When Fear Rules !

Tag: self confidence

Why Not Say Merry Christmas ???

by on Dec.25, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I just stepped off the elevator at a very beautiful, palm-treed and lush resort where my wife and I chose to spend Christmas. It was an awkward moment as this resort is a very popular destination for families of all nationalities, faiths and backgrounds. When a middle aged gentleman hopped on the elevator, we wished him a Merry Christmas. The look on his face was one of being startled. He responded with a “ Merry Christmas “ , but then added, “I do not know what to say when I meet someone or pass them by them. Is it alright to wish them a Merry Christmas or will they be offended ? So I just don’t say anything ! “ Now, turns out that this man was happy to respond in kind after his initial hesitation, but how seriously pathetic is it that we feel the urge to avoid, to hold back offering an expression of greeting during the Holidays that has been so traditional throughout our lives. We have every right to CELEBRATE our faith and beliefs, as long as we are respectful of the faith and believes of others who are like-wise respectful.

So, in fact, it seems as if seventy-five percent of those we greet have no problem responding, but at least half of those have that expression on their faces as if to say, “ Is it alright ! “ If they don’t respond, we just smiled and walked on. If they returned a “Happy Holidays”, we accepted and respected that response and again smiled, and moved on. But when they bid us a Merry Christmas in return, it frequently led to some extended friendly words about how they were enjoying their Christmas vacation. That is how friendships are born.

Our Government has not yet banned the expression, Merry Christmas, but I know there are some who would want to do just that from my discussions with them. We must stop LIVING IN FEAR of people’s reactions to our freedom of expression, not just about Christmas, but to our entire belief system as Christians. I know my share of people who are of the Moslem or other faiths. I respect their beliefs as long as they do not infringe on mine. But this effort by some to be “ politically correct “ is damaging to the very fabric of America, and is truly a destructive force. Our silence to these issues energizes those who would take control. Now, don’t be naive. There are forces out their whose main goal is that of control. Control is power, and power leads to destructive forces and changes that shatter the very moral fiber of this Great Society. Now, there is no doubt we have made mistakes as a country, but we have learned some painful lessons from those errors in judgement. We are better for that ! It is natural for any government to become bloated with power and lose sight of what is good for the people it was intended to protect. I am not Republican or Democrat [ they are all the same anyway ]. I am an American and a Christian, and I respect the beliefs and rights of others who do not infringe on my rights and beliefs, plain and simple.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
President, CEO, Benhaven Counseling
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog : www.RuledByFear.com
http://www.facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Destroyed by His Words !

by on Aug.07, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Destroyed by His Words !

He is a Narcissistic Sociopath, and although he is very real, I will give him a fictitious name, Lucius. Upon my exposing him for what he was, he actually bragged and boasted about the “tools” he possessed that allowed him to control and manipulate people, both in business and in his personal life.

Lucius recognized as a teenager, that the things he said and the way he treated people caused them to be “like putty in my hands, allowing me to mold them into thinking and doing what I wanted”. As he became an adult, his awareness of his power over people grew by leaps and bounds. No one was safe from his manipulation, even his own daughter.

Being an attorney who specialized in medical malpractice suites in which he was ruthless and gained a mind-numbing reputation, Lucius would explain how he got a dopamine rush, a surge of adrenaline, realizing the power he had over people. He used that power not just in building a rather successful practice, but systematically taking control of his wife, their sexual interactions and her life by making her a victim of abuse that weakened a once strong woman with a career of her own, turning her into an emotionally weak, dependent blob.

My stomach turned and I felt nauseated as I knew that there had been many a victim who fell prey to this man’s initial charm and gradual degrading of their self-esteem as he manipulated his potential victim’s thoughts and behaviors by using tools such as blame, shame and guilt. Oh he was good at it, and he knew it. The smirk on his face said it all.

