The Huddle Blog

Sharing thoughts on a cognitive-based understanding of anxiety and how online group support can help us get better, together.

Clinical perfectionism

By maggie

Let’s come back to the concept of clinical perfectionism as a problem of strategy, not outcome. We’re not challenging your high standards and desire to do a great job. We’re challenging the strategies your mind uses to achieve your goals. Perfectionism shifts from being workable and effective to unworkable and ineffective when: You prioritize achieving a feeling like certainty, completeness, or control rather than prioritizing solving the problem. You flip back and forth between procrastinating starting tasks and reaching diminishing returns on tasks you start. You avoid decisions, feel paralyzed when making decisions, and/or become filled with doubt and regret after making decisions.You think there is actually a right answer for questions that are inherently uncertain.  This week, we’ll review what we’ve already discussed and expand on it based on your questions and experiences.  What we learned last week: Call an audible. Rather than taking a guess when you feel indecisive, I love the concept of calling an audible. Like a football game, it implies that you’ve done the work to practice a strategy, but during game time, the specifics of the situation require that you make an unexpected call as best as you can with the information you have. You are not irresponsibly guessing, but rather choosing …

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Clinical perfectionism: a problem of strategy, not outcome

By maggie

Clinical perfectionism is a problem of strategy, not outcome. Perfectionists have high standards and expectations for themselves and others. This value can be a strength, as long as perfectionistic strategies aren’t compulsively used to control thoughts and feelings. Adaptive perfectionism is a healthy, ego-syntonic way of approaching tasks that leads to a good outcome. Clinical perfectionism occurs when anxiety and OCD hijack your values and bully you into approaching goals in a way that undermines your performance. Some of the characteristics of clinical perfectionism include: Rigidly following rules (“I should or must do things this way.”) Every task is equally important. Mistakes are catastrophic. Repetition until it feels/looks/sounds “right.” Missing deadlines due to procrastination. To shift clinical perfectionism into adaptive perfectionism: Prioritize based on values. Experiment and take risks. Notice when your efforts result in diminishing returns. Fight procrastination. Identify conscientious people as models. Self-talk that reduces Clinical Perfectionism includes: “It’s okay for me to have high ideals. In any given moment, it’s also okay to be uncertain or make a mistake.” “Any progress is better than no progress.” “I’m willing to take a risk or make a mistake in this instance, in light of my values.” Behavior that reduces Clinical Perfectionism includes: …

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Emotional perfectionism and the paradox of checking on your recovery

By maggie

Anxiety and OCD treatment is a paradox. You must become more anxious before you can become less anxious and you must become more anxious in the right way. The answer to anxiety is curiosity and compassion. Mental illness is the only type of illness where you go to the doctor to get relief from a symptom and your doctor prescribes you more of that symptom. It doesn’t make sense. It’s reasonable for you to be confused and frustrated about your treatment plan and your treatment progress. Let’s talk more about this paradox. You typically see a medical professional for structural disorders caused by pathology or injury. You need penicillin for an infection and a cast when you break your arm. Your eye doctor will prescribe you glasses as your eye sight declines; your dentist will give you a root canal for a decaying tooth. You are vulnerable to the effectiveness of your doctor, because something is wrong and someone else needs to fix it. Mental health treatment involves some important differences. The first difference is that the experience of anxiety is not a structural problem caused by pathology. You don’t have an infection that we can treat with medication. In fact, medication that completely sedates …

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Fear of positive evaluation and the imposter syndrome

By maggie

Imposter syndrome occurs when there is a discrepancy between your performance and your beliefs about your performance. I differentiate between two types of imposter syndrome: anxiety-driven imposter syndrome and developmental imposter syndrome. Anxiety-driven imposter syndrome occurs when you have the skills to perform at the level that is expected of you, but you feel anxious about your skills anyway. Developmental imposter syndrome occurs when you have the potential to perform at the level that is expected of you, and you feel anxious about the process of reaching that potential. Both fear of positive evaluation and fear of negative evaluation can show up in both types of imposter syndromes. We’ll talk about anxiety-driven imposter syndrome and fear of positive evaluation this week and developmental imposter syndrome and fear of negative evaluation next week. Assuming you have the appropriate skills, fear of positive evaluation can be maintained by the pressure to maintain high performance, by the belief that confidence is synonymous with arrogance and dissonance between your belief about your worthiness and the evidence of positive evaluation. Let’s get curious about these patterns! Pressure to maintain high performance As we’ve discussed, consistent high performance (in any area of life) is a paradox. If you fear …

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Fear of negative evaluation and relearning how to play

By maggie

As we discussed last week, imposter syndrome occurs when there is a discrepancy between your performance and your beliefs about your performance. I differentiate between two types of imposter syndrome: anxiety-driven imposter syndrome and developmental imposter syndrome. Anxiety-driven imposter syndrome occurs when you have the skills to perform at the level that is expected of you, but you feel anxious about your skills anyway. Developmental imposter syndrome occurs when you have the potential to perform at the level that is expected of you, and you feel anxious about the process of reaching that potential. Developmental imposter syndrome Developmental imposter syndrome shows up in any area of life where there is an opportunity for learning. It is the opposite of playing. In the process of learning, there is a discrepancy between what you know and do and what you have the potential to know and do. If you experienced a relatively safe childhood educational environment, this truth was so fundamental to your growth process that you didn’t notice. Each day that you showed up to second grade, for example, you assumed that you would engage in some activity that you may or may have ever heard of before. If your teachers and …

