When Fear Rules !

Tag: Self-esteem

Why Are Some More Vulnerable to Anxiety

by on Jan.25, 2018, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 Webster defines Vulnerable as : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage.  

 In my professional experience, being vulnerable and the extent of that vulnerability is what makes many of us more susceptible to anxiety symptoms, whether in the form of panic attacks, obsessive worry, agoraphobia or compulsive behaviors.  

If you choose to believe that everyone who experiences significant anxiety has chemical imbalances, that is your choice, and maybe that takes some pressure off thinking there is nothing you can do but live with it.   But, in MY reality as a Psychologist, the majority of us experience these symptoms because we have subconsciously or knowingly placed ourselves in situations in our lives that have made us vulnerable, by doing things or avoiding experiences that would make us less vulnerable.  

What if it is  our THOUGHTS that trigger chemical reactions which then trigger symptoms.  Our thoughts, which are the result of years of thinking and feeling negatively and never learning to deal with people and issues more effectively may be the problem.

Now of course, all of us were developing our way of looking at the world and dealing with that world from infancy on-ward. So, our perceptions of the world, the good and the bad, were developing even before we had reached the ability to REASON.  We were experiencing fear and how to protect ourselves or avoid even before we knew what those terms meant. Many of us developed a dependency on APPROVAL, possibly becoming Caregiver, Conforming, Peacekeeper or Perfectionistic personalities well before the age of six or seven.  Have you ever noticed that the more logical, analytic personality types suffer less anxiety symptoms ? They derive more of their sense of worth and value from what they DO, and need less approval directly from the mouths of others. Just a thought !  

Unfortunately, for those of us who developed a dependency on approval and a want to avoid rejection and disapproval, needing approval is often a key issue in making us vulnerable to conflict and anxiety. Look at your life ! There are many good things about you, but your dependency on approval is not one of them.

Now, IT IS OK TO WANT APPROVAL ! But the degree to which you have avoided expressing your thoughts and  feelings, not taken a chance to try something different, not attempting to take the ” road less travelled ” for fear of upsetting someone or possibly failing, are signs of dependency. Every time you avoid someone or some issue for fear of failure or rejection, you place yourself in a vulnerable place.  

The more you avoid, the more you psychologically beat yourself up. Your self image comes from what you perceive you have done with your life. Avoidance is toxic to self esteem.  This creates emotional conflict.

We CAN do something about being vulnerable ! We can at any time we so desire, begin to take steps to explore where and when we avoid people and issues.

We can look hard at the opportunities we secretly wish we had attempted to try on for size.

We can look at talents and interests we never allowed ourselves to expand upon because we never gave ourselves time.

 We can look at people that we never expressed ourselves to because we chose to avoid conflict.  

We can make a serious effort to  explore issues of avoidance.  Set goals for yourself to face people or deal with issues you would normally avoid. Take that course you put off. Expand your skills at you job so you are not as vulnerable when it comes to finding another job.  

We can take steps to deal with some of the difficult people in our life, but small and frequent steps or bites. The FREQUENCY with which you challenge yourself and your self-imposed limits and boundaries allows you to experience feelings of growth and pride, and with repetition,something changes. Then, gradually increasing the magnitude of these changes,taking little bigger bites and then increasing the frequency of those successes lets the confidence build.  

When dealing with friends, make sure you find a balance by asking them for things instead of you always doing for them.   Even with your kids, stick to your guns when it comes to discipline. Make them face consequences instead of being afraid they will not love you. Otherwise, again, you are vulnerable to their games.  

You need to remember that although you may share many genetic connections with your parents, you are NOT limited or restricted in your life because of anything they have done or not done with their lives.   

The acorn CAN fall as far from the tree as you allow it to.   We learn much from our parents. But if you have the sense and awareness to know that some of the things they did were wrong, then you have every opportunity to make sure your life does not go that way.  

Sometimes we become angry with ourselves because we see that we are giving in to that notion that we are destined to follow in the footsteps of “sick” parents. Maybe we perceive that to be true because we lack faith in ourselves. But the reality is, that the only ones that can really screw up our lives is US. Some people should never have been parents. But if you are unfortunate enough to have experienced unhealthy parents, rejoice, as you have learned what NOT to do.  

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist, Coach
The Benhaven Group

Blog: RuledByFear.com
www.RuledByFear.com
 

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Needing a Sense of Pupose !

by on Dec.24, 2017, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have previously held the belief that people, by nature, want to feel a sense of worth and value to their lives, not just exist, or be dependent. Further, I always believed that people thrive when they have goals, feel they are doing something meaningful and purposeful on a day to day basis. Don’t people feel a little “high” when the have stretched and conquered an issue, problem or challenge ?

