Chapter 2. Diagnose Yourself and Create Your Map for Change

Mike was a successful software sales representative, age 42, making around $80,000 a year. Although he hid it fairly well most of the time, Mike was extremely anxious whenever he had to communicate or negotiate with higher-ups at his company. Despite his success, he lacked self-confidence and was always worried that they could tell he was nervous. At the end of the day, Mike would find himself heading for one of his favorite bars or nightspots to unwind. Over time, he developed a drinking problem. He knew for a long time that something wasn't right, and he was sure he had a character flaw that couldn't be fixed. But it wasn't a character flaw. It was an anxiety challenge that led first to alcoholism and then to depression. Confused, ashamed, and afraid, he fell into an abyss of avoidance—at work, he did all he could to duck out of meetings, relying on e-mail as much as he could. It was a slippery slope: Mike's confusion and lack of awareness resulted in worsening anxiety, avoidant behavior, procrastination, excessive alcohol, and self-esteem problems. Only when his job was at risk did he seek help.

Anxiety accrues if it is allowed to grow—it's like putting money in the bank to develop interest, but in this case the "interest" is negative. Believing he had a character flaw allowed Mike to detach from his circumstances. Once in treatment, Mike identified his stressors and learned techniques for managing his anxiety fairly ...

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