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Wrong! In fact, achievement perfectionists are likely to be in a state of constant anxiety, whether or not they are producing good prose. They never know when the productivity might come to a screeching halt. If Julia has been mean or disrespectful in the past, it may very well be appropriate to lump her into the same category as the bullies in her past. But if not, it would be very unfair to assume that Julia is thinking about Karen the same way. Karen might not know what Julia is thinking, and Karen can now admit that. Rather than feel and act as if she is being aggressively shunned by Julia, she is free to look for another explanation that takes into account the way Julia has actually treated her in the past. As I mentioned, we'll talk through what to do with all this information later on, but for now, it's important to become aware of these different layers of experience. The more anxious people are, the harder it is for them to get past even the first layer and hear their own self-talk, much less the memories that underlie their automatic interpretations. Those who experience serious anxiety tend to become so fixated on getting their external environment under control that they don't think to ask these questions. Because of this, much of their emotional experience remains unavailable, and they can't avoid the patterns that set them up for failure again and again. If you get disheartened because you are not seeing results at first, enact strategies to counteract discouragement. Talk to a friend. Revisit your mission. Meditate on patience. If you stop for a couple of days because of something in your life, start over quickly. The more time you let lapse, the harder it will be. If your partner or family is not supportive, don't let this stop you. You are your own true love. They don't need to join you, but do not let them stand in your way.

Achieve clarity of the mind by permitting yourself not to think about anything that is unsettling to your soul. Do not force your mind to push through difficult situations or deal with troublesome issues that are out of your control. Let go. My wife and I just went to a wonderful presentation by Ann Lamott, a gifted very spiritual author. One of her one liners was " `No' is a complete sentence." But I didn't have that line yet while I was working with Penelope. It turned out that Penelope's husband is also a nice guy, which seems surprising in view of what I've written about him so far. I gradually learned about many good things he had done for other people. Then I learned that he had accomplished a number of things, including completing a triathlon and writing a book and getting it published, which I can tell you is no easy job. So it became clear that he wasn't just lazy or a goof off. Such ongoing, intense anxiety can take its toll. I have heard ad nauseam from many doctoral students preparing for work as philosophy professors about how they could not imagine what they would do with their lives if they were never able to land a job as a philosophy professor. These deeply committed individuals conceived their self-worth largely in terms of teaching philosophy full time, so they could not even imagine how they could survive the harsh (yet very real) possibility of never being able to devote their life to what they were trained to do. As a result, they suffered intense anxiety. I have also worked with many undergraduate students who were psychologically in the same boat. Often, it was in the pursuit of that "perfect" 4.0 average. "I must get an A in your class, Dr. Black." If I had a dollar for every student who's told me this, I would have retired to Tahiti long ago. For many of these students, the very thought of getting a "B" was utter desolation--it meant being an irredeemable failure! Many athletes are of the same mind, in my experience. As long as they are doing well in their sport, they are flying high, but lurking beneath the thin veneer of temporary success is the daunting, ever-present possibility of screwing up on the field or court and thereby falling into the dreaded depths of despair.

Think about it. What would happen if Karen didn't ask herself these questions and eventually realize that it wasn't fair for her to automatically compare Julia to bullies in the past? Karen might avoid Julia in an attempt to protect herself from the imagined slight. Then Julia would probably be hurt because she wouldn't know why Karen didn't want to see her anymore, and she would stop trying to reach out. In fact, Julia might even complain to mutual friends about Karen's poor treatment of her, which could further jeopardize Karen's social position. In response, Karen would experience all of this as proof that she truly is annoying and really does drive away everyone she cares about; and she would become even more anxious in future social situations. Imagine how crippling it would be if this same dynamic happened a thousand or even a hundred thousand times over the course of Karen's life. Our self-talk and memories have tremendous power to shape our experiences. It's important to become aware of these messages and memories -- and exercise good stewardship over them -- so that we can control them rather than allowing them to control us. Allow yourself to do something fun: small treats that will not actually get in the way of your goals. Rest. Simply do nothing; just rest. Incorporate activities of relaxation for your mind, body, and spirit. Take long walks on the beach. Garden. Enjoy bubble baths. Know that your thoughts are powerful. Plan me time. Try aiming for at least an hour per day. You can take your time at once or divide that hour into small intervals that work best for you.

Find a quiet place just for you. It could be in your home, library, or anywhere that provides solitude and relaxation. Once you find that place, start focusing on your inner thoughts by going deep beneath the surface of what's happening around you. I finally realized that Ms. M's husband had ADD! Then it was important for her to learn about ADD. This did not reduce her frustration very much but it did help her not to be so angry at him so much of the time. It also helped her realize why she needed to use some of the strategies we had worked on and also to develop others on her own. So her husband's diagnosis was a very useful part of her therapy. I touch base with Penelope occasionally, and she says she's doing very well. I ask her what's causing that, and she says, "I learned to take care of myself." She sounds good. I just called her to obtain her permission to use this material in the book and she mentioned that she and her husband were reading, ADHD in Marriage, by Melissa Orlov, and finding it very helpful. Some high achievers may also demand omniscience--that is, perfect or near-perfect knowledge of the universe. These people experience strong anxiety when they are unable to answer a question or they get the answer wrong. Some are obsessed with asking questions to ensure that nothing slips by them. They often have difficulty with interpersonal relationships because others perceive them as insisting on knowing personal information. Sadly, such individuals are often very insecure and experience intense self-doubts when they think there is something they don't know. Some achievement demanders may be so mired in doing a perfect or near-perfect job that their work output suffers dramatically. A very talented attorney spent so much time preparing each brief that he was not able to accommodate his workload and meet deadlines, and ultimately he lost his position. For this dedicated perfectionist, his work product had to be a work of art before he gave it the green light.

Balancing quality with productivity was not something this poor fellow was willing to try, and he ended up achieving neither. To practice identifying the self-talk and memories that inform your unique experiences, take five minutes a day with your notebook to reflect on the following questions. What emotions am I feeling right now? Sad? Anxious? Happy? Hurt? Peaceful? Something else? Write down the feeling that best describes your experience. As you sit with that feeling, ask, "What thoughts are going through my mind as I feel these emotions?" Write down your answers. Finally, "As I sit with these feelings and thoughts, what memories come to the surface?" Write these down in your notebook. Another source of help in an ADD relationship might be AlAnon, or at least AlAnon literature. Some of the AlAnon principles are related to ADD: "You are not the cause of nor responsible for his problems. You can't fix them and if you keep protecting him from the consequences of his behavior, i.e. "enabling", he won't have any motivation to try to improve. Nagging only makes things worse. You need to protect yourself from damage to yourself caused by his behavior but it is not your job to protect him; so only deal with the things that will harm you personally." This attitude may sound harsh, but actually it's loving. It maximizes the chances that he will try to do something about his problem, which will make his life much better, as well as yours. Achievement perfectionism can also manifest itself in underachieving populations as well as those motivated to overachieve.