His greater than average abilities were recognized by his earliest coaches.
He loves to play and play hard.
The gleam in his eyes and the grin on his face when discussing his favorite sports, track and football, are evidence of his passion.
He talks about the thrill of competition and being part of a team.
He came to me because he was experiencing anxiety over recent performances and worry over his placement opportunities for the coming season.
High school sports are way more competitive than I ever realized.
During our session interview, several conflicting emotional states or patterns emerged.
One such conflict is fairly common in our society: Self imposed pressure versus Self-sabotage.
Our goal was to discover the positive intention behind the emotional pattern, receive its guidance or direction and then let it go.
Johnny described an intense pressure felt throughout his whole body with the greater concentration being in his head, hands and chest.
The pressure was created from anger, fear of disappointing others, expectation, not only of self, but failing to meet the expectations of others, and finally, the fear of not being enough.
Johnny learned the purpose behind this particular set of feelings was to drive him to excel.
They had come because they knew pain would drive him harder than pleasure; they wanted to push him to achieve his goal of being a great athlete.
Anger revealed that it was there to make sure he didn't quit, to show him he could be more, reach deeper and break through his own preconceived limits.
In anger we are able to access a physical strength that can elude us otherwise.
Anger attached to a specific goal or result enables us to harness and ride that strength.
When connected with the fear of disappointing the people who believed in and encouraged him Johnny discovered it had partnered with the desire to not disappoint himself.
Together they worked to make him better, a better observer, a better strategist and better at executing any technique or move he learned.
They taught him to think, notice little details and make finer distinctions.
These feelings coached him to use his mind, as well as, his body to become a more skilled and more competitive athlete.
Anxiety over not meeting expectations had a different job.
Though part of its role was to push Johnny to work harder and practice more, it was also there to give him goals and act as a guide in keeping him on track.
Fear of not being enough came to make him better by scaring him.
He had to get better because he's was scared not to.
All of these patterns were designed to push and motivate, each adding to the pressure until he felt it everywhere in his body, all the time.
These are the positive benefits of these emotional patterns, but it's easy to see how relentless pressure becomes anxiety.
Johnny clung to these strategic patterns because, in the beginning, they actually worked.
It was through over use and misuse that they began to have adverse effects, which included loss of self-esteem, flagging confidence and growing self-doubt.
As we've seen, Johnny is feeling the pressure all over his body, all the time.
This is not healthy; so along comes self-sabotage to counteract the mounting pressure.
Just like exploring the message of the previous feelings, we ask: "Self-sabotage, if you're presence has the intention of benefiting Johnny, how? What good are you meant to serve?" The insights Johnny shared with me were fascinating.
Self-sabotage says, you can't handle nonstop stress without a breakdown.
I've come to take out the bad pressure; I've come to give you a break from the pressure you put on yourself and the pressure you take on from others; I'm a temporary escape from the pressure cooker.
The downside is, when I take over I take away the good pressure along with the bad.
The paradox created is: Johnny, like most of us, has used pressure as the driver to his goals and self-sabotage as the escape mechanism when the pressure has been too much for too long.
How many times have you heard someone say, maybe someone extremely close to YOU that they work well under pressure? Now you know why.
We use pressure to get things done.
The more we want to get done or the more that needs to get done the more pressure we apply, unconsciously.
When we can't take it anymore we can employ self-sabotage because it takes away all pressure, but indiscriminately, leaving us with no drive.
This pattern was perpetuated because it worked.
After prolonged and over usage the unintended consequences accumulate and this strategy becomes less and less effective.
The tug of war between pressure and self-sabotage becomes more intense and more frequent.
This is where Johnny was.
Here's the good news.
Johnny learned his emotional patterns had come to serve him, to be used by him for a particular purpose.
Once that purpose was fulfilled or the emotional pattern was no longer able to produce the desired result, he was free to release it and choose another emotional resource.
He chose drive to be his best, the thrill of challenge, the intrigue of what's possible and intelligent relaxation and renewal as the emotional patterns to guide him to his goals in a healthier and more enjoyable way.