When Fear Rules !

Tag: contamination

Is The Fear of Change Paralyzing You ?

by on Nov.28, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

We have fought wars to be free, yet, with all the freedoms we do have, one that we squander each day is the freedom to change.

I received a very timely message on Facebook from a friend, Betsy, that read “ If you change nothing, nothing will change  ! “

In my profession  as a psychologist, I am ALL ABOUT CHANGE.  People suffer much frustration in life, much of it directed back at themselves, because they allow opportunities for change to pass by. They get stuck with what is known, with what they are comfortably-uncomfortable with……therefore, they become stagnant, as they settle.

Don’t most, if not all of us have personal issues, self-esteem or personal growth issues that we want to improve upon ?  For one person it may be their weight, for another it is their frustration with a go-no-where job, and yet for others it is a stagnant or even abusive relationship that they feel unable to extract themselves from. Don’t we just want to feel more CONTROL in our lives ? Don’t we want to feel some PASSION ?

Some think long and hard about making changes, but then the FEARS set in. The fear of failure, rejection. embarrassment or ridicule. Many are so dependent on approval that they allow what they think others will say influence so much of what they do, or don’t do to stretch beyond the norm.

So what do we do ?

We buy more self-help books looking for  some magic pill. We go to a Self-esteem or healing seminar looking for an EPIPHANY, a previously hidden realization that just comes from out of the blue.

Well, you are making authors of these books and seminars rich, but how often do books and seminars actually bring about change ?

I DO believe we can all find more happiness with who we are and what we do, but we need to explore our personalities, explore our past and see where we have felt passion, where we have felt something special. We sometimes are so busy focusing on our self-perceived weaknesses, that we cannot see through the clouds of doubt we create.

Nothing I say here is going to cause a massive change in the way we avoid options to grow through making changes. But maybe I can hit a nerve with just you. Look at some of those weaknesses, and maybe there are some hidden strengths. You may be shy, but are you a good listener ? You maybe have made some bad choices in your life, but what have you learned from those  choices ? Tell me about your personality. What makes you different than some others ?  I  bet you are not taking advantage of what makes you really different.

What have you experienced in your life that has caused you to feel some passion, some inner excitement ? Don’t drown out these thoughts with those always present negative and often obsessive thoughts and fears.

Are you more logical and analytic ? Are you more emotional ? Do you have patience when dealing with others ? Are you persistent ? Do people come to you for advice ? Are you sensitive to the needs of others ? Are you especially creative ? Can you take up a cause and see it through ?

People so often take jobs because they were just there. How often do people explore jobs that actually fit their personality, fit their emotional needs ?

And how about our choices in relationships ? What initially attracts us to a special person, especially when we are young, does not often hold and nurture a relationship later on. How many of us find ourselves naturally attracted to opposites, maybe because we are drawn to someone who appears to have different qualities than we do ?
What about what we REALLY NEED in a relationship ?

Yes, we can all make changes that would greatly enhance our happiness in our personal life, relationships and career or avocation. But if we take the time to truly explore the nature of who we are, what makes us unique, what brings us sustained pleasure and a sense of worth and value at the end of the day, and lay out a game plan, step by step to explore the possibilities rather than overwhelm ourselves by thinking huge steps instead of small, frequent steps, we might actually be able to make changes without becoming paralyzed by fear.

If you are interested in exploring this further, come to our On-Line Support Group on Sunday evenings at 9 ET. It is free, and we can all work on creating a game plan for change that would not stimulate so much fear.

Go to : www.OneStepataTime.com

Join and become a member…It’s Free !

Then Join us in our Support Group on Sundays.

Also Check out our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

See us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Gene.Benedetto  and then join our Facebook Group, RuledByFear.  Options and choices ! What WILL you do ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Phobias Can Shut You Down !

by on Nov.13, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

So he is terrified of bees, so much so that he could not leave his house during the Summer. When he comes to the office, I see him smiling through the reception window. Why would a child suffering with phobias be smiling ? Because I help him realize he is not crazy, not weak, but just suffering from anxiety.

