When Fear Rules !

Tag: The Dark Side

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



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Avoiding the Narcissistic Personality Types

by on Sep.04, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

As much as I preach about not avoiding people or difficult situations, you must also know when to set boundaries with certain difficult people instead of allowing them to continually waste your mental and emotional energy on trying to compromise with them.

Narcissistic personalities are a true example of people you need to set careful boundaries with, but of course, you must first recognize them. There are many of these manipulative and self-centered people in our lives, unless we are living in a cave somewhere in the wilderness.

These are the ones that always blame and never accept responsibility for the emotional fires they start. They tend to talk down to others, and then may blame their victim for being stand-offish, not responsive or ignoring their requests. They tend to make their victims feel guilty for expressing anger, when that anger is a direct result of the emotional turmoil they created in the first place.

The narcissistic personality in an office setting can be quite damaging. This is the personality that can create havoc in a previously peaceful setting, and then walk away saying, ” What’s wrong with you people!”

The narcissistic  personality may have a very thin layer of conscience, and although they often proclaim to be so wonderfully empathetic and caring, behind the scenes, it is all about what is in it for them. The fact is,  this personality type does not care, does not “get it”, and will only respond to consequences, if at all. Don’t expect that you will make peace with them and they will have an epiphany that will change how they think, feel and how they behave towards others.

Chances are, that if you do find you are dealing with a narcissistic type, your best bet is to create as much space between you and that person as you can.  Do not allow yourself to be dependent on or vulnerable to them, because you are most often just an object to them, a means to an end.

It does not make you weak to not be able to deal with such a personality as this, as the strength is in realizing whom you are dealing with and not getting sucked into their web. If you have been duped by a narcissistic personality, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take steps to separate from them, and disconnect as quickly as you can. Let KARMA take over, because the narcissistic personality will eventually screw up big time. They cannot help but to sink deeper into the hole they have dug for themselves. They become so full of themselves that they feel untouchable….but it is just a matter  of time.


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Why Do Fairy Tales Always Have Bad Guys?

by on Sep.03, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

Why Do Fairy Tales Usually have Bad Guys ?

I was talking to my very special young friend about doing some writing and using her imagination more. She has a wonderful imagination, but lately, she has let it sit on the shelf while dealing with many changes she has been going through.

If you have followed past newsletters and my blog at www.RuledByFear.com , then you are probably aware that this young lady is my adopted and very very special grandchild who found me when she was a homeless child surviving on the streets by herself.

Besides surviving the challenges and abuse of the streets, she has had to face more changes and significant emotional challenges, as well as physical health issues as she adjusted to life with a wonderful family who took her in.

It sounds like a fairy tale when you think of a child, abandoned and on her own, who struggled, survived, and found her way to me and then ultimately to this great family who offered her love and a home. But that fairy tale was full of bad guys. people who used and abused her.

So when I was talking to her recently about some sleep problems she was having as she was learning to adjust to wearing a C-pap {oxygen emitting tubes in her nose at night},I mentioned that she should again be thinking of writing and using her imagination as she had done before, as a way to get her mind off her health issues and the tubes in her nostrils. We started talking about the fairy tales we liked and I mentioned that I had just watched “Tangled” for the second time. She asked me, “ Why do all fairy tales seem to have bad guys in them, where the good guys have to fight and struggle? “

Well, bad guys are real. They do exist in most of our lives. So even most movies show the struggle between good and evil, don’t they ?

Fairy tales often make the bad guys look pretty gruesome, just like with the old cowboy shows I watched as a kid where the bad guys wore black hats and looked like they never had seen a razor or a bathtub.

The reality is, bad guys often are not so obvious. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be clean-cut and be dressed in all-white. They can be male or female, they can even be young and appear innocent. There are all degrees of bad guys too. There are people who are just greedy, selfish and don’t fully realize how they hurt other people, while others are deeply focused on controlling and manipulating other people to get what they want. They can be pretty smart, although they are usually very insecure people down deep in their souls. Yes, they have souls, but their spirits have often been infected by their own traumas and pains.

So, fairy tales have bad guys because we want very much to see good triumph over evil. We want to have hope that if we persevere, we can win over the evil witch, or the Dark Side. When the dark Side does win in a Star Wars, you know there will be a sequel. It is almost demanded by society that we have the Jedi Nights triumph in the end.

In real life, it is often that we avoid challenging the dark side. This has a powerful effect on our self-esteem, as we find ourselves being angry with ourselves for allowing people to use and abuse us.

Just recently I was talking to a really great young teenager who was referred to me because of panic attacks and outbursts of anger. What he has discovered is that he is a truly nice guy, and feels great inner conflict when he allows his need for approval to, in turn, allow people to use him. He is realizing that his anger is with them, but mostly with himself for letting it happen. After a while, he came to believe there was something wrong with him, that maybe God was upset with him or that he was being punished. It is his anger with himself that was causing the inner conflict that was causing his panic attacks and intrusive thoughts, and then led to him punching holes into walls.

He is now learning to no longer let bad people in his life. He is focusing on all the good in him, an finding people who are more like him.

So, my dear grand-daughter, there are bad guys, but we can learn to see them for whom they are and protect ourselves from them. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to grow smarter every day while learning to do very great things with your life. Then, your self- esteem, the way you look at yourself will grow stronger and more positive, and will cause you to NOT need people who are not good guys.


Aka, Grandpa

Gene Benedetto , Psychologist

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When Men Abuse Children Part 2

by on Jul.25, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

When Men Abuse Children

There are many problems in our world, so the issue of children being sexually abused by adult men, or women, tends to get lost in the heaps of bad economic news, the instances of terrorism, the efforts to survive and support our families and all the other life struggles that bewilder us every day. We can be so overwhelmed by it all, that we sort of go NUMB.

