When Fear Rules !

Tag: The Dark Side

Am I Just A Weak Person ?

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

Something that came to my attention recently as I was discussing this issue with one of my clients who has made significant progress in dealing with his intrusive thoughts and panic attacks is the fact that after all is said and done, he still sees himself as weak for having had these symptoms.

While I certainly understand that many people feel the same way, that if we were stronger emotionally and psychologically, we would not be so vulnerable to panic or OCD, I believe we need to stand back and look hard at the source of these anxiety symptoms.

Now, I feel compelled to say from the onset, that there may be cases where my argument may not apply. However, I am not concerned about proving anything to anyone,but rather sharing from my experience over the past forty years of offering therapy to clients suffering from panic and OCD.

You are free to consider that a person MAY have some genetic predisposition or some unidentified chemical imbalance that causes these symptoms. Certainly, the fact that there are medications such as the SSRI’s and SSNRI’s {Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, etc.} that seem to alleviate some symptoms in some people, offers some evidence for those who argue the genetic or chemical imbalance theory.

However, I suggest you consider, that these medications do not get to the true source, but raise or alter our bodies chemistry so that we might deal with the symptoms more effectively. I have no problem with these medications, as I suggest them to many of my clients because i know that they do not initially have the faith and trust in themselves, nor the knowledge on hand to cope with their symptoms without medications. But, I believe that most of my clients, who in fact experience significant reduction of symptoms, and often report no further symptoms, are a testament to the reality that it is our thinking patterns, our insecure and conflicting thoughts and emotions and our avoiding change that creates the atmosphere in which panic and OCD arises.

So, I offer you the option to consider, that not is not a sign of weakness that you might experience these symptoms, but that you unknowingly create the symptoms because you allow yourself to be overwhelmed as you seek approval without setting boundaries as to the degree you subject yourself to others due to your NEED for that approval. You seek approval as a caregiver, but then allow yourself to be used. You conform to others wishes and demands and do what you perceive they expect from you at the expense of your own self esteem. You burn yourself out proving your worth and value to negate the chance of rejection or disapproval in the eyes of others. I could go on and on.

The point is, that many of us who have suffered these symptoms do so because we stretch so far NEEDING approval in order to feel worth and value, instead of finding that approval in what we do.

Some KEY ISSUES are:

1. The excessive need for outside approval instead of nurturing approval from within, which creates a unhealthy dependency on others which makes us vulnerable, and leads us to feel OUT OF CONTROL.

2. Our FEAR OF CHANGE, and therefore our habit of AVOIDING so that even if we somehow realize the emotional and psychological conflicts that are leading us into our symptoms, we fear taking any stand to change any of our dependent behaviors.

3. Our habit of falling into an all or nothing mode if we are finally pushed to make changes, instead of working to develop a healthy, step by step game plan for change. Then, of course, the all or nothing approach dooms many to be overwhelmed so that he or she shuts down and gives into their old dependent ways.

So, is it weakness, or a want for approval that turns into a need because we do not understand, or see that it is natural for the adapting personalities, [the Caregivers, Conformers, and Perfectionists and sometimes the Peacekeepers], to lose sight of a ‘want turning to a need’. While these are some of the most caring and productive members of our society, often the first to step up in the face of crises, they are unaware of the dependency that develops when they do not know how, or fail to set boundaries and care for themselves, nurture themselves, learn to say, I need a balance in my life.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Intrusive Thoughts of Self Abuse

by on Mar.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors can appear baffling at first, as the person reports dealing with intrusive thoughts and urges that seem to make no sense to them or anyone else, yet they feel compelled to respond to those thoughts and urges through compulsive and ritualistic behaviors.

One such case that I dealt with in the past was a perfect example of this confusing, yet strangely logical behavior. This young woman, in her twenties, would feel compelled to wash her face in a strangely ritualistic way, where she would take twenty or thirty minutes to carry out what should be a simple task. Why? Because as she went through what is a normal and natural task for many, she was plagued by the fear that she would somehow scratch, cut or in some way scar her face with her hands or finger nails. Every move she made as her hands came closer to her face, had to be carefully thought out, as she watched for any sign of some form of self abuse.

Yes, it sounds weird, yet I will tell you there are many people suffering from these kind of intrusive-obsessive thoughts and their companion ritualistic behaviors. Maybe some one you think you know very well, maybe even you privately suffer under the control of such fears.

Whether one subscribes to the theory that people with OCD are suffering due to some chemical imbalance, or whether you feel it is primarily psychologically based, my experience has been that there are most often emotional traumas or conflicts at the core of this behavior.

With this young lady, I helped her realize that there was a pattern to her symptoms.
At the times when her intrusive thoughts and urges to scratch and harm her face were at their highest, there was almost always some issue of conflict going on in her life. Not just any conflict, but personally significant conflicts that had repeated themselves many many times since childhood.

