When Fear Rules !

Tag: self confidence

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.



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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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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One Step at a Time !

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

When you see someone do something really special, accomplishing something that you see as significant or making changes or challenging some problem or issue in his or her life, what goes through YOUR mind ?  Does it motivate you and cause you to seriously explore options for change ?  How quickly do self-defeating thoughts pop into your head, like
” Who am I kidding, I can’t do that “?

Are there things in your life that you always wanted to do, but always seem to put off ? Are you “comfortable” with your job, but wishing you could do something more ?  Are there personal changes you would like to make, like lose weight, learn a language, take classes to learn a new skill ?

Do you allow your need for approval from others prevent you from expressing how you really feel or think about some issue ? Are you reluctant to express your needs to your partner or a close friend ? Do you create a facade of everything being good in your life, yet yearn for more ?

What stops you ? I know, life gets busy and you just do not have time, right ? Or, is it that you just cannot see yourself making changes in your private thoughts, in your minds eye, so to speak ?

These are emotionally complex issues to unravel, but the reality is that as much as you may want something, or desire to change something in your life, if you cannot see yourself doing it, whatever it is, it will not get done  ! Your self doubt, fueled by fears of failure, rejection, embarrassment and even success will derail your efforts.

Your inner fears fill the airwaves of your mind. The negative self-talk that is reinforced by those fears has had years and years to develop, so there is a strong resistance to change.

So with all those doubts swimming around in your mind, how can you navigate through them and defeat them ? I have always stressed that the best way to accomplish change is to do so in STEPS and with a Support Team around you. Your fears usually are so well embedded in your life that you cannot make changes if you attempt to do so in leaps that will overwhelm, or without people around to goad you along, and validate your efforts to change.

Creating goals is great, but they must be behaviorally measurable, something you can see and feel. The steps to accomplish those goals must be defined and reasonable. So, just as an example, what if you wanted to get in better shape ? The key is that you must exercise but do so with a plan. You must define steps, like being able to carry out certain exercises, starting at a point where the task is doable, and gradually and consistently practicing that step and adding a layer of difficulty a little at a time. The confidence from the success on one step can propel you to the next step. It will take consistent and persistent practice and stretching to gain any real momentum, because you have to build a history in your mind to over run the history already there of avoiding, giving up and seeing yourself as a failure. This applies to anything you want to change, like being able to do public speaking which would open up other career doors, over-riding panic attacks while driving so you gain freedom in your life, or being able to express your thoughts and opinions rather than avoid doing so for fear of rejection, failure or embarrassment.

That momentum is critical to your success ! That momentum can help you ride a wave that can outrun your past negative thoughts and fears. One Step at a Time, rather than throwing yourself into the deep, has a much greater chance success as it gives you the opportunity to see yourself as successful ! Each success adds to your arsenal of positive self-talk to compete with those previously un-challenged negative and self- deprecating thoughts. Taking frequent small bites rather than a huge gulp  can reduce the risk of

choking !

As much as a step by step approach and persistent practice is crucial, so is the need for a  support system I mentioned before to encourage your continued success. Not only does a team of cheerleaders validating your progress help create momentum, but the thought of disappointing them adds to your efforts.

In truth, this is just common sense, but yet many of us abandon the idea of a step by step approach, as we think it is a sign of weakness. In truth, the “all or nothing approach” seldom works and most often causes a person to shut down, or avoid further steps as we feel overwhelmed.

What do you want to change ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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A note from a young girl fighting her way out of panic !

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

When we start making progress, we may also still have times of fear and we may begin to slowly feel like not continuing to try because we feel scared once again or for some reason, we seem to lack motivation. Personally, I’m having this issue now and I don’t quite know why.

I want to get better, I was improving, and now my will power seems to have lessened. I never understood why one would be afraid of success. Maybe we fear though that once we trust ourselves, and let our guard down, we’ll become blindsided. Maybe we also think that once we tackle one thing, another thing we find even more nerve wrecking will come along. Maybe we just grow impatient. We don’t see all the results right away so we lose motivation, we stop practicing. The problem is however, that once we stop practicing, we start telling our minds that we’re slowly giving up, and we can’t do that.