When you work with children who have been abused, there is no way to go numb. When you see how much sexual abuse effects their entire lives, the way the child perceives herself, you cannot help but be both angered at the abusers and terribly disappointed by the fact that maybe 76,000 children are victims of sexual abuse every year.

My most recent and painful experience has been with a child who has just lately shown signs of recovering a bit of her fragile self-esteem after experiencing the very dark side of some very sick men. Somehow, she was truly beginning to believe that there were some good people out there, maybe even a few that she could trust.

Then one day, while innocently riding her bike, the company man who was hired to care for the lawn, and whom this child saw talking in friendly ways to her mom and dad, lured this child into a distant corner of the property, and then sexually abused her, threatened her in ways that would scare any one of us, totally catching her off guard because she dared to trust this man for a few moments.

Sexual abusers are some of the greatest con artists in the world. Their sickness allows them to cross all boundaries, to say things that paralyze their young victims.
“ If you tell anyone, I will come back and steal you and your baby sister and cut you both into little pieces just like that little boy on the news the other day.”

The one ray of light is that this child told me what had happened, and with much fear in her heart, she and I both told her dad who took swift action which meant the man was caught, and did admit to what he had done. Would you believe, the company he works for never did a background check ?

Although the damage is done and this child is suffering yet again with an overwhelming fear, a deep level of embarrassment, and worst of all, a feeling that SHE has failed, she has disappointed, she is a bad girl for somehow allowing this to happen, IF we can help her see how brave she was to tell me, if we can help her see that she was a victim and is truly in no way responsible for what happened , we have a chance to help her survive and grow stronger.

The only chance we have to stop sexual abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse is if the abused party can expose the abuser. Do you know how hard that is for a vast number of abused girls, or boys for that matter ?
Be aware that abusers are all around us. Most likely, someone in your office, one of your relatives, maybe one of your friends has the potential and lacks the self control that has or will cause them to abuse a child. Uncomfortable, isn’t it ?

Don’t bury your head in the sand. This could be YOUR child or grand child, now or in the future.

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A Victory Over Abuse

by on Jun.03, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

What a day ! All in one day I had both the pleasure of hearing that one respected member of society was found guilty of sexually abusing one of the children I have been working after almost a year of eluding punishment, while being reminded of my frustration of another case where a father who molested his own child repeatedly, still roams free because his victim feared exposing him.
Then i remind myself that the noose is tightening around this father as my professional team has gathered information and is patiently preparing the case against this sociopath.

Over the years, all these experiences with children and young adults being abused by family members or trusted members of society has frustrated me, has decreased my tolerance for any form of abuse, but at the same time has taught me patience in finding ways to protect potential victims and exposing perpetrators.

Victims of abuse are Ruled By Fear {www.RuledByFear.com}, and it is a major task to help them free themselves of that fear, to expose their abusers. Often, a victim of abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional, feels such rage and anger inside that she feels out of control emotionally, and she feels dirty, weak, and stained or scarred to the point that she then feels too weak to face the abuser. The perpetrators often tell their young victims that no one will believe them since the abuser is often an adult in good standing in the community.

On the more subtle side, yet just as devastating, I am aware of parents who are so obsessed with their own needs for fame and popularity, that they push their children to perform to the point of exhaustion, anger and possible health issues. This is emotional abuse, and it can certainly be every bit as toxic to the victim as sexual and physical abuse. I have seen teens so full of rage and emotional conflict due to emotional abuse at the hands of a father or mother, that equal to the need to stop the abuse is the need to quell the anger before the teen strikes out and hurts himself or herself, or the parent.

The bottom line ! Abuse shows itself all around us in many ways. Be alert and aware. Report abuse or suspected abuse, even anonymously to your police department. If you avoid this responsibility, you then run the serious risk of feeling the guilt and pain for knowing something and avoiding making a report.

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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 ?

Gene Benedetto

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Trust…Listen to your Children

by on Apr.17, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

Trust…Listen to your Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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What Do Bullies Fear ?

by on Apr.12, 2011, under STOPPING ABUSE

What Do Bullies Fear ?

In one word, EXPOSURE !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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Attracting Difficult People !

by on Mar.27, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Sometimes we ATTRACT difficulty people. The adapting personalities are most vulnerable to these harder to please and often very needy personality types.


Adapting personalities are most often those of us who seek approval, who stretch beyond the norm to help, fix, please or do what we feel “should” be done for our fellow man. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it ? However, manipulative, controlling and needy people tend to pick up the signals given off by adapting, approval seeking personalities, so we are on their radar. And, our problem is that we have a hard time setting boundaries. It is a good thing to be there for others, however, if you do not keep your eyes wide open and your emotional barometers set on “alert”, you miss the usually obvious indications that you are being taken advantage of, even emotionally abused and used.

Yes, open your eyes. You can take stock of those family members, friends and peers who take more energy from you then they ever attempt to replace through similar good deeds and efforts to be there for you. Make a list right now of all the “significant” people in your life. How much emotional and physical effort do you put into pleasing each of those individuals ? Have you ever asked any of these people for help or assistance, large or small, frequent of seldom ? Can you depend on them as they depend on you ?

This is not to say you can not or should not do something out of the “goodness of your heart”. However, stand back and look at how much energy you put out versus how much you are taking back in. Unless you run on air, the lack of some energy returning into your space by those you care about and stretch to assist, will lead eventually to feelings of anger and resentment not only towards the offending person, but also towards yourself because anger makes you feel out of sorts, and in conflict.

What do YOU think ? Is there a balance in your life ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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