I guess I still believe all that, because, everyday in my work as a therapist, I see that most of the clients who are experiencing anxiety or depression report that they feel stuck or trapped in their lives. They often begrudgingly report that they have given in to their fears of failure and rejection and have become complacent. Further, they painfully admit to themselves that they have avoided change, options to grow and stretch.The slippery slope of avoidance can take a person down to the point that he or she cannot see any chance of digging their way out. Avoidance warps our sense of self, diminishes our self-esteem which further limits our ability to change and grow.

How many mornings do you wake up excited about what you are planning to do that day ? When was the last time you felt you were doing something really meaningful in your life ? Do you have goals at work that get your adrenalin pumping ? Do you feel a passion in your life ? Do you feel your relationship with your spouse and kids is where you want it to be ?

You cannot truly avoid the reality of avoidance in your life ! You may deny it to others, but you know. It haunts you in your private moments.

When I sit with most of my clents, what I see behind the cloudiness of their symptoms is often the reality, that somewhere along their life, they lost their sense of purpose.

Out of fear of failure or rejection, or due to the erosion of self-esteem that comes from avoiding challenges to their personal growth, they often do not consciously realize that they have lost a sense of meaning to their lives. They are just so focused on how they feel, which is either anxious or depressed, that they are unaware that much of what they feel is a result of the complacency that has crept into their lives, the lack of intimacy they are experiencing, the lack of involvement in anything truly special for which they could feel passionate.

So, ask yourself, when was the last time you felt passionate about anything special going on in your life ? It is never too late to embrace change !

Yes, I know change can be scary at times. But when you set a reasonable goal to face something or someone you have avoided, and then create a hierarchy of steps to approach that person or issue, each step can help to motivate the next step to be taken.
Nose of
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

www.RuledByFear.com

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Bullying…All I did was try to protect my daughter !

by on Dec.14, 2017, under Bullying

I am currently seeing a client, and adult male, whose daughter was being bullied over a period of three months, at the private school she was attending. The father, let’s call him Bob, was terribly upset that this was going on as he was paying out the nose for his daughter to attend this well known school, and expected that she would not be subject to bullying there. Financially, this was a burden for him, but he has two daughters that he hoped to protect from such issues.

Recently, the bullying reached a more intense and therefore tragic level when his daughter was being hazed at an assembly at school and in the hallways. They were calling her names and saying terribly embarrassing things to her , and she was visibly shaken and shared with her parents that this was happening, and that she was experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. Bob, no stranger to anxiety and depression, and loving his daughters more than himself, was beside himself.

Although most adolescents going through this do not share with their parents, and often become victims to suicide, this is a very loving and close family, so they knew there was something going on, and she knew that her parents would not blame her for doing something to bring this on.
The parents immediately set up therapy for the daughter, and Bob went to the school and talked to the Assistant Principal who said he would take care of it. He did not deal with it, for whatever reason. Whether
the administrator was insensitive to to issue of bullying, or maybe was anxious about talking to the parents of these students, some of whom were highly influential in the community, or possibly major contributors to the school, I don’t know yet.

The next day or two, nothing was done, but the Assistant Principal approached Bob’s daughter in the hallway at school in front of other students, asking whether she had anything to do with vandalizing one of the bullying student’s car. It was proven that it was not her, but she was further embarrassed by being accused in a very public place, instead of privately in the administrator’s office. What is wrong with this picture ????

Not getting the help he was expecting from the administration, he went back after work one day to see if he could catch up with the administrator and reinforce how serious this was for his daughter. He did not find him around, but in walking by the gym, he saw the group of upper class students that had bullied his daughter.

He was upset that they had potentially put his daughter’s life at risk with their bullying, and so he could not pass up the opportunity to go up to this group and “warn” them to leave his daughter alone. Admittedly, he used some very colorful language to make his point, but when he was done, one of the students, a male, came up to Bob and admitted he was part of the group that bullied his daughter, apologized and reached out to shake Bob’s hand. Bob accepted, and in that moment, that is all Bob wanted is for the students to know that words hurt, and he just wanted it to stop.
Even Bob admitted that the bullying stopped according to his daughter after he made his points with the students.

Now Bob is preparing for court since the parents of these bullies pressed ‘menacing’ charges against Bob.They are calling him a bully, when their sons and daughters were bullying his daughter. He is sick about it and was having panic attacks. “All I did was try to protect my daughter when the authorities failed us.”