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Inflated responsibility in the present and past

By maggie

You’ve noticed that the thoughts that you’re stuck in are related to your sense of responsibility. Great! Good noticing! Here’s your plan:  Start with the Huddle 5. The Huddle 5 is a break when you’re stuck. Huddle 5 when you notice that you’re in your head, rather than in your life. Huddle 5 when you have urgent, anxious sensations that you are afraid of, you want to neutralize, or that are causing you to avoid something you care about. Take a Huddle 5, meaning a 5 minute break. There’s nothing magical about 5 minutes. Just break long enough to pay attention to yourself, make a values-based decision, and then take action. We’ll continue our conversation about your options for how you can relate to yourself during the Huddle 5 in group.Are my thoughts about the present or the past? Over-responsibility intrusions in the present:  Is this thought-action fusion?Individuals with anxiety sensitivity get sticky, catastrophic thoughts when they are sensitized. Thoughts feel like they are true, regardless of if they are rational or irrational and regardless of their truth. Thought-action fusion is when having a thought feels like its the same thing as behavior. Thoughts and behavior are not the same thing. Our minds can have …

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Inflated responsibility – I think, therefore… nothing. Thinking it doesn’t make it true.

By maggie

An excessive or inflated sense of responsibility occurs when you interpret your thoughts in terms of whether they can cause distress or harm to yourself or others. That is, having the thought in and of itself gives you a sense of guilt or responsibility. Examples include: I have the thought that I could have cancer or an STI. Does that mean I do?!? And, I feel anxious and uncertain. What does that mean?!? I had the thought that I don’t love my partner. Does that mean I don’t?!? And, I feel anxious and uncertain. What does that mean?!? I had the thought that I might have hurt, murdered, assaulted, offended someone in the past. Does that mean I did?!? And, I feel anxious and uncertain. What does that mean?!? I had the thought that I could have done more to help someone. Does that mean I should have?!? Am I bad because I didn’t act on that thought?!? And, I feel anxious and uncertain. What does that mean?!? I had the thought that I could work harder at something that I value. Does that mean I must?!? And, I feel anxious and uncertain. What does that mean?!? I had the thought …

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Pervasive negative beliefs – who made you feel worthless and why do you believe them?

By maggie

Pervasive Negative Beliefs Pervasive negative beliefs are deeply held core ideas that influence thinking patterns, interpretations of events, and behavioral responses. When activated, these ideas trigger unhelpful response mechanisms and mood or anxiety symptoms. One type of pervasive beliefs that occur in anxiety and depressive disorders is negative core beliefs. Think about these beliefs like goggles. They are filters through which you interpret reality. Negative core beliefs typically fall into three broad categories: Helplessness (“There’s nothing I can do to make this better.”) Hopelessness (“This is never going to get better.”) Worthlessness (“I am unworthy of love or acceptance. I am bad.”) Content typically includes: Beliefs about self (“I am unloveable and unworthy.”) Beliefs about others (“People are uncaring and judgmental.”) Beliefs about the world (“The world is a dangerous place.”) Beliefs about the future (“Things will not get better.”) Negative Core Beliefs are to Depression like Second Fear is to Anxiety Disorders.  Second fear turns an anxiety state into an anxiety disorders because the fear of the fear creates resistance that creates more fear (and more resistance and more fear). Negative Core Beliefs turn a feeling into a depressive state because the interpretation of that feeling is that it means you …

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An overview of Experiential Avoidance

By maggie

We use the term experiential avoidance rather than simply avoidance to remind ourselves of how we avoid both ourselves and the world around us. Situational avoidance is usually easy to identify. Also, many anxiety sufferers don’t avoid situations. Still, anxiety is always maintained by avoidance. We all avoid thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, and urges with varying degrees of intensity and rigidity. This month we’ll discuss the subtleties of experiential avoidances and help you try out more flexible responses. Any good discussion of avoidance should start with action. Tell me what you want to move towards and I can help you stop moving away. Every week in Community Time and in Group, you make commitments to behaviors that enhance your functioning and/or improve your relationship with your anxiety. By making public commitments to behavior, you are taking the philosophical stance that you can change. You believe that attempting to change in an intentional way is a worthy goal. The commitments that you make are process commitments, not outcome commitments. You commit to studying, not acing a test. You commit to showing up to work, not performing perfectly at work. You commit to initiating a conversation, not having the best conversation of your life. …

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Avoidance and Escape Strategies

By maggie

We all know at this point that avoidance creates, maintains, and intensifies anxiety. You have an uncomfortable thought, feeling, or sensation. It feels likes a threat of danger. You do something to make it go away. What you do to make thoughts, feelings or sensations go away are compulsions, avoidances, escape strategies, safety behaviors, and reassurance seeking. These are functionally synonymous. Great job, Mind! For a second or two, that avoidance gave you relief. If your thought, feeling, or sensation was actually a threat to you, you’d be in the clear from danger. You also just taught your consciousness to watch out for that thought, feeling, or sensation so that next time it can do something to make it go away even faster. What an amazing process! Compulsions, reassurance seeking, and safety behaviors are the dirty words in the psychology world for what we, humans, do to maintain anxiety disorders. I obviously use these words too, but I don’t think they are dirty. Rather than evidence of weakness or a limitation, I think it’s an incredible process. I have nothing but the utmost respect for what your mind comes up with to try to alleviate your suffering. I strongly believe you should …

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