A thoughtful examination of the puzzling behavior of those who persist in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Psychologists Berglas (Clinical Psychology/Harvard Medical School; The Success Syndrome, 1986) and Baumeister (Psychology/Case Western Reserve University; Escaping the Self, 1991) draw on both clinical examples and research findings to explore self-destructive behavior. Locating no single cause of the phenomenon, they view it along a continuum. At one end, there's well-intentioned self-defeating behavior, which involves poor judgment—such as trying too long or too hard. More inimical to happiness is the self-serving kind, which provides immediate- or short-term benefits but potentially greater long-term risks- -such as abusing dangerous drugs. At the far end of the scale lies maliciously intended behavior, in which harm is inflicted on oneself in order to hurt another person—what the authors call ``Pyrrhic revenge.'' Berglas and Baumeister use the actions of prominent figures (Magic Johnson, Jim Bakker, and Leona Helmsley among them) to illustrate typical behavior patterns, and the authors' discussion of choking under pressure will be of special interest to sports fans: Research indicates that the home field can actually be a disadvantage when a team is on the brink of a championship. A few final words touch on minimizing or preventing self-defeating behavior, but no easy solutions are offered. A smooth blend of theory, research, clinical observation, and anecdote.
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