Lucius knew that I was aware of what he had done to destroy his own daughter’s will to live, and what he was now attempting to do was use his skills of manipulation and control to shut me down. He calmly said,
” You do not know who you are dealing with ! I can and will destroy you ! No one will believe anything you say anyway ! ” He was using fear tactics, which he was quite accomplished at due to his lack of conscience.

Then he said something I will never forget. “Everyone has made mistakes. Every man and woman on the face the earth who has a conscience has something they regret, or have done or avoided something for which feel shame or guilt. I know how to find out about a person’s past, and I will find a way to take advantage of whatever weakness or fear that a person has and I will use that knowledge to take control ! ”

Yes, he was a narcissistic sociopath, but what is critical to understand is that the only real control he would have over his victim would be if he or she gave into their fear.

Someday soon I will share the rest of this true story.

Something I learned from all of this over time, and now forty years of practice, is that there are far many more borderline or full-blown sociopathic personalities among us breathing the same air we do, every day of our lives. Their narcissistic and self-absorbing care for themselves and superficial show of care and concern for others is of course a tell-tale sign. But their ability to lie to our faces, and effectively try to find and take full advantage of the weakness in anyone who would challenge them, has at times made them all powerful. One of the primary strengths, and at the same time weaknesses in some of us that make us potential victims to manipulation is that some we have a conscience, are capable of feeling guilt, and have less of an ability to recognize evil in other people.

When many of us come up against people like Lucius, we just want to walk away , avoid them.
What can you do to defend yourself from such people ?

First, be aware that many such people exist. Watch for the signs, as they can lie to your face without flinching. If you can feel something uncomfortable, don’t ignore what you feel.

Don’t be mesmerized by what other people say about this person, think for yourself ! There have been many times in history where the minds of intelligent people have been paralyzed by the charisma of a charming, well-spoken person. All the while, below the surface may smolder the agenda of a selfish, control-seeking personality. There are many instances in history, where a person with a charismatic nature, who speaks well and seems to have their act together, takes over the minds of others who may know better but avoid being the one to speak up. Although I admired much about John F. Kennedy, the “Bay of Pigs” issue comes to mind where it is reported that many in his Cabinet had serious issues and conflicts with his decisions, but never expressed their warnings.

Realize that many controlling and manipulative people will say what you want to hear, but do what they want to do. So listen to their language. Do they follow the rules of respectfully dealing with others, or do they have some uncanny way of creating diversions and chaos, and then do their deeds amongst all the chaos and before the smoke clears ? When questioned, do they really answer the concerns others express or turn to comments that are an attempt to make you feel that if you do not agree with them, you are somehow a racist, a bigot, or an uncaring person ?

Life can be hard at times, but good hard work and effort to better yourself builds pride and character. If someone offers you something for nothing, it is a pretty good sign you will end up with nothing,

If you are an adapting or approval seeking personality, you are easy prey for the narcissistic, manipulative personality types. They can smell the want for approval and acceptance in other people.

Once a person gets sucked into the space of the narcissistic sociopath, a dependency is formed on that person’s approval. Then, after becoming a victim, you may not be willing to admit to yourself that you were suckered, so you say nothing, and that avoidance causes you to feel even less in control of your life, which makes you even more vulnerable.

This phenomenon occurs in business as well as personal relationships. How many people do you know that are stuck in unhealthy marriages, where one of the partners shames. blames and guilts the other to silence their legitimate complaints ? Why do so many remain in those unhealthy, esteem destroying relationships for so long ?

Express yourself and your feelings about persons that your gut tells you are manipulative, controlling and lying, but don’t spew hatred. Speak respectfully and repeatedly, saying as an example “ I appreciate your thoughts and opinions, but I do not agree with you !” Then don’t get dragged into defending yourself as the other narcissistic or sociopathic personality type will surely try to convince you that you are wrong. Just repeat yourself !!! In this way you are respectfully expressing an opinion without feeling the guilt of being hateful or mean, thereby not triggering so much shame within yourself. I have had many a client who was a victim of emotional or sexual abuse, whose abuser would try to turn the shame and guilt machine on them big time by saying, “ See, you are feeling so much anger towards me right know, which makes you feel dark and ugly inside, so you are no better than me !”