He was only bitten once by a bee, and nothing tragic happened ! It just stung for a second. No allergic reaction, no reason for such an exaggerated reaction that would keep him imprisoned in his home. Ah, but there IS a reason if you know what to look for.

Earlier in his life he was made fun of for being ADD, you know, hyperactive and impulsive. Then, he recalled being harassed by other kids because he had an amusing middle name. He felt horrible about that, and anxious as some kids would slap him on the back as they passed by him on the playground. These are the kind of issues, that when experienced early in a child’s life, can make him feel weak and unaccepted, angry and confused about how safe the world is.

It is these kind of experiences  that make a person feel MORE vulnerable, be more prone to anxiety and experience damage to their self-esteem, and sense of feeling of being Out Of Control. www.RuledByFear.com
Gene Benedetto
Psychologist / Coach

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Selective Mutism

by on Aug.07, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

Just a Thought…

From Benhaven Counseling, LLC

I have been seeing an increase in the number of children experiencing what is called Selective Mutism. I typically see only clients with significant anxiety symptoms, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Selective Mutism fits right in. SE is considered an anxiety disorder, and must be very carefully treated and requires a great deal of cooperation between the parents, teachers, school counselors and the primary care physician, most often a pediatrician with the therapist coordinating the treatment.

I have had three such cases this year so far, and have enjoyed seeing some very successful results. In my latest case, the young girl was about to enter High School, but has not spoken to anyone outside her family members since Kindergarten. Obviously, one would think that a child who does not speak, when there is nothing physically wrong, must have gone through some serious traumas. However, none of the three I have seen recently have had what one would call a trauma.

The young girl I mentioned is now talking rather fluently and is very pleased with herself, but her progress depended upon building a very special trust, a bond with me as her therapist. Our treatment consisted of taking very small steps to test that trust. When she did begin to speak to me, it had been after a step by step process of letting her know SHE HAD CONTROL of those steps, because I find with most anxiety disorders, the fear of being OUT OF CONTROL is one of the single most important issues to keep in mind during therapy. Once we prepared her to take the next step, speaking to her teacher and classmates after eight years of silence, she was successful, but within minutes after speaking and sharing, she went up to a child in the class and gave her a piece of her mind. I knew through our therapy, that there was both fear and anger involved in the complex of emotions that had held back her speech. Once she had her voice, she asserted herself towards a girl who had been somewhat a bully since kindergarten.

Most of my child clients, but especially my SE clients, are fearful of expressing how they feel, for fear of rejection, embarrassment. They learn to keep their voice to themselves in order to protect themselves.

Their may be a little SE in many of you, in that, even though you may talk, you may avoid much of what you really need or want to say out of fear.
Just a thought !!!

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling

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Anger and Contamination Issues

by on Jul.03, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

One of the most common emotions that is a trigger for panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors is ANGER. Sometimes we would rather believe that our anxiety symptoms ARE caused by something physical, something we can just take medications for and then they will go away.

But the reality, in my opinion as a therapist, is that most panic and OCD symptoms, while able to be decreased somewhat by medications, are caused by emotional conflicts, issues and people that we have a HABIT of avoiding.

One of my clients who has fought hard to take control of his OCD, and has made significant progress, put it this way: “ I am angry with myself for believing that I am so incompetent, that I cannot do anything right. I use my obsession with contaminating others as an alternative to dealing with this anger with myself ”. This is a great and potentially healing insight on his part. As a child, he perceived that he could do nothing right in the eyes of his father. As a child and adolescent, he did not realize that his father’s
unrealistic expectations and inability to praise were all part of his father’s insecurities which caused him to hide from his fears by demanding of his son. All the son saw and felt was that he was incompetent in the eyes of the father, a perception of self that the son adopted early on and which festered through his adult life.

