The Power of a Suppotive Story. The Basic Unit of a Positive Psychology.


John-Allen here, co author of The Curse of the Capable.

What is “the curse” of the capable person?

Well there are several definitions of the curse, depending on how comprehensive a picture of a persons psychology you want to look at and your perspective, but here are the recurring definitions that have developed in getting feedback from hundreds of people.

There is the core definition of the curse, that is the basis of the book by Dr Arthur Ciaramicoli based on his experience with Performance Addiction and the thousands of clients he has seen over the course of the last 30 years. This was my experience from having suffered the curse of the capable for many years first hand; the result of performance addiction and the negative, inaccurate and highly driven internal psychology that it can create.

The Curse is a mental state where talented people mask their vulnerabilities  through their capabilities. We refer to the curse when people are trying very hard in their efforts to achieve and perform to win the respect and love of other people.

What happens when you try your very hardest and yet you still can’t attain the healthy, balanced life you long for? What happens when you don’t understand the reasons your life is not satisfying? You feel Cursed! You’re disappointed you’re not living the life you thought all your hard work would bring, and you’re feeling run down in the process.

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As time has progressed other definitions have also emerged, such as:

The curse of the capable is when the negative or “unsupportive” internal stories that are driving you to higher levels at the cost of your health and well being, are fed back to you to get you to perform even more or even better. This usually happens when others are trying to get you to do what they are either afraid to do, or don’t have the energy or skill to do.

This definition of the curse is almost seen as a compliment. “oh John, you do this better than anyone I have ever seen…”. Inside your head your thinking, “yeah, she’s right, I am so capable of that, therefore…“. And there you go again, doing what may or may not be in your best interest, or current capacity or desire, but you play right into the wants and desires of others and it throws you out of balance!

For anyone who is suffering from a degree of performance addiction, this definition of the curse is that much more insidious. It’s when your own capabilities are used against you. I don’t mean to imply in that others want to hurt you or cause you pain, or anything like that, but if you can’t recognize when something is not right for you and it’s being packaged in way that is meant to appeal to who you think you need to be to get approval, love and respect, you will feel like you are getting pulled in all directions virtually all of the time and feel very out of balance.

I say “virtually all of the time” because, there are always people who are going to default to the most capable person in the room to lead. If you are always that person, it’s going to come at a major cost to your well being.

Highly capable people (regardless of what drove them to the level of capability they have) must know how to set boundaries and manage their energy, otherwise other aspects of their lifestyle will get thrown out of whack due to low energy. Everything you do and if you are going to do it well, depends on your level of personal energy, so if your energy is low suffering will rise in the inverse proportion that you feel overwhelmed.

There are others.

The one thing that cannot be underestimated is the power of a supportive story, otherwise known as the key to a positive psychology which, according to The University of Pennsylvania has 3 factors.

  1. positive emotions
  2. positive individual traits
  3. positive institutions

For one, it’s very hard to maintain positive emotions if you have stories in your head that are driving you (as we say) “a little bit crazy” and you are suffering from low energy. These are stories that you have created or others are installing in you, that take advantage of your weak sense of sense of self either in general or in the moment; and sometimes even your low energy state.

One thing that performance addicts do when they are in a state of low energy or experiencing a negative internal psychology is cover up with even more action, more effort… more, more, more rather than face what they are experiencing; and this is why the curse of the capable, no matter what definition you have for it, is the one addiction that on the outside looks so positive and noble and admirable, but on the inside can cost your your life.

Success psychology that is divorced from the realities of your life and lifestyle, can cause a great deal of problems. Be careful, go ahead and live the hard charging success oriented life (I do it too), but make sure your high achievement is based on a balanced and healthy lifestyle or what is known ironically as a PerformanceLifestyle. Your Lifestyle, if its going to promote a balanced, healthy, high-achieving life, starts with the supportive story – the basic unit of a positive psychology.

Ultimately the power of a supportive story cannot be denied. It is not simply a positive story that covers up reality. It is a realistic story with an optimistic slant that enables you deal with your real situation and it’s challenges, yet maintain a bright outlook at the same time, because your story supports how you really want to feel, which is good!

Filed Under: Performance AddictionYour Lifestyle

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About the Author

John-Allen Mollenhauer (aka “John Allen” or “JAM”) is the co-author of the book The Curse of the Capable, (Fall 2009) by Harvard Psychology Instructor Arthur P Ciaramicoli PhD. He is a leading lifestyle performance coach and founder of both where he works with goal oriented people (working parents, professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs) who learn how to get free of the hidden challenges to a balanced, healthy high achieving life by improving their lifestyle. Also an entrepreneur, he has created many solutions for people who want to learn the next level in healthy living, such as, and He appears frequently on radio and television shows, including Comcast CN8, WTBQ, Air America, MoJo Radio, and others. He is a featured speaker at the Annual CoachVille Conference, the National Health Association Annual Conference, and the Monkey Bar Gym Fitness Chain. He speaks at corporations and business conferences including all types where listeners and attendees discover Performance Lifestyle. He is a regular contributor to the award winning Health Science Journal.

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