So, think hard about this as the abuse may be more subtle, but it is still abuse when a person uses words to manipulate you. Don’t allow fear to rule your life, you deserve better than that.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC
www.RuledByFear
www.FearRulesYourLife.com

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At Risk…Your Self-Worth !

by on Nov.25, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

So I was talking to a very dear but struggling young lady who was sharing with me her excruciating pain and overwhelming confusion after being molested by a “man of the cloth”. I never get use to hearing such gut-wrenching stories of the dark side of mankind. This ” not so holy ” man manipulated this child of thirteen with kind words, then after molesting her, used the abuser’s most common tools to silence his victim, blame, shame a guilt ! Once she realized what his true agenda was, she was overwhelmed with fear as she felt trapped and paralyzed by his words :

” No one will believe you, so save your breath.”

” I am a messenger of God, so if you say anything, I will pray so that your little brothers and sisters will all burn in hell ! Do you want to be responsible for that happening ? ”

” I can tell that you liked some of what I did to you, it felt good didn’t it ? See, you wanted it ! ”

” Ah, you are angry with me, you feel hatred right now don’t you ? Hatred is a sin. God is angry with you feeling hate. ”

I have heard all this way too many times before as I have dealt with other victims of abuse. Yes, it makes me angry that some of those we share this planet with can justify and rationalize doing what they do to manipulate and control other innocent people for their personal needs and agendas.
Certainly one might say that this “unholy man ” has some sexual addiction issues, but regardless of whether his addiction is related to the need for sex, alcohol, drugs…or power, his lack of conscience, utter void of empathy, allowed him to cross the lines of decency.

As if the above scenario is not troubling enough, an even more flagrant example of manipulation and control was when I dealt with a father who had repeatedly, “emotionaly” and sexually abused his daughter up to the day she ended her pain and suffering at her own hands. He too used the tools of blame, shame and guilt not only to permanently silence his daughter, but also to emotionally paralyzed her aunt and uncle who swore to protect her. In the end, not wanting to truly admit how evil he was, they too fell victim to shame and guilt. Effectively silencing and eliminating any witnesses to his crimes of passion and abuse [ a long and painful story }, he walks freely even today.

Certainly, the above two examples might be labeled the actions of sociopaths for the degree or heights to which they could lie and abuse, justify and rationalize, and in the end, escape punishment. Neither had a conscience and therefore each was able to deny any wrong doing with a smile on their face and not a bead of sweat on their brow. In reality, further exploration into each case yielded a history of previous deception, abuse and manipulation, but you guessed it, never a charge was brought against either man in the past. They lied so effectively ! They manipulated their victims with blame, shame and guilt so cunningly, that there was no one who would speak up.

Each victim or witness was silenced because of their fear. That is what happens when a victim goes up against a person without conscience all alone.

Yet I also am witnessing first-hand that we, yes you and I, enable, I dare say allow or give power to those who would abuse, to those who would use their power to control and manipulate, whatever their addiction. Put aside the sexual abuse of the previous examples for a moment. The REAL damage was done as a result of the emotional and psychogical abuse and control. There are those who thirst for power and control over others, professing to do so for your own good. We live in an age where lies roll off the tongues of those void of conscience, where we have become complacent to open examples of manipulation, where evil is just ignored, and therefore, in a word, encouraged. Certainly our fears play a part in this avoidance, as in fear of reprisal, ending up on someone’s “hit” list, the fear of rejection or embarrassment. But make no mistake, don’t try to ” avoid ” the reality that one reason these people get away with what they do is because we do not rise up individually and collectively and say NO more !