That anger caused him to feel that there was something WRONG within himself, as anger toward the father, and more deeply toward himself for being weak, caused him to feel “out of control” within his own skin.

Rather than deal with that anger, my client was caught up with his obsessive worry over contamination and his ritualistic behaviors which included hand washing, excessive washing of clothes, or stockpiling clothing that he feared were contaminated, etc.

His obsessions and compulsive behaviors allowed him to ignore the anger brewing within him.

Now, with great effort on his part and a very, very supportive but firm wife, he is taking control of his OCD, but as important, or actually more so, he IS realizing and dealing with his anger both towards his father and himself.
He has made great and significant progress, and as proud of him as we all are, he knows he has more work ahead of him.

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She Speaks !!!

by on May.28, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

She Speaks !!!!!

I had mentioned in an earlier article about a young lady I was working with who had not spoken to anyone but her mother since first grade. She was referred to me as a case of “selective mutism” in that we knew there was no physiological barriers to her speech, but yet she would not utter a single word outside the protective walls of her home.

When I met her, she was thirteen, and was about to graduate from eight grade. Although accommodations had been made for her in her small private elementary school, High school would present more problems for a child who could, but would not speak.

She had been to other therapists, but she resisted their efforts. I did not ask, nor did I want to know what methods or approaches they had tried, as I did not want to be influenced in any way. I wanted to get my own feel for this child and the psychological and sociological factors that caused her to “choose” to be mute.

I found that as an only child, she had been somewhat sheltered and protected, but certainly loved. There had been a difficult kindergarten and first grade experience where this young child had possibly experienced some overwhelming pressures, but all in all, there were no serious traumas.

I focused of developing a trusting relationship with her, with the thought that as I got to know her, I would learn the conflicts and issues that were most likely sources for her unique anxiety reaction.

I made sure to let her know that even though I would suggest steps to take to face her “fear” of speaking, I would expect HER to decide which steps or how big a step to take. Feeling in control is a crucial issue for most who are experiencing panic attacks, significant anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. So, I let her know that I would be her “coach”, but she had to decide what steps were to be taken ……an we together developed a step by step plan that took us from gradually making nonsense sounds just to make noise, to a progression of steps where she could see that whatever she feared was not an issue as we move up the hierarchy of our joint plan.

It took a few months, but two weeks ago, as I went to bring her in from the waiting room, the smiles on the faces of both mother and child said it all. She had progressed, step by step, and was able to give a short speech to her class about her Summer plans.

I was as excited for her as if it were my first case, because I knew she so wanted to feel in control of her life, but fear was holding her back.

At the next appointment, her mom reported some interesting results. Not only had she talked more and more to her fellow classmates, but she was overheard “telling a few of the bullies in school what she thought about them”. She had not only found her voice, but years of repressing to avoid rejection, embarrassment and the cruel games that children can play, had finally found an outlet for expression.

It took patience, and the realization that she had control of the steps she could take to find her voice. Steps allowed her to move against her fears in small enough bites that she did not choke. She was able to get the internal feedback that she was OK, which tehn gave her the strength and trust in self that she could do more.

The word is out, don’t cross her or you will get a piece of her mind, in the form of words that she had stored up for years.

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

by on May.08, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

Drew had been gradually taking more and more control of his obsessive-compulsive symptoms. He was actually quite surprised that he had such control after years of being troubled by intrusive thoughts and fears and the need to “check” , to go back on anything he did to make sure it was right. He would, in the past, take hours out of his day to go back and do his work over again for fear he forgot something and check any reports over and over to make sure there were no errors. His checking was so out of control that it was effecting his ability to do his job.

However, Drew had learned in therapy that there was a reason for him falling into his obsessive –compulsive behaviors, and that the intrusive thoughts that he had to check for fear of somehow failing or being out of control was all part of his need to feel in control of his life. He learned that ANGER was his issue !