How are you going to trust yourself if you lose the motivation to do so? Try and remember first and foremost that you have been successful to some degree. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re confidence will return. However, these are some things to consider. If you’ve been successful, why are you still scared? If you were motivated before, why did that begin to change? It could be a simple answer or a complex one. All the same, it should be considered.


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Why Do I Procrastinate ?

by on Oct.07, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD


So, Why do I Procrastinate ?
There is not necessarily one simple answer to that question, as much depends on the personality and needs of the person asking the question. Granted, for some, they may procrastinate because there is no real desire or need to do whatever is in question. However, for many of the individuals I work with as a therapist, there may be another more compelling and obvious reason for their avoiding. However, no matter how obvious it may be to some, when a person is in a state of anxiety, the obvious easily becomes blurred.
Most of my clients come to me because they are experiencing significant anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Rarely are their symptoms the result of some significant trauma, or a crisis that would be considered by most of us to be a serious threat to life or limb. To be sure, trauma or crisis can cause serious anxiety symptoms, but most often I have found the trigger for these symptoms to be personal conflict, some inner turmoil that they suffer through privately.

Many times, my clients are in conflict because they are not living their lives to the fullest measure that they desire or dream of, but instead find themselves settling, opting to be comfortable rather than stretch or test themselves. I call this being ” comfortably-uncomfortable. I would expect many of you feel you are not doing all you hoped or expected to do with your lives.

So, I had this client ask me today, ” Why would I procrastinate when I know I am not happy with my place in life, when my job is not fulfilling, when my social life is blah ? When I think about it, and the fact that one day after another goes by and I put off taking steps towards any of the changes we have talked about it therapy, I feel more and more anxious. I still put off doing anything about it.”

What most often comes to my mind when I hear comments like this is… FEAR !Our lives are ruled by fear in many ways, some more evident than others. But make no mistake, FEAR RULES. Fear of failure, embarrassment, rejection, and even fear of success can be triggers for many of our negative, self-sabotaging thoughts.

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who was “wired” like Steve Jobs. Possibly you were brought up in an atmosphere where taking reasonable risks was rewarded, meeting challenges head-on was second-nature and self-esteem was nurtured. Or, you may be one on many, I dare say the majority of persons who adapt but give up little pieces of who they are or want to be or withdraw and go numb when faced with significant changes or even mild to moderate challenges.

“Let’s just play it safe, and not buck the system. Keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.”

This young man I was talking to had actually stretched rather significantly in his life for a short period of time. While in therapy, we were able to identify needs and issues and laid out a game plan for action. He put himself and his level of self-confidence to the test by taking on some classes that he had always thought about but always put off. What did he experience as a result ? It was exciting ! Not only did he prove to himself that he could still master new knowledge, but he was also able to ask questions and make comments in his classes that seemed to open his eyes to the reality that he truly had potential to do more with his life. He felt validation from others which was definitely not what he was use to in his life.

So what was the problem ? The classes ended, and he returned to a boring job, one that helped pay the bills but did not really interest or challenge him. His short stint at this exciting new world of challenge gave way to his life’s way of thinking that success is for the other guy. The thoughts that he was not good enough had been so pervasive throughout his life, that without consistent and persistent challenging of his negative self talk , his confidence and esteem hit the wall and slid down that slippery slope of “what ifs” and ” what ever gave me the idea I could really do this ?”

Hopefully now he understands that he was on the right course, but that he has to choreograph his life so that he further develops reasonable goals with steps, and that he must practice stretching every day. Like physical exercise, one can wish to be in shape, but without persistent effort, muscle turns to flab, confidence turns to just being comfortably-uncomfortable……and anxiety flirts and plays with your thoughts, and not in a fun way.

We can take greater control of our lives, but dare I say, we must be somewhat obsessed with taking steps and desensitizing to our fears. This is not something you can do half-heartedly. You must face your fears, challenge yourself to the point that you can feel resistance and beyond without overwhelming yourself. If you do not feel some anxiety while making changes, there is little real growth. But by taking STEPS, you break the anxiety of change down into digestible bites instead of choking and giving in to your fears.

