When Fear Rules !

Tag: Fear of Being Alone

A Sense of Purpose in Your Life ?

by on Jul.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have previously held the belief that people, by nature, want to feel a sense of worth and value to their lives, not just exist, or be dependent. Further, I always believed that people thrive when they have goals, feel they are doing something meaningful and purposeful on a day to day basis. Don’t people feel a little “high” when the have stretched and conquered an issue, problem or challenge ?

I guess I still believe all that, because, everyday in my work as a therapist, I see that most of the clients who are experiencing anxiety or depression report that they feel stuck or trapped in their lives. They often begrudgingly report  that they have given in to their fears of failure and rejection and have become complacent. Further, they painfully admit to themselves that they have avoided change, options to grow and stretch.The slippery slope of avoidance can take a person down to the point that he or she cannot see any chance of digging their way out. Avoidance warps our sense of self, diminishes our self-esteem which further limits our ability to change and grow.

How many mornings do you wake up excited about what you are planning to do that day ? When was the last time you felt you were doing something really meaningful in your life ? Do you have goals at work that get your adrenalin pumping ? Do you del a passion in your life ? Do you feel your relationship with your spouse and kids is where you want it to be ?

You cannot truly avoid the reality of avoidance in your life ! You may deny it to others, but you know. It haunts you in your private moments.

When I sit with most of my clents, what I see behind the cloudiness of their symptoms is often the reality, that somewhere along their life, they lost their sense of purpose.

Out of fear of failure or rejection, or due to the erosion of self-esteem that comes from avoiding challenges to their personal growth, they often do not consciously realize that they have lost a sense of meaning to their lives. They are just so focused on how they feel, which is either anxious or depressed, that they are unaware that much of what they feel is a result of the complacency that has crept into their lives, the lack of intimacy they are experiencing, the lack of involvement in anything truly special for which they could feel passionate.

So, ask yourself, when was the last time you felt passionate about anything special going on in your life ? It is never too late to embrace change !
Yes, I know change can be scary at times. But when you set a reasonable goal to face something or someone you have avoided, and then create a hierarchy of steps to approach that person or issue, each step can help to motivate the next step to be taken.

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When Children Show Compulsive Behaviors !

by on Jul.14, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

When Children Show Compulsive Behaviors

I certainly try to be sensitive to anyone who experiences panic attacks, obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors {OCD}, but can you imagine how even more frightening it is for a child ?
Sadly, I am seeing more an more children suffering from these anxiety symptoms than ever before.  In reality, the sources for their symptoms are pretty much in line with why adults experience them, but since they are children, it is easier to see the cycle from stress, to anxiety, to panic and OCD.
Our children are under so much more social pressure at even younger ages.  The pressure to fit in and be accepted can put the child in such a conflicting state before his or her mind or life experience has prepared that child with any coping strategies.
The pain I see in parents’ eyes is so heart-breaking as they are expressing their concern over their child’s fearful, obsessive thoughts or the need to perform rituals like turning on and off light switches repeatedly before the child can leave a room, or hand-washing until the child’s skin is raw.
But there is almost always an answer if one looks hard enough and listens to the child. With one child I recall, I attempted to calm her fears at the first appointment by saying, ” I know this need or urge to check things or do things over and over must make you really feel like something is wrong, but i promise you that you and I can discover why this is happening and we can make a plan so you will be able to control these behaviors.
Often, the urges to check or repeat things is just a sign that there are other things happening in your life that cause you to feel scared, maybe overwhelmed. Like maybe there are things you are dealing with that make you feel angry or confused as to what is right or wrong. Can you think of any things going on either at home or with kids at school?”
The tears started immediately. She sobbed. She then said she thought she was going crazy because she had to do these things over and over and it made  no sense, but yes, she was angry about some things happening among her friends. Yes, that anger was a bad feeling. She was ashamed of herself for feeling such anger {conflict}. She had befriended a new girl in school, tried to make her feel welcome, but that same girl was spreading lies about her.This new girl was trying  to take my client’s friends away from her.
So this child was experiencing the dark side  of a person whom she had opened her arms to, and she felt such immense conflict over the situation, and guilt over the resulting anger, that she began manifesting bizarre behaviors.That is often how OCD  sometimes works. Her little world was feeling so out of control. So her compulsive rituals were a way to  symbolically create some control in that world
Look at this simple example, and apply it to an adult’s situation, with layers of denial and avoidance and you can see that the same pattern of conflict exists in many such cases. Food for thought ?
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
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A Child Abused, What Would You Do ?

