When Fear Rules !

Tag: Caregivers

Caregivers Vulnerable to Anxiety

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

In my last blog I ended with the comment that :

There is a reason why the more adapting and approval seeking personalities have more anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms. Their need for approval and want to avoid possible rejection or exclusion makes them fair game for the more manipulative people in the world. All you caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are really good people, but you need to learn to set boundaries with people who would take advantage of your adapting natures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Avoidance of Conflict

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

Avoidance Of Conflict

It is so very important to realize that there is almost always a reason why a person is having panic attacks, intrusive thoughts or obsessive worry with compulsive behaviors.

Certainly, trauma can cause these anxiety symptoms, but I rarely find that among the majority of my clients. Stress can surely add to the symptoms, but most often I have found that stress only aggravates the anxiety symptoms.

What I find in most cases is that personal conflict is typically the source. Whereas stress can come and go, conflict hangs over our heads until we deal with it.

Conflict ?

Yes, like feeling trapped in a go-nowhere job but avoiding taking steps to create opportunities to change for fear of failure or rejection.

Maybe feeling stuck in an emotionally, physically or sexually abuse relationship, but avoiding taking steps to remove yourself because of your fears of being alone, or the fear of retaliation.

How many times we want to express ourselves toward someone who is controlling, intrusive or manipulative, but end up avoiding and repressing what we feel.

Key word is avoiding, since avoidance effects how we see ourselves. Avoidance can cause us to feel weak, erodes our self-esteem and leads to our not trusting ourselves.
Of course, when we doubt ourselves, what do we do next ? We WHAT IF ourselves and then we avoid !

There is a reason why the more adapting and approval seeking personalities have more anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms. Their need for approval and want to avoid possible rejection or exclusion makes them fair game for the more manipulative people in the world. All you caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are really good people but you need to learn to set boundaries with people who would  take advantage of your adapting natures.

In future blog articles, I will address some ways for each personality type to make changes so they might feel more in control, and thereby begin to take control of their anxiety symptoms. I look forward to your comments.

Meanwhile, take a look at our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

 

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How About Me ?

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

 

How About Me ?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

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Success Over Fears !

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

Success Over Phobias and OCD !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just food for thought !

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist
Coach

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Comfortably Uncomfortable with Life ?

by on Jan.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

You like to feel that you are in control of your life, don’t you ? You want to see yourself as an independent, emotional but yet logical person who makes sound decisions.

I bet you would like to see yourself reaching for goals, taking on opportunities in your life that will cause you to feel a greater sense of worth and value, a feeling of purpose and meaning. At the end of the day, don’t you want to be able to look back on your day and feel you accomplished something, stretched a little further, took a step or two that will lead to better and greater things in your life ?

I might be presuming too much, but I still will bet on the above even though many of us do not feel all that much control in our lives. I mean, we want it, but often we find ourselves avoiding difficult people or situations, opting for more comfort and apparent safety.

Well, with all my years offering therapy to clients experiencing panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, one of the most frequently seen sources for those symptoms is that my clients WANT more freedom and independence, want to be proud of what they are accomplishing, but at the same time have found themselves avoiding any serious efforts to set the needed goals and steps to accomplish those goals.

What it comes down to most often is FEAR. Yes,that four letter word is represents what many of us experience and what keeps a huge percentage of us comfortably uncomfortable. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, of being embarrassed, maybe being wrong. Why are we so vulnerable to fear ? Let me remind you that you are not born with fear, it is LEARNED.

So stop and think, where did you first start feeling fear ? Did you have a fearful parent ?
Were you over-protected and warned constantly to not take any chances or risks ?

Fear is powerful as it NUMBS a person’s emotions and efforts to challenge life. Now, no one escapes fear, it is just a matter of intensity and the degree to which it holds back your personal growth.

I recall talking to a person who came to see me with the diagnosis of depression and secondly a social phobia. His face, I remember, was emotionless, and his voice monotone.  He had the appearance of a robot from an 1960 alien B-movie. My first thought was, what do I DO with this young man. Then i remember talking to myself, as I often do, and saying, THERE IS A REASON !

