When Fear Rules !

Tag: Needy

Intrusive Mothers ?

by on Feb.10, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Intrusive people are always the most difficult to deal with in our lives, but when it is a mother, it is especially anxiety producing.

By intrusive, I mean a person that does not have boundaries or respect those of others, and that certainly can apply to a mother or mother-in-law in their behavior towards their own adult children. Let’s say, a daughter and her husband return from a well-deserved night away from the kids only to find that her mother
re-arranged the living room furniture while she was babysitting, or decided the that she knew better how their pantry should be set-up. ” Surprise, I took the time to set up your kitchen the way it should to be done, I know you will love it ! ” Or the mother comes over bearing a gift of a flower arrangement in colors that she likes and then proceeds to tell her daughter what throw pillows she needs to buy to go along with the new color scheme. Get the picture ?

It gets much worse ! I have seen situations where mothers will openly criticize the relationship that their son or daughter has chosen or how the grandkids are being raised.
What makes is so very conflicting and bordering on abusive is when the mother tries to guilt, shame or blame the daughter every time she does not approve of what she has done.
This is not about giving loving suggestions, but more so controlling and manipulating

So while the daughter and her husband now have children of their own and want to establish a new Christmas morning tradition of opening the gifts as soon as the kids awake with all their enthusiasm at its peak, the mother expects the daughter and family to pack up everything, bundle up the kids and trek over to mom’s with gifts and diapers because that was the tradition. When the daughter tries to nicely say that they will come later but they want to establish their own traditions, or even suggests that the mother come early to see the kids come down the steps wide-eyed and filled excitement, the mother says, ” You can do that after I am gone. Do you want to break your mother’s heart. I won’t be around that much longer ! ”

Intrusive people are most often very insecure below the surface, very needy of attention and yes, selfish and feeling entitled. Instead of celebrating someone else’s happiness or personal growth, they want to re-establish their importance, secure their position of being special.

Lacking somewhat in empathy, but suggesting they are the picture of that quality, the intrusive mother has a warped awareness of the needs of others, and does not often recognize boundaries as her needs dominate.

I have watched many a young married adult go through much conflict, bouncing between guilt and anger in their attempts to set limits and boundaries with an intrusive parent. Not surpisingly, such conflict can bring on anxiety symptoms, including full-blown panic attacks.
What the adult child of an intrusive parent should do, no, what they must do , is set those boundaries firmly and lovingly…and be prepared to be persistent and consistent.

” I love you mom and I know you mean well, but that is not how my husband and I want to do things with our children. Please respect my boundaries. ” Then repeat this without trying to defend your position, as the more you say, the more the intrusive person will try to manipulate and control.
I tell my clients dealing with intrusive mothers not to expect this lesson to be learned long-term. Most often, one has to be prepared to express this mantra each time the intrusive mother even shows the slightest move to cross a boundary. Intrusive people tend to not understand or have much insight into the sabotaging behavior, so it is the consequences that they learn. So when the adult child of an intrusive parent speaks in respectful and consistent terms and follows-through, the intrusive person will more than likely come to change their behavior, not because she truly gets it, but because she cannot over-rule the daughter with blame, shame and guilt tactics. Now, if instead, the daughter becomes angry and shows that anger, she plays into the intrusive mother’s hands. The mother will surely blame, shame and guilt the the daughter for any outbursts and then take control, unless the daughter is also a similarly intrusive person. Then all bets are off and I am out of there !

You can, of course, apply this approach to dealing with any instrusive person, be it a co-worker, a friend, sibling or stranger. This is not easy, but the effects that an instrusive person can have on your life, marriage, children and self-esteem is real, and it is one of the most important lessons to learn about dealing with difficult people.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
On-Line Suppoort Group and Newsletter: www.OneStepataTime.com

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

 

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How About Me ?

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

 

How About Me ?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Psychologist

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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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Comfortably Uncomfortable with Life ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I welcome you thoughts !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Anger With Ourselves !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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Is The Fear of Change Paralyzing You ?

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

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
Coach

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When Panic and Obsessive Thoughts Return

by on Oct.16, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Relapse: When the Panic or Obsessive Thoughts Return

Yes, as frustrating as I know it must be to hear this, it is true. Symptoms of panic attacks or obsessive/intrusive thoughts can return. However, this does not mean you cannot gain control and eliminate these symptoms.

What does it mean ?

Well, if you have not done  any therapy, it may mean that the sources for your panic or intrusive thoughts had temporarily passed, or that you are taking medication that helped you over-ride your symptoms for a while, or maybe that you have been so distracted by other significant issues in your life that the symptoms took a back seat in your life. But obviously, if you have not done the work to identify the true causal factors, the real sources as well as gone through a process of desensitizing to your symptoms through therapy, then the band-aid you used to deal with these symptoms has come off.

If you have done therapy, but did work to desensitize step by step to your symptoms so that you are less fearful, but have not really dealt with the sources of your symptoms, then it is just a matter of time when they will return as those sources rear their ugly heads someday.

As an example, let’s imagine a woman who was so plagued by intrusive thoughts that her husband was or would cheat on her that she was obsessed with checking his cell phone for unknown callers. The more she gave into this urge, the stronger the need became. Since she was able to feel immediate relief when she found no strange numbers on his cell, her behavior was internally rewarded. However, she also realized she was taking a serious risk in that if he found her checking on him, it would damage his perception of his wife, causing HIM to distrust HER.

She was able to show more control of her urges to check by recognizing them quickly, postponing giving in to them and then giving herself something else to focus her mind on, like calling a friend, working on a project, or going out with friends.

She made some progress, then, without warning, the urges became so strong again that the obsessions and need to check returned with a fury.

The issue ?  She also needed to understand the source of her fears and  deal with them. She came to understand that her fears of his cheating on her were really without evidence, but were there because she, in fact, was rather needy emotionally and wanted and needed a more open show of affection to feel good about herself.

Her husband loved her, but was not one to initiate affection. So her mind drifted and she had fantasies of other being with other men.. Her fantasies caused her some guilt, but also led her project her  needs on her husband. “If I have these thoughts, HE  must be having these thoughts too !”

Once she clearly understood it was HER insecurity and neediness that was the source of the problem, we set up a plan to build on his self-esteem.

She lost wait through exercise and changes in her diet.

She got involved with projects she enjoyed but had avoided.

She tried new things and initiated going more places with her husband.

All these things just made her look even better to him. She felt better about herself, and her throwing so much energy into personal growth stimulated her husband’s positive reactions and comments.

Instead of focusing on her fears, she focused on both self-improvement as well as being a loving but less needy wife.

As she became more comfortable with this game plan and saw his response, she was able to see her own fantasies change in that they were more about things to do with her husband. As the husband responded more positively and openly because of changes he was seeing in her, she was receiving the feedback she needed to refute her fearful thoughts.

Any thoughts ?

 

Gene Benedetto , Psychologist

Coach

 

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