What do you think about this ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group

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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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Can You Teach Me to Become Fearless Again ?

by on Sep.22, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I had not talked to her in at least two months. I had wanted to gradually break any dependency she had on me, because she finally had a family that loved her. Besides, I loathe dependency as it weakens the spirit, and causes a spiraling down-turn in one’s motivation, creativity and momentum to find one’s purpose in life, to be special.

Make no mistake, I am all for support and reliance on others as long as it is part of a plan to teach an individual how to help herself or himself. However, I see an ever-increasing desire on the part of some to create a dependency of others on them, all for the purpose of having control and power.

This is not a conspiracy theory, just one of those cycles in the history of mankind. Keep your eyes closed to this and you will find out the hard way.

If you are someone who has followed my blog over the years, then you might remember previous articles about this child who came to me for help when she was just ten years old. She was a homeless child, living in a cardboard refrigerator box, on the streets of “Gotham City”, having escaped the grasp of her prostitute mother and the certainty that she would be forced to settle for her mother’s life-style if she did not take her life into her own hands.

However, this was the real world, so although Joy [ her name of choice ] , had successfully separated from her mother , the following four years found her vulnerable to people of lesser conscience, who would emotionally, physically and sexually abuse her, because they could.

Working with her was so very rewarding for me, and yet very painful as I saw her relentless efforts to escape the almost daily reality of abuse that she had to endure. She seemed fearless and undaunted, maybe because in her eyes, she had no choice. This was survival. So if some guy at the bar offered her a meal for a feel, it was not who she was, but just what she had to go through. Through her eyes, miraculously, she saw every abuse as a motivator, as a stepping stone to finding a path off the streets and into the arms of a loving family. Many times I felt helpless as she
endured what I could not imagine at the hands of those whose selfishness and neediness would have destroyed the average child, or adult for that matter.

Once she was in a family, although not without complications, I found myself relieved but somewhat depleted, thus some time has passed since my last article. Then, last evening, she contacted me. After the usual chatting to catch up, this now fifteen year old said something that I found invigorating. ” Can you teach me become FEARLESS again ? ” Oh, she loved her new family for sure, but at the same time, she felt somewhat lazy and, listen carefully, DEPENDENT ! It was wonderful to have people looking out for you. It somehow felt good to have rules to follow and rewards for good behavior. It felt safe, and yet it didn’t, as she had become less reliant on her own skills to survive. Dependency can do that to the best of us.

We talked about her wanting to become a child advocate, a person who could teach others how to recognize and be less vulnerable to the manipulators, controllers, and in some cases, sociopathic types among us who prey on the perceived weakness of others. Now that was a discussion that I found motivating.

Do you long to be FEARLESS ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
www.PanicAttacks.com
www.ObsessiveCompulsive.com
www.RuledByShame.com
www.SelfEsteem.com
www.OneStepataTime.com

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Feeling Out of Control !

by on Apr.13, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Feeling Out of Control ?

Sheila had not driven on a freeway in twenty-five years, although she had never been in a major accident. Her anxiety and fear of having a panic attack had seriously limited her options and choices for both a social life and a more desirable career as she was always searching for alternate roads to travel.

Chuck was so caught up with his obsessions over germs that it all but paralyzed him from doing anything to explore his desire for a meaningful relationship or a more challenging career. How could he even think about making changes in his life with all these anxiety-driven fears dominating his thoughts ? What girl would give him a second look when she realized his life was ruled by these fears of contamination ?

Rick was a productive guy with a potentially awesome career, but his anxiety and compulsive rituals of checking everything from doors being locked to “repeatedly” searching for errors in his work had negatively affected his performance to the point that his job was now in jeopardy.

Patricia loved her job, but all of a sudden her ability to travel was threatened by these panic attacks that came out of nowhere !

So, if you have ever experienced panic attacks or the companion symptoms of obsessive-intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, I do not have to tell you how overwhelming these symptoms can become and how much they can affect your life. Panic attacks, which often seem to come from ” out of the blue “, can quickly become an all consuming and draining experience as they leave one feeling such a very real sense of being out of control.

What could be the reason or a source for these life-altering symptoms ? Not wishing to over-simplify, but to at least get you thinking about why this might happen, I would offer the following points for you to consider. One of the common elements with each of the examples I offered above is the issue of being an adapting personality type. In my opinion, being an adapting person, one who is aware of and sensitive to the reactions, thoughts and feelings of others around them, is a gift but can feel like a curse. While being aware and sensitive is a characteristic that could enhance one’s personal life and career, depending on the depths one has “learned” to bend and adapt to please others, one can lose their sense of self because of their dependency on approval and acceptance. In too many situations, there are many of us who have “learned” to depend too much on the approval of others to measure their personal worth and value, and their sense of identity.

