When Fear Rules !

Tag: setbacks

You Can Run, Not Hide From Anxiety 1

by on Apr.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Do You Really Want to Control Anxiety  ?

When I see a new client, I naturally believe he or she wants to know how to control anxiety in his or her life whether that anxiety comes in the form of panic attacks, phobias, intrusive/obsessive thoughts and worry or compulsive behaviors.

The first thing I do is make every attempt to know the personality of that client, because the way a person thinks and feels, the way the client has learned to see his or her world and deal with that world is most often a huge factor as to why they are experiencing the anxiety symptoms.

So, I attack the problem in a two ways simultaneously, looking at and dealing with both the SOURCE issues as well as building a plan to help the client face the fear of the anxiety symptoms through gradual exposure to the perceived fear. If you as a client are not dealing with both issues, you rarely will succeed in taking control of your symptoms.

However, the approach I have just described has allowed the vast majority of my clients to overcome their anxiety issues.

Now, there are situations where medical or physical issues may be causal factors or triggers for anxiety, panic or obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I always look into this possibility with each client. In fact, I have found those cases  to be few and far between. Truly, I have found that physical issues often exacerbate already existing anxiety, but are not as often the cause. In fact, I have found such physical factors to often be a distraction from seeing the real issues as those physical issues become the focus of both the client’s and physician’s attention.

There are certainly cases where significant trauma will bring on severe anxiety symptoms, but again, I find that to be less often the case. Trauma can cause a person to feel “out of control” in their lives, allowing them to feel more vulnerable and fearful of worse to come, or bring on symptoms like PTSD.

What I do find to be most commonly the source or trigger for these anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms is personal conflict which when avoided, causes one to feel out of control in their life. I have written numerous articles on the danger of avoiding issues in our lives as avoidance brings on an erosion in ‘our trust of ourself’, and therefore creates that sense of being weak, vulnerable and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Interestingly, as is typical, I had no less than three clients this week who had made significant progress in controlling their anxiety symptoms who returned to me saying that they were experiencing a small return of symptoms. I reminded each one of what they had discovered as the source of their anxieties, and the light immediately went on in their minds.  Each had one of those “Aha Moments” where they realized they had indeed made progress but lately had dropped the ball as to their efforts to be more in control of their lives.

One realized that after making significant effort to challenge himself to not settle for a mediocre life, and after going back to school and discovering he had a voice and could express himself to others, he had slipped back into his comfort-zone and  had given up much of his momentum as to making needed changes in his life. He immediately saw the cause and effect of his falling back into avoidance mode which led to a resurgence of anxiety symptoms. You can run but you cannot hide from yourself and what you really want and need to feel a worthwhile and purposeful life.

Another had made some significant decisions to change her dependent ways in relationships, realizing she had repeatedly placed herself in unhealthy relations with others who were not equipped to give back emotionally. She took steps to set boundaries, to take better care of herself, an she set a deadline for the present destructive relationship to end. All was good as she felt more in control. However, doubt crept into her thoughts as the date for the unhealthy other person to leave was drawing near and my client felt uncomfortable kicking this person out, even though she had given him ample notice and time to find alternative housing. Her caregiving personality and compulsion to take care of others, to be needed, was rearing it’s head. But as she realized what it was, she re-affirmed her right and need to set the boundaries and follow through with her plan to be independent of manipulative and controlling people in her life. Two days later, she reports the anxiety lessening.

The third client had experienced very significant reduction in anxiety once she realized that the source was her habit of placing herself in risky situations with other men which could obviously create havoc in her marriage and turn her life upside down. She needed a lot of attention and that need allowed her to rationalize that a little flirtation could do no harm. But it created conflict within her and therefore panic attacks. In therapy, she took steps to work at her marriage, learned that if she expressed her needs, her husband was more than willing to oblige her. Although her husband loved her very much, he did need a course in “intimacy” and reminders that a marriage does not run on fumes. All was going well, but a change in his job was taking him away more often which had stoked  her feelings of abandonment. That had caused a resurgence of negative thoughts and caused some return of anxiety symptoms. However, once we talked and she realized what was happening, she became creative and she and her husband began having “an affair” on the phone with each other, planning for things they would do when he returned. That got the embers flaming and brought her doubts to ashes.

The bottom line, taking control of significant on-going anxiety symptoms takes  a lot of soul searching and a willingness to face needs, and overcome barriers to meeting those needs. Avoidance is always destructive. You can run but you cannot hide. You cannot stop in your efforts to take control.

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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The Slippery Slope of Avoidance

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

The Slippery Slope of Avoidance…

We all avoid at times don’t we ? It is probably wise to avoid cheating on our taxes  due to the consequences, although some may choose to do so. I certainly would choose to avoid walking up to an enraged man with a gun.