by on Jun.08, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

This trip to San Clemente was another eye-opener. I came here to spend time with my grand-kids, but also to research and work with organizations that attempt to help children who are being abused, emotionally, physically and sexually, and often all three. I have found some very active organizations that work hard to serve these children, and one in particular worth mentioning  is the Center for Community Services in San Diego. Of course, my talking about these kids or some of the special people who are out there trying to serve these kids in need does little to help the problem, because  most people are aghast when they hear about a child suffering abuse, but because it is so uncomfortable a thought, it gets shoved away somewhere in the deeper recesses of the mind.

On the other hand, if you would go to the CCSSD web site and actually go to one of their functions, actually ask questions and get involved, you may get hooked ! I am not talking about just throwing money at the problem, although that would help, but REALLY getting involved. No matter where you live, you can go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. So many who would abuse children get away with their heinous deeds because of the lack of outcry and support.

When there is domestic abuse, to me one of the worst types, it is often covered up by parents, or dealt with internally by the family without bringing in appropriate services. The issue is often that of not wanting to bring shame upon the family. ” We thought we could handle it “, is what I have heard. While any child being abused is totally unacceptable, when it is a parent, sibling, or other relative who is the abuser, it is especially ugly and harmful because the abuse is done by someone loved and trusted. Think how that screws with the mind of a child. Who in the child’s world can be trusted !!! How does it feel as an adult when one feels there is no one to be trusted ? But a child !!!

One of the last cases I worked with that is a horrible example of what can happen is a 19 year old who was raped on a college campus. Well, you might say, that is not a child. However, her reactions to the rape and the fact that the incident went unreported by the young lady because her father forbid her to say anything to anyone, sent off alarms in my mind. This young lady shared with me because there was no one else she could trust to share with, but all my attempts to find her therapy and appropriate guidance was met with, “No, my dad would kill me.” Yes, my radar was functioning at full power and I gradually drew out of this child that she had been physically and emotionally abused by her dad since she was about fourteen, and within the last year, he began crossing the line sexually. In hopes that her father would eventually stop hurting her and love her again, she forbade me to expose him.

I cannot go into any more detail, first because this is a case I am still working on, and secondly because the details would turn your stomach into knots.
I was able to get her to leave her home and go to her Uncle and Aunt for protection, but even they could not deal with the evil behavior of her father. Out of fear and shame, they kept silent and actually allowed the abuse to continue under their own eyes. Without anyone willing to press charges, my hands were tied. This young lady ended her life at 20, as the only way to escape her abuser. I will forever be haunted by the fact that there was nothing I could do, but i would hope that a few of you may also be haunted by the picture that might be forming in your minds of this young lady’s ordeal, and that you will get involved in your community. Contact CCSSD if in San Diego, or go to  the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence  and see what programs and services exist in your state, in your backyard, Yes, your backyard because domestic violence happens ever hour of every day in just about every community in our so-called civilized society.

Don’t AVOID ! Do something that will add even more meaning to your life ! Do something to help protect these kids.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:  www.RuledByFear.com

Website/ Newsletter / On-Line Support Group : www.OneStepataTime.com

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Feeling Overwhelmed ???

by on May.28, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I bet you know what it feels like to be overwhelmed ! I think we all experience that feeling at one time or another, just some more than others.

I could imagine feeling overwhelmed when the boss comes in to your office without any pre-warning and announces that your position has been eliminated.

Maybe feeling overwhelmed would occur when a company you work for is downsizing and you have been given the responsibilities of two other employees.

I could certainly imagine a person feeling overwhelmed when they get a call informing them that their home has burnt to the ground while they were on vacation.

You do not have much choice in any of these examples, as you either sink or swim. But at least you know what you are reacting to.

A picture that comes to my mind is that of a person with that anguished look on his or her face, with hands covering the ears or the side of the head. That is an understandable and almost international symbol of being overwhelmed , and why not, since the anxiety symptoms one feels at that moment originate in the brain.