Have you been witness to any person in power lying to you, deceiving you, manipulating you ? Have you doubted that person meant to lie, or tried to rationalize to yourself the person did not mean to deceive, but maybe was simply deceived by others, just didn’t know the truth ? Have you listened carefully to the words the potential deceiver uses to explain himself or herself ? Have you heard this individual use the tools of blaming others, shaming those who would question his or her past actions, comments or veracity or play the guilt card to distract you from the reality of whatever his or her agenda might be ? Do you think fear might at times blind you to the truth because it is too uncomfortable to see the dark side of mankind ? Do you feel how uncomfortable it is to face even the thought of dealing with someone who has little or no conscience, or even more painfully realize you have been duped by such a person you previously admired ?

Of course, you may not talk about it with anyone for fear they will find fault with your thoughts and feelings. By avoiding the issue, you are empowering people in your life who would emotionally and psychologically control or manipulate you and others just as the two persons I mentioned above. Oh certainly, the manipuation may not be a horrid as the examples I gave, nonetheless, the effect on your self-image is surely there. It is our self-esteem, self-respect and moral fiber that is at stake. When we do not take action against those who would lie to our faces, and manipulate without hesitation, it is worse than giving up an arm and a leg, as it is your personal sense of worth and value at risk.

Just a thought !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog : RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog : RuledByFear.com

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Out of Control !

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

Out of Control !

One message I have often repeated in my blog and newsletter is that significant anxiety symptoms, especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, often tend to sneak up on their victims. This is why, in my opinion,  so many of my clients have said, ” These symptoms just seem to have come from out of the blue ! ”
 
Well, I truly believe that these symptoms have a cause and therefore need to be treated not just with medications, but with a structured game plan  where therapy helps the suffering individual realize and deal with the causes as well as the resulting fears and symptoms.

The symptoms can be very overwhelming to be sure, and the natural want to control those symptoms leads most clients to medications. I fully understand and appreciate that fact. However, medications, although sometimes helpful, may curb or limit the symptoms, but I seriously question that they are actually treating the cause unless there is found a true medical source for those symptoms. Even when there are thyroid issues, hypoglycemia or other conditions that may predispose a person to anxiety symptoms, while those conditions need to be treated medically, I have not found that the panic or OCD stops after such treatment. Make no mistake, if true medical or neurological conditions exist, by all means they should be treated. I have just not found that to be the case for the vast majority of especially the panic attack or OCD  clients I have worked with during the past forty years.

As just another yet very vivid example of how anxiety symptoms can mask or distract a person from the  true sources for the pain they are feeling, I offer the following :

What I observed of this woman as she sat across from me for the first time was the look of full-blown terror painted on her face and of course  her tears of frustration and hopelessness. She  was feeling totally out of control physically and emotionally, and her husband sitting next to her felt helpless.

No, her focus was not on her panic attacks which she hardly mentioned. Understandably, she was focused instead on the horrible withdrawal symptoms she was experiencing week after week after she stopped taking Xanax. 

She seemed obsessed with making sure I understood that the symptoms she was feeling were real, that she was not making them up, so I just listened at first.
She felt her skin crawling, she could not stay focused  on any one thing as her thoughts ran away from her. She physically and mentally felt out of control, and was dwelling on whether she had some kind of brain or nervous system damage due to previously being on Xanax, at 3 mg. a day.

I knew I had to bring her to a point where I could help her to focus on why all this was happening, but that was a challenge as anything I said was not being heard over the dominant fear-based chatter going on in her head. I realized the withdrawal symptoms were real, but her fears and resulting anxiety were making all her symptoms worse.

So after listening to her intently, and showing acknowledgment and respect for all she was going through, I asked her…. ” Why were you put on Xanax, especially that high of a dosage, to begin with ?” She had to collect her thoughts and wipe her tears, and I could see that look on her face that almost cried out, ” What does that matter ? ” However, after a few seconds and with her spouse’s urging, she related a story of being  a rather perfectionistic wife, mother and loyal friend who was just helping neighbors through a difficult crisis in their lives when ” this anxiety just came over me ! ” She ended up in the ER, then being seen by the hospital’s house psychiatrist, and was placed on the rather significant dose of Xanax. From that point on, it became all about her unreal feelings while taking the medications, and the horrible withdrawal symptoms once she stopped the meds.

