Perfectionism and self-sabotage

In my clinical practice, I had the pleasure to work with many clients that at one point in their lives found themselves stuck in a vicious circle. People who have been high achievers for most of their life and suddenly something triggered their way of perceiving their ability to cope with challenges. 

I am referring to those people who have always succeeded academically or in their careers as they learnt that effort, concentration and meticulousness were the keys for success. People who became accustomed to being rewarded and expected to be recognised and valued for their merit. 

What happens if a gifted student one day gets a negative mark? What if a famous football player confident at scoring goals fails in an important match? What if a manager does not meet the company targets? 

When people who are not “trained to fail” fall from a high position without a safety net, their confidence is dramatically hit. Like a car at high speed hits a solid surface. For some people it can be quite traumatic and they would try to re-establish their role adopting a “past successful strategy” which no longer serves their cause as the current situation is different. Because it worked in the past – they will increase their effort, concentration and self-consciousness which often leads to a performance block. Their reactive-perceptive system becomes progressively rigid with an intense self-observation stopping the natural achievement towards the external objective. 

When these clients decide to seek support they often feel demoralised and frustrated and they start thinking they have never really been successful. A counsellor can help by using specific strategies to enable them to become more flexible in their way to perceive the trigger. “Brief Strategic Therapy” is a model focussed on breaking the vicious circle through specific strategies and has had over 87% of positive outcomes. It was developed in USA – (G. Bateson, J. Weakland, P. Watzlawick, J. Jackson - Mental Research Institute of Palo Alto) and Italy by Professor G. Nardone who has created specific protocols of treatments for specific mental health problems. 

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