Once one’s brain chemistry is activated by whatever we perceive as threatening our status quo, the fight or flight mechanism takes over and triggers symptoms throughout the body.

That does not mean there is something wrong in the brain, but that your brain chemistry is simply reacting to the overwhelming thoughts and stimulation.

You can feel dizziness, light-headed, even feel like you will faint, maybe your is heart beating a little faster than normal, maybe that feeling of just wanting to run or hide…to escape. Weakness in the limbs, shortness of breath and tingling in the scalp are not uncommon.

Hmmm, actually sounds like an anxiety or panic attack. However, if whatever is creating that sense of being overwhelmed can be seen and understood by the person experiencing the symptoms, he or she may escape a full blown panic episode because the person MAY be able to identify the source, and talk himself or herself down. For others, it may take more time to  recognize what is happening, and the anxiety may in fact flow into a panic attack, which will eventually pass but leave the person feeling like he or she was hit by a bus. Typically, that’s it ! Not fun, but not at all life threatening.

Emotional Conflict, where conflicting thoughts and feelings are present, and are worsened by our avoidance of the issues or people who are creating that conflict, creates the same sense of “overload”. In other words, having strong thoughts and feelings about an issue, but remaining silent in order to avoid rejection, possible failure…which means avoiding the conflict.

How about your approaching graduation from college, but having no idea of what you want to do with your life. Maybe a woman who gave up a career to have children, but feels torn by her desire and passion versus guilt of wanting to return to work. How about feeling guilt over avoiding an intrusive parent who meddles in your marriage.What if you have been in an abusive relationship for so long that you feel “stuck”.

 

The difference between these examples and the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph is that 1] the individual experiencing the anxiety may not be fully aware of what is causing the symptoms, which can make the experience even MORE overwhelming, and 2] if the person is aware of what is stimulating anxiety, he or she is also faced with OPTIONs and CHOICES, which always tends to create even more inner turmoil.

The previous examples are obvious, in your face situations or conflicts, so you have a pretty good idea what you are reacting to, and knowledge of the source may help to ground you, and cause you to immediately look at steps you must take to deal with the crisis or traumatic event. You are less likely to think your reactions are signs that you are  losing it or going crazy !

However, in the latter examples, these tend to be ongoing issues that we avoid looking at or dealing with and tend to keep them suppressed. The key word here is “avoid” ! We avoid over time which tends to eat at our self-esteem and our sense of trusting ourselves to do what is best for our own personal well-being. So what happens when you are faced with avoiding a conflict with someone in your life with the attached fear of ridicule, embarrassment, failure or rejection versus failing to do what is best for YOU and your mental and often physical health ? What happens to your sense of self-worth ? Where do you draw the line ?Where do you set boundaries ?

Well, in my work, I see people every day who are experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, NOT because there is something wrong with their brain chemistry, but because CONFLICT is present and their avoidance of that conflict is creating overwhelming inner anxiety. Sadly, when they come to me, they are so wrapped up with their symptoms, and the true source for their anxieties is so repressed because of fear, that the symptoms actually can act as a distraction from the source issues.

These are just thoughts for you to consider and I welcome your comments here or e-mail me at RuledByFear@Gmail.com  !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

To Sign up for FREE Newsletter  and join us in our Free Support Group On-Line most Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET go to:

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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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Fear…It Rules Our Lives !

by on May.14, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Fear…It Rules Our Lives.

None of us can escape the effects of fear. In the Big Picture, most fear death or suffering. However, on a more day to day basis, fear pops up and rules much of our lives at either a conscious  or subconscious level. Fear creates a sense of being out of control in some way, and we certainly do not enjoy that sensation

Our fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment and retaliation play havoc in our lives as it snuffs out or limits many of our efforts to stretch, try new things, speak our minds,  and allow us to truly feel more “in control” of our lives.

There is a dark side in people, yes all of us. I know, we do not like to think that of ourselves, but really, we have dark and angry thoughts about others. We might gossip and say hurtful things about another person. We might justify and rationalize anything from cheating a little on taxes, driving over the speed limit, and of course cheating in relationships.
Hopefully, many of us have a conscience that keeps that dark side at bay, or at least recognizes the need to pull the reigns in on our behavior when it crosses that imaginary line where guilt. shame or fear of consequences awaits to pounce.

