Saturday, October 10, 2015



                  THE CURSE OF THE CAPABLE or “You’re only as good as your last game.”

     “If you have performance addiction, you can’t even give yourself permission to do an average job. It’s just not an option. All the pressure is on being exceptional, extraordinary and remarkable. The trouble is, if you can’t give yourself permission to be average, be yourself, or do as well as you can, pretty soon the expectations set by others become the measure of your worth.” This quote was taken from Dr, Arthur Ciaramicoli’s book, Performance Addiction.

     “Achievement and prosperity—the dual symbols of getting ahead—are central to the fabric of America life.” “Parents who lived through the Depression and World War II wanted their children to focus on hard work, higher education, and affluence.” 

          If you are a performance addict, you have learned that shame and guilt are attached to failure. For extreme addicts, this means that anything less than perfection is shameful. Now that’s a pretty big burden to carry around.

     I wonder if some of the young people who are so troubled today feel like they have to be perfect, or life is not worth living. I have read articles about how exceptional high school and college students cannot cope with being any less than “outstanding,” so they check out. How tragic. It makes me think that, at least from the perspective of the student who feels that he can be no less than perfect, we need to pay as much attention to him as to the “loner who does unthinkable harm.

     Most performance addicts set the bar so high, it is impossible to reach. The standards may be set originally by family, but at some point, they are internalized, and the addict becomes self-punitive if goals are not reached or success not achieved. Performance addicts tend to measure themselves against a level of achievement way beyond the norm, and this measuring habit can be very destructive to self-esteem. The “Self-Voice” is a scrutinizing voice and a punitive one. It says, “You’re only as good as your last brilliant performance.” Anything less than brilliance is not just unacceptable; it’s shameful. The performance can be on any stage from the kitchen to the golf course to the bridge table to the concert hall.

     I am a performance addict. Because I have read so much and worked so hard through the years to fight it, I don’t suffer half as much as the people interviewed in Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli’s book, Performance Addiction. I do suffer at times, however, and I wish at those times there was another PA to whom I could commiserate. Fortunately, I don’t know anyone else with this addiction, so I suffer alone. I continue to perform because I love sharing my talents and gifts, but I pay the price. After numerous “less-than-perfect” performances through the years, I have developed a whole list of resilience techniques to get me through the tough times. They work most of the time, so I continue to put myself on the stage. Many people who have severe stage fright are Performance Addicts. They can’t imagine making a mistake, so they stop performing. What a tragic loss, as many of these individuals are so talented. Stand-up comics are among the most vulnerable. 

     If you are plagued by this condition, or have a child or friend with these symptoms, I highly recommend Dr. Ciaramicoli’s book. It is very validating, and it will explain how and why we become addicted. He says, “Making a mistake does not make you a mistake.”  Food for thought.