When Fear Rules !

Tag: contamination

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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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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Intrusive Thoughts Paralyze

by on Mar.17, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I spend much of my time as a therapist helping people who have Intrusive Thoughts, where a person obsesses over something, often an irrational thought, to the point that it can paralyze them from getting anything meaningful done for hours if not days.

For some, the focus of their thoughts is on some health issue, and most often not an actual physical issue they are dealing with but one they fear might arise. Every ache or pain triggers the fear of something more serious lurking around the corner.

Others find themselves spending vast amounts of their energy avoiding germs, not necessarily because they have had some disease, but they experience this urge, this unexplainable need to wash their hands repeatedly, or to shower multiple times before they feel comfortable enough to move on.

Still others find themselves checking their work over and over for fear that there is something they are missing that could lead to a disaster, failure or rejection.

A person can find himself obsessing over anything and then compulsively needing to carry out some repetitive behavior like checking, reorganizing and repeating some behavior while his day is passing him by. The nature of the thoughts and the resulting rituals know no boundaries, but they can be paralyzing.

If you have not experienced a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior, you may think it odd that others do. Certainly, some individuals who do find themselves trapped in the endless pattern of obsessing and carrying out rituals are the butt of jokes and sitcoms. But the reality is, many people suffer from this anxiety disorder and it is quite emotionally painful.

Having had a turn at obsessive-compulsive behaviors of my own,  I enjoy working with these individuals in therapy, because I understand them. Of course I find them intelligent and truly wanting to find an avenue to control their thoughts and rituals. They are most often driven to find answers. There are most often sensitive, empathetic, adapting and caring people.

But what I also find is that they are people who have experienced emotional  conflicts in their lives, where they are caught between doing what they feel they should, what is expected of them versus doing what they want, what is personally satisfying. It might be a child  experiencing her first taste of rejection at the hands of a new student that she attempted to befriend, only to find the new friend bad-talking her to others. It might be an adolescent experiencing normal sexual urges but also being sensitive to what he has been taught about being responsible and respectful, what is right and wrong. Does he follow his basic urges, does he experiment and take risks ?  It might be a young man raised in a perfectionistic environment where he feels nothing he does is good enough, yet he gives up being a child to do all he can to please his parents’ expectations.

Emotional  conflicts often cause much frustration and anger, but the emotions are suppressed for fear of rejection. Suppressed emotions can do harm.

Conflict and conflicting emotions, especially anger, tends to create a sense of not being in control. Anger especially can ramp up ones brain chemistry so the person has strange feelings, even panic attacks. Not feeling in control, and not understanding the emotional turmoil that is brewing below the surface only adds to those feeling of not being in control.

This is when the person may find himself having intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, momentary yet irrational thoughts leading to an urge to carry out some ritual, some compulsive behavior. Carrying out the compulsive behavior may give some relief, create a sense that ‘If I do this, I will feel better “, thus creating a temporary sense of control. Then  the compulsive behavior becomes a habit.

When a client is willing to do the work to uncover the emotional conflicts, and also make some changes in how they deal with issues and people in their lives, they can in fact learn to challenge and take control of their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The trick is to be able to guide the client to see the true causes and triggers, and offer the needed support while steps are taken to face changes. What these people need most of all is understanding and support. If you know someone with OCD, remember that !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Newsletter and Support Group : www.OneStepataTime.com
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFearhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image20924564

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Irrational Thoughts and Fears

by on Jan.27, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

Finding oneself obsessed with thoughts of some health crisis  when none exists so that every ache or pain is thought to be a heart attack or signs of a brain tumor, worrying about contamination by germs to the point that one is fearful to leave their home, feeling this urge to have to drive back to an intersection to make sure you did not hit anyone although their was no evidence of such an act, are often referred to as irrational thoughts, part of a complex condition called Obesessive-Compulsive Disorder.

 

Now if you have never experienced these symptoms, you might scoff at the idea, and think to yourself, that sounds crazy. In fact, symptoms obsessive-compulsive dwelling on some irrational thought or a compulsive urge to repeat some behavior is much more common that you might think. And, I am seeing more and more children with these symptoms.

 

In reality, I think we all have at least some minor form of OCD. However, when “crazy” thoughts come into our heads, some might just blow them off dismissing them as something trivial. But what I have found is that the brighter we are, when we are feeling overwhelmed or in  some personal crisis, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors are very common. In the case of many of my clients, I find these very uncomfortable obsessive thoughts to be just another painful reaction to anxiety and typically avoidance of issues and  conflict in one’s life.