Dependency breeds a sense of doubt in oneself. What do I really want to do with my life ? Am I truly exploring what I want, or putting all my energy into what I think people expect me to do ? Do I just settle, and stay below the radar, or do I challenge myself even when others say I should be happy with what I have now, so don’t rock the boat ?

Do I stretch and put more energy into being there for others while ignoring or seldom expressing my own needs ? Do I conform to the “shoulds” or do I experiment with potential options in my life ? Do I avoid conflict at all cost ? Do I push myself to prove my worth and value but hesitate to reward myself for a job well-done ?

If you have experienced panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, please just consider that there are most often, in my humble opinion, reasons why this is happening to you. You may need to feel more in control of your life, which, if lacking, may cause you to experience panic and OCD which creates a more immediate sense of loss of control and at the same time may distract you from what is really going on.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

CEO: The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com ,
www.PanicAttacks.com , www.Self-Esteem.com

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Use it or Lose it !

by on Feb.25, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Use it or Lose it !

That old saying has often been one used to refer to one’s physical strength. If you do not exercise a muscle, it atrophies, or weakens over time. Even for a person who was in good shape after exercising every day, not continuing that regimen eventually leads to loss of muscle tone and endurance.

Sometimes, doing what is good for us is hard work. Even when there is a very desired and tangible reward for our efforts, often we falter and give in, settle or get comfortably-uncomfortable. Now just think for a minute about something you would like to do , change or accomplish in your life. How long have you thought about it and what excuses do you make to yourself for not moving forward ?

When I was talking with members in our on-line support group last evening, I went off on somewhat of a rant as I often do, as I witnessed a dynamic that I so often see. Many members had made some really positive efforts in the past to face their fears and overcome anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive thoughts. Some were able to see that they were indeed able to do things now that their anxieties prevented them from doing before. Others were just beginning the journey of truly discovering why they were having Panic Attacks or OCD, and what conflicts existed or what changes needed to be made in their lives.

I do not get frustrated as the moderator and Coach, but I feel their frustration, as I see the potential in each of them being squandered. I am anxious, in a good way, to see them experience success and realize that their anxiety symptoms are there for a reason. The sources for their anxieties must be discovered and meaningfully dealt with, along with learning to desensitize and take control of the resulting symptoms. Something I have pressed all my clients to realize is that it takes a huge effort to make the needed changes in their lives if they wish to really and honestly feel control over their anxieties, and their symptoms. It is so much easier to mask the symptoms with medications or alcohol, and when that fails, take even more. I am not saying medications are not helpful, and in fact they are often needed in the beginning because we have such limited faith in ourselves, but medications do not necessarily ” cure ” the sources of anxiety.

I believe it is very possible to take control of panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, but it is so easy to sabotage one’s efforts. Last night in the Support Group I was especially pointing out that even for those who had experienced some very real successes in facing their fears and not just of symptoms, their continued progress depended upon a continuing, consistent effort, with repeated exposure to what they fear, or they risked atrophy like the unexercised muscle. They have to challenge their fears and self-doubts until it becomes a new habit to feel in-control.

One member openly shared that after quitting his job and going full time to school to challenge his status quo, all the good things he felt for all his efforts faded within a month of returning to his old job due to need for sustaining income. I had suggested he continue with at least one class to keep some momentum going, but it just did not work out. He felt so good with the challenging classes he took and what he accomplished, yet once he left that atmosphere, he slipped back into the old mode of negative self-talk and self-sabotage. Why ? In his own words, “I did not embrace what I had accomplished !” So although he did experience good things, his perception of himself was not radically altered by the positive experiences. Two successful semesters do not neutralize a lifetime of negative self-talk and avoidance.

Another member who had been extremely limited in the distance she could travel outside her small comfort zone, worked hard for a while to stretch and over-come her fears so that she could work a rather good job. However, once accomplished, she settled into that new area of comfort and resisted further stretching and exposure to the point that she has restricted her growth again.