He was brought up in an atmosphere where he learned to never express how he felt, to suppress his emotions in order to prevent arguments, possible rejection and conflicts.
So, once he learned there was a reason, he made a very big effort to recognize his anger and deal with those feelings more effectively. As a result, his intrusive thoughts were minimal, and his urges to check were decreased to the point of being rare.

So when Drew came for a follow-up appointment a few months later expressing that his compulsive need to check things was showing up again, it was not hard to discover why.

Drew had slipped back into his old habitual patterns of avoiding conflict. Yes, even with all the progress he had made, with all his insight and successes, it was all to easy to fall back into the “avoidant” mode he had so often practiced most of his life.

As soon as he had felt better, he lapsed back into avoidance and did not realize the slide. As soon as I mentioned “avoidance” he responded, “ How could I not see this. I just got back from a family trip to see my parents and siblings, and while there I found myself getting angry as my sister and sister in law both kept yelling at my kids, saying things to them that I felt were hurtful. I would take my kids out to play when it happened, but I never said a word to the offending parties. How could I not see I was avoiding ? I told myself that I was doing good by protecting my kids in that I removed them from the situation, but I never expressed my frustration, I never said a word. Just talking about it now makes me so angry. I am angry with them, but I am so very angry with MYSELF for being weak, for not taking control.”

This is how our mind works. It does not make us bad people, but avoiding makes us think and feel thoughts that are very uncomfortable. Those thoughts of being angry with ourselves lead to inner conflicts that spawn a sense of being out of control. Hence, we find ourselves doubting ourselves, second-guessing, checking.

Drew took this all in, and began to redevelop a plan to discuss his feelings with the offending parties and his family, to take control. He had to feel more assertive, that he was not going to accept the feelings that came over him when he avoided. Those feelings would instead be what would stimulate him to take appropriate ACTION rather than AVOID.


Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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When Approval Becomes and Obsession

by on Apr.03, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

If you see yourself as an approval seeking personality, one who either tends try to fix and take care of others [caregiver] , tends to bend over backwards to do what you feel people expect of you [conformer], or stretch to the point of often overwhelming yourself in order to do the “shoulds” [perfectionist], you may be at risk.

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting approval, and working hard to seek it as long as you are not sacrificing bits and pieces of who you are and what you need and want to truly feel a sense of fulfillment in your life.

The issue becomes more of a troubling one when the “want” truly becomes an “NEED”.
When a caregiving person needs to be needed to the degree that a dependency on being needed is formed and resentment or anger develops as people do not recognize that the caregiver also had needs. The caregiver may even deny their needs, or not recognize they exist so as to ensure their role as the caregiver.

The conformer may strive to do what is expected, or better yet, what they perceive people expect of them, but how far does a person go to seek that approval if in fact, he may not always agree with what others want ? What happens to a person’s personality and self-esteem when they avoid their own needs, sacrifice what they want or believe in only to please another ? What price does the conformer pay for that approval ?

The perfectionist, oh how she may strive to be the best at what she does. But, if as is often the case, at the heart of all that effort is the want for approval, what happens when all she does is taken for granted and expected? She tries even harder, of course. And then comes the burn-out.

No, there is nothing wrong with wanting or seeking approval. It is NEEDING it that becomes the obsession.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Attracting Difficult People !

by on Mar.27, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

Sometimes we ATTRACT difficulty people. The adapting personalities are most vulnerable to these harder to please and often very needy personality types.


Adapting personalities are most often those of us who seek approval, who stretch beyond the norm to help, fix, please or do what we feel “should” be done for our fellow man. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it ? However, manipulative, controlling and needy people tend to pick up the signals given off by adapting, approval seeking personalities, so we are on their radar. And, our problem is that we have a hard time setting boundaries. It is a good thing to be there for others, however, if you do not keep your eyes wide open and your emotional barometers set on “alert”, you miss the usually obvious indications that you are being taken advantage of, even emotionally abused and used.