Some of us are more risk tolerant than others, but we all have our limits. It is wise to protect ourselves by avoiding certain people or situations that could truly harm us isn’t it ? The REAL question is, where  do you draw that line ?

I have many clients who are dealing with controlling, manipulative and even abusive people, and  find themselves avoiding these persons in different ways.

If it is someone you do not need to deal with, it might be wise to pick your battles and move on. However, what if it is a boss or supervisor, or even a friend or family member ?

I typically see these situations arise with clients and they cause a great deal or inner turmoil, and OFTEN LEAD TO ANXIETY SYMPTOMS because AVOIDANCE of these people or situations leads to a slippery slope that is potentially damaging to your self-esteem.

Commonly when it is a boss who is abusing his or her power, four thoughts come to my mind.

First, do all you can to be less vulnerable to that boss. That means always keep your skills, certifications, training and networking in good order, never allowing yourself to become too comfortable, even lazy about making yourself as VALUABLE as you can be. In this way, you are less vulnerable to that boss, or that job. Always be looking as to where your constantly improving credentials and knowledge could be used at another place of employment.

Secondly, carefully document with times and dates  as well as notes as to examples of a bosses abuse of power. Documentation comes in handy and is something that can make a supervisor and his company nervous. Build a case while trying to find ways to work with this person, but without allowing yourself to be truly abused.

Third, talk to your boss or the offending person about specific issues he or she  has about you, with steps you can take to improve. In other words, don’t avoid talking to the boss.

You initiating meetings to talk and find ways to improve is a sign of you taking some control, and is also a good part of what you will document too. Avoidance gives the boss power over you or at least he or she thinks so.

At this point, if you see no change in the bosses abusive ways, you can opt to meet with his or her boss or the Human Relations Department to share concerns and ask for intervention.

Forth, once you find a better position at another company, which means that your boss has not changed his or her behavior towards you even with  all the positive steps you have taken, ask for an  exit interview  where you can tactfully express your feelings and reveal your documentation.  In this way, the boss  will have to face some consequence for his or her behavior especially if you copy Human Resources and his boss and have that exit interview become a part of your personnel file.

There are more difficult situations where an even more involved process , such as harassment charges need to be  brought  against a boss, but you need documentation and  witnesses.

Avoiding these situations and steps only empowers abusive and manipulative people.

So what happens when the abusive or controlling people are family members or friends.
Well, I see this even more often with clients. An intrusive mother who is step by step destroying a daughters marriage. An abusive parent who physically, sexually or emotionally abuses their own child, even when that child has become an adult.
A so-called  boyfriend who works to control the woman he professes to love, however, due to his own insecurities, step by step erodes her self esteem through verbal abuse in order to make sure she does not find someone else.

Abusive people come in all shapes and sizes, and yes , sadly and  quite often are siblings, parents, children and others who you give a piece of your heart to. Avoiding setting boundaries, or creating distance with these persons can be spell disaster to your self-esteem.

Confronting people such as these often leads to them trying to turn the situation back on you. They often feel no apparent shame  in playing every guilt card they have in their arsenal. So, especially if you have tried to talk to this person about how you feel, or when you know in your heart it will mean nothing to them, I would recommend you get involved with counseling, make sure you have a healthy support system  of people in your life who are affirming. Then  create consequences, letting the abusive family member know that you are no longer going to deal with him or her on their terms, on their turf, and that you are removing yourself from their grasp in whatever way you can.

It is not avoidance when there is NO  DEALING EFFECTIVELY with them. But you cannot avoid making changes in your life so you are not dependent or continue to be a victim to such control and manipulation. Trying to change these  people or do something to have them “see the light” is fodder for a great movie, but it is seldom real life.

Your Thoughts ?

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Anger With Ourselves !

by on Dec.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

When a person comes to me because of panic attacks or OCD, one thing I always look for is a sign of repressed anger.  Anger is such a powerful emotion, and although natural in so many situations, when it is not understood or dealt with effectively and honestly, this emotion can cause much inner conflict and many anxiety symptoms.

With that thought in mind, I typically will explore  any signs of anger and attempt to help my client look at the anger in his or her life, and realize when that anger is more anger with themselves than with the apparent object or person they profess to be frustrated with at the time.

The reality is, I find many are really more angry with themselves for being so naive, gullible or vulnerable to controlling, manipulative or selfish persons especially when they face the fact that there has been a pattern  of not taking control, of not asserting themselves, and avoiding conflict which is especially typical of the adapting and approval seeking personality types.

Those personality types might be seen as caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists. These are most often good people, with a sensitivity to others, but their adapting natures tends to make them vulnerable to the controlling and manipulative types.

So, yes, they often have repressed anger and frustration within themselves as they feel so much in conflict between their basic needs and nature and yet do not set adequate boundaries once they see signs of that anger rise to the surface. Setting boundaries is not an easy thing to learn, but it makes a huge difference in the emotional well-being of the person who is learning to take control of his or her life.