But the reality is sadly evident that not everyone has that degree of conscience. I see so many of my clients suffering from the emotional conflict which leads to anger, which leads to guilt for allowing their dark feelings out as they have been victims of needy, abusive, manipulative or controlling people. That is a mouthful ! But the fact is that many severe anxiety or panic attack symptoms and obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are symptoms people experience because they do feel emotional conflict in their lives. One frequent source of such emotional conflict is when we allow, yes I said “allow” people to use and abuse us. We feel anger when people do harm to us, but even more so, we often feel anger with ourselves for being suckers, or gullible in the face of the users and abusers.

For many of us, our want for approval and acceptance, our desire for community, to belong, and our need for validation by others causes us to be sitting ducks for those who recognize  our adapting, conscience oriented natures.

How can we take control ?

First, realize the truth that not everyone has the same morals and ethics, i.e., conscience.

Secondly, recognize the users and abusers in your life.

They may be the “needy ones”,the users, who you know are selfish, self-absorbed, habitually blame everyone else for the ills of the world, but never seem to be there when you infrequently need them.They can make up stories to defend their positions, and come to believe those stories to be true even in the face of contrary evidence. They can be extremely defensive and try to turn the tables on you by using guilting tactics. Do you know anyone like that, hmmm ?

Then there are the “controlling and manipulative ones” who prey on their knowledge that you seek approval and acceptance. They can be charming, and are often quite bright and astute at using shame, guilt and veiled threats as tools to get you to succumb to their wishes. They often try to divide and conquer by saying things to cause you to doubt people in your support system, because they know if they can separate you from the crowd, you are more vulnerable. That’s the “divide and conquer game”. They can lie without flinching, without as much as a bead of sweat. They come in all different sizes and from mild to severe degrees of evil intent. It may be the stock broker who swindles you, a boss who sexually harasses you, or the full out sexual, physical or emotional abuser.

Most often, the adapting conscience-bound personality types, once abused by this type of damaged soul, will not say anything to their support people for fear of looking foolish and weak. Especially when physical, sexual and emotional abuse occurs, the abuser fully takes advantage of the shame and guilt routine to shut their victims up. One tactic the abuser may play out is to keep repeating the mantras, “You must have really wanted me to do this or you would have stopped me “. Or the classic, “Look how angry you feel, look at the dark side in yourself, see, you are no better than I am !”  Then of course there is the line, ” No one will believe you, and you will just end up feeling shame and guilt for what has happened, so you cannot tell anyone.”  Finally, and one of the ugliest games, ” You will not say anything because you know I would come back and hurt you or others that you care about. So just suck it up !”

So what can we do to protect ourselves ?

Take stock of the people in your life and remember step one and two above. Don’t be naive and gullible.

If you are dealing with one of the “needy ones”, start setting limits and boundaries as to if and when you interact with that person. You might respectfully approach that person saying that you are sharing what you honestly feel when he or she treats you that way,  and then give him or her an example of the behavior that is unacceptable to you. If that person seems to have insight into what you are saying and makes an effort to change, great ! If they repeat the hurtful behavior again, cut it off ! They are damaging to your self-esteem. And, that person will not change until they recognize consequences for their hurtful behavior, which seldom happens as too many just avoid saying anything. You may be doing them a favor by at least trying to help them face their sabotaging behaviors. However, don’t hold your breath.

Also, make sure you are spending time developing and nurturing other healthier friendships, so your fear of being alone or without friends dose not cause you to allow yourself to be an on-going victim.

When dealing with or recognizing the ” controlling-manipulative types”, remember…

Document things that are said and done with dates and times and verbatim notes.

Share your experiences with trusted friends and, a counselor, the police. DO NOT GO IT ALONE !

Remember the divide and conquer routine, the tactics to use shame and guilt ? The abusers lose their power when you share what you have experienced because they do NOT want to be exposed. You have nothing to be ashamed about, but if you have a support system in place early on, as soon as you recognize who you are dealing with, you are much less likely to be emotionally  manipulated by the abuser as you feel the support and are reminded of the fact that you are not alone.