Yes, open your eyes. You can take stock of those family members, friends and peers who take more energy from you then they ever attempt to replace through similar good deeds and efforts to be there for you. Make a list right now of all the “significant” people in your life. How much emotional and physical effort do you put into pleasing each of those individuals ? Have you ever asked any of these people for help or assistance, large or small, frequent of seldom ? Can you depend on them as they depend on you ?

This is not to say you can not or should not do something out of the “goodness of your heart”. However, stand back and look at how much energy you put out versus how much you are taking back in. Unless you run on air, the lack of some energy returning into your space by those you care about and stretch to assist, will lead eventually to feelings of anger and resentment not only towards the offending person, but also towards yourself because anger makes you feel out of sorts, and in conflict.

What do YOU think ? Is there a balance in your life ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Am I Just A Weak Person ?

by on Mar.27, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

Something that came to my attention recently as I was discussing this issue with one of my clients who has made significant progress in dealing with his intrusive thoughts and panic attacks is the fact that after all is said and done, he still sees himself as weak for having had these symptoms.

While I certainly understand that many people feel the same way, that if we were stronger emotionally and psychologically, we would not be so vulnerable to panic or OCD, I believe we need to stand back and look hard at the source of these anxiety symptoms.

Now, I feel compelled to say from the onset, that there may be cases where my argument may not apply. However, I am not concerned about proving anything to anyone,but rather sharing from my experience over the past forty years of offering therapy to clients suffering from panic and OCD.

You are free to consider that a person MAY have some genetic predisposition or some unidentified chemical imbalance that causes these symptoms. Certainly, the fact that there are medications such as the SSRI’s and SSNRI’s {Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, etc.} that seem to alleviate some symptoms in some people, offers some evidence for those who argue the genetic or chemical imbalance theory.

However, I suggest you consider, that these medications do not get to the true source, but raise or alter our bodies chemistry so that we might deal with the symptoms more effectively. I have no problem with these medications, as I suggest them to many of my clients because i know that they do not initially have the faith and trust in themselves, nor the knowledge on hand to cope with their symptoms without medications. But, I believe that most of my clients, who in fact experience significant reduction of symptoms, and often report no further symptoms, are a testament to the reality that it is our thinking patterns, our insecure and conflicting thoughts and emotions and our avoiding change that creates the atmosphere in which panic and OCD arises.

So, I offer you the option to consider, that not is not a sign of weakness that you might experience these symptoms, but that you unknowingly create the symptoms because you allow yourself to be overwhelmed as you seek approval without setting boundaries as to the degree you subject yourself to others due to your NEED for that approval. You seek approval as a caregiver, but then allow yourself to be used. You conform to others wishes and demands and do what you perceive they expect from you at the expense of your own self esteem. You burn yourself out proving your worth and value to negate the chance of rejection or disapproval in the eyes of others. I could go on and on.

The point is, that many of us who have suffered these symptoms do so because we stretch so far NEEDING approval in order to feel worth and value, instead of finding that approval in what we do.

Some KEY ISSUES are:

1. The excessive need for outside approval instead of nurturing approval from within, which creates a unhealthy dependency on others which makes us vulnerable, and leads us to feel OUT OF CONTROL.

2. Our FEAR OF CHANGE, and therefore our habit of AVOIDING so that even if we somehow realize the emotional and psychological conflicts that are leading us into our symptoms, we fear taking any stand to change any of our dependent behaviors.

3. Our habit of falling into an all or nothing mode if we are finally pushed to make changes, instead of working to develop a healthy, step by step game plan for change. Then, of course, the all or nothing approach dooms many to be overwhelmed so that he or she shuts down and gives into their old dependent ways.