Step by step, the adapting personalities set basic boundaries by learning to put off decisions when things are being requested of them, and allowing a twenty-four hour period to pass at which time they can respond. In this way, they are giving themselves time to determine whether saying yes is a healthy response that they feel very comfortable with, rather than giving in just to please, when below the skin they are  wishing they had not.

Yes, there are manipulative, controlling and selfish personality types. The trick is to recognize them, realize your vulnerability to them, and develop a game plan to learn to deal with them.

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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Is The Fear of Change Paralyzing You ?

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

We have fought wars to be free, yet, with all the freedoms we do have, one that we squander each day is the freedom to change.

I received a very timely message on Facebook from a friend, Betsy, that read “ If you change nothing, nothing will change  ! “

In my profession  as a psychologist, I am ALL ABOUT CHANGE.  People suffer much frustration in life, much of it directed back at themselves, because they allow opportunities for change to pass by. They get stuck with what is known, with what they are comfortably-uncomfortable with……therefore, they become stagnant, as they settle.

Don’t most, if not all of us have personal issues, self-esteem or personal growth issues that we want to improve upon ?  For one person it may be their weight, for another it is their frustration with a go-no-where job, and yet for others it is a stagnant or even abusive relationship that they feel unable to extract themselves from. Don’t we just want to feel more CONTROL in our lives ? Don’t we want to feel some PASSION ?

Some think long and hard about making changes, but then the FEARS set in. The fear of failure, rejection. embarrassment or ridicule. Many are so dependent on approval that they allow what they think others will say influence so much of what they do, or don’t do to stretch beyond the norm.

So what do we do ?

We buy more self-help books looking for  some magic pill. We go to a Self-esteem or healing seminar looking for an EPIPHANY, a previously hidden realization that just comes from out of the blue.

Well, you are making authors of these books and seminars rich, but how often do books and seminars actually bring about change ?

I DO believe we can all find more happiness with who we are and what we do, but we need to explore our personalities, explore our past and see where we have felt passion, where we have felt something special. We sometimes are so busy focusing on our self-perceived weaknesses, that we cannot see through the clouds of doubt we create.

Nothing I say here is going to cause a massive change in the way we avoid options to grow through making changes. But maybe I can hit a nerve with just you. Look at some of those weaknesses, and maybe there are some hidden strengths. You may be shy, but are you a good listener ? You maybe have made some bad choices in your life, but what have you learned from those  choices ? Tell me about your personality. What makes you different than some others ?  I  bet you are not taking advantage of what makes you really different.

What have you experienced in your life that has caused you to feel some passion, some inner excitement ? Don’t drown out these thoughts with those always present negative and often obsessive thoughts and fears.

Are you more logical and analytic ? Are you more emotional ? Do you have patience when dealing with others ? Are you persistent ? Do people come to you for advice ? Are you sensitive to the needs of others ? Are you especially creative ? Can you take up a cause and see it through ?

People so often take jobs because they were just there. How often do people explore jobs that actually fit their personality, fit their emotional needs ?

And how about our choices in relationships ? What initially attracts us to a special person, especially when we are young, does not often hold and nurture a relationship later on. How many of us find ourselves naturally attracted to opposites, maybe because we are drawn to someone who appears to have different qualities than we do ?
What about what we REALLY NEED in a relationship ?

Yes, we can all make changes that would greatly enhance our happiness in our personal life, relationships and career or avocation. But if we take the time to truly explore the nature of who we are, what makes us unique, what brings us sustained pleasure and a sense of worth and value at the end of the day, and lay out a game plan, step by step to explore the possibilities rather than overwhelm ourselves by thinking huge steps instead of small, frequent steps, we might actually be able to make changes without becoming paralyzed by fear.

If you are interested in exploring this further, come to our On-Line Support Group on Sunday evenings at 9 ET. It is free, and we can all work on creating a game plan for change that would not stimulate so much fear.

Go to : www.OneStepataTime.com

Join and become a member…It’s Free !

Then Join us in our Support Group on Sundays.

Also Check out our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

See us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Gene.Benedetto  and then join our Facebook Group, RuledByFear.  Options and choices ! What WILL you do ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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He Knew the Triggers for Anxiety and Panic

by on Nov.07, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So this client comes back after almost twenty years, saying he has not had panic attacks for all that time. Previous to that, his life had become RuledByFear in that the panic attacks were frequent and intense and were  effecting all aspects of his life, both his work and personal life.

He had learned and understood the causes for his previous panic attacks and had made some significant changes in his life which reduced the conflicts and issues that were previously triggers.

Now, after all that time, he returned with another form of anxiety symptom. His blood pressure had risen dangerously high. It was not constant, but frequent enough to put the scare into him. He did the normal visits to the doctor and was told there was no physical causation they could find.

