When Fear Rules !

Tag: repression

Anger and Contamination Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She Speaks !!!

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

She Speaks !!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach
Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

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

Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Fear of Change

by on May.01, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

It is so very easy to settle for less when you yearn for more. Deciding what needs to be changed is a challenge in itself, but once realized, we are most likely to overwhelm ourselves at the prospect of what needs to change.

I have seen first hand, and repeatedly, that if I have the opportunity to guide my clients not only to the source of their anxieties, but also have to chance to help them set up a game plan for change, a step by step approach, there success is much greater. Left on their own, most people allow their need for approval and fear of failure, rejection and embarrassment to cause them to try to make change with bigger bites then they can swallow, which ensures the frustration and often, failure that they fear.

Most often, we have developed certain habits of avoidance that cause us to put off anything uncomfortable, so we spend many of our productive years comfortably-uncomfortable, trapped as our life is Ruled By Fear.

Breaking free of our self-imposed entrapment requires that the degree of fear related to potential change is felt to be outweighed by the emotional pain, and symptoms we experience as a result of our avoidance of the needed change.

Creating a reasonable plan to approach needed changes in reasonable bites, step by step, requires patience for sure, but allows you to create some emotional momentum to help you take the next step.

The needed changes most often have to do with learning to more effectively realize and then communicate your needs, learn to deal with difficult people who often realize your need for approval and take full advantage of your need to please, but mostly to see yourself doing things with your life that enhance your perceptions of yourself, your self-esteem.

Those personalities who are less wanting or needing of approval are able to rely of what they DO in order to foster their self-esteem rather than being as dependent of the nods and smiles and encouraging words of others. Now, those of us who do value approval from others may at times be at a disadvantage, but isn’t it better to have that emotional and intimate side of one’s personality, but realize the need to focus on our gifts and talents and seriously make an effort to realize the value of what we do ?

Coach
Gene Benedetto
Psychologist

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Trust…Listen to your Children

by on Apr.17, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

Trust…Listen to your Children

How many people in your life do you feel you truly trust ?

“The issue is that we need to get to know a man [or woman] and trust him to be who he proves himself to be. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be and when he is not, we hurt.”

There are people who trust no one, and although they are less disappointed when someone fails them, they live a life barren of emotional intimacy. Then there are the rest of us, who trust too easily, as we want closeness in our lives, in the form of support, approval and a sense of belonging.

I have seen many adult children of abusive and selfish parents wish so much to see the parent change and be more the loving and caring parent they always wished for, only to be terribly frustrated and angered to find that the parent never changes. Now again, we do not want to become paranoid and trust no one, but we do need to realize our wish to not look at the dark side of some people, to avoid conflict and angry feelings, does lead to a premature acceptance and trust of those who cannot be trusted.

People must prove themselves. My experience has been all to often that parents, siblings, relatives, friends, even teachers or other respected members of society who have been found to be abusive, emotionally, physically or sexually have a history of past behaviors that have been ignored, rationalized away, or excused when in fact they were bullet-proof examples of behaviors that should tell us they cannot be trusted.

Look at recent situations where teachers have been convicted of sexual relationships with their minor-aged students. I can site troubling cases where school principals, priests, ministers or coaches have sexually abused kids and yet on the surface, they are praised for their support of children’s causes.

Trust must be earned by those around you and justified by keen observation on your part. To this point, I would suggest that we LISTEN AND OBSERVE our children, taking nothing they say lightly. There are bullies of all ages out there, and we must not only teach our children that they deserve to be treated with respect, but that any time any behavior on the part of another child OR ADULT bothers them, causes them to feel fearful or guilty, those feelings are to be shared with BOTH of the child’s parents. The children need to know they will be heard.

When children or adults are abused, the abuser most often attempts to shame their victim into not exposing him or her, or makes the victim fearful of further abuse and harm. LISTEN AND OBSERVE any changes in your child’s behavior or demeanor. Open your eyes to the fact that among the many good people out there, there are truly dark people with needs that allow them to rationalize and justify some very sick behaviors.

