When Fear Rules !

Tag: trust

Anxiety Does Not Mean You Are Weak !

by on Nov.18, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So this young man, in his mid 30’s, was obviously frustrated and anxious as he had been to countless physicians, neurologists and other specialists in an attempt to find answers for the host of physical symptoms he was experiencing. His angst was exacerbated by the fact that he was not getting any answers and his symptoms were worsening. Pains in his arms and his chest along with feeling physically tired, somedays not feeling he had enough energy to walk without stumbling as well as tingling of his scalp, hands and feet were all very alarming.

Some where along his quest for answers, it was mentioned to him that he might be suffering from a ” Conversion Reaction “, a condition where persistent physical symptoms that cannot be fully explained by a medical condition, substance abuse, or other mental disorder, and seem to stem from psychological issues or conflicts. He seemed almost angry but al least very concerned at this suggestion, as if professionals were telling him he was weak, that his symptoms were all mental.

I could feel his conflict over wanting relief of his physical symptoms, yet not being able to swallow what he was hearing. But then again, he was there, with me, hoping that together we could find answers.

So I listened, asked some probing questions, and listened some more. I heard that there were indeed some symptoms that were physical in origin, as with an issue with hypoglycemia where he would feel shaky if he did not eat more frequently. But after he gradually opened up and shared more and more, it appeared obvious that there were some personally significant emotional issues and conflicts in his life that were most likely hitting more nerves than anything physical or medical. He knew there were issues, but never suspected that they could be the source of his symptoms. Like many, it is thought that something truly cataclysmic would be going on if that would result in the symptoms like this man was experiencing.

Although I knew he needed  answers, it was obviously critical that he understand a very important fact, one that I have preached many times to clients. In fact, I had just received a note from one of my past clients asking that I press the issue in my Blog that having anxiety symptoms, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive issues does not mean we are weak or fragile people !

This man was a perfect example of how physical symptoms can be triggered by emotional issues and conflict, not because a person is weak, but because he or she is a more adapting person, one that enjoys validation from others, yet has thoughts, feelings and desires of his own. It is not a bad thing to have a conscience and to want to avoid conflict, but one must also have effective tools to deal with conflicts and issues when they do arise, and especially when compromise is not easily at hand. It is all right to want to feel the approval from others, as long as one can set boundaries and not allow that want to become a need that keeps you from seeking what you desire in your life. 

This man was not weak, in fact he had taken some very real and bold steps to become an entrepreneur, creating a business out of one of his passions. However, over time, dealing with his business partners was creating considerable conflict. Changes needed to be made that were going to lead to some uncomfortable and hard feelings. This very creative and already successful man was avoiding dealing with these issues, and instead, the resulting anxiety symptoms had taken up so much of his time and energy, that he had no fire left in his belly to deal with the actual conflicts, the real sources for his pain.

Again, that does not make him weak. As he understood that, like many people, it was just his nature to want to avoid conflict. He now had more of a grasp as to how the mind and body can play havoc, distracting him from dealing with unpleasant things. He was not crazy, not out of control, he was just suffering from a complex anxiety reaction to conflict, and he had now learned a very important lesson. My goal will be to guide him so he can take what he has learned, set reasonable goals to deal with his conflicts while gradually and more deeply realizing that his symptoms are reactions, not a disease. No, he was not weak, but this will make him even stronger as he takes steps, takes action to deal with issues One Step At A Time.

It will be most important for him to attack the issues in his life with a plan, allowing time to desensitize and work through his thoughts and feelings at each step. We can desensitize to so much in life if we just do it the right way. Sure, there are some people who appear less bothered by conflict.

Certainly there are aggressive types that can blow right by potential conflicts not hesitating to make changes. There are those that seem less burdened by a conscience. Let me tell you from experience over many years and after dealing with many personality types, those others have their own interpersonal issues that if you fully realized or walked in their shoes, you would not wish to be one of them.