So, is it weakness, or a want for approval that turns into a need because we do not understand, or see that it is natural for the adapting personalities, [the Caregivers, Conformers, and Perfectionists and sometimes the Peacekeepers], to lose sight of a ‘want turning to a need’. While these are some of the most caring and productive members of our society, often the first to step up in the face of crises, they are unaware of the dependency that develops when they do not know how, or fail to set boundaries and care for themselves, nurture themselves, learn to say, I need a balance in my life.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Intrusive Thoughts of Self Abuse

by on Mar.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors can appear baffling at first, as the person reports dealing with intrusive thoughts and urges that seem to make no sense to them or anyone else, yet they feel compelled to respond to those thoughts and urges through compulsive and ritualistic behaviors.

One such case that I dealt with in the past was a perfect example of this confusing, yet strangely logical behavior. This young woman, in her twenties, would feel compelled to wash her face in a strangely ritualistic way, where she would take twenty or thirty minutes to carry out what should be a simple task. Why? Because as she went through what is a normal and natural task for many, she was plagued by the fear that she would somehow scratch, cut or in some way scar her face with her hands or finger nails. Every move she made as her hands came closer to her face, had to be carefully thought out, as she watched for any sign of some form of self abuse.

Yes, it sounds weird, yet I will tell you there are many people suffering from these kind of intrusive-obsessive thoughts and their companion ritualistic behaviors. Maybe some one you think you know very well, maybe even you privately suffer under the control of such fears.

Whether one subscribes to the theory that people with OCD are suffering due to some chemical imbalance, or whether you feel it is primarily psychologically based, my experience has been that there are most often emotional traumas or conflicts at the core of this behavior.

With this young lady, I helped her realize that there was a pattern to her symptoms.
At the times when her intrusive thoughts and urges to scratch and harm her face were at their highest, there was almost always some issue of conflict going on in her life. Not just any conflict, but personally significant conflicts that had repeated themselves many many times since childhood.

As a child, she was bullied and made fun of incessantly, and her response to all this emotional abuse was to either shrink into her private little world, or after a time and some build up, explode with anger. Both the withdrawal and emotional explosions caused her to feel very out of control emotionally.

When she avoided dealing with the bullies, she felt weak and angry not just with the abusers, but with herself. Self hatred became a part of her private thoughts.

When she would finally explode with anger at the abuser, she felt just as out of control, and therefore her self esteem and self talk was further in the dumper.

Later in life, when she did get a job, the pattern continued. She worked hard to gain approval, over-extending herself many times over hoping for that pat of the back and hopefully a promotion or raise. However, her apparent meekness allowed her to be a target of bosses who would take advantage of her, make promises that were never kept.

She needed to take steps to not be so vulnerable to their games. Otherwise, the anger would build as she felt weak or then she would have a blow-out.

We worked to help her realize that her OCD had a source for sure on the emotional side, so we focused on her taking steps to put herself in a less vulnerable position. She did great work, got very good write-ups, but now was taking those write-ups to other potential employers. She was working to see that she was a valuable person in her field. All her efforts to please had made her a very knowledgeable and capable individual in her career. Once her employer heard through the grapevine that she was looking elsewhere, he began treating her with more respect. He promised her a promotion as soon as the next batch of new positions was posted. I advised my client to post for those jobs, but continue to search on the outside, and let it be known in a quiet way, that she was looking for the best opportunity.

The more she was able to keep her momentum going, working hard but searching for other employment, the better and more in control she felt. The more she took steps to not be vulnerable to her bosses games, the less anger and resentment she felt because she was not cowering to her boss. There were no explosions of anger because she knew she was taking steps to take care of herself. The more she felt in control of her emotions, the weaker and less frequent her fears or self abusing her face came to the surface.

The point is that much of the Intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior were symbolic manifestations of her true life anger and resentment towards those who would abuse her and toward herself for allowing it.

It will take time to gain full control of the OCD, as the fears run deep and the tendency to fall back into avoidant behavior is strong. However. with growing and consistent effort, she can gain control. Medications can be used to help subdue some of the obsessive thinking, but the real need to is realize and deal with the source issues and conflicts.

Gene Benedetto

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