The Downward Energy Trend DEBT
An addiction to performance, regardless of the underlying drivers, requires that you stimulate your way through the day to keep going. The methods employed are usually more food, stimulants, and yes, more activity. Even if the “stimulant” is exercise, the body gets more exhausted because of a lack of recovery.
Facing a true exhaustive state without a feeling of accomplishment (which those with PA have difficulty experiencing because they are always on to the next thing) is depressing and persistent. And so the downward trend continues; the psychological pattern of PA now becomes an energy drain with physical manifestations. Rarely if ever stepping back to change the pattern, the addicted person presses on for illusively better results in their body, their life and business. They seek quicker, more effective solutions—fitness programs, diets and drug fixes—to deal with the ever-present health problems such as fatigue and weight gain. But this can only be solved by stepping back and changing your lifestyle and essentially how you achieve your goals in the world.
As the symptoms of this pattern are suppressed en masse, we get an emerging population of increasingly more anxious people with seemingly less time, energy and space to take care of themselves. This could describe our culture.
When sharing the title for this book with others prior to publishing, no sooner would I get the words out of my mouth, those in the conversation would say something to the effect of “Whatever it is, I’ve got it” or “I know what you’re talking about.” Anyone who has followed the path of dealing with symptoms but avoided the roots of the problem knows in their heart it does not work. Health statistics are the perfect example, they get worse and worse as overweight and obesity climbs up 6% per year. The “quick fix” (from the top down or outside in) for what are really lifestyle issues (that require a bottom up or from the inside out solution), is anything but quick. It seems to work in the short term, but in the end the gain is usually outweighed by the pain of compounding problems still covered up.
The downward energy trend creates misery and potentially a “lost cause” outlook as the roots of PA, its psychological challenges and physical consequences are buried deep and out of sight. You know you need to change, but like all addictions, tomorrow your defense of rationalization and your “second wind” takes over. You return to using the only methods you know work; at least you know they work temporarily.
In our society we know if you look good and also have credentials and money (despite an unhealthy lifestyle,) you are going to be idealized for a while; but if these results are based on an addiction to performance and a poor lifestyle, it’s only a matter of time before the curse takes its destructive toll. It was this realization that originally inspired The Curse of the Capable. The addiction itself is not the cause; you have to uncover the root causes if you really want to solve the problem and stay out of the downward trend.
The quest for relief typically starts with a re-commitment to goals, higher levels of activity and productivity, a new exercise program, a stricter diet regimen, more attempts to please others etc. to deal with the symptoms of this driven, yet overwhelming and exhausting way of life that can leave you feeling helpless despite your obvious capabilities. Unfortunately, none of those efforts deal with the hidden challenges or its roots, which will magnify during periods of stress. Irrational and inaccurate belief systems emotionally hardwired from earlier experiences drive us in self-destructive ways, even though the actions may appear admirable.
In a world where performance is rewarded to maintain productivity, and quick fixes are the norm, the performance addict is at an extreme disadvantage. Amidst the cultural expectations for achievement they are unable to assert their personal preferences, set boundaries or take care of themselves at the level they need to maintain balance, health and well-being. They may be achieving their goals, but living out of balance they are trading their health to do it. Once you go into the downward trend, all aspects of the curse are amplified and all other aspects of your lifestyle are thrown out of whack.