I brought her back around to the reality that, as the doctors had told her,  the medications would gradually work their way out of her system, and she should continue working with her PCP regarding her physical symptoms, but that I wanted to refocus on the true source of the anxiety, as her withdrawal symptoms had all but distracted her from the real problem.

So then she listened as I told her about herself, where I described her perfectionistic and caregiving personality which had run unchecked and unbridled for many years leading to her gradually overwhelming herself, and creating anxiety and panic attacks. In essence, I was describing a good person, well-meaning and caring, who was burning the candle at both ends. She sat there acknowledging that yes, she did tend to take on too much, and rarely could say no to anyone’s request for her help. Why not, it felt good to be needed and see herself as useful and well-liked ! How could that be a problem !

I could see her husband’s facial gestures and eye-rolling that all but said that his wife was minimizing the extent to which SHE OVER-EXTENDED herself all the time. She was addicted to pleasing !  However, without boundaries, that need to be needed and fix others had become a self-sabotaging path to disaster.  I expressed to her that this is less a disease, and more of a reaction to her habitual, compulsive pattern of overwhelming herself because her very positive personality characteristics had run amok and caused her to unravel.

Once she realized what had happened and truly embraced it, and that took some time and soul-searching, she learned to set healthy limits and boundaries. She learned she was not broken, and that she could be better than she was before, as she could still be who she was, but would make smarter choices. Her pain taught her to take better care of herself. Unfortunately, without pain, she would never have seriously considered change. Would you ?

She had to realize that all she had been through was not a sign of weakness, but a sign that corrections needed to be made where she created a greater balance in her life between being there for others and being there for herself. She was not needy, but she had needs. She was not selfish, but needed to take care of herself. She could be there for others, but knew where to draw the line so that the energy she put into others was better matched with the energy coming back.

Oh, she would still screw up at times and have little setbacks as old habits are hard to break, but she would catch herself and readjust. That’s how it works !

Just a thought or two !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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” Let No Crisis Go to Waste “

by on Apr.15, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I was watching a video this morning where a guy was walking along some boardwalk in California asking those who passed by to sign his petition. He openly exaggerated what he was saying to get the attention of his audience.

He asked them to sign a petition to eliminate the Second Amendment altogether and allow the government to go house to house confiscating ALL guns from law abiding citizens, but to let the bad guys have their guns so that the police can take care of them in their own way. People just signed the petition, one after another as if he was asking them if they wanted free ice cream .The more he repeated and embellished on his words, the more the people seemed to just turn him off, sign and be on their way.

To test his theory out further that so many people just do not care even to know what they are signing, he proposed another issue. With clipboard in hand, he asked each person to sign a petition to ask that ” inflation be allowed to go up to 100%”. Again, people signed without a question asked.
If that is where we are in our society, that so many of us are so lost in our own little worlds that we are unaware, or just don’t care, then we are truly in self-destruct mode. Are we that numb ? Are we that lost in our own space ?
 

So, it should not be surprising that so many who make up the decision making ranks of our government, both Democrat and Republican politicians alike, have become liars, manipulators and abusers of  the very people they serve. Yes, I did say abusers, because they use shame and guilt to manipulate us to see things their way, to do their bidding, a tactic I have seen all too often when I deal with children or young woman who have been emotionally, sexually or physically abused. 

Our Congressmen, Senators, and yes even our President promise everything under the sun, knowing that what they offer may be impossible to deliver, but also having the realization that we as a people have become weak, lazy or believe there is nothing we can say or do that will make a difference. They are cunning, these master politicians, and they know human nature. They have come to see us as weak and as easy victims to prey upon.

“No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.” ― John F. Kennedy

I cringe when I hear speeches that are meant to instill guilt and shame, when no real solutions are put forth because sometimes there are no real solutions. Bad people will do bad things ! No matter what we do, no laws, no programs will create a utopia. There will be bad people who do evil because of their own dark issues and needs. There are people who, although they are capable of contributing to our society, feel entitled to be taken care of, and be depenndent. Nothing we do will change that.

