Archives for June, 2011

Hunting Unicorns

People say: “Perfection is unattainable.”  And yet they chase it.  What a psychologically toxic set-up!  What a self-fulfilling destiny of dissatisfaction!  Chasing theoretical perfection is like hunting unicorns.  Good luck.

Dare to consider: reality is (already) perfect and perfectible.  This “and” is the hardest “and”...
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Koans: Uncertainty Training Therapy

Psychologically speaking, koans are a unique way to inoculate a human mind to the anxiety of uncertainty.  When we encounter uncertainty, we are stumped.  Uncertainty frustrates us with its enigmatic nonsense.  Koans, in their unanswerable quality, effectively simulate such moments of uncertainty.  Author Hee-Jin Kim explains: the koans are “realized, not solved” (1975, 101). Admittedly, this explanation is a bit of a puzzle itself.  But here’s how I make sense of it.  A koan, once again, is an unanswerable puzzle.  If we take it on, we begin banging our head against the wall of the unknown.  At some point, we realize that there is no solution, and we settle into a don’t-know mind.  This realization, of course, comes up pretty early in the koan work.  And it serves as the true beginning, not the end of the process. Knowing in advance that you are working with an unanswerable question, you accept your limitations. No longer trying to know the unknowable, you calmly remain with the question in a state of not knowing.  Knowingly, you keep chasing the tail of not knowing in a process that, I believe, very much parallels the day-to-day mystery of life.  Thus, the potential therapeutic value of koan work as a kind of one-question-therapy that can help soothe the perfectionistic thirst for answers. Here are a few of the koans [from the Present Perfect book] that I developed to challenge perfectionistic thinking for my clients and my readers:
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Perfectionism is a Destiny of Dissatisfaction

Imagination is always at least one step ahead of reality.  When we appraise the world, ourselves, or others, we compare what is (the real) with what theoretically could be (the imagined). Say you got a B on a test.  You look at this grade and you think that you could have done better, that you could have gotten an A.  But that’s theory.  The reality is that you got a B, not an A, and this B represented your practical (not theoretical) best. With this in mind, let me ask you this: what do you mean by perfection—the theoretical best or the practical best?  When you think about perfection, are you thinking about the imaginary perfection of what could be or about the perfection of what actually is?  Of course, this is something of a rhetorical question.  I know the answer: as a perfectionist, you define perfection as a theoretical best.  That’s exactly why you are never satisfied with reality as it is.
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There Is No Evil

There is no evil.  Do an inventory of this planet and you will find no living, breathing, menacing evil.  There is just human behavior, in all its self-serving short-sightedness.  Evil is a concept, a reification of an observed pattern.  It is a useful semantic short-cut to flag dangerous (as in “unsafe”) people.  But there is no evil per se. The topic of evil has been a long-standing interest of mine and this writing is to acknowledge that a major cultural milestone has been reached in the discussion of evil.  Read Simon-Baron Cohen’s “The Science of Evil” or at least a review of it by NY Times. Much of what I have been blogging and writing about has been focused on compassion and forgiveness.  As I see it, all human behavior breaks down to two elements of psychology: motive and effort.  Motive is universal: we are all pursuing wellbeing, moving from minus to plus, operating – at core – on the pleasure principle.  So, in this sense, we are all motivationally-innocent.  No evil here.   Just living.  Effort-wise, we are all doing the best we can at any given moment in time.  Of course, one’s best is safe and beneficial to others but another’s best is dangerous and even possibly sadistic. Why is that? 
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E-Health is Psychological Health

Who are we saving all these word-processing files for?

Are we going to read what we wrote?!  All these unfinished poems?  All these unpolished stories of narrative fiction?  All these drafts of actualities?

Of course, not: we are once, we are ever a-changing, we are - in a sense -

Even if we save a memory-file, it will be opened by the echoes of our here-and-now Essence ( by what we are yet to be (if...
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