I would be happy to respond to your questions and hear your thoughts.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Escaping Negative Thoughts

by on Nov.04, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Unless you were one of the lucky ones, you learned fears during your childhood that remain active today if you actually listen to your private thoughts.

I was talking with a client recently who, in my opinion, has been putting some significant but inconsistent effort into controlling his anxiety and panic attacks as well as his obsessive-compulsive behaviors [OCD}.

Now, what do we mean by obsessive-compulsive behaviors ? Actually, they are very common, although differing in frequency and certainly intensity, where an individual finds himself feeling an urge to carry out some ritualistic behavior, repeating that behavior to a point that it can be disruptive in his life. I see people suffering from this type of anxiety reaction every day. One person may find himself giving in to the urge to check over his tax return over and over, even though no errors were found. Another might have spilled some cleaning substance on their hands and then found herself washing her hands and arms, repeating the action even when her hands became chapped and bleeding. Then maybe a child feels an urge to say good-night and blow a kiss to each of her more than one hundred stuffed animals before she can go to sleep at night, only to find herself having to repeat the process for over two hours for fear she missed one of her precious inanimate friends.

These rituals can take over one’s life to one degree or another, but are responses to inner conflict that is often hidden to others, and even unknown or unrecognized by the client. My experience is that the conflicts are just below the surface but are issues the person may just not feel able to deal with, thus is consciously or subconsciously avoiding.

The client I was talking with came to realize that his OCD, which had grown in power and was ruling much of his life, was a reaction to conflict. There was an inner desire to do more with his life and escape the shadow cast by his family tree,a history of depression, negativity, avoidance and regret. He came to realize that most of his anxiety was due to the personally painful reality that he had and was avoiding making needed changes in his life. His negative thoughts and fears were echoing through his mind, but more importantly were and still are the habitual thoughts of his past and especially his parents whose lives were ruled by fear.

He could catch himself in his private thoughts saying “I’m not smart enough !”, or ” Who do I think I am, that I could do something special with my life ? “. He had also become vividly aware  through introspection triggered in part by therapy,  that these were the thoughts based on fears of rejection and failure, that he had been taught by his mother. Even recently, when he discussed possibly looking for a another job that was more challenging and he could feel some passion over, his mother, backed by other family members, said ” Just be happy you have a job !”

This client had taken some steps to challenge his fears. He did at one point go back to school to take course he was very interested in, and from that experience, learned that he was not stupid. He was able to master the material, and in fact thrived in that class and others and was actuallycalled upon by the teacher to share more of his thoughts with the class. He found himself actually tutoring others who were struggling more with the classes subject matter. It was very esteeming for him. So, that should have turned his life around, right ? In fact, his obsessive-compulsive behavior was down significantly. He really felt great about the stretching he was doing. However, due to changes with his present but boring job, he was distracted from continuing his course work. His efforts were very positive, but the reality was that once he stopped stretching, he fell back into the gravitational pull of his past negative thoughts, and his family history of self-defeatism. He lost that momentum he had begun by stretching outside his comfort zone.

Now he realizes what happened, that it takes frequent and consistent exercising of one’s energies to escape the gravity of the past.  Just as it does with physical exercise, where muscle turns to flab when the exercise stops, his efforts to challenge his fears worked, but needed to become part of his life, not a past chapter.

So, now he is beginning to edit the book that is the story of his life. Armed with the awareness of what he did, and therefore what he COULD DO, he is working to create an ongoing momentum, one that he must nurture through repeated  experiences that will desensitize him to his fears and emboldenhim to persevere.

How much are you ruled by fear ? How often do you hear yourself uttering or thinking something sabotaging, that shuts you down and causes you to avoid ? Where did you learn fear and avoidance ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

Free Sunday Eve On-Line Support Group : OneStepataTime.com

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Being Manipulated !

by on Oct.28, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

What would you feel if you realized you had been manipulated, controlled or used by another person ?

What if that person is someone you trusted, believed in and hoped was different, maybe even looked up to as a hero ?

