Editor's note: Alden Cass, a psychologist, writes two columns for TheStreet.com: one that delves into how behavior and emotions affect investing, the other a health column specifically for men.Every month, a new roster of patients trickles into my private practice in New York City, looking for ways to improve their productivity at work and their overall quality of life. One thing that I have learned in working with financial service executives, doctors, lawyers and athletes is that they all are fiercely competitive. Above all, they are overly critical of themselves for mistakes. Instead of shrugging off and moving on from negative experiences like the major selloff that we experienced Tuesday, some folks ponder these events for way too long. When I lecture on this topic, I notice that audience participants complain of recent failures or misfortunes that are far more salient to them than positive achievements. Thus, they sit with failure far longer than they savor success. If you can identify with this, you are certainly not alone.
John had been struggling within the last three months to break out of what he referred to as "a plateau phase" in his business. He was stuck, analyzing everything that he was doing wrong and obsessing over it even when he came home to his wife at the end of the day. John was caught in a very common mental trap that was made worse by his propensity to be too analytical. He was essentially in a brain freeze that rendered him unable to perform at an optimal level. His diagnosis was behavioral paralysis.