When Fear Rules !

Tag: obsessive-compulsive

Fear Grows in an Atmosphere of Avoidance

by on Aug.18, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Personal Growth comes only when we stretch, explore and challenge our own personal status quo. Many of us do not realize how much time we spend AVOIDING options or choices to grow, as avoidance can become a habit as it is often the result backing down from fear, which in turn leads to a feeling of weakness and self-doubt, leading to more avoidance.

Some may just be lucky that they are either “wired” for success or grew up in an atmosphere that nurtured the idea of taking risks to grow and not be as  vulnerable to the fears of failure, rejection, ridicule or embarrassment. But then, there ate others whose early years were so fraught with challenges that they used all their mental energy to escape being ever again so vulnerable to fear. Don’t we marvel at the person who, against all odds, comes through life so motivated to take on challenges and build empires ? In some ways, these individuals were forced by the dark side of life, and some of the darker people they came up against to see evidence that they could persevere, that they were witness to the fact that what they did to survive demonstrated an inner strength. That inner strength created a momentum that was hard to stop, as they were not ruled by fear.

Then there are the rest of us mere mortals, good people all in all, from loving families, maybe somewhat over-protected and under-challenged. We may not be Supermen or Wonder-Women but we CAN ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS if we can escape our fearful thoughts, which although often meant to protect, most frequently detour many of our efforts to grow outside what is comfortable,  leaving us comfortably-uncomfortable.

So how do we achieve great things when up against our fearful thoughts, and the self-doubt ?
First, we might recognize that many of the anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors we experience might just be a reaction to feeling trapped in our so-called comfortable lives. When we give into our fears and avoid, we feel a sense of inner weakness, a feeling of not quite being in control of our lives. Could that feeling possibly trigger an anxiety reaction, which then in itself creates more of a sense of being out of control, just maybe ? But once truly recognized and with a carefully laid out plan, we can step by step, with a support team around us, begin to challenge our fears.

The following are comments from a client who has experienced significant anxiety in the form of Obsessive- Compulsive symptoms but has begun to seriously explore why he was having these anxiety symptoms that all but paralyzed him in his life. He asked that I share what he has experienced as he talks himself through his fearful and sabotaging thoughts :

” I hate this job ! I think this is a euphemism for I hate myself for being in this job. 

Whoa, let’s look at reality ! I am disappointed that I am not doing more to change my situation, but that is no reason to hate myself. Besides, I am now taking steps. They might not seem like much, but they are steps. I am taking a class this Fall to give myself a bit of a challenge and get my feet wet. I am starting to read a Calculus textbook to refresh myself. I am making plans to contact a past college professor, to see if he has any suggestions on how I can achieve my new goal of teaching at the college level.

I am the one who is living my life. If I am not happy then I should do whatever I can to make myself happy. If others do not approve, are skeptical or negative about what I want to do to make myself happy, then I need to realize that while I am sorry they feel that way, it is my life, my happiness that I need to pursue, not theirs.  So they can either help or get out of my way. If they cannot be supportive, I must go around them as they are symbols of the fears and negative thoughts that I have allowed to hold me back.

I am intelligent. I am capable. I care about people. I can do this !!! ”

It is hard work, but aren’t you worth the effort to do more of what you are capable of doing with your life  ?  The more you avoid, the more conflict you feel within yourself, the angrier or more frustrated you become. You need reasonable goals with reasonable steps, and then allow each step to motivate you to the next move. 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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Intrusive Thoughts Paralyze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Broken Merry Go Round

by on Feb.10, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

While taking my puppy Izzy on a ride through the park this morning, I found myself intently listening to the lyrics of a song, ” Merry Go Round ” , by singer Kacey Musgraves…

” Mary Mary quite contrary,We get bored so we get marriedAnd just like dust we settle in this town.On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go,Where it stops nobody knows…And it ain’t slowin’ down, this merry go ’round…

We think the first time’s good enough,So we hold on to high school love,Say we won’t end up like our parents.

Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.

Read more: http://artists.letssingit.com/kacey-musgraves-lyrics-merry-go-round-vlwdr26#ixzz2KVwrcQL7
LetsSingIt – Your favorite Music Community

I had been thinking all week about a few clients who, despite some significant efforts on their parts to escape their past sabotaging thoughts and self-limiting perceptions of themselves, seemed to be stuck on that Merry Go Round, where any real change in their lives was thwarted by their negative self-talk, reinforced by fear.