 

Would you feel angry, sad, hurt or maybe ashamed and embarrassed ?

 

I have worked with so many clients who are victims of such manipulation and I admit it frustrates me and even angers me, and makes me sad when I see how it affects them. It is painful to see their pain.

 

I have  always been focused on helping people find their voice, learn to speak their mind and set boundaries to protect themselves from people who would take advantage of their trusting and adapting natures.

 

However, that focus turned into a passion a few years ago when I lost a twenty year old client to suicide. I had worked with her for two years but I was never able to convince her to take steps to press charges against her father who was always her hero, but had turned into an abusive man, physically, sexually and emotionally molesting her body and her spirit. Yes, he was a narcissistic sociopath, but she refused to see that.  She trusted and believed in him so much, and prayed that he would return to being her loving hero of a dad. I was so angry, that it took almost two years for me to be able to talk about it without choking-up.

 

Admittedly since then, that passion has become somewhat of an obsession that has caused me to react more strongly and openly  to any form of manipulation of one person by another, especially when the manipulator is obvious in his or her efforts to establish a trust, a bond only to use it as a means to take control for their own private agenda.

 

Lately, with all the political debates and advertisements flooding the airwaves, I found myself feeling some of that anger, feeling that inner turmoil as I watched what was another form of manipulation and control happening to many good people in our great nation. I have heard lies, name calling, character assassination, and open efforts to portray good people as evil and campaign ads that are obviously edited to promote what they want us to believe and distract us from the truth.

 

” It’s just politics” they say ! Really ? Do you really believe the words and promises or just WANT TO so much that you close your mind to the painful truth. It is manipulation ! It is an effort to say anything necessary, promise hope and change, create a dependency all in order to fulfill their agendas. It is a degrading but true picture of what has become of our countries moral compass. It is becoming the norm, almost as if it is acceptable.

 

I hope more people recognize what is happening and find their voice. We are not sheep, but we are being led down a path that is self-destructive.

 

As a people, we should definitely be there to help others who are sick or injured and cannot work. Those who have worked their whole lives deserve “reasonable” benefits. But the ever growing numbers of people who are able to justify living off the system when there is no reason other than the fact THAT THEY CAN, is just another sign of our decay. Have we become so selfish that we can rationalize using the system when we are capable of working and contributing to the system as others have done. How about hand-ups instead of hand-outs ? How about focusing on creating jobs so people can feel the pride of accomplishment instead of dependency ? Or is it too late ?

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

 

 

 

Free On-Line Support Groups: OneStepataTime.com

 

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One Step at a Time !

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choking !

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

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

What do you want to change ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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

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

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

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

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

BG

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Why Do I Procrastinate ?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Don’t We LISTEN ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:

www.RuledByFear.com

Website/ Newsletter / On-Line Support Group :
www.OneStepataTime.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

To Sign up for FREE Newsletter  and join us in our Free Support Group On-Line most Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET go to:

  www.OneStepataTime.com

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A Child Abused, What Would You Do ?

by on Jun.08, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

This trip to San Clemente was another eye-opener. I came here to spend time with my grand-kids, but also to research and work with organizations that attempt to help children who are being abused, emotionally, physically and sexually, and often all three. I have found some very active organizations that work hard to serve these children, and one in particular worth mentioning  is the Center for Community Services in San Diego. Of course, my talking about these kids or some of the special people who are out there trying to serve these kids in need does little to help the problem, because  most people are aghast when they hear about a child suffering abuse, but because it is so uncomfortable a thought, it gets shoved away somewhere in the deeper recesses of the mind.

On the other hand, if you would go to the CCSSD web site and actually go to one of their functions, actually ask questions and get involved, you may get hooked ! I am not talking about just throwing money at the problem, although that would help, but REALLY getting involved. No matter where you live, you can go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. So many who would abuse children get away with their heinous deeds because of the lack of outcry and support.

