustrated and in conflict for allowing this to happen. Adapting personalities certainly do not want to appear needy, and they are not ! Adapting persons do not want to seem selfish or uncaring and they certainly do not want to be seen as angry, but let’s face it, if you put out more emotional energy than you take
in, someone is going to crash !

In fact, I see many of the adapting personalities in my work, and our joint efforts in therapy come down to helping them realize they can still be who they are, still enjoy being adapting and caring, but with a twist.
They learn to make better choices in those they call friends by identifying and setting well-defined boundaries with the ‘ blood suckers ” in their world, and yet, reasonable and more porous boundaries with those who appreciate, respect and return some of the energy.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

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Out of Control !

by on Nov.10, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Out of Control !

One message I have often repeated in my blog and newsletter is that significant anxiety symptoms, especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, often tend to sneak up on their victims. This is why, in my opinion,  so many of my clients have said, ” These symptoms just seem to have come from out of the blue ! ”
 
Well, I truly believe that these symptoms have a cause and therefore need to be treated not just with medications, but with a structured game plan  where therapy helps the suffering individual realize and deal with the causes as well as the resulting fears and symptoms.

The symptoms can be very overwhelming to be sure, and the natural want to control those symptoms leads most clients to medications. I fully understand and appreciate that fact. However, medications, although sometimes helpful, may curb or limit the symptoms, but I seriously question that they are actually treating the cause unless there is found a true medical source for those symptoms. Even when there are thyroid issues, hypoglycemia or other conditions that may predispose a person to anxiety symptoms, while those conditions need to be treated medically, I have not found that the panic or OCD stops after such treatment. Make no mistake, if true medical or neurological conditions exist, by all means they should be treated. I have just not found that to be the case for the vast majority of especially the panic attack or OCD  clients I have worked with during the past forty years.

As just another yet very vivid example of how anxiety symptoms can mask or distract a person from the  true sources for the pain they are feeling, I offer the following :

What I observed of this woman as she sat across from me for the first time was the look of full-blown terror painted on her face and of course  her tears of frustration and hopelessness. She  was feeling totally out of control physically and emotionally, and her husband sitting next to her felt helpless.

No, her focus was not on her panic attacks which she hardly mentioned. Understandably, she was focused instead on the horrible withdrawal symptoms she was experiencing week after week after she stopped taking Xanax. 

She seemed obsessed with making sure I understood that the symptoms she was feeling were real, that she was not making them up, so I just listened at first.
She felt her skin crawling, she could not stay focused  on any one thing as her thoughts ran away from her. She physically and mentally felt out of control, and was dwelling on whether she had some kind of brain or nervous system damage due to previously being on Xanax, at 3 mg. a day.

I knew I had to bring her to a point where I could help her to focus on why all this was happening, but that was a challenge as anything I said was not being heard over the dominant fear-based chatter going on in her head. I realized the withdrawal symptoms were real, but her fears and resulting anxiety were making all her symptoms worse.

So after listening to her intently, and showing acknowledgment and respect for all she was going through, I asked her…. ” Why were you put on Xanax, especially that high of a dosage, to begin with ?” She had to collect her thoughts and wipe her tears, and I could see that look on her face that almost cried out, ” What does that matter ? ” However, after a few seconds and with her spouse’s urging, she related a story of being  a rather perfectionistic wife, mother and loyal friend who was just helping neighbors through a difficult crisis in their lives when ” this anxiety just came over me ! ” She ended up in the ER, then being seen by the hospital’s house psychiatrist, and was placed on the rather significant dose of Xanax. From that point on, it became all about her unreal feelings while taking the medications, and the horrible withdrawal symptoms once she stopped the meds.

I brought her back around to the reality that, as the doctors had told her,  the medications would gradually work their way out of her system, and she should continue working with her PCP regarding her physical symptoms, but that I wanted to refocus on the true source of the anxiety, as her withdrawal symptoms had all but distracted her from the real problem.