One man in particular had made some very real efforts to change, to escape his boring life and take some risks. He actually quit his go nowhere job, and went back to school to seek at least an associates degree in alternative energies, something he felt some passion about. He actually did quite well, not only excelling in his classes, but being recognized by fellow students who requested tutoring from him, and then being recognized by a professor as being an exceptional student. Of course seemed proud at the time of what he accomplished and the accolades.

The anxiety symptoms and especially his rather severe obsessive-compulsiuve behaviors that had previously been ruling much of his life began to weaken some. He was surprised and I was extremelypleased at his progress. I knew much of his OCD was the result of his frustrations and conflicts with himself, so I did expect some decrease in his symptoms.

After two semesters, he had to return to work to pay bills, hoping to return to school in the near future. Sadly, within two months of being  back at work and away from school, all his anxiety symptoms returned and his OCD was wreaking havoc. He was again stuck on the Merry Go Round of his previous life, going nowhere and being ruled by his  self-defeating negative thoughts.

As we talked about his loss of momentum, he struggled a bit to explain his thoughts and feelings, but then he uttered  an illuminating comment. ” I Never Embraced the Changes I was Making !”

Over those two semesters, he did experience what felt very new and different. He did “witness” that he was actually knowledgable, and was in fact able to help other students. But the whole time, it was like he was another person in some make believe world. He never really accepted, adopted, or presumed to be that person. Those two semesters were no match for his previous lifetime of ” that’s good enough”, “don’t make waves “, ” just be content with what you have and who you are “. ” I realize now that I dummed-down my good experiences so as not to rock the boat.” So even though his boat was going nowhere, the risk and fear of failure, rejection and embarrassment over-ruled his good experiences, all but erasing them from memory.

The bright side of this story is that there is a good chance that this young man can still get off the Merry Go Round. Since together we are not allowing him to forget what he actually did achieve, and armed with the realization that it takes continued, persistent,repeated experiences to break free of the ” gravitational pull ” of his past, he can plan his next steps to more effectively project himself into the world of his potential.

He can change, by taking steps, one at a time, but not allowing dust to settle on his efforts.You cannot take breaks from your efforts at personal growth. You must become ” obsessed ”  with that growth to truly get off that Merry Go Round of the past, and never give into the urge to avoid. You must be ready to talk out loud about steps you are taking to grow. You must share your experiences with all who will listen, and not be detoured by non-believers. You must actively build a support system of like people. I believe this man will make it if he has the needed support and knowledge of how real change is accomplished.

“Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearing’.”

How about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFearhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image26688221

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Irrational Thoughts and Fears

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

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

 

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Panic Attacks…Find the Source

by on Dec.09, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So you find yourself in the ER or sitting in front of your Primary Care Physician {PCP} because you are experiencing some intense physical symptoms such as tingling in your arms, tightness in your chest, light-headedness, heart palpitations and an overall feeling of weakness. You may have felt this before and it passed, but here it is again.You felt that alarm go off in your head, a sense of dread, fear that it could be a heart attack.

You felt that alarm go off in your head, a sense of dread, fear that it could be a heart attack.

 

Well, first, you are smart for taking action. But then your doctor checks you out, and says that all your vitals are good. He thinks it is anxiety, but wants you to have more testing. He makes the referral and you go to the hospital for further tests, just to make sure.

 

After all tests are done, again you are told it is anxiety, and that you are having panic attacks. You are at first relieved it is not something critical to your health, but then think, these panic attacks are horrible and you ask the doctor for medications.

 

The most knowledgeable physicians will instruct you to treat these anxiety symptoms with both medications and counseling. On the other hand, you may just be given meds and be sent home with a reminder to see your PCP for a follow-up appointment.

 

This is where it gets tricky !