Have you really seen any government program that does not wreak of corruption and fraud ? Look at how we treat our Vets. Look at the scams that openly cheat and defraud our Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Retirement systems. Look at how many more people each day come to be able to JUSTIFY scamming the system. 

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel


Our government should be consciously and tirelessly cleaning up and making the present programs work before creating new programs. Instead, CRISES are used to pass bills and laws and create even more programs where, even in writing these grand proposals, there is manipulation and hidden agendas at play. PORK is added to most bills to benefit politicians in their respective states so that they can guarantee to please those who will vote them back into POWER. Politicians do what they do in so many cases in order to secure their own power and positions. 


{ “Power tends to corrupt,” said Lord Acton, the 19th-century British historian. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His maxim has been vividly illustrated in psychological studies, notably the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which was halted when one group of students arbitrarily assigned to serve as “prison guards” over another group began to abuse their wards.}

I expend much energy each day as a Psychologist attempting to help people discover and find the inner strength to stand up for what they think, feel and desire to do with their lives. I see first hand how destructive it is when good people are made dependent . That dependency weakens them, causes them to not seek their dreams, and in the end become angry with themselves that they avoided all they wished at one time to accomplish in their lives.  

True happiness comes when a person feels self-respect for what they think, feel and do with their lives. Facing challenges strengthens self-esteem and encourages more personal growth. People need JOBS and OPPORTUNITIES, not handouts. But at the same time, like a spoiled child, promise them everything, throw them a few free toys, and they become victims of the entitlement generation. Just wait until they face the consequences of their dependency ! I think many of our politicians know exactly what they are doing. So forgive me when I say that it is absolutely deplorable to see my fellow man, or woman manipulated by others for their own gain. 

We must be accountable to ourselves for the decisions we make and the directions our lives take. However, when you give power to the people who govern our society, your job has just begun. The hard part is making certain that you make each politician accountable to the people he or she serves. We have acquiesced so much control to our government officials, and yes, we have become lazy at calling them to task for their mischievous behaviors. Like children, they must be reigned in and made to face consequences for their use and abuse of power.

This problem is enormous and is not going away. Whether the issue is Watergate, abhorrent “sexual” antics in the Oval Office, or the Benghazi debacle, if we do not hold their feet to the fire, the politicians we empower will rule us rather than serve us !

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of r elinquishing it.” ― George Orwell1984


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
Newsletter and On-Line Support Group :www. OneStepataTime.comhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image21331338

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Think About This, Feel About That !

by on Apr.01, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

Think About This, Feel About That !

What do you REALLY think and feel ?

What do you REALLY think and feel ?

 

I have heard it said, ” You are who you are when no one is looking.” That always made sense to me since many of us spend so much of our time adapting or molding into what we think others expect us to be. At least, many of my clients suffering from anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive thoughts and rituals would find this to be true.

 

In fact, I have found that a predominant issue that triggers many of their anxiety symptoms is, in fact, their gradual realization that the need for approval and acceptance, their want to fit in and belong, and their fear of failure and rejection by others all to often effect or restrict what they do with their lives, or what they do not do.

 

We are, so to speak, what we think, feel and do !

 

But how easily are your thoughts influenced by what you think you ” should ” think ? Do you actually say what you think, or express your thoughts in terms that are more in line with others around you at the moment ? How often do you truly share your thoughts and risk disapproval or disagreement ?

 

Since what you FEEL is often significantly molded by what you think, if your thoughts

are not clearly your own, or are influenced by your fears of rejection or ridicule, what do you truly feel ? Are you being honest with yourself ? Like, what do you really feel about gay marriage, gun control, or abortion ? Look in the mirror and ask yourself !

