When Fear Rules !

Tag: trust

You Can Run, Not Hide From Anxiety 1

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

Do You Really Want to Control Anxiety  ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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Avoidance of Conflict

by on Mar.17, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

Avoidance Of Conflict

It is so very important to realize that there is almost always a reason why a person is having panic attacks, intrusive thoughts or obsessive worry with compulsive behaviors.

Certainly, trauma can cause these anxiety symptoms, but I rarely find that among the majority of my clients. Stress can surely add to the symptoms, but most often I have found that stress only aggravates the anxiety symptoms.

What I find in most cases is that personal conflict is typically the source. Whereas stress can come and go, conflict hangs over our heads until we deal with it.

Conflict ?

Yes, like feeling trapped in a go-nowhere job but avoiding taking steps to create opportunities to change for fear of failure or rejection.

Maybe feeling stuck in an emotionally, physically or sexually abuse relationship, but avoiding taking steps to remove yourself because of your fears of being alone, or the fear of retaliation.

How many times we want to express ourselves toward someone who is controlling, intrusive or manipulative, but end up avoiding and repressing what we feel.

Key word is avoiding, since avoidance effects how we see ourselves. Avoidance can cause us to feel weak, erodes our self-esteem and leads to our not trusting ourselves.
Of course, when we doubt ourselves, what do we do next ? We WHAT IF ourselves and then we avoid !

There is a reason why the more adapting and approval seeking personalities have more anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms. Their need for approval and want to avoid possible rejection or exclusion makes them fair game for the more manipulative people in the world. All you caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are really good people but you need to learn to set boundaries with people who would  take advantage of your adapting natures.

In future blog articles, I will address some ways for each personality type to make changes so they might feel more in control, and thereby begin to take control of their anxiety symptoms. I look forward to your comments.

Meanwhile, take a look at our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Afraid to Expose the Abuser ?

by on Mar.05, 2012, under Stopping Abuse

Afraid to Expose an Abuser ?

A young woman working at her first real good  paying job, but is being sexually harassed by her boss as are a number of other woman who work there. No one else has ever dared expose this supervisor even though the abuse  is done openly, with witnesses. “ I can’t afford to lose my job and not be able to make my house payment”.

A woman married 27 years is afraid to tell her husband how much it hurts when he puts her down, demeans her when she offers any suggestions. She fears his flare-ups of anger and is having panic attacks.

A young lady, just legally an adult, takes her life because it is the only way to escape the pain of her father’s sexual abuse. The thought of exposing him meant she would lose any chance of her father ever returning and being the man that once loved her and protected her,

Another young person is a victim of cyber bullying, and takes an overdose to deal with his pain.

Unless you are a victim of some form of abuse, you may not be able to fully grasp the effect that it has on one’s life. FEAR is paralyzing !

I can see the effect that the abuse has had on my clients. It is obvious  that being a victim of abuse can CHANGE a person, often creates issues in future relationships, demeans and effects self-esteem, and leads to anxiety symptoms including panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive issues.

I have known that feeling. I had that feeling revisit me a few years ago when a sexually abusive father of the young lady I mentioned above threatened me with, ”You don’t know whom you are dealing with. I can destroy you !”

The point of this is not only how fear prevents us from exposing abuse and abusers, but how our not exposing the manipulative and controlling actions of others , especially when taken to abusive levels, empowers the abuser and weakens us in our own eyes.

I am sure you have heard it all before ! By avoiding the exposure of abusers, we give them more control over us. And yes, I understand the fear. But please understand how that avoidance effects you, prevents you in some cases from taking steps in your life that you always thought you would take someday, only to see that you opted for what was comfortable.

Abusers I have had contact with are insecure people with their own dark secrets who spend a lifetime hiding those insecurities with their ugly behavior. As an example, after being personally threatened in the example above, I did some long and involved investigative work, and detailed documentation, and I found that the father who molested his daughter to the point of her death had been exposed to homosexual activities as a child under the watchful eye of his own very abusive father. Do you think that might have caused some deep insecurities and a need to prove his manliness, leading to his needing to over-power and abuse woman ?

Avoiding the reporting of abuse of any kind is a life changer even as much as the abuse itself.

If their is or has been any sexual, physical or emotional abuse in your life, talk to your therapist.

Remember, abusers always try to divide and conquer. They want their victims to feel alone, and try to convince them that no one would listen to them anyway. Don’t hide the abuse any longer ! Build your support system between your therapist, organizations like NCADV { National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Nicole Brown Foundation,
Rape Crisis Hotline, an attorney, and EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission}, etc.