I probed, and I must say with some frustration at not getting any affirmation that I was hitting any buttons, until I finally realized that this young man had been subtly bullied during his early years, had no one to share his frustrations with and be coached as to how to handle difficult people or situations, and so he gradually but surely shut down.

It became NORMAL for him to observe from afar but not interact. He could get lost in books or games of isolation, where he could feel safe and, there’s that word, COMFORTABLE.

Now as a young adult attempting to navigate through the waters of life, he seldom left the dock and saw no reason to seek adventure. Goals, maybe just to survive. Risk, but why ? Little by little he and I established a very step by step game plan to stretch and experience life, because only with such stretching and experiencing, could he allow himself to FEEL.

You may feel this is an extreme case, but please take a good look at what you are doing and experiencing in your life. Do you need to do some more stretching ? Are you Ruled By Fear ? How much more could you attain if you took STEPS, not leaps to taste more of life and do things that would cause you to feel more meaning and purpose, RIGHT NOW ?

I welcome you thoughts !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Am I Becoming Needy Again?

by on Jan.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Am I Becoming Needy Again !

First, I think there is a huge difference between having needs and being needy. Having needs, emotional needs that is, happens to be a normal part of being a human. It can be seen in a special bond between two friends, it can be seen between a parent and child, or it is demonstrated by the intimate interaction between two loving, caring people, where they look out for each other as life companions, and are aware of each other’s struggles and need for affirmation and support.

Being needy, on the other hand, conjures up in my mind a person whose needs are so all-encompassing that he becomes selfish, where he is less aware of the needs of others and withdraws into a world where he feels entitled, and blames others for all the ills in the world. In this world of his making, he is not taking responsibility for his own sabotaging behaviors and attitudes that drives people away. Instead, he simply reacts to what he sees as rejection and as affirmation that the world is an up hill struggle,

However, a person with needs can sometimes visit the fringes of that needy world if he allows himself to get too comfortable, maybe even lazy. You see, our self-esteem is fragile.  The very heart of one’s self-esteem depends on one’s perception of his personal worth and value, his purpose and meaning in life. If he is not actively creating personal goals, and attaining those goals, he can become more dependent on his affirmations coming more heavily from others instead of from what he is doing with his life. THAT is risky !

Dependency on others for feedback as to our worth and value is a typical part of many of our lives. There are those who are much less dependent, to be sure. There are personality types that truly derive  the bulk of their esteem from what they do like some logical, analytic personality types.

However, the vast majority of my clients are adapting, approval seeking caregivers, perfectionists, peacekeepers or conformers. Understandably, since I specialize in working with individuals experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am almost always working with adapting and approval seeking personalities. NOW, let me make myself clear. My clients are not weak. They are caring and sensitive personalities who often allow their want for approval and acceptance from others to dominate their lives instead of focusing on their own needs for personal growth. These people are the ones you want around when you are in a jam, and they are the ones you can depend on, but, they can at times put too much energy into taking care of others, fixing another person’s pain, or conforming to please and make everyone feel better that they forget to realize and take care of their own needs to achieve and grow their own self-esteeming behaviors that are less dependent on affirmations from others.

That dependency on others for their self-esteem rather than focusing a portion of their emotional energy on doing things in their life that build their self-esteem causes them to be more vulnerable to feeling rejection when certain persons do not respond to their often silent cries for affirmation.

I was reminded of this issue when a client of mine realized that he was feeling more needy lately. Then he realized that he had been more focused on his relationship with his girlfriend and had settled into a entry level job and had become lax in thinking of his career goals. He was feeling comfortable, yet uncomfortable because he was finding himself too dependent  on that relationship for his self-esteem and  because he had temporarily stopped focusing on his career. Dependency breeds a sense of vulnerability, and that leads to inner conflicts that lead to anxiety symptoms.

Take a hard look at your life, and assess whether their is a balance between the the esteem you derive through the affirmations of others as opposed to affirmations that come from within as you see yourself accomplishing goals, stretching to challenge your fears and not allowing yourself to become TOO comfortable with the status quo.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Anger With Ourselves !

by on Dec.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

When a person comes to me because of panic attacks or OCD, one thing I always look for is a sign of repressed anger.  Anger is such a powerful emotion, and although natural in so many situations, when it is not understood or dealt with effectively and honestly, this emotion can cause much inner conflict and many anxiety symptoms.