When there is domestic abuse, to me one of the worst types, it is often covered up by parents, or dealt with internally by the family without bringing in appropriate services. The issue is often that of not wanting to bring shame upon the family. ” We thought we could handle it “, is what I have heard. While any child being abused is totally unacceptable, when it is a parent, sibling, or other relative who is the abuser, it is especially ugly and harmful because the abuse is done by someone loved and trusted. Think how that screws with the mind of a child. Who in the child’s world can be trusted !!! How does it feel as an adult when one feels there is no one to be trusted ? But a child !!!

One of the last cases I worked with that is a horrible example of what can happen is a 19 year old who was raped on a college campus. Well, you might say, that is not a child. However, her reactions to the rape and the fact that the incident went unreported by the young lady because her father forbid her to say anything to anyone, sent off alarms in my mind. This young lady shared with me because there was no one else she could trust to share with, but all my attempts to find her therapy and appropriate guidance was met with, “No, my dad would kill me.” Yes, my radar was functioning at full power and I gradually drew out of this child that she had been physically and emotionally abused by her dad since she was about fourteen, and within the last year, he began crossing the line sexually. In hopes that her father would eventually stop hurting her and love her again, she forbade me to expose him.

I cannot go into any more detail, first because this is a case I am still working on, and secondly because the details would turn your stomach into knots.
I was able to get her to leave her home and go to her Uncle and Aunt for protection, but even they could not deal with the evil behavior of her father. Out of fear and shame, they kept silent and actually allowed the abuse to continue under their own eyes. Without anyone willing to press charges, my hands were tied. This young lady ended her life at 20, as the only way to escape her abuser. I will forever be haunted by the fact that there was nothing I could do, but i would hope that a few of you may also be haunted by the picture that might be forming in your minds of this young lady’s ordeal, and that you will get involved in your community. Contact CCSSD if in San Diego, or go to  the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence  and see what programs and services exist in your state, in your backyard, Yes, your backyard because domestic violence happens ever hour of every day in just about every community in our so-called civilized society.

Don’t AVOID ! Do something that will add even more meaning to your life ! Do something to help protect these kids.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:  www.RuledByFear.com

Website/ Newsletter / On-Line Support Group : www.OneStepataTime.com

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Selfish, Self-Serving and Abusive

by on May.20, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

As I read my last Blog entry entitled ” Fear…It Rules Our Lives !”, I almost did not publish it as it seemed to harsh, even for me.

I wrote in Sunday, but held off publishing until Monday with the idea that I might soften it up a bit.
Then, I got an awakening slap across my face as I received an urgent e-mail from one of the kids I have worked with for three years. She is a very special child who once lived on the streets by herself at eleven and twelve years of age. Could you imagine yourself or one of your kids surviving that ordeal ? If you have followed my Blog at www.RuledByFear.com , then you might be aware that this child adopted me as her grandfather, a title that I see as an honor. This young lady worked so very hard and against all odds to get off the streets.

She was abused so badly on the streets, yet maintained her efforts to get off those back alleys and street corners, and have a life. I admired her efforts and together, we found a path for her to now find herself in a loving home.

But then the slap ! ” Grandpa, my other grandpa just did something horrible to me !!!” I won’t go into details because it makes me too angry and distracts me from what needs to be said here.. But it is what it is ! It took me more than two hours to open her up to tell me what happened. She totally blamed herself for being STUPID ! She has again been a victim of sexual abuse, and her parents and I are going to again begin to pick up he pieces. Makes me sick, and my heart is still heavy. She feels like she is a marked person, as most victims feel.

Yet, the only thing she really did was open her heart to someone because she so wanted to be loved, accepted and to feel she belongs. She knew he was a difficult man who had previously acted as if he did not like her, and saw her as an intrusion into their family. She thought that since he was family, she would just have to try harder to get him to love her.
She had NO idea what he had in mind.