 

These intrusive thoughts have a source, there is a reason why they are creating havoc in many people’s lives, but so often, the real triggers for these intrusive thoughts are ignored because for one thing, the actual thoughts become so frightening that that is all the  person is focused on ! On the other hand, treatment for obsessive thoughts is often so focused on medications, which may or may not bring about some decrease in the thoughts, that not enough  time is spent by therapists or psychiatrists to actually do therapy.

 

Therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a rather intense experience, but when done effectively, cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy works.
To challenge any anxiety symptoms, whether panic attacks, phobias or obsessive thoughts, the client must understand there is a reason why this is happening since goals must be set to deal effectively with the sources of conflict and pain in one’s life.

 

Self-Esteem is a very important part of our defense against anxiety symptoms. How we see ourselves, how we talk to ourselves in our private thoughts has everything to do with whether we are more or less vulnerable to anxiety symptoms and irrational fears.

The more pride one has for what he { or she } is achieving, the more one is willing to challenge herself to grow and stretch in her life’s work, and the more a person sees that she is taking steps to face issues rather than avoid them, the more positive that person’s self-talk will be. If one has avoided issues, is shied away from taking steps towards any of their dreams, the more likely their self-talk will be laden with negative, self-depricating thoughts.

 

If you do find yourself experiencing these intrusive thoughts or  catch yourself needing to carry out rituals before you can move on to some other task, you might consider talking to a therapist in your area who specializes in treating these types of anxiety disorders.

 

Treatment works if you are willing to take the necessary steps, and the first step is to talk to a specialist. You are not crazy or losing your mind, but allowing these symptoms to go unchecked can lead to serious emotional and behavioral impairment, and that is so un-necessary.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

 

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Selfish, Self-Serving and Abusive

by on May.20, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

As I read my last Blog entry entitled ” Fear…It Rules Our Lives !”, I almost did not publish it as it seemed to harsh, even for me.

I wrote in Sunday, but held off publishing until Monday with the idea that I might soften it up a bit.
Then, I got an awakening slap across my face as I received an urgent e-mail from one of the kids I have worked with for three years. She is a very special child who once lived on the streets by herself at eleven and twelve years of age. Could you imagine yourself or one of your kids surviving that ordeal ? If you have followed my Blog at www.RuledByFear.com , then you might be aware that this child adopted me as her grandfather, a title that I see as an honor. This young lady worked so very hard and against all odds to get off the streets.

She was abused so badly on the streets, yet maintained her efforts to get off those back alleys and street corners, and have a life. I admired her efforts and together, we found a path for her to now find herself in a loving home.

But then the slap ! ” Grandpa, my other grandpa just did something horrible to me !!!” I won’t go into details because it makes me too angry and distracts me from what needs to be said here.. But it is what it is ! It took me more than two hours to open her up to tell me what happened. She totally blamed herself for being STUPID ! She has again been a victim of sexual abuse, and her parents and I are going to again begin to pick up he pieces. Makes me sick, and my heart is still heavy. She feels like she is a marked person, as most victims feel.

Yet, the only thing she really did was open her heart to someone because she so wanted to be loved, accepted and to feel she belongs. She knew he was a difficult man who had previously acted as if he did not like her, and saw her as an intrusion into their family. She thought that since he was family, she would just have to try harder to get him to love her.
She had NO idea what he had in mind.

At some point, her abuser realized he could take advantage of her want for love and approval and he played  her like a fiddle. He said all the right things. Took walks with her and listened to her imaginative stories. He played on her sympathies as he had lost his wife a few months back. Then, when he was done with her, he told her that no one would believe her and that he would tell stories about how she wanted him to do things to her. Anyway, she was just a bad seed and would end up back on the streets ! Oops, I am getting angry again.

Sure, steps will be taken to have the abuser face consequences for what he did to an already fragile, now fourteen year old child, but the man’s selfishness and self serving act is another scar on this child’s life, marring her ability to ever trust again. Beyond that, she wonders why God is punishing her. She asks, “Did I do something to deserve this ?”

Typical of many children, but also adults who are victims of sexual abuse, this child felt shame for not realizing she was being played. She described a “black slime” inside of her, a combination of feelings of guilt, shame and anger toward the abuser, but more toward herself for being so blind.

Can you even imagine what it will take on her part to ever trust again ? We have begun the process of releasing that “black slime” by allowing her to vent, by helping purge the anger and to realize SHE  did nothing wrong, but want love. We have prayed and sang her favorite spiritual songs to help her remember that she is loved by her family and by her God.

She does have much to learn about love and trust, and about the evil agendas that lurk in the hearts of some who can justify and rationalize through their warped thoughts, their selfish unbridled needs and malicious deeds. But then, don’t many of us have critical issues to learn about needs for approval and love ? Don’t many of us find ourselves victims of emotional, if not physical and sexual abuse, because all we really are looking for is that approval, that sense of belonging, that craving for someone we can really trust? Don’t many share those same needs and therefore find themselves vulnerable as targets for abusers ?

