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Neutralizing Negative People

When we find ourselves avoiding self-expression, our self-esteem takes a hit which thereby decreases the chances of making positive changes in our lives.

Let me begin with a short note I received from a client who is trying with all her might to free herself from anxiety that had a all but made her a prisoner of her home. As we were talking about her progress, she expressed how even a hopeful day and good mood as a result of her efforts to fight off her anxiety and fears could so easily be destroyed by the negative comments of a bitter relative. My response to her note follows

Dear Coach,

It can be hard not letting the harsh comments of others bother us. Even when we might be doing better at something or when we feel a little better about ourselves than usual, a negative comment can seem to change that and make us go from feeling okay to horrible. For example, over Thanksgiving, I did pretty well with dealing with anxiety and yet when a mean comment was thrown in my direction, I got upset. I had never really voiced to this person how I felt about his comments and I just kind of blew up.

I knew on some level that I shouldn't have gotten so upset and I realized that since I was doing better, I should have just ignored what he had said. However, between wanting my relative to know how I felt and being frustrated, I got mad. 

I was told by a therapist { aka, Coach }, and I think it was very good advice, that it's okay to be sensitive. We can also stand up for ourselves without getting defensive. All we have to do in some cases, is to say that we understand that the person feels that way and we can continue on. If you're in an argument that you can't win, why not throw the other person off-guard and not yell back like they want or just give up? Instead, make that person realize that for some reason he is always the one yelling. Maybe then he will realize why he comes-off sometimes as harsh or mean. Again, you can be sensitive, just don't let others manipulate you because of it. Be strong without adding to the conflict. 

B.G.

Dear B.G.,


I have been stressing to you in therapy that to overcome your anxiety and panic attacks, you must both face the fears of having more anxiety and panic attacks through step by step desensitzation, as well as face the conflicts that were the CAUSE for your anxiety in the first place.

One of the most common causes for the more serious anxiety symptoms like panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behavior is that something is happening in your life that is causing you to feel emotionally conflicted, overwhelmed and even angry, but you feel I'll-equipped to deal with that situation, which is either a person or situation in your life. Of course, the situations usually include people, so we might as well face the fact that it is our perceived inability to deal with people-conflict that is a huge stimulus for severe anxiety. These conflicts leave one feeling helpless, " out of control " , and feeling weak which is very destructive to our self-esteem.

Faced with difficult people, or people with selfish agendas,  tends to set one off on an arduous path, a struggle between the want to avoid possible rejection or failure, the want and maybe need for approval versus the desire to be able to express what WE really feel, what we want, not selfishly, but in some reasonable manner so as to not harm or take away from someone else's sense of worth and value.

When we do find ourselves avoiding self-expression, our self-esteem takes a hit which thereby decreases the chances of making positive changes in our lives. Avoidance leads to sense of having little worth and value and seriously undermines development of goals and the strength to take steps towards those goals. 
Anger and resentment are often the result, but those powerful emotions, although normal at some levels, become more intense as they have been repressed for years. That abundance of repressed anger and resentment, much of it with ourselves for avoiding and being weak, and the emotional turmoil they wreak within our minds and bodies, can lead to more fear. What if those repressed emotions ever come to the surface ? Will we act out in some manner that demonstrates just how 'out of control' we truly are ?  Just more conflict heaped on conflict. All this can be paralyzing especially for people who are sensitive, approval seeking and yet yearning to grow personally in their lives.

So, I have suggested to you that rather than feel you have to go toe-to-toe with a parent, relative or friend, defending your past actions and inactions, that you instead : 

1] Focus on the steps you ARE now taking to be more in control of your life;  

2] When actually faced by one of the aforementioned persons, especially if they are being critical, prepare yourself to say, " Uncle Joe, I appreciate and respect you having opinions as to my life and my progress, but I am taking steps to be more in control of my life. I understand that you may look at things differently, but in my heart, I know I am making progress ! " and then ...

3] No matter what response you receive in return, do not fall into the trap of defending yourself. Remind yourself again that you have set goals and you can see that you are taking measurable steps to overcome your fears and anxiety. Then, just repeat steps 1 and 2 .

If the other person persists, then follow up with, " I am trying to be respectful towards you and I would hope you could do the same, but I am not comfortable discussing this any further with you at this time. "

Now, let's focus on practicing these techniques and using these tools to neutralize difficult people !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

Benhaven Counseling.com

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFear

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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