So then she listened as I told her about herself, where I described her perfectionistic and caregiving personality which had run unchecked and unbridled for many years leading to her gradually overwhelming herself, and creating anxiety and panic attacks. In essence, I was describing a good person, well-meaning and caring, who was burning the candle at both ends. She sat there acknowledging that yes, she did tend to take on too much, and rarely could say no to anyone’s request for her help. Why not, it felt good to be needed and see herself as useful and well-liked ! How could that be a problem !

I could see her husband’s facial gestures and eye-rolling that all but said that his wife was minimizing the extent to which SHE OVER-EXTENDED herself all the time. She was addicted to pleasing !  However, without boundaries, that need to be needed and fix others had become a self-sabotaging path to disaster.  I expressed to her that this is less a disease, and more of a reaction to her habitual, compulsive pattern of overwhelming herself because her very positive personality characteristics had run amok and caused her to unravel.

Once she realized what had happened and truly embraced it, and that took some time and soul-searching, she learned to set healthy limits and boundaries. She learned she was not broken, and that she could be better than she was before, as she could still be who she was, but would make smarter choices. Her pain taught her to take better care of herself. Unfortunately, without pain, she would never have seriously considered change. Would you ?

She had to realize that all she had been through was not a sign of weakness, but a sign that corrections needed to be made where she created a greater balance in her life between being there for others and being there for herself. She was not needy, but she had needs. She was not selfish, but needed to take care of herself. She could be there for others, but knew where to draw the line so that the energy she put into others was better matched with the energy coming back.

Oh, she would still screw up at times and have little setbacks as old habits are hard to break, but she would catch herself and readjust. That’s how it works !

Just a thought or two !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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Escaping Negative Thoughts

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

Unless you were one of the lucky ones, you learned fears during your childhood that remain active today if you actually listen to your private thoughts.

I was talking with a client recently who, in my opinion, has been putting some significant but inconsistent effort into controlling his anxiety and panic attacks as well as his obsessive-compulsive behaviors [OCD}.

Now, what do we mean by obsessive-compulsive behaviors ? Actually, they are very common, although differing in frequency and certainly intensity, where an individual finds himself feeling an urge to carry out some ritualistic behavior, repeating that behavior to a point that it can be disruptive in his life. I see people suffering from this type of anxiety reaction every day. One person may find himself giving in to the urge to check over his tax return over and over, even though no errors were found. Another might have spilled some cleaning substance on their hands and then found herself washing her hands and arms, repeating the action even when her hands became chapped and bleeding. Then maybe a child feels an urge to say good-night and blow a kiss to each of her more than one hundred stuffed animals before she can go to sleep at night, only to find herself having to repeat the process for over two hours for fear she missed one of her precious inanimate friends.

These rituals can take over one’s life to one degree or another, but are responses to inner conflict that is often hidden to others, and even unknown or unrecognized by the client. My experience is that the conflicts are just below the surface but are issues the person may just not feel able to deal with, thus is consciously or subconsciously avoiding.

The client I was talking with came to realize that his OCD, which had grown in power and was ruling much of his life, was a reaction to conflict. There was an inner desire to do more with his life and escape the shadow cast by his family tree,a history of depression, negativity, avoidance and regret. He came to realize that most of his anxiety was due to the personally painful reality that he had and was avoiding making needed changes in his life. His negative thoughts and fears were echoing through his mind, but more importantly were and still are the habitual thoughts of his past and especially his parents whose lives were ruled by fear.

He could catch himself in his private thoughts saying “I’m not smart enough !”, or ” Who do I think I am, that I could do something special with my life ? “. He had also become vividly aware  through introspection triggered in part by therapy,  that these were the thoughts based on fears of rejection and failure, that he had been taught by his mother. Even recently, when he discussed possibly looking for a another job that was more challenging and he could feel some passion over, his mother, backed by other family members, said ” Just be happy you have a job !”