Can she be loved for who she  really is, for what is in her heart, or only for what she can do to satisfy the cravings of the another ?

Well, I will be busy doing my part to glue her back together, hoping I can find a little bit of that old “fight until you win ” attitude that led her off the streets, but please pause to think about how many children are abused every day. See what YOU can do in your community to have a voice for these kids. And realize that the dark side is out there, it is real in way too many people, whether they be father’s , mother’s and sadly, grandpas.

Get involved with anti-abuse groups like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence . Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING !!!

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

 

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The Slippery Slope of Avoidance

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

The Slippery Slope of Avoidance…

We all avoid at times don’t we ? It is probably wise to avoid cheating on our taxes  due to the consequences, although some may choose to do so. I certainly would choose to avoid walking up to an enraged man with a gun.

Some of us are more risk tolerant than others, but we all have our limits. It is wise to protect ourselves by avoiding certain people or situations that could truly harm us isn’t it ? The REAL question is, where  do you draw that line ?

I have many clients who are dealing with controlling, manipulative and even abusive people, and  find themselves avoiding these persons in different ways.

If it is someone you do not need to deal with, it might be wise to pick your battles and move on. However, what if it is a boss or supervisor, or even a friend or family member ?

I typically see these situations arise with clients and they cause a great deal or inner turmoil, and OFTEN LEAD TO ANXIETY SYMPTOMS because AVOIDANCE of these people or situations leads to a slippery slope that is potentially damaging to your self-esteem.

Commonly when it is a boss who is abusing his or her power, four thoughts come to my mind.

First, do all you can to be less vulnerable to that boss. That means always keep your skills, certifications, training and networking in good order, never allowing yourself to become too comfortable, even lazy about making yourself as VALUABLE as you can be. In this way, you are less vulnerable to that boss, or that job. Always be looking as to where your constantly improving credentials and knowledge could be used at another place of employment.

Secondly, carefully document with times and dates  as well as notes as to examples of a bosses abuse of power. Documentation comes in handy and is something that can make a supervisor and his company nervous. Build a case while trying to find ways to work with this person, but without allowing yourself to be truly abused.

Third, talk to your boss or the offending person about specific issues he or she  has about you, with steps you can take to improve. In other words, don’t avoid talking to the boss.

You initiating meetings to talk and find ways to improve is a sign of you taking some control, and is also a good part of what you will document too. Avoidance gives the boss power over you or at least he or she thinks so.

At this point, if you see no change in the bosses abusive ways, you can opt to meet with his or her boss or the Human Relations Department to share concerns and ask for intervention.

Forth, once you find a better position at another company, which means that your boss has not changed his or her behavior towards you even with  all the positive steps you have taken, ask for an  exit interview  where you can tactfully express your feelings and reveal your documentation.  In this way, the boss  will have to face some consequence for his or her behavior especially if you copy Human Resources and his boss and have that exit interview become a part of your personnel file.

There are more difficult situations where an even more involved process , such as harassment charges need to be  brought  against a boss, but you need documentation and  witnesses.

Avoiding these situations and steps only empowers abusive and manipulative people.

So what happens when the abusive or controlling people are family members or friends.
Well, I see this even more often with clients. An intrusive mother who is step by step destroying a daughters marriage. An abusive parent who physically, sexually or emotionally abuses their own child, even when that child has become an adult.
A so-called  boyfriend who works to control the woman he professes to love, however, due to his own insecurities, step by step erodes her self esteem through verbal abuse in order to make sure she does not find someone else.

Abusive people come in all shapes and sizes, and yes , sadly and  quite often are siblings, parents, children and others who you give a piece of your heart to. Avoiding setting boundaries, or creating distance with these persons can be spell disaster to your self-esteem.

Confronting people such as these often leads to them trying to turn the situation back on you. They often feel no apparent shame  in playing every guilt card they have in their arsenal. So, especially if you have tried to talk to this person about how you feel, or when you know in your heart it will mean nothing to them, I would recommend you get involved with counseling, make sure you have a healthy support system  of people in your life who are affirming. Then  create consequences, letting the abusive family member know that you are no longer going to deal with him or her on their terms, on their turf, and that you are removing yourself from their grasp in whatever way you can.

It is not avoidance when there is NO  DEALING EFFECTIVELY with them. But you cannot avoid making changes in your life so you are not dependent or continue to be a victim to such control and manipulation. Trying to change these  people or do something to have them “see the light” is fodder for a great movie, but it is seldom real life.

Your Thoughts ?

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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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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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