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Unread December 6th, 2005, 06:37 AM
MikeMc MikeMc is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 2
Question Fear of Failure

Common problem but any ideas on dealing with a young adult who does not apply himself in a jew job, apparently because he thinks he is too qualified and is afraid if he doesn't succeed?
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Unread December 8th, 2005, 10:39 PM
James Pretzer James Pretzer is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 283
Default Re: Fear of Failure

Here are a few ideas, other forum participants may have other ideas:
  1. First I'd start by finding out just what he's thinking and feeling at the times when he doesn't apply himself. Suppose he decided to apply himself, how would that feel? What would be uncomfortable about it?
  2. Assuming that it turns out that he is indeed afraid that if he tries, he might fail, I'd want to find out what trying and failing would mean to him. What would it say about him if he tries and fails? What would other people think if he tries and fails? What would the consequences be if he tries and fails?
  3. I'd be interested in finding out what his parents taught him about success and failure and what examples he grew up with.
  4. It might be useful to find out what he thinks of others when they try and fail.
  5. It might be useful to help him list situations where trying and failing is a good thing and where risking failure is a good thing.
  6. It probably would be useful to list the pros and cons of avoiding failure then list the pros and cons of risking failure.
  7. These cognitive interventions will not make the fear of failure go away. At some point he'll need to face his fears by risking failure despite his anxiety and experienceing the actual consequences. Sooner or later, he'll need to experience failure and live with the consequences. The cognitive interventions will provide useful information and should help you get him to the point where he's willing to risk failure.
  8. It may be useful to have him experiment with "failing" intentionally even though he could succeed in situations where the consequences of failure are tolerable.

I hope these ideas are useful. Let us know how it goes or what additional questions you have.
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Unread December 12th, 2005, 02:55 PM
dieter (ClinPsych) dieter (ClinPsych) is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 3
Default Re: Fear of Failure

Just a little thought about the "pros and cons" technique. In my experience many (most) clients naturally tend to focus on the pros in such an exercise and take an "I'll jump that fence when I come to it" approach toward the cons. Often this means that the immediate "positive" consequences of some rather maladaptive behaviours and decisions (e.g. substance abuse, impulsive behaviour) outweigh the more long-term positive consequences of adaptive behaviour.

Therefore I have experimented with doing "cost- analyses" of the options instead. This seems to have the advantage of bringing home the message that avoiding all costs and adversity is impossible.
Secondly, the long-term negative consequences (cons) of mal-adaptive behaviour are usually clearly more severe than those of the adaptive behaviours (usually more of the "have to forgo avoidance/relief/ pleasure etc. type), thus framing the problem in a way which is promoting adaptive behaviour.

So, in the case of the young person, I would probably explore the question what is the cost of avoidance of possible failure (e.g. missing out on opportunities...) versus the cost of non-avoidance (e.g. feeling of anxiety). I would collaboratively explore whether the client's hopes/ dreams, personal values and asociated goals are thwarted because of the avoidance behaviour and whether these dreams and goals are not worth having the anxiety if that's what it takes to pursue them.
Dieter Dvorak
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Unread March 13th, 2006, 12:45 PM
leeman leeman is offline
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 3
Default Re: Fear of Failure

This sounds like a covert narcissistic response and if you integrate a psychodynamic understanding of laziness this sounds like it would fit the individual.

Laziness is seen as an approach to ward off a fear of failure and shame. Shame is the underlying characteristic of narcissism and this client's belief that he is too qualified certainly seems to fit with this. If this is a common thread throughout all his/her working life then it may indicate underlying narcissistic schemas that are hindering him/her from moving forward.

Beck et als. CBT for Personality Disorders gives a good understanding of the treatment for such a diagnosis. The client really won't move forward until this is identified as a means of coping with the world.

Best of Luck
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