So, he came to discuss what he thought might be the triggers for this renewal of anxiety symptoms, and behold, he was right on the money. He had pretty much figured it out, which meant he had learned well in the past. But he wanted some reassurance, which is quite normal.

He realized he had been under a great deal of stress lately, even more than just stress, he was feeling CONFLICT again, and that sense of being out of control over something in his life. Sure enough, he had been trying to help a friend of his son who was in bad need of medical care but had no money, and on top of that, was visiting from another country which is known to not have adequate medical care.

He felt he knew a lot of people, and besides, this young person was in crisis and truly needed immediate attention, including surgeries. Sadly, he  had exhausted most all of his contacts and options and he heard nothing but rejection, even from doctors. He took the rejection somewhat personally as  it caused him to feel that what he believed, that we are basically good people who will come to the aide of those less fortunate, especially when their ills are not the result of anything they have done.

Yes, he did finally find a resource that would help, but by that time, his faith in his fellow man had been shaken. He truly  had his eyes opened to the reality that he had little control in this case  and it caused him great personal conflict. I cannot adequately express all that he went through in just a few words, but understand, reality can sometimes shake you down to your toes.

At least he came to realize that it was all this  conflict that was causing his anxiety symptoms, so he did save himself from  allowing those symptoms to escalate into panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

We can at times be so enveloped in a situation that is causing us great conflict that we do not see what is happening to us. Then of course, we can become so wrapped up in our symptoms and obsessing that there is something seriously amiss medically, that we lose sight that we are reacting to feeling ‘out of control’ over some real issue in our lives.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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When Panic and Obsessive Thoughts Return

by on Oct.16, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Relapse: When the Panic or Obsessive Thoughts Return

Yes, as frustrating as I know it must be to hear this, it is true. Symptoms of panic attacks or obsessive/intrusive thoughts can return. However, this does not mean you cannot gain control and eliminate these symptoms.

What does it mean ?

Well, if you have not done  any therapy, it may mean that the sources for your panic or intrusive thoughts had temporarily passed, or that you are taking medication that helped you over-ride your symptoms for a while, or maybe that you have been so distracted by other significant issues in your life that the symptoms took a back seat in your life. But obviously, if you have not done the work to identify the true causal factors, the real sources as well as gone through a process of desensitizing to your symptoms through therapy, then the band-aid you used to deal with these symptoms has come off.

If you have done therapy, but did work to desensitize step by step to your symptoms so that you are less fearful, but have not really dealt with the sources of your symptoms, then it is just a matter of time when they will return as those sources rear their ugly heads someday.

As an example, let’s imagine a woman who was so plagued by intrusive thoughts that her husband was or would cheat on her that she was obsessed with checking his cell phone for unknown callers. The more she gave into this urge, the stronger the need became. Since she was able to feel immediate relief when she found no strange numbers on his cell, her behavior was internally rewarded. However, she also realized she was taking a serious risk in that if he found her checking on him, it would damage his perception of his wife, causing HIM to distrust HER.

She was able to show more control of her urges to check by recognizing them quickly, postponing giving in to them and then giving herself something else to focus her mind on, like calling a friend, working on a project, or going out with friends.

She made some progress, then, without warning, the urges became so strong again that the obsessions and need to check returned with a fury.

The issue ?  She also needed to understand the source of her fears and  deal with them. She came to understand that her fears of his cheating on her were really without evidence, but were there because she, in fact, was rather needy emotionally and wanted and needed a more open show of affection to feel good about herself.

Her husband loved her, but was not one to initiate affection. So her mind drifted and she had fantasies of other being with other men.. Her fantasies caused her some guilt, but also led her project her  needs on her husband. “If I have these thoughts, HE  must be having these thoughts too !”

Once she clearly understood it was HER insecurity and neediness that was the source of the problem, we set up a plan to build on his self-esteem.

She lost wait through exercise and changes in her diet.

She got involved with projects she enjoyed but had avoided.

She tried new things and initiated going more places with her husband.

All these things just made her look even better to him. She felt better about herself, and her throwing so much energy into personal growth stimulated her husband’s positive reactions and comments.

Instead of focusing on her fears, she focused on both self-improvement as well as being a loving but less needy wife.

As she became more comfortable with this game plan and saw his response, she was able to see her own fantasies change in that they were more about things to do with her husband. As the husband responded more positively and openly because of changes he was seeing in her, she was receiving the feedback she needed to refute her fearful thoughts.

Any thoughts ?

 

Gene Benedetto , Psychologist

Coach

 

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She Speaks !!!

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

She Speaks !!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach
Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

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

Why My OCD has Flared Up Again ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Fear of Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach
Gene Benedetto
Psychologist

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Trapped by Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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