 

In the end, it is what you DO with your life as a result of what you think and feel that  brings you a sense of purpose, of meaning, of worth and value. So the more conflict there is about what you truly think and feel, the more likely you might be to avoid or be otherwise distracted from really doing  what you could with your life !

 

Many a good and well-meaning person will waste so much emotional and psychological energy seeking approval, acceptance and validation from others that they often do not realize that they are giving up any potential momentum they could be devoting to their real personal growth.

 

When I focus with clients on having them truly define what they think and feel, and when they actually express their wants and opinions, they realize how much they have held themselves back. It takes time to learn to challenge their fears that have held them back, but they do, step by step, and as a result, they begin to TRUST their thoughts and opinions, to EMBRACE their feelings and to DO things in their life that bring more worth and value to their days.

 

They still care what others think and feel, but they learn to set boundaries  as to how far they go to please. They are respectful of others thoughts and feelings but require respect in return.

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

 

Benhaven Counseling, LLC

 

Blog: RuledByFear.com

 

Newsletter and On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

 

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The Slippery Slope

by on Mar.04, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

So this young female client comes in to her session with good news as  far as her progress in fighting off anxiety, but she still seems troubled.She had used all the tools we had discussed to understand and take control of the conflicts in her life that were triggers for her panic attacks and obsessive thoughts, and she felt strengthened knowing those tools worked. Yet again, she still appeared bothered, almost distant.

 
When I asked her about what I sensed, she at first reluctantly said she wasn’t sure, but that while we were talking about all she had done to feel more in control of her life, it was dawning on her that there was something else going on at school that was creating conflict, and she had pretty much ignored it until we started chatting.

 

It seems that while she is attending her college classes, some of the students were able to vie for part-time work for the school. The money was good and it was very convenient to be able to work a few hours a day in-between classes. These jobs were thought to be rather special and rare, so she was thrilled to secure one of them. After a few weeks of working this job, she found that there was nothing much to do. She expected she would be working on some project  for her professors,and she was excited to be somehow involved in their programs and research. It would feel good to be a part of something important. But in fact, she was told to just spend the time doing her homework.

 

She looked around and saw that this was , in fact, what the other students were doing, getting paid to do their homework. It troubled her at first because she always thought of herself as a conscientious person with a good work ethic. She was brought up with a very spiritual and moral foundation.What she realized was bothering her the most was that she easily gave in and followed the crowd. As she sat in front of me, she expressed concern, even showed some tears as she realized how she was too easily acquiescing to a behavior that was very uncomfortable. She was not proud of what she was doing.

 

This situation created a ethical conflict, and she felt that alarms should have gone off in her head immediately, but they didn’t. Why was she just following ? Why was she just accepting a behavior that was previously unacceptable to her ? She could feel a decrease in self-pride, in esteem. This was a slippery slope, and she was on the precipice.  “If I could justify this when it is so against my ethics, what else could I rationalize my way around in life. I am feeling a lack of trust in myself now and it is terribly uncomfortable. I do not like being this vulnerable. ”

 

Not long after my encounter with this young lady, the mother in another family I have known for years was talking to me about how excited she and her husband were about starting their own business. Carol was a staunch Independent, and spoke quite openly about her disgust for those who live off the system when they are perfectly capable of working. Something changed however, as she and her husband found that they were receiving payments for many of their new company’s  services “under the table “. That meant, of course, not having to worry about paying taxes until they were really making bigger bucks. This would allow them to build up a “war chest” of funds that really helped them get a better start with their company.

 

Then they realized how easy it was to set themselves up to receive “free lunches” for the kids, and then take advantage of free Welfare health services, just until their company got a really good start. All of a sudden, they were able to justify and rationalize that what they once rejected as people living off or scamming the system, was acceptable under “their” circumstances. I voiced my displeasure, but I cannot judge.

 

The problem is, of course, that greater numbers of people ARE able to justify this kind of behavior, and walk along the edge of that slippery slope  where they eventually find themselves dependent on the system, weakened by their own choices, and dependent on a government who would thrive on their dependency. So goes the country !

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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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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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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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