This client had taken some steps to challenge his fears. He did at one point go back to school to take course he was very interested in, and from that experience, learned that he was not stupid. He was able to master the material, and in fact thrived in that class and others and was actuallycalled upon by the teacher to share more of his thoughts with the class. He found himself actually tutoring others who were struggling more with the classes subject matter. It was very esteeming for him. So, that should have turned his life around, right ? In fact, his obsessive-compulsive behavior was down significantly. He really felt great about the stretching he was doing. However, due to changes with his present but boring job, he was distracted from continuing his course work. His efforts were very positive, but the reality was that once he stopped stretching, he fell back into the gravitational pull of his past negative thoughts, and his family history of self-defeatism. He lost that momentum he had begun by stretching outside his comfort zone.

Now he realizes what happened, that it takes frequent and consistent exercising of one’s energies to escape the gravity of the past.  Just as it does with physical exercise, where muscle turns to flab when the exercise stops, his efforts to challenge his fears worked, but needed to become part of his life, not a past chapter.

So, now he is beginning to edit the book that is the story of his life. Armed with the awareness of what he did, and therefore what he COULD DO, he is working to create an ongoing momentum, one that he must nurture through repeated  experiences that will desensitize him to his fears and emboldenhim to persevere.

How much are you ruled by fear ? How often do you hear yourself uttering or thinking something sabotaging, that shuts you down and causes you to avoid ? Where did you learn fear and avoidance ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

Free Sunday Eve On-Line Support Group : OneStepataTime.com

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When People Play Games, and I Don’t Mean Monopoly !

by on Jul.01, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So many times this past week, when talking to a new clients about their anxiety symptoms or panic attacks, I have heard how vulnerable the each client feels as a result of these horrible anxious feelings that seem to come from nowhere. Of course, because the client becomes so totally focused on his or her symptoms, the sense of vulnerability, the fear of more and worse symptoms takes over.
I certainly understand and respect how each client feels, not understanding what is happening and waiting for an ambush of yet another round of anxiousness or debilitating panic. I personally KNOW how it feels to have panic attacks and Obsessive-Compulive symptoms.

What I really focus on is helping each client see and understand that the vulnerability they feel is most often the result of feeling vulnerable in their life, mostly due to emotional conflicts and issues with people. So, in essence, REAL LIFE creates situations and conflicts that especially when repressed or avoided, create the feeling of being out of control, which makes us feel vulnerable and weak. This leads to anxiety symptoms which seem to come out of the blue, because remember, we are trying to avoid those real live issues and conflicts.

Why do we avoid and thereby become vulnerable to anxiety ? We so often become lazy, complacent and too dependent on others because of our need for approval and acceptance or our fear of rejection or failure. We stop taking care of ourselves, and sort of let ourselves go instead of always trying to look our best. We feel stuck in a frustrating, even sometimes an abusive relationship, but the longer we stay, the more we doubt we can do any better. We are frustrated in a job that is not challenging, but avoid more education or training for fear of failing, or just laziness, and that again causes us to feel in conflict within ourselves, and more vulnerable.

So the anxiety symptoms become the focus of the client’s attention, and distract him or her that much more from dealing with the source issues. ” I can’t do anything about that or make any decisions until this anxiety and panic stops !”  In therapy,  I bring the client back to the real issues and help the client look at all options and choices, while making sure that the client takes small but important steps to deal with the conflicts. Most often, it takes time to turn things around in one’s life, to take steps to be more in control. That is ok, as long as there is a PLAN, because having a plan gives one a sense of control.

I am NOT saying people who have these anxiety symptoms are weak. However, they often are adapting personality types who try too hard to please, stretch too far to be needed by others while not expressing their needs, and are all too often taken advantage of by those who can. The most gullible tend to be the caregivers, conformers and peacekeepers along with many perfectionists. Good people, caring people, who get lost in seeking approval.

Back to therapy ! Yes, of course we work to help the client deal with, understand and desensitize to the actual anxiety symptoms. And yes, we use medications as necessary to help relieve some anxiety, although that is not the answer to really taking control of the symptoms.

