It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Somewhere on a continuum between normality and pathology there is a point at which an otherwise culturally normal behavior acquires a problematic degree.
In other words, there is a point at which the given behavior results in functional impairment. The difficulty of establishing whether your particular perfectionism has met the diagnostic threshold of pathology has to do with the specific cultural norms of the society in which you reside and function.
You know how there are all these rehab “farms” for addictions of every kind? What if there was an Existential Rehab?
Here’s a curriculum I’d propose for such a rehab to leverage existentially vibrant living:
Sometimes we feel that something comes over us. The mind changes, and we feel that we change too. But do we?
Fill a glass with water. Wait until the water settles, then stir it up with your finger. Watch the waves of the vortex warp the surface. Now sit back and watch the water clean itself of all these wave-forms. What you are witnessing is a process of self-cleaning.
As I see it there are 4 types of perfectionism:
The first three of these are essentially “software” problems. The solution to “software-type” perfectionism is “re-programming.” The Hyper-Attentive type of perfectionism is a “hardware” (brain) issue.
Just to prime your mind a bit, let me ask you this: who ate your happiness?
Emotional eating is utterly misunderstood and unnecessarily demonized. Emotional eating isn’t the problem, it’s emotional overeating and mindless emotional eating that are the problem. Furthermore, emotional eating is simply inevitable. I propose: we learn to use it in moderation.
“Looking Under the Psychosomatic Hood of Breathing…”
As a once “proud” owner of the turbo-charged Saab 9-5, I recall the great sigh of relief I’d experience, when — after peeling off at the first hint of “green” at the streetlight — I’d look back at the sluggish acceleration of the suspecting (and unsuspecting) contenders left in the dust of the street race…
Oh, the triumph of the turbo acceleration!
Turbo — the way I understand it — is a mechanical equivalent of a Power Breath. Invented by the Swiss engineer, Alfred Buchi, turbo compresses the ambient air and delivers it to the air intake manifold at higher than normal pressure. This forced air induction is superior to the naturally aspirated engines ultimately increases power and torque.
Turbo — thus! — is a deep breath.
Personality is usually understood as a set of characteristics or traits that distinguishes one person from another. Personality is information about you. You are not information. You are that which this information is about. Therefore, you are not your personality. You are not your traits. You are not your characteristics. Traits are your psychological contour, your emotional and relational shape, how you present and manifest, your form.
You aren’t your form. You are not your Myers-Briggs’ profile. You are not your MMPI profile. Psychological parameters, specs of your cognition, motivation, behavior, and affect are merely descriptions of you. You are not a description. You are that which is being described.
The West is in a constant war with reality: perpetually dissatisfied with what is, we are desperately trying to perfect it.
This one and only reality seems never enough and we feel ever entitled to more: bigger houses, bigger (hybrid) cars, bigger (Anime-sized) eyes, bigger market shares, bigger tax deductions, bigger incomes, bigger bonuses, bigger breasts, bigger penises, bigger egos and bigger wars. We have been culturally programmed to endlessly optimize and supersize, and to constantly perfect ourselves and everyone else around us. Our appetite for more has been kindled to the level of insatiability. No wonder we feel psychologically starved and existentially empty.
We have been taught to chase the unattainable: to be more than what we are at any given point in time. We are a culture of idealistically naive strivers unable to be content with what is if only for a moment.
Dear readers, I’d like to bring a couple of new books (that I’ve had a recent privilege to review) to your summer-time reading attention:
Mindfulness Code by Donald Altman
There are books about mindfulness as a technique for solving this or that problem. And then there are books that unpack the bigger-picture treasures of mindfulness as a worldview. The Mindfulness Code is an open-source secret of mindful living, a compassionate invitation to infuse mindfulness into every aspect of one’s life.
In offering a set of four “keys” for overcoming suffering, Altman, remains an ever skillful locksmith, narrating an innovative existential map with the help of teachings, inspirations, clinical vignettes, personal revelations, and ready-to-use techniques.
The following is a both an entertaining and illuminating passage of self-discovery from Richard Hughe’s 1929 novel “High Wind in Jamaica.”
“And then an event did occur, to Emily, of considerable importance. She suddenly realized who she was.
[…] She had been playing houses in a nook right in the bows […], and tiring of it was walking rather aimlessly aft, thinking vaguely about some bees and a fairy queen, when it suddenly flashed into her mind that she was she.