 

If you were offered medications, such as an anti-anxiety med  [ Xanax,or Ativan , etc. ] and /or an SSRI med like Zoloft or Paxil, you might feel some relief of your symptoms, at least for a while. Part of that relief might be psychological [placebo effect], but certainly some is a physical reaction to the drugs you have ingested. However, the meds are not a cure. You may go for weeks without any symptoms and you so earnestly try to convince yourself that it was just a fluke. Then the symptoms return, maybe even more intense. You call your PCP and he suggests that you increase your medications. You readily do so, but maybe some voice in your head  says I need to know WHY this is happening, maybe not. Hopefully, now your PCP suggests you see a therapist who specializes in treating Anxiety Disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, obsessive worry and compulsive behaviors.

 

Now, if you find the right therapist  who seems knowledgable and experienced, you are finally on the right track. However, now you have more serious decisions to make. Are you going to be truly open with your therapist,  let down your guard, and really explore issues and conflicts that may be triggers for your anxiety ?

 

Are you going to be willing to take steps that are laid out between you and the therapist that so often can be uncomfortable at first ? Are you ready to make the needed changes in your life ?

 

Therapy works, especially when dealing with Anxiety Disorders, if you are ready to face what needs to be done to help you feel more in control of your life, because that is a KEY issue. There are most likely, and most often conflicts going on that you have repressed that are causing you to feel inner turmoil. When you avoid those issues, as you most likely have in the past, they just fester and come to the surface in the form of anxiety symptoms, a temper tantrum, or an anger outburst that just makes you feel more out of control. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken.

 

A reminder ! The medications may be helping, but in most cases as I have said previously, they do not actually cure the anxiety. The temptation to just take more and more meds is a real problem. You need to look at meds as a step in treatment, offering you enough temporary relief that you are in a better state of mind to identify and DEAL with issues and make changes.

 

This is just my experience with clients, but I have seen all too many on higher and higher doses of meds, often with the blessings of their physician or psychiatrist. My greatest concern is that at these higher dosages I also see clients experiencing side effects that actually create more anxiety, cause one to not be able to focus or concentrate, and possibly not be able to feel much of anything. These side effects can exacerbate the feelings of being out of control. Make sure to work with your therapist and PCP [or psychiatrist], and check often that they are communicating over your care.

 

Just a Thought !

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

 

 

 

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

 

 

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Neutralizing Negative People !

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

 

Let me begin with a short note I received from a client who is trying with all her might to free herself from anxiety that had a all but made her a prisoner of her home. As we were talking about her progress, she expressed how even a hopeful day and good mood as a result of her efforts to fight off her anxiety and fears could so easily be destroyed by the negative comments of a bitter relative. My response to her note follows

Dear Coach,

It can be hard not letting the harsh comments of others bother us. Even when we might be doing better at something or when we feel a little better about ourselves than usual, a negative comment can seem to change that and make us go from feeling okay to horrible. For example, over Thanksgiving, I did pretty well with dealing with anxiety and yet when a mean comment was thrown in my direction, I got upset. I had never really voiced to this person how I felt about his comments and I just kind of blew up.

 

I knew on some level that I shouldn’t have gotten so upset and I realized that since I was doing better, I should have just ignored what he had said. However, between wanting my relative to know how I felt and being frustrated, I got mad.

 

I was told by a therapist { aka, Coach }, and I think it was very good advice, that it’s okay to be sensitive. We can also stand up for ourselves without getting defensive. All we have to do in some cases, is to say that we understand that the person feels that way and we can continue on. If you’re in an argument that you can’t win, why not throw the other person off-guard and not yell back like they want or just give up? Instead, make that person realize that for some reason he is always the one yelling. Maybe then he will realize why he comes-off sometimes as harsh or mean. Again, you can be sensitive, just don’t let others manipulate you because of it. Be strong without adding to the conflict.

 

B.G.

Dear B.G.,

 
I have been stressing to you in therapy that to overcome your anxiety and panic attacks, you must both face the fears of having more anxiety and panic attacks through step by step desensitzation, as well as face the conflicts that were the CAUSE for your anxiety in the first place.

 

One of the most common causes for the more serious anxiety symptoms like panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behavior is that something is happening in your life that is causing you to feel emotionally conflicted, overwhelmed and even angry, but you feel I’ll-equipped to deal with that situation, which is either a person or situation in your life. Of course, the situations usually include people, so we might as well face the fact that it is our perceived inability to deal with people-conflict that is a huge stimulus for severe anxiety. These conflicts leave one feeling helpless, ” out of control ” , and feeling weak which is very destructive to our self-esteem.

