It may be that you were in love, it may be a time when you had a strong community around you, and it may be a time when your children were still small. Whatever the cause, notice if your happiness in this period had much to do with money. Was this period of time so happy because you had a lot of money? This exercise will help you to see what truly has lasting and profound impact on you and what doesn't, and to what degree money impacts your happiness. Once Barry realized he has ADD, he tried Ritalin, Straterra, and Adderal, the three different types of medications for ADD. Obviously the ADD was bothering him enough for him to try the medications. He doesn't take any of them now. He says they had no effect whatsoever on him. Nada. That suggests that he never tried a high enough dose. Otherwise, he would've either noticed them helping or he would've noticed side effects. For me, the Ritalin just didn't help enough to justify the side effects, but I had both benefit and side effects so I know I was on a high enough dose. From that experience, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to try the other two medications, because my symptoms are pretty well handled by the strategies. However, I'm not sure that's an entirely rational viewpoint. So you're catastrophizing about your child's getting a B (or about some other imperfect performance). I know, you want your child to be perfect, or at least damn near it, but if imperfection were automatically catastrophic, we'd all be doomed, because life on earth is imperfect! Likewise, if a person's not living up to your perfectionistic standards meant that he sucked, then everyone, or almost everyone, would suck. And how about you? Do you live up to your own perfectionistic standards? Be honest!

Is it also really true that you can't help getting disturbed when others don't live up to your perfectionistic standards? Can you think of anyone who did not satisfy your standards yet you didn't get upset? What about your parents, or someone else you admire? Did any of them ever perform imperfectly without upsetting you? I suspect so; and if so, you can help getting disturbed. Instead of these irrational ideas, here are three guiding virtues that can help you make peace with a world where all human beings are imperfect. The acceptance of others, whether or not they live up to your perfectionistic standards, can help you embrace their inherent, human imperfection. This can, in turn, help you avoid the self-destructive emotions associated with unrealistically demanding perfection of others. Also, when I was a kid, my dad was very busy. He brought a lot of work home, he said, so that he could be around the family. But when I would ask him to play with me or look at a project I did, he would tell me, "Stop being such a pest. I'll look later," and chase me out of his office. He rarely remembered to follow up. Almost everyone has experienced something similar to these simple examples. It's important to illustrate that even simple things that cause a serious amount of emotional stress do so because of the pre-conscious and unconscious memories they bring up. We are simply not bothered that much by things that don't dredge up negative memories. When something happens, our right brain processes the information more quickly and globally. It searches through the bank of our memories and says, "This (new experience) is just like that (old experience). Act like you did then." This happens very quickly, and usually it produces a sufficiently adequate response. But sometimes it goes awry.

The obvious conclusion would be to avoid ever being late again and thereby avoid the cycle of self-punishment forever. But the reality of the situation is that you have just successfully reinforced all of the negative behaviors that you wanted to eliminate. You probably will be late again, maybe even become habitually late. You acted in a self-sabotaging manner, tormenting yourself mercilessly for something, which was not a capital offense. You behaved in a punitive manner, acting out your addiction to beating yourself up, showing that you were unable to stop berating yourself. You were powerless in the situation and your priorities became distorted. Your perspective became skewed, you experienced instant gratification and you were unable to stop your behavior at will. You experienced the opioid peptides in full force. This is self-destructive behavior, and you will continue to perpetuate it, not because you want to, but because you cannot stop it. You have an addiction. You have an addiction because the "Triple Imprint" locked in your behavior patters and you have never been able to break them. The reason intelligent people continue to engage in behaviors that seem easy to stop is because of the Triple Imprint that explains why they appear powerless over their addictions. Who are your true friends? You have identified your true friends. Your homework is to tell them, one at a time. It is so important that you learn to express love. Send each friend a handwritten card and tell him or her how you feel. Not a text message, not an email, not a voicemail, but a handwritten card. This might be the best card he or she receives all year. (If that person ever has to flee the country and can bring only one medium-sized suitcase, this card will likely be in it.) Tell these people that you did this exercise where you were asked who are your truest friends and that they are on this list, and you thought that they would want to know.

Consider how to invest more time and loving care with these treasured friends and less time with virtual friends. Let us learn to hold our friends close to us and not wait for the good-byes to express how much we care. I asked Barry if he'd done much research on ADD, because it helps to learn all we can. Barry likes to read and to do research and he's bright and interested in many things -but, "No, I haven't learned much about ADD." He has bought a number of books on ADD though; I saw them on his book shelf. He said he's actually looked at a few of them. You probably know the principle: if we buy a book, we not only own it, we now own the knowledge in it. We don't actually have to read it. So Barry hasn't read the books, but he says that when he runs across an article on ADD he does read it. It can be helpful to work on your courage to confront the inevitability of imperfect future outcomes. In giving up your demand for perfection in others, you embrace their human imperfection--and your own. This can take courage! This form of self-control involves cultivating temperance--the ability to avoid self-destructive emotions--when others don't live up to your perfectionistic standards, and to realize that it is you who disturbs yourself, not others. To develop unconditional other acceptance, Albert Ellis advises us not to globally damn others. The grandfather of cognitive-behavioral therapy says to accept others because, just like you, they are living, breathing human beings with unique features (some good and some bad). Although you can constructively criticize the ill-advised things they may sometimes do, you do not damn them globally (call them degrading names) (Ellis, 2001). In order to successfully overcome an experience that is triggering anxiety for me, I need to know whether the self-talk and memories my right brain associates with a particular experience are healthy, godly, and productive. Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes it's a little more complicated. For those more complicated times, we turn to Saint Ignatius of Loyola for some guidance. Saint Ignatius developed a system for what he referred to as the "discernment of spirits." He argued that the various "movements of the spirit" we experience (which can manifest in our lives as drives, feelings, impulses, motivations) are the result of either the Holy Spirit or an evil spirit whispering in our spiritual "ear." These spirits cannot make us do anything. They can only suggest.

We must choose to act. Physiologically speaking beating yourself up activates the opioid peptides, which creates a physical rush. This is not in and of itself a euphoric or desirable state, but the feeling that is created as a result of the release of opioid peptides is an addictive chemical reaction. When you grow up in a dysfunctional home, and as a result have low self-esteem, you draw to you negativity that reinforces your self-image and gives you the ammunition with which to diminish yourself. Every time you do this, you re-stimulate the rush of opioid peptides. The experience is similar to the release of endorphins that a runner experiences when running. This feeling is an addictive rush that feels simultaneously both positive and negative. If you had to flee the country and could bring only one medium-sized suitcase and had thirty minutes to pack, what would you bring? You have identified your most precious possessions. The possessions that matter the most. It is amazing to see what made it into this hypothetical suitcase--and, just as illuminating, what didn't make it in. This exercise is to help you put your possessions, all of them, into perspective. We typically invest vast sums of money and even go into debt to acquire things that ultimately mean very little to us. Your homework is first to have a yard sale to eliminate the clutter of near useless objects that you have accumulated, and secondly, when you find yourself in a store lusting after an item for sale, ponder for a moment if this would even have a chance of being selected to be included in that special suitcase. I wonder if Barry might be thinking that strategies, like the medications, don't work for him. He might be thinking that they don't work because he believes he lacks the willpower to follow them. But maybe if he broke them down into small steps and tried one or two at a time he could do it. It does take time, effort, and a decision. It helps to recognize the importance of using strategies and how much they will make your life better. Maybe he's doing OK and it doesn't seem worth the effort; he did make it to his granddaughters' graduations.