Peak performance in the work place


In his book, Anxietv Disorders and Phobias, Aaron Beck, MD, wrote cogently about the so-called "evaluation anxieties." He employed the metaphor of the tightrope walker to describe the constant worry about a possible "fall from grace" experienced by the person troubled by concern about performing well in a variety of life situations. Beck divided these situations into three categories: social situations; school and work settings; and what he called "transactions with the outside world," meaning instances of shopping and traveling. The focus of this three-hour presentation is evaluation or performance anxiety (as it is more often termed) in the workplace and applications of EMDR to removing blocks to optimal functioning at work. The theoretical contribution of Beck and his colleagues will shape the presenters' information about why performance anxiety develops and who is likely to be vulnerable to it. The rationale for this extension of the EMDR model will be grounded in the theoretical framework of cognitive therapy. The two presenters bring their considerable experience with EMDR (five+ years) and expertise in peak performance consulting to participants in this session. From their background, they will derive the presentation's emphasis on EMDR applications that are immediately useful to the participants. To begin, the presenters will provide the aforementioned theoretical understanding of "evaluation anxiety" and its manifestation as performance anxiety in the workplace. Approximately the first quarter of the presentation will be spent in didactic material that describes specifically how performance anxiety interferes with optimal functioning at work across a variety of occupations. Drs. Foster and Lendl will elaborate on two situations in which performance anxiety is especially likely to occur in work-related situations: 1) during periods of rapid change; and 2) during the performance review process. Having established this basis of understanding, the presenters will move on to describe the most commonly observed psychological blocks that impede optimal performance in work settings: 1) external conflicts brought into work; 2) feeling like an 'impostor' in one's position at work, 3) perfectionism as a barrier to performance; 4) past failures that operate as anticipatory anxieties (for example, a client's worry that a past mistake or setback might recur in the future); 5) discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education or age. Using actual transcripts and videotaped excerpts of their sessions, the presenters will demonstrate how their EMDR interventions may be applied. The presenters will show participants how to assess their own current and prospective clients for the psychological blocks that are interfering with work performance. Efficient ways to elicit negative and positive cognition for these work-related issues will be precisely described. The expected course of the EMDR processing will be illustrated using the presenters' cases which include a perfectionistic dentist, a high level executive after a layoff, a female manager desiring a promotion who is grappling with a chauvinistic boss, and performing artists struggling with stage fright and other barriers to their optimal performance. The presenters will then share with participants the ways in which they assist their clients in reaching and maintaining balance in their life- and work styles, in what the presenters call "Using EMDR to meet daily challenges with optimal response." Specific strategies for integrating EMDR into broader-based interventions will be described for assisting clients in: 1) increasing self-trust; 2) learning to capably manage crises; 3) increasing focus and attention at work; and 4) setting priorities and using time effectively. Lastly, Drs. Foster and Lend will demonstrate additional EMDR applications for assisting clients in attaining and maintaining what the presenters call "Optimal Well-Being." Citing case material, the presenters will show participants the means by which EMDR can be employed to speed recovery from illness and to decrease the rehabilitation time needed following an injury. Participants will be given the opportunity to rehears several of the applications described and to receive feedback fiom the instructors. Reference: Beck, A.T. (1985). Anxiety Disorders and Phobias, Basic Books, New York.






Sandra "Sam" Foster
Jennifer Lendl
Barbara Parrett

Original Work Citation

Foster, S., Lendl, J., & Parrett, B. (1995, June). Peak performance in the work place. Presentation at the EMDR Network Conference, Santa Monica, CA



“Peak performance in the work place,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 20, 2021,

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