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The Slippery Slope of Avoidance

by on Feb.12, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

The Slippery Slope of Avoidance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Thoughts ?

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Success Over Fears !

by on Feb.05, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia

Success Over Phobias and OCD !

Yes, you really can overcome phobias and obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals, but it takes hard work and a focus on changing the situations that cause you to be so vulnerable to your fears.

We all have fears.  We all have avoided situations or people because of our fears. And when we avoid, somewhere in our brain there is a message being imprinted saying, “I was not in control”.

Depending on the frequency and intensity of those situations and memories, and of course, what else is going on in our lives that might stroke our self-esteem, we might be less affected. However, many many individuals allow situations where fear rules to dominate and they find there is a pattern of avoidance in their lives that  leads to a feeling of vulnerability. It is that vulnerability that I watch closely for whenever I see a  client as I know how the avoidance-vulnerability cycle can make a person more susceptible to irrational fears, phobias , panic attacks and OCD.

Frequently I have the awesome opportunity to see a client challenge those fears and WIN. Let me offer you an example in hopes it will make my point more clear. A young man, in his early twenties, came to see me more as a follow-up to reinforce what he had learned in therapy years before. I remember oh so well the pain I saw in his eyes when just a few years ago, in his late teens, he came to me totally engulfed with his obsessive and irrational fears that he was gay. Now if he was actually homosexual, then we would have worked on his self-acceptance and coping skills while dealing with society’s prejudices and fears. I have gay clients who are not in conflict over their sexuality. But in this case, he was not gay, but yet found himself constantly having intrusive thoughts and then avoiding places or situations that might bring those feelings to the surface where he might be exposed.

Besides working with Cognitive-Behavioral therapies to help him challenge his fearful thoughts, we had to get to the source of his being so vulnerable, get to the root of why his self-esteem was so fragile that he would give in to those thoughts when his conscious mind knew he was not gay.

In his case, he had never applied himself at school and his grades suffered which meant that college was not a realistic thought. He was bright, but he had an independent side that just did not do things like others. He had a strong aversion to following the crowd and doing the expected. Now, out of high school, and doing it by the skin of his teeth, he really did not know what he was going to do with his life.

Seeing his parents  struggle through life, to some degree he just felt that is how his life would be. His lack of effort, not setting or achieving goals, had led him to have  very little faith in himself. He felt very out of control, especially once he was out of the protective and structured environment of school.

He had a father who was very negative and critical since he too had not accomplished much in his life and just blamed the world for his lack of achievements. His father soothed his frustrations with alcohol as so many do. My client saw himself self-medicating in the same way.

How could my client escape the shadow of his father? How could this young man have the confidence to face his fears when his self-esteem was so beaten down ? He had never really taken control, set goals or had seen himself meet those goals, so he had little faith in himself.

Once I realized this, and was able to gradually get him to see that his life was a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that his fearful thoughts of being gay were mostly, if not entirely, a symbolic fear of being “out of control” in his life, he was able to take steps to build a plan with me that when put into action, step by step, led him to begin rebuilding his self-respect and awareness that he really could do some really meaningful things with his life.

He took on some challenges, but fell off the path a few times. He accepted that  set-backs were normal, and although they took some of the vim and vigor out of his efforts for a few days, he would throw himself back into taking steps to accomplish his new goals of doing something purposeful and meaningful with his life. Managers at his job were taking notice and giving him more responsibility, which he was able to see he could handle quite effectively. He finally was feeling some control in his life. He was finally beginning to TRUST himself.

He has miles yet to travel, but as he takes steps along this journey, he is realizing that his fearful, obsessive thoughts are happening so infrequently that he almost does not pay attention to them at all. When he does find himself attending to them, he immediately looks at what is  going on currently in his life where he might be avoiding and settling, and gives himself a swift kick, a jolt of reality, to get back on track.

Just think about the power of avoidance and the fear that is generated by that avoidance. This young man worked very hard to face what he needed to change in his life. He faced the fact that he had created a deep hole because there were things in his life that he was NOT taking control of, so his subconscious mind seized on that sense of being vulnerable and played with his mind when he was idle, or in his dreams. It was not really about being gay. Not that being gay has to be an issue, but for him, it was a significant symbol of being out of control, of somehow failing and rejecting himself.

Just food for thought !

Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist
Coach

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Comfortably Uncomfortable with Life ?

by on Jan.22, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

You like to feel that you are in control of your life, don’t you ? You want to see yourself as an independent, emotional but yet logical person who makes sound decisions.

I bet you would like to see yourself reaching for goals, taking on opportunities in your life that will cause you to feel a greater sense of worth and value, a feeling of purpose and meaning. At the end of the day, don’t you want to be able to look back on your day and feel you accomplished something, stretched a little further, took a step or two that will lead to better and greater things in your life ?