 

Faced with difficult people, or people with selfish agendas,  tends to set one off on an arduous path, a struggle between the want to avoid possible rejection or failure, the want and maybe need for approval versus the desire to be able to express what WE really feel, what we want, not selfishly, but in some reasonable manner so as to not harm or take away from someone else’s sense of worth and value.

 

When we do find ourselves avoiding self-expression, our self-esteem takes a hit which thereby decreases the chances of making positive changes in our lives. Avoidance leads to sense of having little worth and value and seriously undermines development of goals and the strength to take steps towards those goals.
Anger and resentment are often the result, but those powerful emotions, although normal at some levels, become more intense as they have been repressed for years. That abundance of repressed anger and resentment, much of it with ourselves for avoiding and being weak, and the emotional turmoil they wreak within our minds and bodies, can lead to more fear. What if those repressed emotions ever come to the surface ? Will we act out in some manner that demonstrates just how ‘out of control’ we truly are ?  Just more conflict heaped on conflict. All this can be paralyzing especially for people who are sensitive, approval seeking and yet yearning to grow personally in their lives.

 

So, I have suggested to you that rather than feel you have to go toe-to-toe with a parent, relative or friend, defending your past actions and inactions, that you instead :

 

1] Focus on the steps you ARE now taking to be more in control of your life;

 

2] When actually faced by one of the aforementioned persons, especially if they are being critical, prepare yourself to say, ” Uncle Joe, I appreciate and respect you having opinions as to my life and my progress, but I am taking steps to be more in control of my life. I understand that you may look at things differently, but in my heart, I know I am making progress ! ” and then …

 

3] No matter what response you receive in return, do not fall into the trap of defending yourself. Remind yourself again that you have set goals and you can see that you are taking measurable steps to overcome your fears and anxiety. Then, just repeat steps 1 and 2 .

 

If the other person persists, then follow up with, ” I am trying to be respectful towards you and I would hope you could do the same, but I am not comfortable discussing this any further with you at this time. ”

 

Now, let’s focus on practicing these techniques and using these tools to neutralize difficult people !

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

 

Benhaven Counseling.com

 

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

 

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

 

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFear

 

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Anxiety Does Not Mean You Are Weak !

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

So this young man, in his mid 30’s, was obviously frustrated and anxious as he had been to countless physicians, neurologists and other specialists in an attempt to find answers for the host of physical symptoms he was experiencing. His angst was exacerbated by the fact that he was not getting any answers and his symptoms were worsening. Pains in his arms and his chest along with feeling physically tired, somedays not feeling he had enough energy to walk without stumbling as well as tingling of his scalp, hands and feet were all very alarming.

Some where along his quest for answers, it was mentioned to him that he might be suffering from a ” Conversion Reaction “, a condition where persistent physical symptoms that cannot be fully explained by a medical condition, substance abuse, or other mental disorder, and seem to stem from psychological issues or conflicts. He seemed almost angry but al least very concerned at this suggestion, as if professionals were telling him he was weak, that his symptoms were all mental.

I could feel his conflict over wanting relief of his physical symptoms, yet not being able to swallow what he was hearing. But then again, he was there, with me, hoping that together we could find answers.

So I listened, asked some probing questions, and listened some more. I heard that there were indeed some symptoms that were physical in origin, as with an issue with hypoglycemia where he would feel shaky if he did not eat more frequently. But after he gradually opened up and shared more and more, it appeared obvious that there were some personally significant emotional issues and conflicts in his life that were most likely hitting more nerves than anything physical or medical. He knew there were issues, but never suspected that they could be the source of his symptoms. Like many, it is thought that something truly cataclysmic would be going on if that would result in the symptoms like this man was experiencing.

Although I knew he needed  answers, it was obviously critical that he understand a very important fact, one that I have preached many times to clients. In fact, I had just received a note from one of my past clients asking that I press the issue in my Blog that having anxiety symptoms, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive issues does not mean we are weak or fragile people !