With that thought in mind, I typically will explore  any signs of anger and attempt to help my client look at the anger in his or her life, and realize when that anger is more anger with themselves than with the apparent object or person they profess to be frustrated with at the time.

The reality is, I find many are really more angry with themselves for being so naive, gullible or vulnerable to controlling, manipulative or selfish persons especially when they face the fact that there has been a pattern  of not taking control, of not asserting themselves, and avoiding conflict which is especially typical of the adapting and approval seeking personality types.

Those personality types might be seen as caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists. These are most often good people, with a sensitivity to others, but their adapting natures tends to make them vulnerable to the controlling and manipulative types.

So, yes, they often have repressed anger and frustration within themselves as they feel so much in conflict between their basic needs and nature and yet do not set adequate boundaries once they see signs of that anger rise to the surface. Setting boundaries is not an easy thing to learn, but it makes a huge difference in the emotional well-being of the person who is learning to take control of his or her life.

Step by step, the adapting personalities set basic boundaries by learning to put off decisions when things are being requested of them, and allowing a twenty-four hour period to pass at which time they can respond. In this way, they are giving themselves time to determine whether saying yes is a healthy response that they feel very comfortable with, rather than giving in just to please, when below the skin they are  wishing they had not.

Yes, there are manipulative, controlling and selfish personality types. The trick is to recognize them, realize your vulnerability to them, and develop a game plan to learn to deal with them.

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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She was only trying to protect herself !

by on Dec.11, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

“She Was Only Protecting Herself From Further Rejection and Pain “

 

I  was talking to a client who was experiencing excruciating and frequent panic attacks that were causing her to not want to leave her home.

She was a single mom with a job and a great deal of responsibility for two kids. I was initially thinking to myself that she must feel overwhelmed at times raising  kids and working and having all that on her shoulders. But she quickly said, “ I am a strong person, independent, I do not allow myself to become needy of anyone, and I work hard to stay in-control !”

I heard what she said, loud and clear, but something did not click for me as I saw a softer side below what she was “trying” to project. When I probed further, she also told me of a past where she was a people pleaser, never set boundaries which allowed people to take advantage of her. She admitted that  she sought approval and allowed herself to be abused in her first marriage.

Since I am always looking for the emotional conflicts that are the actual triggers for panic attacks, bells went off in my head. So I asked, “What happened to that nice, caring, adapting person who loved people and just wanted to enjoy life ? Do you think you buried her, eliminated her and her needs from your mind ?”

She thought for a moment and said, “ But I cannot allow myself to be vulnerable to people again. I cannot trust people to be there. !”

Therein lies the conflict ! She is still that adapting, caring, sensitive, even approval seeking person, but she has worked so hard to over-correct to protect herself, that she is in pain that she is missing what she always wanted, an intimate  relationship, a healthy, loving companion to share with. Her over-correction was in a real sense denying her most basic needs.

She needed to focus on  being who she really is, BUT, learning to do so in a healthier way. She needed to learn to make better choices, set better boundaries, and deal only with those who “proved they were trustworthy and dependable as well as shared some of the same needs.

One cannot change who they are ! It is not who she was that caused her pain, since she possesses many wonderful qualities. It was that she had to be smarter in the way she lived her life to realize she had the right to be who she was, but also that she could learn to allow in her private space only those who deserved to be her friends or companions.

Adapting personalities, like the caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are more susceptible to anxiety , especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors because they do not set boundaries for FEAR of rejection, failure or abandonment. It is very hard to teach a person to care and to feel, to be truly intimate persons, but it is a very do-able task to teach and learn to set boundaries. Learning to say “No” when your gut tells you something is not comfortable or right, even when that habitual, approval seeking voice in your head is telling you to adjust what you think and feel in order to please the other person is a typical dilemma for adapting personalities, and it is a very treatable pattern of behavior that can be changed.