I have sadly dealt with many victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Some of the worst cases have been domestic violence, abuse within families. Many have suffered more severe and long lasting trauma because they did not follow the above advice no matter how I pleaded. I know it is an uncomfortable topic, but to ensure your mental, emotional and physical well-being, you need to realize that the reality exists.

Any thoughts or questions ?

Please share !

Remember my Blog, www.RuledByFear.com

Also, to receive our free weekly newsletter, or have the opportunity to join our free on-line Support group on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET, go to www.OneStepataTime.com

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Negative Thoughts Trash Self-Esteem

by on Apr.29, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I talk a lot about how crucial it is that we continue to challenge ourselves, to stretch and face obstacles. We all enjoy feeling we are doing something worthwhile and purposeful with our lives, that we are taking steps to accomplish things we have thought of doing.

However, most of us have a competing need to feel comfortable and safe.
It is like we have a part of our brain that daydreams and imagines while another part wants to protect, and that is the reality of what often does occur between our ears on a rather constant basis. This is especially true for the more adapting, approval seeking personality types. While your intellectual side says, “ I would like to do something special and more meaningful in my life”, the other side throws negative thoughts in your way to detour your efforts.

The more you allow yourself to give in to the detours, the more you weaken your resolve to stretch and take new steps, thereby creating even more negative self-talk that trashes your self-esteem. It’s a viscous cycle !

We know it has been a difficult job market out there. Great opportunities for personal growth are harder to find,  and many find themselves having to take a job that is below their expectations, just to have a job. Others lose jobs and find themselves filing for Unemployment Compensation, while I find some attempting to seek out Social Security Disability due to stress and depression. It is tough out there !

There is no perfect answer, but one thing I have seen is that even though the road map may have more detours than you are use to, it is still very important to stay on course. Yes, you may need to take a job that you feel is beneath you, or that is not on your career path, but what is critical is that you stay focused on the reality that this is just a detour, and that you continue to network and search for what you really want. At least you are working, which keeps you out there mingling with people, where others can see what you are capable of, and where you can feel more worth and value than if you are sitting home collecting unemployment.

I have seen many who have taken advantage of unemployment, which I can appreciate, but while receiving benefits, they do not search for jobs or take classes to improve their chances of securing a better job and staying focused on their personal growth. Many have said to me,”I will start looking once the Unemployment checks stop”. For so many, their self esteem weakens as they are not feeling productive and they are avoiding taking steps that would put them in a better place. After a while, their dreams die off and they settle for so much less than they want and deserve.

Then there are those who take jobs, but what they are doing is certainly not on par with what they planned. However, if it is a reasonable job, helps pay the bills, it is not surprising that many in that situation just become comfortably-uncomfortable with what they are doing. The longer they are in that limbo state, the more they weaken in personal resolve.

Now all of these people I am talking about most likely know they are avoiding doing what they need to do, but at the same time, they may want to avoid feeling potential rejection by continuing to job search. Obviously, since there is that underlying realization that they are avoiding, their self-esteem gets slammed as their negative self-talk becomes more intense.

In the case of my clients going through the above scenarios, they report that their anxiety symptoms have increased,  where they are either experiencing more panic attacks or that the obsessive/ intrusive thoughts or compulsive behavior is on the rise. Sure, they are feeling in conflict within themselves. They KNOW they are avoiding or giving in to the detours, not taking all the steps they should be. We cannot escape the ravages of avoidance on our self-esteem.

Of course, this does not just apply to job/career issues. The fact is that relationship issues and conflicts are huge triggers for anxiety symptoms. If a person is in a relationship where they are unhappy and unfulfilled, or even worse where they are being abused, manipulated or controlled, but avoids taking steps to make changes, they weaken day by day. The longer one stays in that type of friendship or relationship, the more our self esteem suffers, and the negative self-talk flourishes. Before you know it, we can start telling ourselves we do not deserve any better, or that we are not good enough to deserve what we truly want.

Obstacles are made to be challenged, but unless you are by nature an aggressive personality, you run the risk of a shrinking self-esteem if you avoid taking steps {not leaps} to challenge your fears and negative self-talk. That can easily lead to an emotional paralysis. Don’t let this happen. One Step at a Time ! Re-work your plan and goals. Set reasonable goals based on the changing climate out there, find support persons where you keep pushing each other ahead, but don’t dare settle.