This man was a perfect example of how physical symptoms can be triggered by emotional issues and conflict, not because a person is weak, but because he or she is a more adapting person, one that enjoys validation from others, yet has thoughts, feelings and desires of his own. It is not a bad thing to have a conscience and to want to avoid conflict, but one must also have effective tools to deal with conflicts and issues when they do arise, and especially when compromise is not easily at hand. It is all right to want to feel the approval from others, as long as one can set boundaries and not allow that want to become a need that keeps you from seeking what you desire in your life. 

This man was not weak, in fact he had taken some very real and bold steps to become an entrepreneur, creating a business out of one of his passions. However, over time, dealing with his business partners was creating considerable conflict. Changes needed to be made that were going to lead to some uncomfortable and hard feelings. This very creative and already successful man was avoiding dealing with these issues, and instead, the resulting anxiety symptoms had taken up so much of his time and energy, that he had no fire left in his belly to deal with the actual conflicts, the real sources for his pain.

Again, that does not make him weak. As he understood that, like many people, it was just his nature to want to avoid conflict. He now had more of a grasp as to how the mind and body can play havoc, distracting him from dealing with unpleasant things. He was not crazy, not out of control, he was just suffering from a complex anxiety reaction to conflict, and he had now learned a very important lesson. My goal will be to guide him so he can take what he has learned, set reasonable goals to deal with his conflicts while gradually and more deeply realizing that his symptoms are reactions, not a disease. No, he was not weak, but this will make him even stronger as he takes steps, takes action to deal with issues One Step At A Time.

It will be most important for him to attack the issues in his life with a plan, allowing time to desensitize and work through his thoughts and feelings at each step. We can desensitize to so much in life if we just do it the right way. Sure, there are some people who appear less bothered by conflict.

Certainly there are aggressive types that can blow right by potential conflicts not hesitating to make changes. There are those that seem less burdened by a conscience. Let me tell you from experience over many years and after dealing with many personality types, those others have their own interpersonal issues that if you fully realized or walked in their shoes, you would not wish to be one of them.

I would be happy to respond to your questions and hear your thoughts.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Escaping Negative Thoughts

by on Nov.04, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Unless you were one of the lucky ones, you learned fears during your childhood that remain active today if you actually listen to your private thoughts.

I was talking with a client recently who, in my opinion, has been putting some significant but inconsistent effort into controlling his anxiety and panic attacks as well as his obsessive-compulsive behaviors [OCD}.

Now, what do we mean by obsessive-compulsive behaviors ? Actually, they are very common, although differing in frequency and certainly intensity, where an individual finds himself feeling an urge to carry out some ritualistic behavior, repeating that behavior to a point that it can be disruptive in his life. I see people suffering from this type of anxiety reaction every day. One person may find himself giving in to the urge to check over his tax return over and over, even though no errors were found. Another might have spilled some cleaning substance on their hands and then found herself washing her hands and arms, repeating the action even when her hands became chapped and bleeding. Then maybe a child feels an urge to say good-night and blow a kiss to each of her more than one hundred stuffed animals before she can go to sleep at night, only to find herself having to repeat the process for over two hours for fear she missed one of her precious inanimate friends.

These rituals can take over one’s life to one degree or another, but are responses to inner conflict that is often hidden to others, and even unknown or unrecognized by the client. My experience is that the conflicts are just below the surface but are issues the person may just not feel able to deal with, thus is consciously or subconsciously avoiding.

The client I was talking with came to realize that his OCD, which had grown in power and was ruling much of his life, was a reaction to conflict. There was an inner desire to do more with his life and escape the shadow cast by his family tree,a history of depression, negativity, avoidance and regret. He came to realize that most of his anxiety was due to the personally painful reality that he had and was avoiding making needed changes in his life. His negative thoughts and fears were echoing through his mind, but more importantly were and still are the habitual thoughts of his past and especially his parents whose lives were ruled by fear.

He could catch himself in his private thoughts saying “I’m not smart enough !”, or ” Who do I think I am, that I could do something special with my life ? “. He had also become vividly aware  through introspection triggered in part by therapy,  that these were the thoughts based on fears of rejection and failure, that he had been taught by his mother. Even recently, when he discussed possibly looking for a another job that was more challenging and he could feel some passion over, his mother, backed by other family members, said ” Just be happy you have a job !”