As a child, she was bullied and made fun of incessantly, and her response to all this emotional abuse was to either shrink into her private little world, or after a time and some build up, explode with anger. Both the withdrawal and emotional explosions caused her to feel very out of control emotionally.

When she avoided dealing with the bullies, she felt weak and angry not just with the abusers, but with herself. Self hatred became a part of her private thoughts.

When she would finally explode with anger at the abuser, she felt just as out of control, and therefore her self esteem and self talk was further in the dumper.

Later in life, when she did get a job, the pattern continued. She worked hard to gain approval, over-extending herself many times over hoping for that pat of the back and hopefully a promotion or raise. However, her apparent meekness allowed her to be a target of bosses who would take advantage of her, make promises that were never kept.

She needed to take steps to not be so vulnerable to their games. Otherwise, the anger would build as she felt weak or then she would have a blow-out.

We worked to help her realize that her OCD had a source for sure on the emotional side, so we focused on her taking steps to put herself in a less vulnerable position. She did great work, got very good write-ups, but now was taking those write-ups to other potential employers. She was working to see that she was a valuable person in her field. All her efforts to please had made her a very knowledgeable and capable individual in her career. Once her employer heard through the grapevine that she was looking elsewhere, he began treating her with more respect. He promised her a promotion as soon as the next batch of new positions was posted. I advised my client to post for those jobs, but continue to search on the outside, and let it be known in a quiet way, that she was looking for the best opportunity.

The more she was able to keep her momentum going, working hard but searching for other employment, the better and more in control she felt. The more she took steps to not be vulnerable to her bosses games, the less anger and resentment she felt because she was not cowering to her boss. There were no explosions of anger because she knew she was taking steps to take care of herself. The more she felt in control of her emotions, the weaker and less frequent her fears or self abusing her face came to the surface.

The point is that much of the Intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior were symbolic manifestations of her true life anger and resentment towards those who would abuse her and toward herself for allowing it.

It will take time to gain full control of the OCD, as the fears run deep and the tendency to fall back into avoidant behavior is strong. However. with growing and consistent effort, she can gain control. Medications can be used to help subdue some of the obsessive thinking, but the real need to is realize and deal with the source issues and conflicts.

Gene Benedetto

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The Evil Dark Side

by on Mar.06, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

The Evil Dark Side

Some of you have written to me in response to my articles about the young homeless girl that I now treasure as a friend, and yes, admittedly, have taken on the roll of a grandfather, wanting to teach, and guide, and keep her safe.

I listen to her as she shares with me the struggles and conflicts she has, wanting to be loved, wanting a family, wanting to be safe and yet being afraid that she is getting soft, and if not wanted, if not a “keeper”, how much more vulnerable she will be if she finds herself back on the streets. I feel her fear, and sense her tears as she fights the competing forces that try to tell her that she must just accept who she is. But she is truly strong and has jumped many hurdles including a first family placement who failed her.

She will never be back on the streets, because she has connected with a few loving people, a new family and me. But, her struggles and fears have enlightened me.

Those struggles have caused some of you to say to me, “ My issues are so small compared to this child’s .”

My response to that is that as much as she endured, as much as she faced the evil dark side of mankind, she survived because she dared to see a choice.

Choices create conflict, don’t they ? It was not until she, and you, realized there were choices, options to change your life, that the real anxiety and fears hit. It was her taking a risk to contact me through our web site’s chat room, her expressing to me the want to feel love and be safe that she ventured one step out of the dreadful life that she seemed destined to before. So, it is when you realized that you were not happy, just ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ with some significant aspect of your life that you really felt the anxiety symptoms hit a peak.

We can only ignore needs so long, we can only adapt so far to please others, before we realize we are not happy, just settling.

And it is not an easy path, allowing yourself to love yourself, taking better care of yourself, setting boundaries with those who would hurt you with words or deeds, those who would control and manipulate you seeing that your need for approval makes you vulnerable to their games.

As a grandpa, I want to protect those I love, but as much, I want to teach them how to protect themselves, how to set those boundaries, how to never be vulnerable to the games of the dark side, and how to respect themselves, and those who prove they can be trusted. As a therapist, I have a similar goal with my clients.

So although some of you have written that your issues seem to pale in comparison to this very very special person in my life, I appreciate that your conflicts are sources of pain for you, and your struggle is as important to you as hers is to her. At the heart of it all is self-esteem. You must be proud of the fact that you are not avoiding that which stands in the way of you becoming the person you wish to be.

So I tell my new grandchild, as i tell you, do not stop dreaming of how you want life to be, but be willing to take the steps, as scary as they can be at times, to make those dreams come true. It is hard work, and there are NO short cuts to change. We by nature resist change, but the option to create and allow change is yours !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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