At some point, her abuser realized he could take advantage of her want for love and approval and he played  her like a fiddle. He said all the right things. Took walks with her and listened to her imaginative stories. He played on her sympathies as he had lost his wife a few months back. Then, when he was done with her, he told her that no one would believe her and that he would tell stories about how she wanted him to do things to her. Anyway, she was just a bad seed and would end up back on the streets ! Oops, I am getting angry again.

Sure, steps will be taken to have the abuser face consequences for what he did to an already fragile, now fourteen year old child, but the man’s selfishness and self serving act is another scar on this child’s life, marring her ability to ever trust again. Beyond that, she wonders why God is punishing her. She asks, “Did I do something to deserve this ?”

Typical of many children, but also adults who are victims of sexual abuse, this child felt shame for not realizing she was being played. She described a “black slime” inside of her, a combination of feelings of guilt, shame and anger toward the abuser, but more toward herself for being so blind.

Can you even imagine what it will take on her part to ever trust again ? We have begun the process of releasing that “black slime” by allowing her to vent, by helping purge the anger and to realize SHE  did nothing wrong, but want love. We have prayed and sang her favorite spiritual songs to help her remember that she is loved by her family and by her God.

She does have much to learn about love and trust, and about the evil agendas that lurk in the hearts of some who can justify and rationalize through their warped thoughts, their selfish unbridled needs and malicious deeds. But then, don’t many of us have critical issues to learn about needs for approval and love ? Don’t many of us find ourselves victims of emotional, if not physical and sexual abuse, because all we really are looking for is that approval, that sense of belonging, that craving for someone we can really trust? Don’t many share those same needs and therefore find themselves vulnerable as targets for abusers ?

Can she be loved for who she  really is, for what is in her heart, or only for what she can do to satisfy the cravings of the another ?

Well, I will be busy doing my part to glue her back together, hoping I can find a little bit of that old “fight until you win ” attitude that led her off the streets, but please pause to think about how many children are abused every day. See what YOU can do in your community to have a voice for these kids. And realize that the dark side is out there, it is real in way too many people, whether they be father’s , mother’s and sadly, grandpas.

Get involved with anti-abuse groups like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence . Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING !!!

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Any thoughts or questions ?

Please share !

Remember my Blog, www.RuledByFear.com

Also, to receive our free weekly newsletter, or have the opportunity to join our free on-line Support group on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET, go to www.OneStepataTime.com

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Fear…It Rules Our Lives !

by on May.14, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Fear…It Rules Our Lives.

None of us can escape the effects of fear. In the Big Picture, most fear death or suffering. However, on a more day to day basis, fear pops up and rules much of our lives at either a conscious  or subconscious level. Fear creates a sense of being out of control in some way, and we certainly do not enjoy that sensation

Our fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment and retaliation play havoc in our lives as it snuffs out or limits many of our efforts to stretch, try new things, speak our minds,  and allow us to truly feel more “in control” of our lives.

There is a dark side in people, yes all of us. I know, we do not like to think that of ourselves, but really, we have dark and angry thoughts about others. We might gossip and say hurtful things about another person. We might justify and rationalize anything from cheating a little on taxes, driving over the speed limit, and of course cheating in relationships.
Hopefully, many of us have a conscience that keeps that dark side at bay, or at least recognizes the need to pull the reigns in on our behavior when it crosses that imaginary line where guilt. shame or fear of consequences awaits to pounce.

But the reality is sadly evident that not everyone has that degree of conscience. I see so many of my clients suffering from the emotional conflict which leads to anger, which leads to guilt for allowing their dark feelings out as they have been victims of needy, abusive, manipulative or controlling people. That is a mouthful ! But the fact is that many severe anxiety or panic attack symptoms and obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are symptoms people experience because they do feel emotional conflict in their lives. One frequent source of such emotional conflict is when we allow, yes I said “allow” people to use and abuse us. We feel anger when people do harm to us, but even more so, we often feel anger with ourselves for being suckers, or gullible in the face of the users and abusers.