This client had taken some steps to challenge his fears. He did at one point go back to school to take course he was very interested in, and from that experience, learned that he was not stupid. He was able to master the material, and in fact thrived in that class and others and was actuallycalled upon by the teacher to share more of his thoughts with the class. He found himself actually tutoring others who were struggling more with the classes subject matter. It was very esteeming for him. So, that should have turned his life around, right ? In fact, his obsessive-compulsive behavior was down significantly. He really felt great about the stretching he was doing. However, due to changes with his present but boring job, he was distracted from continuing his course work. His efforts were very positive, but the reality was that once he stopped stretching, he fell back into the gravitational pull of his past negative thoughts, and his family history of self-defeatism. He lost that momentum he had begun by stretching outside his comfort zone.

Now he realizes what happened, that it takes frequent and consistent exercising of one’s energies to escape the gravity of the past.  Just as it does with physical exercise, where muscle turns to flab when the exercise stops, his efforts to challenge his fears worked, but needed to become part of his life, not a past chapter.

So, now he is beginning to edit the book that is the story of his life. Armed with the awareness of what he did, and therefore what he COULD DO, he is working to create an ongoing momentum, one that he must nurture through repeated  experiences that will desensitize him to his fears and emboldenhim to persevere.

How much are you ruled by fear ? How often do you hear yourself uttering or thinking something sabotaging, that shuts you down and causes you to avoid ? Where did you learn fear and avoidance ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

Free Sunday Eve On-Line Support Group : OneStepataTime.com

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Being Manipulated !

by on Oct.28, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

What would you feel if you realized you had been manipulated, controlled or used by another person ?

What if that person is someone you trusted, believed in and hoped was different, maybe even looked up to as a hero ?

 

Would you feel angry, sad, hurt or maybe ashamed and embarrassed ?

 

I have worked with so many clients who are victims of such manipulation and I admit it frustrates me and even angers me, and makes me sad when I see how it affects them. It is painful to see their pain.

 

I have  always been focused on helping people find their voice, learn to speak their mind and set boundaries to protect themselves from people who would take advantage of their trusting and adapting natures.

 

However, that focus turned into a passion a few years ago when I lost a twenty year old client to suicide. I had worked with her for two years but I was never able to convince her to take steps to press charges against her father who was always her hero, but had turned into an abusive man, physically, sexually and emotionally molesting her body and her spirit. Yes, he was a narcissistic sociopath, but she refused to see that.  She trusted and believed in him so much, and prayed that he would return to being her loving hero of a dad. I was so angry, that it took almost two years for me to be able to talk about it without choking-up.

 

Admittedly since then, that passion has become somewhat of an obsession that has caused me to react more strongly and openly  to any form of manipulation of one person by another, especially when the manipulator is obvious in his or her efforts to establish a trust, a bond only to use it as a means to take control for their own private agenda.

 

Lately, with all the political debates and advertisements flooding the airwaves, I found myself feeling some of that anger, feeling that inner turmoil as I watched what was another form of manipulation and control happening to many good people in our great nation. I have heard lies, name calling, character assassination, and open efforts to portray good people as evil and campaign ads that are obviously edited to promote what they want us to believe and distract us from the truth.

 

” It’s just politics” they say ! Really ? Do you really believe the words and promises or just WANT TO so much that you close your mind to the painful truth. It is manipulation ! It is an effort to say anything necessary, promise hope and change, create a dependency all in order to fulfill their agendas. It is a degrading but true picture of what has become of our countries moral compass. It is becoming the norm, almost as if it is acceptable.

 

I hope more people recognize what is happening and find their voice. We are not sheep, but we are being led down a path that is self-destructive.

 

As a people, we should definitely be there to help others who are sick or injured and cannot work. Those who have worked their whole lives deserve “reasonable” benefits. But the ever growing numbers of people who are able to justify living off the system when there is no reason other than the fact THAT THEY CAN, is just another sign of our decay. Have we become so selfish that we can rationalize using the system when we are capable of working and contributing to the system as others have done. How about hand-ups instead of hand-outs ? How about focusing on creating jobs so people can feel the pride of accomplishment instead of dependency ? Or is it too late ?

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

 

 

 

Free On-Line Support Groups: OneStepataTime.com

 

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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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