Feel free to join me in our on-line Support Groups, Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET. Just go to http://www.OneStepataTime.com  and join as a free member.

And remember to visit our Blog at http://www.RuledByFear.com

We are on Facebook  :  https://www.facebook.com/groups/RuledByFear

We are also writing Blogs for the San Clemente California Patch, the Brecksville Ohio Patch and the Strongsville Ohio Patch on line Newspapers. Go to http://www.Patch.com .

Be Good to Yourself,

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Emotional Pain is Real Pain !

by on Apr.21, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

So this child comes to see me because there had been a minor accident where the child had fallen down some steps and sprained an ankle. The child was in obvious pain, wearing a cast and on crutches. You might ask, why is this young child seeing me, a psychologist ? Isn’t this the domain of a medical  doctor or physical therapist ?

Then there was an adult client, about forty, who was experiencing increasing and unexplainable pain in the  hips and legs,  as well  as some numbness which caused  depression as it limited this person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

Of course, I will never forget the thirteen year old child who would not, could not talk…since kindergarten. They called it Selective Mutism. About to graduate from eighth grade and make the transition to high school, this child was terribly fearful of being rejected and made fun of in high school, and that there would be no way to survive in that world without being able to talk.

In each of these cases, the clients were referred because there was no known reason for their pain or physical symptoms.

The fall that the child in the cast had experienced was over a year ago. Tests and examinations by the pediatrician and a neurologist found no reason for the physical pain over a year later.

The adult with the leg pains and numbness had been through every test known to man, and then some, but there was no known source for the symptoms, as real as they were.

And the child of thirteen with Selective Mutism wanted so much  to talk, and the doctors had no answers. This child had been to other therapists, but apparently, no one was listening.

All three of these individuals in pain were being thought of as fakers, malingerers, making up symptoms to get attention. Of course, there are many people who might fake pain for one reason or another, as that can be a means by which to avoid issues in their lives.

I certainly see my share of individuals who express physical and emotional symptoms, and yes, are faking it in order to make a case for being placed on Disability.
The only real pain they  feel is the whiplash as they are shown the door. There are way too many people who are truly suffering and need and deserve assistance. And our social security disability system is bent and yes, broken by the weight of malingerers and those that feel entitled, but with no cause.

But what if the pain was real !

Yes, and it was real in all three of these cases. After exploring the situations and life conditions of these clients, I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with Conversion  Disorder, where real physical symptoms in the form of numbness and pain were real, but caused more by emotional conflict or trauma, not medical or physical issues.

Emotional pain is REAL and can paralyze a person emotionally, let alone cause physical symptoms and pain.

In the case of the child who could not walk on the previously injured foot, this child  came into the last appointment without crutches and although wearing a brace, was putting full weight on the foot. We had talked about emotional pain, and as soon as I opened up the topic, there were tears welling up. Why ? Because the child had been bullied and felt rejection at the hands of a new student in school that my client had befriended, who then subsequently began telling lies about my client to cause my client’s friends to abandon this child and go to the bully instead. That caused significant emotional conflict and pain for this very sensitive child so that my client had not discussed what had happened and what was felt with anyone so as to avoid possible further rejection and embarrassment. The pain was real, but it  was emotional pain that migrated to the part of this child’s body that was most vulnerable, the previously injured foot.

The child who never talked is now talking non-stop ! Why ? Because, as this child finally felt respected and understood, the child learned that the emotional pain at being bullied and rejected in Kindergarten had caused the response of shutting down the ability to talk so as to not have to deal with the kids who were the source of the emotional pain.
So instead of feeling weak or “crazy”, the child understood what had happened and gradually took steps with me to free the voice from the emotional prison it had been enslaved in for over eight years.

The adult with the ever increasing leg pain has not yet faced the causal issues or the source of the emotional pain nor has the client realized the power of the mind it’s ability to convert emotional pain to physical pain and symptoms. I have a challenge ahead of me in that case.

How about you ? Do you have pain or physical symptoms not explained by a medical diagnosis ? On the other hand, is there someone you know and care about who is experiencing physical pain, and you have thought that she might be faking ?

I am just offering food for thought !

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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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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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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