The answer is knowledge of what is really happening to you, developing a PLAN to deal with the sources of your emotional conflicts,and learning you can control the symptoms until you gradually gain trust in yourself that YOU can take better care of yourself in the real world where some people in your life play games with you.  You learn to assert yourself, respectfully but firmly. You learn to set boundaries. You learn that healthy, non controlling, non manipulating people will actually respect you more for speaking your mind, because you are at the same time, respectful to them. You learn that those who have other agendas, and just use and manipulate, need to be gradually made a lesser part of your life. Not easy you say ? Your right, it is not easy to set such boundaries when the offending person is a boss, intrusive mother-in-law, or a bully. Each case is unique with different solutions, but a general rule to follow to be less vulnerable to difficult people is to never become complacent, never allow your professional skills to lag, always be busy creating new contacts and realizing and EXPERIENCING the EVIDENCE that you can grow and change. The persons who survive dealing with difficult people are the ones who keep their momentum going, thereby decreasing their dependency on the people who would do them harm. Too often we allow ourselves to become dependent on these people, or we avoid speaking up, we do not take steps to grow so our self-esteem and confidence deteriorates over time. When there is momentum, there is growth. Where there is visible growth, there is self-esteem. Where their is self-esteem, there is the perception that you can achieve so much more. The more you achieve, the less vulnerable you are because the world needs achievers.

I would be happy to hear comments !

I invite you to join us any Sunday Evening, at 9 PM ET for ouron-line Support Groups at OneStepataTime.com .  You can also sign up for our free Newsletter, “Boundaries”, which will be e-mailed to you each week.

Also, take a look at the many articles we have posted in our Blog at RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Coach
The Benhaven Group

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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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Yes, We Can Change !

by on May.07, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

We become self-defined by the things we do, or don’t do.

Our thoughts are the private domain of that secret world between our ears, but those thoughts have and decided impact on how we feel. We can think ourselves into a good place or a dark place within the speed of light.

Those thoughts and the resulting feelings shape our perceptions of ourselves, how we learn to look at the world, and of course how we habitually deal with that world.

I watch for this when I meet a new client and over the time develop a picture of their personality, because I know I have to develop a plan, along with the client to help them overcome their issues, and conflicts which are causing anxiety symptoms and or depression. Even though I believe we have a vast and unlimited ability to make changes in our lives if done in the right way, the plan must be developed with steps that are not overwhelming and certainly not outside the nature of the individual.

A person who tends to see the world as an uphill struggle, cannot be approached like one who sees life as full of opportunities ripe for the picking. An individual who has learned from childhood on to seek approval and adapt to please others, must carefully be shown that he or she can find ways to take better care of his or her needs without risking rejection and abandonment.

I could go on and on, but the point to be made is that people can make healthy changes in their lives no matter what the personality type, as long as they seek guidance and are ready and willing to look at themselves, not with a critical eye, but with an openness to step-by-step, expose themselves with alternative experiences that give them evidence of the magnificent worth, value and meaning that can be found in each person’s life.

So we think, which dramatically effects what we feel. Then those thoughts and feelings, our perceptions of ourselves, either drives us to try new things, stretch a little to do more exploring, or it shuts us down and we do nothing but lament.

I find there are so many people out there with dreams that are never see the light of day, with needs that go without being fulfilled, and with resulting anxiety, panic attacks or intrusive thoughts which only go to distract them from what they really need to do, that even I get frustrated for them.

But then again, I get excited when someone in our on-line Support Group has one of those “ Ah-Ha” moments like what happened recently. This man seems like a very decent, caring guy, who was actually seeking information to help a family member who was experiencing anxiety and depression. But then, as we talked, he realized that he had become comfortably – uncomfortable with life. He adapted all the time to what he felt others expected of him. He was a caregiver, and on the surface felt he was happy.
Then he realized that on occasion, he would snap a little at some people , a behavior which he was uncomfortable with seeing in himself. But, it was happening more and more.

After realizing that he repressed frustration he had felt for a long time, that his needs seemed to always go un-met while he went out of his way to be there for everyone else, he began to set some boundaries. He was still good to people, but he started thinking about and expressing his needs too. It felt good, although strange at first, and you know what ? No one was rejecting him. He was actually allowing a few people to be there for him too. What a magnificent idea. His little spurts of anger and resentment decreased and it felt so good.

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You Can Run, Not Hide From Anxiety 1

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

Do You Really Want to Control Anxiety  ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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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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