I might be presuming too much, but I still will bet on the above even though many of us do not feel all that much control in our lives. I mean, we want it, but often we find ourselves avoiding difficult people or situations, opting for more comfort and apparent safety.

Well, with all my years offering therapy to clients experiencing panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, one of the most frequently seen sources for those symptoms is that my clients WANT more freedom and independence, want to be proud of what they are accomplishing, but at the same time have found themselves avoiding any serious efforts to set the needed goals and steps to accomplish those goals.

What it comes down to most often is FEAR. Yes,that four letter word is represents what many of us experience and what keeps a huge percentage of us comfortably uncomfortable. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, of being embarrassed, maybe being wrong. Why are we so vulnerable to fear ? Let me remind you that you are not born with fear, it is LEARNED.

So stop and think, where did you first start feeling fear ? Did you have a fearful parent ?
Were you over-protected and warned constantly to not take any chances or risks ?

Fear is powerful as it NUMBS a person’s emotions and efforts to challenge life. Now, no one escapes fear, it is just a matter of intensity and the degree to which it holds back your personal growth.

I recall talking to a person who came to see me with the diagnosis of depression and secondly a social phobia. His face, I remember, was emotionless, and his voice monotone.  He had the appearance of a robot from an 1960 alien B-movie. My first thought was, what do I DO with this young man. Then i remember talking to myself, as I often do, and saying, THERE IS A REASON !

I probed, and I must say with some frustration at not getting any affirmation that I was hitting any buttons, until I finally realized that this young man had been subtly bullied during his early years, had no one to share his frustrations with and be coached as to how to handle difficult people or situations, and so he gradually but surely shut down.

It became NORMAL for him to observe from afar but not interact. He could get lost in books or games of isolation, where he could feel safe and, there’s that word, COMFORTABLE.

Now as a young adult attempting to navigate through the waters of life, he seldom left the dock and saw no reason to seek adventure. Goals, maybe just to survive. Risk, but why ? Little by little he and I established a very step by step game plan to stretch and experience life, because only with such stretching and experiencing, could he allow himself to FEEL.

You may feel this is an extreme case, but please take a good look at what you are doing and experiencing in your life. Do you need to do some more stretching ? Are you Ruled By Fear ? How much more could you attain if you took STEPS, not leaps to taste more of life and do things that would cause you to feel more meaning and purpose, RIGHT NOW ?

I welcome you thoughts !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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Am I Becoming Needy Again?

by on Jan.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

Am I Becoming Needy Again !

First, I think there is a huge difference between having needs and being needy. Having needs, emotional needs that is, happens to be a normal part of being a human. It can be seen in a special bond between two friends, it can be seen between a parent and child, or it is demonstrated by the intimate interaction between two loving, caring people, where they look out for each other as life companions, and are aware of each other’s struggles and need for affirmation and support.

Being needy, on the other hand, conjures up in my mind a person whose needs are so all-encompassing that he becomes selfish, where he is less aware of the needs of others and withdraws into a world where he feels entitled, and blames others for all the ills in the world. In this world of his making, he is not taking responsibility for his own sabotaging behaviors and attitudes that drives people away. Instead, he simply reacts to what he sees as rejection and as affirmation that the world is an up hill struggle,

However, a person with needs can sometimes visit the fringes of that needy world if he allows himself to get too comfortable, maybe even lazy. You see, our self-esteem is fragile.  The very heart of one’s self-esteem depends on one’s perception of his personal worth and value, his purpose and meaning in life. If he is not actively creating personal goals, and attaining those goals, he can become more dependent on his affirmations coming more heavily from others instead of from what he is doing with his life. THAT is risky !

Dependency on others for feedback as to our worth and value is a typical part of many of our lives. There are those who are much less dependent, to be sure. There are personality types that truly derive  the bulk of their esteem from what they do like some logical, analytic personality types.

However, the vast majority of my clients are adapting, approval seeking caregivers, perfectionists, peacekeepers or conformers. Understandably, since I specialize in working with individuals experiencing panic attacks, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am almost always working with adapting and approval seeking personalities. NOW, let me make myself clear. My clients are not weak. They are caring and sensitive personalities who often allow their want for approval and acceptance from others to dominate their lives instead of focusing on their own needs for personal growth. These people are the ones you want around when you are in a jam, and they are the ones you can depend on, but, they can at times put too much energy into taking care of others, fixing another person’s pain, or conforming to please and make everyone feel better that they forget to realize and take care of their own needs to achieve and grow their own self-esteeming behaviors that are less dependent on affirmations from others.