Do you procrastinate ? Why ? Care to share your thoughts ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC
Blog : RuledByFear.com
On-Line Support Group and Newsletter : www.OneStepAtaTime.com

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A Child in Pain

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

Not much strikes the heart as deeply as seeing a child in pain ,

Over the last year alone, I have seen a significant increase in the number of children experiencing significant anxiety symptoms that manifest themselves with physical or behavioral symptoms.   The physical symptoms were what drew the attention of the parents and physicians, as would be expected, however after medical exams and tests, there was no medical reasons found for the childrens’ pain. Examples might be : a child who begins manifesting behaviors like having to carry out bedtime rituals that go on for hours ; a child experiencing physical pain that caused him to need crutches months after he had physically healed from a sprained ankle ( psychosomatic pain ) ; a child who had not spoken ( selective mutism ) in eight years ; or a child who had fallen during a soccer game only to claim he had lost feelings in his legs.

In these and other cases , there were no medical or physical reasons for  what the children were experiencing, however, their pain was real. In order to overcome their symptoms, each had to realize it was emotional pain and conflict that was the trigger for their continued physical pain. If there was previous harm that existed as in the child with the sprained ankle, or the young man taking a fall at a game, time had passed so that even though the pain was not still caused by those accidents, the emotional pain travelled to the weak or previously damaged part of the body [ the proverbial Achilles Heal ].  Each learned to overcome their symptoms because they were open minded and faced their fears and conflicts and made certain changes that helped them feel more “in control ” of their lives.

The many adults I work with have a harder time accepting the reality of what the mind can create when we are in emotional / psychological pain due to conflict.

When I say to the child, ” I know you are not faking or making up your pain, your symptoms are real, and we are going to learn to find and deal with the reason for the emotional pain that has caused physical pain in your body “, I am giving him hope against his fears that there is something ” really wrong ” .  These kids were scared as they did not understand what was happening to them.  Even the most loving parents become frustrated and begin to wonder if their child is faking, or whether their is some more serious disorder. The parents’ frustration  can often exacerbate their child’s symptoms. So obviously , the parents must learn along with their child so that their anxiety for their child does not cause the child to feel guilty or like a bad  person.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist


Blog : RuledByFear.com

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Why Don’t We LISTEN ?

by on Jun.23, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Once we learn to talk, it seems like we become so enamored with the sound of our own voices, that we never learn to LISTEN.

In my work as a therapist, that is my number one tool to help people, JUST LISTEN. If I take the time to draw out of the other person what is on his or her mind, it is only then that I can be of any significant value in helping my client resolve whatever issue [s} that brought them to me. One of the reasons people do come to me is that there is no one else they can trust to hear what they have to say since most people in their lives are oh so ready to tell them what to do, but not so ready to just LISTEN.

I mean, coming up with answers for everyone’s problems is hard work, but just listening is easy. By just allowing the other person to talk, or even more by encouraging them to share with you, you are opening up a form of communication for which you can feel satisfied that you were truly of help, while at the same time, allowing the person being heard to feel validated, as opposed to feeling he or she unable to solve problems.

In so many cases, when I listen as a professional, or even just as a friend, I can see the look on the face of the person I am listening to lighten up as if to say, ” I DO have the answer in my head, I just needed someone to help me get them out into the open “. Listening helps the other person feel respected instead of embarrassed that they needed someone else to solve their problem.

Think about it ! Would you rather just have someone tell you what you should do, or help you draw out the options in your mind and assist you in making decisions that are natural to your personality’s needs ?

Then there is the issue of agendas !!! This is a BIGGIE ! Can you tell another person what to do without allowing your own biases to  interfere or rule what you say ? What if what is good for you is not good for her ? Can you be neutral ? Oh please, really !!! We often worry so much about what other people think or say about us, how much does that influence what we might say to another person if what they are bringing up touches a nerve in us ?

Then there are the parents who are trying to teach their children how to deal with life, but are so busy dealing with that life themselves that they end up preaching instead of really teaching. Do you really want your child to just echo what you think, or to understand, to have some insight into what they need to do ? I listen to parents talk to their children all the time, and very seldom do I hear that they are teaching the child to think, but instead……

……..Well, as an example, a child I have grown to know very well was adopted by a very loving family this past year. This child has survived  crisis after crisis, disaster and abuse heaped upon upon more abuse. Now with good, wholesome parents, she is having to learn so much about living WITH a family, as opposed to feeling all alone.  Think for a second how hard that might be when you have had no guidance for maybe thirteen years of your young life, but then all of a sudden, you have more guidance and  rules than you ever knew existed. Now, there are proper words to use, proper things to say, to dress, eat and yes, to think and feel.