Abusive people are cowards, insecure and needy in most cases. Don’t AVOID seeing people for who they truly are. Like the wicked witch from the “ Wizard of Oz ”, evil cannot be ignored or avoided. When it is avoided, it only grows stronger. While Dorothy caused the evil witch to melt away by dousing her with water, I see the water as a cleansing element that allows us to see the reality of the dark side of some people, and as exposing them to the light of day.

Coach

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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What Do Bullies Fear ?

by on Apr.12, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

What Do Bullies Fear ?

In one word, EXPOSURE !

There is no perfect human being. We all have faults and have made mistakes. Don’t tell me that you have not had one of those moments where you were daydreaming and said to yourself, “I can’t believe I did that, what WAS I thinking !” Part of our own personal development means we have to face our less proud moments and learn from them.

However, most of us, especially those who are approval seeking and adapting personalities who work hard to please, have a conscience and feel a responsibility to others around us, are especially targets for bullies. The bullies of the world have their own insecurities, usually rather deep and pervasive, which is why they tend to pick on others they feel they can dominate and control. In essence, they are protecting their own weaknesses from being exposed.

Something I have seen repeatedly when dealing with my clients who have or are being bullied, is that the bully almost always threatens his or her victim with more threats of harm or abuse. The bully or abuser has to make sure their victim is told that no one will believe her [or him] , and will use any knowledge they have of their victims past to shame her and render her fearful of exposure.

I have seen bullies and abusers do this even with a child victim. I have seen this repeatedly with male and female bullies and abusers of all ages. What the bully is telling you is that exposure is the enemy, it is what THEY fear and they are using it to frighten their victim so she will never expose him [or her].

If the bully actually realizes that he or she will be exposed, that the victim or potential victim can accept the mistakes or screw ups in their own life and those errors or past faults will not keep her from exposing the bully, all things change.

Ah yes, we must pick our battles carefully, and I would recommend talking to a therapist, minister or attorney to help document your experiences with a bully, but then realize that we have all made mistakes in our lives and that only makes us stronger. Unless of course, you have avoided dealing with issues and needed changes in your life. Then, because of the avoidance, your self-esteem is weakened and you are haunted by the past instead of feeling good that you have recognized and dealt with any chinks on the armor. Not dealing with issues and conflicts in the past makes you more vulnerable to bullies and abusive people.

We have all heard that some of the most successful individuals in our world have faced failures and turned them into opportunities. These people see life as experiences to work through, learn from, and then they move on to use what they have learned to do more worthwhile, meaningful and productive things. IF you do not want to be so VULNERABLE to bully types, DEAL with issues, people and situations you have avoided, learn from them, and grow stronger. Then the bullies have less of an opportunity to target you. But even if they do, the threat of exposure works both ways.

Coach

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Trapped by Fear

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I remember a situation where a young lady that I had worked with in the past had contacted me again because she was experiencing a set-back where her panic attacks were returning with a vengeance, worse than ever. At first, she was just so overwhelmed and disappointed by her symptoms that I knew she could not even hear what I was saying. But, I allowed her to vent as i knew she needed to, then I began asking some probing questions.

As I listened, I recalled that she had become, for the most part, agoraphobic, very infrequently leaving her apartment. I recalled that she was living near her parents, and due to her anxiety, was somewhat dependent on them financially. She was in conflict with them as they would foster her dependency on them and yet embarrass her with comments that she should be out there on her own. I could see many co-dependency issues at the time where the mother, being unhappy in her marriage, wanted to keep her daughter close.

I thought about past sessions where she would be in such conflict over a boyfriend who was actually very psychologically controlling and was manipulating in order to have her dependent on him sexually.

When I had last talked with her, she had been taking on-line schooling and had an online job, Great steps toward gaining some financial security, but at the same time, making it terribly convenient for her to not have to leave her apartment, her comfort zone.

She dared to dream of being independent. She even cut off communications with the intrusive boyfriend, a huge step after all he did to create dependency of her on him.

Her panic attacks subsided.She was at least feeling some direction and hope.