For many of us, our want for approval and acceptance, our desire for community, to belong, and our need for validation by others causes us to be sitting ducks for those who recognize  our adapting, conscience oriented natures.

How can we take control ?

First, realize the truth that not everyone has the same morals and ethics, i.e., conscience.

Secondly, recognize the users and abusers in your life.

They may be the “needy ones”,the users, who you know are selfish, self-absorbed, habitually blame everyone else for the ills of the world, but never seem to be there when you infrequently need them.They can make up stories to defend their positions, and come to believe those stories to be true even in the face of contrary evidence. They can be extremely defensive and try to turn the tables on you by using guilting tactics. Do you know anyone like that, hmmm ?

Then there are the “controlling and manipulative ones” who prey on their knowledge that you seek approval and acceptance. They can be charming, and are often quite bright and astute at using shame, guilt and veiled threats as tools to get you to succumb to their wishes. They often try to divide and conquer by saying things to cause you to doubt people in your support system, because they know if they can separate you from the crowd, you are more vulnerable. That’s the “divide and conquer game”. They can lie without flinching, without as much as a bead of sweat. They come in all different sizes and from mild to severe degrees of evil intent. It may be the stock broker who swindles you, a boss who sexually harasses you, or the full out sexual, physical or emotional abuser.

Most often, the adapting conscience-bound personality types, once abused by this type of damaged soul, will not say anything to their support people for fear of looking foolish and weak. Especially when physical, sexual and emotional abuse occurs, the abuser fully takes advantage of the shame and guilt routine to shut their victims up. One tactic the abuser may play out is to keep repeating the mantras, “You must have really wanted me to do this or you would have stopped me “. Or the classic, “Look how angry you feel, look at the dark side in yourself, see, you are no better than I am !”  Then of course there is the line, ” No one will believe you, and you will just end up feeling shame and guilt for what has happened, so you cannot tell anyone.”  Finally, and one of the ugliest games, ” You will not say anything because you know I would come back and hurt you or others that you care about. So just suck it up !”

So what can we do to protect ourselves ?

Take stock of the people in your life and remember step one and two above. Don’t be naive and gullible.

If you are dealing with one of the “needy ones”, start setting limits and boundaries as to if and when you interact with that person. You might respectfully approach that person saying that you are sharing what you honestly feel when he or she treats you that way,  and then give him or her an example of the behavior that is unacceptable to you. If that person seems to have insight into what you are saying and makes an effort to change, great ! If they repeat the hurtful behavior again, cut it off ! They are damaging to your self-esteem. And, that person will not change until they recognize consequences for their hurtful behavior, which seldom happens as too many just avoid saying anything. You may be doing them a favor by at least trying to help them face their sabotaging behaviors. However, don’t hold your breath.

Also, make sure you are spending time developing and nurturing other healthier friendships, so your fear of being alone or without friends dose not cause you to allow yourself to be an on-going victim.

When dealing with or recognizing the ” controlling-manipulative types”, remember…

Document things that are said and done with dates and times and verbatim notes.

Share your experiences with trusted friends and, a counselor, the police. DO NOT GO IT ALONE !

Remember the divide and conquer routine, the tactics to use shame and guilt ? The abusers lose their power when you share what you have experienced because they do NOT want to be exposed. You have nothing to be ashamed about, but if you have a support system in place early on, as soon as you recognize who you are dealing with, you are much less likely to be emotionally  manipulated by the abuser as you feel the support and are reminded of the fact that you are not alone.

I have sadly dealt with many victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Some of the worst cases have been domestic violence, abuse within families. Many have suffered more severe and long lasting trauma because they did not follow the above advice no matter how I pleaded. I know it is an uncomfortable topic, but to ensure your mental, emotional and physical well-being, you need to realize that the reality exists.

Any thoughts or questions ?

Please share !

Remember my Blog, www.RuledByFear.com

Also, to receive our free weekly newsletter, or have the opportunity to join our free on-line Support group on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET, go to www.OneStepataTime.com

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