Now again, her new parents are very loving and well-meaning, but when there is a problem she is experiencing as she tries to fit in, belong, and be accepted in this new world, she comes to me for answers. I have frequently said to her that as much as I will always be there as a friend to help her through the difficult times of those teen years, that she needs to go to and trust her new parents. She knows that she should but then says, “They do not really hear me, they don’t listen. I know they love me and I love them, but they don’t want to hear anything uncomfortable. If I go to them with a problem, it always turns into them telling me what I should think and feel, let alone DO !  Do they think I am stupid ? I know what I am thinking, and I know that I am feeling a lot of mixed up feelings, but I just need them to listen ! How can they love me if they do not respect me ? How can they respect me if they think I am stupid and do not know my own thoughts, or have my own feelings. Sometimes I feel like one of those dummies that sit of the man’s lap and my mouth is moving, but they are not my words.”

Listening, TRULY hearing what is being said and what is felt is one of the most wonderful things you can offer another human being. And, it is so much easier than having to have all the right answers .


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist



Website/ Newsletter / On-Line Support Group :

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

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Feeling Overwhelmed ???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

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Yes, We Can Change !

by on May.07, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

We become self-defined by the things we do, or don’t do.

Our thoughts are the private domain of that secret world between our ears, but those thoughts have and decided impact on how we feel. We can think ourselves into a good place or a dark place within the speed of light.

Those thoughts and the resulting feelings shape our perceptions of ourselves, how we learn to look at the world, and of course how we habitually deal with that world.

I watch for this when I meet a new client and over the time develop a picture of their personality, because I know I have to develop a plan, along with the client to help them overcome their issues, and conflicts which are causing anxiety symptoms and or depression. Even though I believe we have a vast and unlimited ability to make changes in our lives if done in the right way, the plan must be developed with steps that are not overwhelming and certainly not outside the nature of the individual.

A person who tends to see the world as an uphill struggle, cannot be approached like one who sees life as full of opportunities ripe for the picking. An individual who has learned from childhood on to seek approval and adapt to please others, must carefully be shown that he or she can find ways to take better care of his or her needs without risking rejection and abandonment.

I could go on and on, but the point to be made is that people can make healthy changes in their lives no matter what the personality type, as long as they seek guidance and are ready and willing to look at themselves, not with a critical eye, but with an openness to step-by-step, expose themselves with alternative experiences that give them evidence of the magnificent worth, value and meaning that can be found in each person’s life.

So we think, which dramatically effects what we feel. Then those thoughts and feelings, our perceptions of ourselves, either drives us to try new things, stretch a little to do more exploring, or it shuts us down and we do nothing but lament.

I find there are so many people out there with dreams that are never see the light of day, with needs that go without being fulfilled, and with resulting anxiety, panic attacks or intrusive thoughts which only go to distract them from what they really need to do, that even I get frustrated for them.

But then again, I get excited when someone in our on-line Support Group has one of those “ Ah-Ha” moments like what happened recently. This man seems like a very decent, caring guy, who was actually seeking information to help a family member who was experiencing anxiety and depression. But then, as we talked, he realized that he had become comfortably – uncomfortable with life. He adapted all the time to what he felt others expected of him. He was a caregiver, and on the surface felt he was happy.
Then he realized that on occasion, he would snap a little at some people , a behavior which he was uncomfortable with seeing in himself. But, it was happening more and more.

After realizing that he repressed frustration he had felt for a long time, that his needs seemed to always go un-met while he went out of his way to be there for everyone else, he began to set some boundaries. He was still good to people, but he started thinking about and expressing his needs too. It felt good, although strange at first, and you know what ? No one was rejecting him. He was actually allowing a few people to be there for him too. What a magnificent idea. His little spurts of anger and resentment decreased and it felt so good.

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