We will talk more about this issue and others in future newsletters and at our On-Line Support Groups on Sunday Nights at OneStepataTime.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Are You Vulnerable to Abuse ?

by on Dec.05, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

When I was recently in California, I met with a sheriff’s deputy as a first step in working with the Special  Sex Crimes Unit since I am tracking*** some abusive, sociopathic abusers who have been involved with abuse of clients I have worked with. I am working with law enforcement in a number of  states as I am trying to learn, and share  from what I have experienced with victims of abuse, especially Domestic Violence whether it be physical, emotional or sexual in nature.

 

One of the questions this deputy asked me was , “Why are so many of these young ladies so gullible and vulnerable to this kind of abuse, and why don’t they come forward. We cannot do anything until they come to us and are prepared to press charges.”

 

My first thought was that this deputy was not receiving enough training in the psychology of abuse, although I would appreciate him being around when I come face to face with one of the abusers I am tracking. But the next thought was that many out there do not  realize that we are especially vulnerable to being manipulated and controlled, and therefore abused by certain  individuals who are often Narcissistic Sociopathic types. Yes, they are often family members or loved ones that we have put trust in. These are people with minimal consciences, who spend a lifetime protecting themselves from their own deeper insecurities and emotional conflicts, fighting off their own  sense of vulnerability by taking on the persona of the ultimately In-Control person. They may seem like Prince Charming as they lull their potential victims into their lair, but they gradually take more and more control or their potential victims.

 

So who are those of us who are more vulnerable to abusive, controlling and manipulative people of all degrees, not just the sociopathic types ?

 

We are often more adapting and approval seeking personalities.

 

We are more often the caregivers, peace-keepers, perfectionists and conformers.

 

We are often the ones who wish to please beyond what is healthy for ourselves.

 

We are often the ones who cannot say “No”.

 

We can be prone to self-doubt and we second-guess ourselves.

 

When we do make bad choices, as most everyone does in life, we take it more as a sign of failure and fear rejection or embarrassment rather than an experience to learn by.

 

We care about others, and sometimes stretch TOO far to nurture others as  we want to be NEEDED.

 

Some of us dream of being rescued more than realize the steps we can take to rescue ourselves.

 

Some of us believe that if you love someone enough, you can change or alter the rough edges you see in a potential partner. Not a good idea ! People rarely change  such basic natures and patterns of behavior. Doesn’t it feel great to rescue someone else ?

 

We have a difficult time setting “boundaries” with others due to our excessive need to please. So, we over-commit, take on things we really do not want to do, and not putting enough energy into our own self-esteeming behaviors and efforts.

 

Our self-esteem is more  dependent on what others want from us or how others respond to us rather than deriving our self esteem from what WE accomplish.

 

We are often caught off-guard by others and become embarrassed by their comments.

 

Now, some of these points are actually endearing characteristics of some very good people. Being a sensitive, caring and nurturing person is a good thing, right ? Yes, but there is a very delicate balance between healthy and vulnerable.

 

I would stress that if you see yourself in any of the above descriptors that you seek counseling to work on a plan to realize greater SELF esteem.  Otherwise, there is a danger that you are or could be a victim of abuse  whether at a subtle or more obvious degree. We will be discussing issues such as this in our on-line Support Group on Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET at www.OneStepataTime.com . Come join us !!!

 

 

***When I mention tracking of abusive persons, I want to assure you that I am not carrying out some vigilante justice. I have formed a group of professionals and am still adding members to that group. These persons  act as consultants to me as I research and study the backgrounds of some of the more abusive people I have come in contact with through my clients.

 

Each member of The Watch, which is what we have named this professional group of consultants, is given all details of any case I am working on so that they can not only advise me from their experiential background, but also add a measure of protection for me in my efforts to study the Narcissistic Sociopathic Abusers amongst us. When these Abusers make a mistake, and they always do, and  one of their victims IS willing to press charges, the information we have gathered is provided to the appropriate Law Enforcement entity.

 

The Watch consists of members of Law Enforcement , Attorneys, Psychiatrists, Therapists, prominent Political figures who can press for anti-abuse legislation, a Nationally known personality who is a strong advocate against Domestic Violence, and private citizens who have demonstrated an awareness and interest in fighting for the rights of individuals where we can find people being easily led and controlled in our society. The names of The Watch members are not divulged, but let me say they have proven an invaluable source of guidance.

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