It IS hard work, but if it is something you really want to do, something you really want to change or accomplish in your life, you can do it, but you must identify the enemy, the Goliath that stands ready to thwart your efforts. That giant sabotaging enemy is your self-confidence, esteem, and the self-sabotaging self-talk that has developed and has filled your head since childhood. You need to recognize that you have pictures in your mind of yourself that restrict your personal growth. You must become fully aware of those pictures and thoughts and challenge them every day like a modern day David slaying Goliath. You must chip away at your sabotaging negative self-talk by exposing yourself in reasonably significant bites, not overwhelming yourself, but feeling some anxiety so you know you are accomplishing something significant for you. In my mind, I altered the story of David and Goliath where David would sneak into the enemy camp and gradually but persistently take from the enemies supplies so as to cause gradual diminishing of their strength. A plan, is a huge component of a successful campaign. That Plan must include persistent, step by step weakening of the negative thoughts by replacing them not just with positive thoughts, but with actions that defy the negative and work against past habits of avoiding and escaping. You must challenge your fears over a period of time and in a way that it becomes the new you. Like remodeling an older home, it is hard work and takes time, but it can become a thing of greater value and the best craftsmanship. You have to be dedicated to taking better care of yourself, not forsaking others, but making sure you are the priority. The result is that you will have more energy to put into other people and good causes because you are replenishing your needs.

Then your Plan MUST include a Support System of individuals of like mind and experience who have felt what you have felt so that you can each offer the needed support and keep one another focused, on-target and accountable. Our On-Line Support Group is an example of that which is needed as I find that family is often not the best support for an individual experiencing anxiety symptoms for a myriad of reasons.

I invite you to explore your options and consider taking on the challenge of joining us in out Support Group and developing a Plan of Attack to really take control.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com
www.PanicAttacks.com
www.SelfEsteem.com

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Why Panic ?

by on Jan.26, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have often said that one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle that truly needs to be understood and dealt with is finding the source for the panic attacks a client is experiencing, although I fully realize that the primary focus of the client initially is just getting rid of these anxiety symptoms and being comforted by hearing that this is not a sign that he or she is going crazy. 

Not knowing the source, which amounts to not understanding why this is happening, leaves a person feeling vulnerable and out of control. Not surprisingly, feeling “out of control” is how most people explain how the symptoms make them feel. Medications may lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms, but the haunting thought of them returning is anxiety-producing in and of itself. ” What if the medications wear off or just stop working ?”

As the therapist, I focus intently of listening to my client, getting a feel not only for a peek into their personality and its needs, but also to pick up on bits and pieces of his or her history to see if I can identify emotional conflicts that are more often than not an indicator of the source of the PAs. At times the conflicts and issues are easy to pick up on as I listen not only to my clients words, but more so, the emotions behind the words. At times I meet a client that is harder to read, not because he or she is resistant, but because the client’s personality is such that they tend to habitually blow things off, minimize issues because they feel it is just how life is for them. It is what it is !

One such client came to me as he was obviously in significant emotional pain over having these anxiety symptoms and it was seriously effecting his performing his job. That was a problem, especially because he was a very high-achieving young man, and had responsibilities for a wife who wanted a family. He had to get his act together, but just did not see why this was happening to him.

I pressed him further, and although a rather modest guy, he had in past years created business of his own and had been quite successful. However, although he did well for five years making six-figures and garnering considerable respect in his field, his company was subjected to the fall-out from the banking and housing crisis and the banks stopped lending, and his business died a sudden death. He moved on, because that is what you are supposed to do, and took a significantly lower paying job just to be a responsible person. When his very successful business ended, he was able to pay all debts, so he did not feel guilty, or a failure. I could hear something in his voice, and when i asked him whether he thinks of starting another business since he had proven to be quite good at it, his response was, ” Well, I have thought about it many times, but now I have a wife and we do want to start a family. I cannot take that kind of risk. I mean, I would love to do it, but it would not be fair to her.  And besides, every time I allow myself to dream about starting a business again and being my own boss, the symptoms get worse. How can I seriously think of creating my own business again when I am having these anxiety symptoms ! ”

Now there is a hint that would slap you in the face unless you had your head buried deep in the sand. Once we talked about it, he realized how conflicted he was between giving up on himself as an entrepreneur, and doing what was “right” for his wife and future family. And when he heard himself say that the anxiety symptoms seemed to increase in frequency or intensity whenever he thought about starting a business again, I could see the look on his face that said, ” Did I just say that ? Could my anxiety symptoms be a way of keeping myself from doing what I really love to do, be my own boss again ?”

Oh yes, he got it ! So besides working with some tools we discussed to deal with the anxiety symptoms whenever he felt them coming on, he realized that his best weapon against anxiety was to focus on the source. He needed to make a compromise rather than a sacrifice, a deal with himself to develop a plan and gradually create and take steps to build his business, but step by step so there was less risk.  His wife could be a part of his business. He was in conflict because he was giving up on a very critical piece of who he was and is, instead of focusing on doing what he wants and needs to do to feel in control of his life, but taking appropriate steps in palatable bites rather than leaps as he did when he had no other responsibilities.

What about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.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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