That dependency on others for their self-esteem rather than focusing a portion of their emotional energy on doing things in their life that build their self-esteem causes them to be more vulnerable to feeling rejection when certain persons do not respond to their often silent cries for affirmation.

I was reminded of this issue when a client of mine realized that he was feeling more needy lately. Then he realized that he had been more focused on his relationship with his girlfriend and had settled into a entry level job and had become lax in thinking of his career goals. He was feeling comfortable, yet uncomfortable because he was finding himself too dependent  on that relationship for his self-esteem and  because he had temporarily stopped focusing on his career. Dependency breeds a sense of vulnerability, and that leads to inner conflicts that lead to anxiety symptoms.

Take a hard look at your life, and assess whether their is a balance between the the esteem you derive through the affirmations of others as opposed to affirmations that come from within as you see yourself accomplishing goals, stretching to challenge your fears and not allowing yourself to become TOO comfortable with the status quo.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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She Asked Me to Be Her Pretend Grandpa

by on Dec.27, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

My dear young friend who allowed me into her life when she was a homeless kid on the streets at age 11, has now been recently adopted by a great and loving young  family, and she just celebrated her first Christmas with that family.

About two years ago she asked if I could be her pretend grandpa. That was when she was still on the streets, just surviving. I was and am honored. But this Christmas, she is safe and sound, and part of a loving family.

She knows I would buy her anything for Christmas, but she wanted NO gifts. What she asked for was and Adoption Agreement, something I would create,which although not a legal document, would be a more formal testament to our relationship as grandpa and grandchild.

It was one of the most important documents I have ever been a part of creating, and it meant so much to me that she still wants me in that role.

She told me she was framing the agreement and hanging it next to her adoption papers from her new parents.  How awesome ! I am so proud of this young lady, my No. 7 Grand-daughter. What she has overcome is impossible to express effectively, but her tenacity and determination to get off the streets was nothing short of miraculous.

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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Anger With Ourselves !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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She was only trying to protect herself !

by on Dec.11, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Agoraphobia, Stopping Abuse

“She Was Only Protecting Herself From Further Rejection and Pain “

 

I  was talking to a client who was experiencing excruciating and frequent panic attacks that were causing her to not want to leave her home.

She was a single mom with a job and a great deal of responsibility for two kids. I was initially thinking to myself that she must feel overwhelmed at times raising  kids and working and having all that on her shoulders. But she quickly said, “ I am a strong person, independent, I do not allow myself to become needy of anyone, and I work hard to stay in-control !”

I heard what she said, loud and clear, but something did not click for me as I saw a softer side below what she was “trying” to project. When I probed further, she also told me of a past where she was a people pleaser, never set boundaries which allowed people to take advantage of her. She admitted that  she sought approval and allowed herself to be abused in her first marriage.

Since I am always looking for the emotional conflicts that are the actual triggers for panic attacks, bells went off in my head. So I asked, “What happened to that nice, caring, adapting person who loved people and just wanted to enjoy life ? Do you think you buried her, eliminated her and her needs from your mind ?”

She thought for a moment and said, “ But I cannot allow myself to be vulnerable to people again. I cannot trust people to be there. !”

Therein lies the conflict ! She is still that adapting, caring, sensitive, even approval seeking person, but she has worked so hard to over-correct to protect herself, that she is in pain that she is missing what she always wanted, an intimate  relationship, a healthy, loving companion to share with. Her over-correction was in a real sense denying her most basic needs.

She needed to focus on  being who she really is, BUT, learning to do so in a healthier way. She needed to learn to make better choices, set better boundaries, and deal only with those who “proved they were trustworthy and dependable as well as shared some of the same needs.

One cannot change who they are ! It is not who she was that caused her pain, since she possesses many wonderful qualities. It was that she had to be smarter in the way she lived her life to realize she had the right to be who she was, but also that she could learn to allow in her private space only those who deserved to be her friends or companions.

Adapting personalities, like the caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are more susceptible to anxiety , especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors because they do not set boundaries for FEAR of rejection, failure or abandonment. It is very hard to teach a person to care and to feel, to be truly intimate persons, but it is a very do-able task to teach and learn to set boundaries. Learning to say “No” when your gut tells you something is not comfortable or right, even when that habitual, approval seeking voice in your head is telling you to adjust what you think and feel in order to please the other person is a typical dilemma for adapting personalities, and it is a very treatable pattern of behavior that can be changed.

We will talk more about this issue and others in future newsletters and at our On-Line Support Groups on Sunday Nights at OneStepataTime.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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