I could see, as i listened to her, that as expected, her isolating herself had left her vulnerable still to her anxieties. She had become comfortably uncomfortable with her situation, but realized she was still trapped. The job did not pay enough for her to be on her own, the parents were still creating conflict with their mixed messages, and the ex-boyfriend, if one would call him a friend at all, was calling and texting her. In response to the latter, she was not answering his calls or responding to his texts, but she did hear and read his comments. Feeling very lonely, she imagined somehow it might be different this time with him, but then reality would hit and she would remember the pain he caused so often, and how he used her.

However, in her mind, this did not have anything to do with her panic. She was not in that relationship anymore, and her parents were just who they were and would never change.

And then she said that she cannot do anything about any of these issues because of the anxiety and panic. And my response was, you cannot stop the panic until you trust yourself to do something about those issues and conflicts.
The reality was that the panic attacks began again AFTER she started getting calls and e-mails from him. Besides the need to take steps to become less dependent on her parents and her need to have a plan for her life, she needed to trust herself that she would not be vulnerable to this man again. In truth, the one thing that kept her from letting him back in was her PAIN. I asked her one simple question. “If you were free of your panic attacks and any significant anxiety, would you be tempted to go back to him?” She responded, yes !

So, in truth, she was subconsciously creating the panic to prevent herself from forgetting the pain that he created and that she had been so vulnerable to. This is an example of a hidden agenda, a cause for anxiety and panic, where we do not trust ourselves to do what we need to do to protect ourselves, so we use our symptoms, our pain, to create a detour.

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When Approval Becomes and Obsession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Intrusive Thoughts of Self Abuse

by on Mar.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach
Gene Benedetto
Psychologist

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The Evil Dark Side

by on Mar.06, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

The Evil Dark Side

Some of you have written to me in response to my articles about the young homeless girl that I now treasure as a friend, and yes, admittedly, have taken on the roll of a grandfather, wanting to teach, and guide, and keep her safe.

I listen to her as she shares with me the struggles and conflicts she has, wanting to be loved, wanting a family, wanting to be safe and yet being afraid that she is getting soft, and if not wanted, if not a “keeper”, how much more vulnerable she will be if she finds herself back on the streets. I feel her fear, and sense her tears as she fights the competing forces that try to tell her that she must just accept who she is. But she is truly strong and has jumped many hurdles including a first family placement who failed her.

She will never be back on the streets, because she has connected with a few loving people, a new family and me. But, her struggles and fears have enlightened me.

Those struggles have caused some of you to say to me, “ My issues are so small compared to this child’s .”

My response to that is that as much as she endured, as much as she faced the evil dark side of mankind, she survived because she dared to see a choice.

Choices create conflict, don’t they ? It was not until she, and you, realized there were choices, options to change your life, that the real anxiety and fears hit. It was her taking a risk to contact me through our web site’s chat room, her expressing to me the want to feel love and be safe that she ventured one step out of the dreadful life that she seemed destined to before. So, it is when you realized that you were not happy, just ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ with some significant aspect of your life that you really felt the anxiety symptoms hit a peak.

We can only ignore needs so long, we can only adapt so far to please others, before we realize we are not happy, just settling.

And it is not an easy path, allowing yourself to love yourself, taking better care of yourself, setting boundaries with those who would hurt you with words or deeds, those who would control and manipulate you seeing that your need for approval makes you vulnerable to their games.

As a grandpa, I want to protect those I love, but as much, I want to teach them how to protect themselves, how to set those boundaries, how to never be vulnerable to the games of the dark side, and how to respect themselves, and those who prove they can be trusted. As a therapist, I have a similar goal with my clients.

So although some of you have written that your issues seem to pale in comparison to this very very special person in my life, I appreciate that your conflicts are sources of pain for you, and your struggle is as important to you as hers is to her. At the heart of it all is self-esteem. You must be proud of the fact that you are not avoiding that which stands in the way of you becoming the person you wish to be.

So I tell my new grandchild, as i tell you, do not stop dreaming of how you want life to be, but be willing to take the steps, as scary as they can be at times, to make those dreams come true. It is hard work, and there are NO short cuts to change. We by nature resist change, but the option to create and allow change is yours !

Coach
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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