Psych Central

Ordinary Perfection Articles

Rethink Perfection

Friday, April 18th, 2014

9781572247567Perfection is not an achievement but a baseline, not the fruit of being we reach for, but the very ground of being we stand on.

Rethink “what is” to rethink perfection: all that can be… is.


Slavic Samsara

Friday, March 21st, 2014

stoneAs I watch my slavic brothers and sisters about to turn onto each other (not without some geopolitical meddling), I am reminded of a few lines from a poem written in Kiev in 1986 by a prominent Russian dissident Irina Ratushinskaya:

Beasts, people, birds

And voices, and specks of light -

We pass through all like ripples,

And each one disappears.

Which of us will recur?

Who will flow into whom?

What do we need in this world

To quench our thirst?

Yes, we all pass through this reality, and we all pass through all – like ripples from a local stone-skip that eventually become the universe-wide gravitational waves of yet another big bang.

And we pass into each other: yesterday’s fascists become today’s freedom-fighters and today’s freedom-fighters become tomorrow’s fascists. Form passes into Essence and Essence passes into Form.

Self and Other are in a constant tug-of-war of inter-determination (paṭiccasamuppāda -  co-dependent origination).  Duality (Skinthink) of Self and Other always falls onto its own sword.

As I ponder this current cycle of Slavic samsara I find my usual, arguably misguided, sense of peace and acceptance in the following three axioms of living:

1. We are all motivationally innocent  (the Pleasure Principle): there is no evil, there is just a pursuit of wellbeing however misguided it might be.

2. We are all doing our moment-specific best (the idea of Ordinary Perfection): all that can be – is.

3. That is enough for Oneness of Cosmos (sideless, Oneness takes no sides).

I wish all parts and parties of this seamless oneness well: may we all satisfy our thirst from within.

Cutting the Costs of Perfectionism

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

9781572247567Perfectionism isn’t cheap.  In fact, it is existentially unaffordable.  Here’s a review of these costs and of the possible ways of cutting them.

Perfectionism is a Psychological Liability

Flett and Hewitt (2002) write: “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress” (p. 257) and list four perfectionism-specific mechanisms that contribute to and exacerbate stress:

  • Perfectionists generate stress by pursing unrealistic goals (stress generation mechanism).
  • Because of their future time perspective, they anticipate future with worry and anxiety (stress anticipation mechanism).
  • Perfectionists perpetuate stress by coping with stress in such maladaptive ways as rumination or re-doubling of the effort to avoid mistakes and prevent failures (stress perpetuation mechanism).
  • And, finally, due to their cognitively-distorted perfectionistic appraisal strategies, they enhance stress by overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, and dichotomizing (stress enhancement mechanism).

Brown and Beck (2002) make a convincing summary of how a perfectionistic cognitive style with its rigid thinking constitutes a vulnerability to depression.

Perfectionists and compulsives are a tormented, unhappy lot.  William Reich referred to compulsives as “living machines,” highly productive but not enjoying what they produce (Maxment & Ward, 1995), typically presenting with symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, and dysthymia.

One of the goals of existential self-rehabilitation is to redefine perfection in a manner that would allow you to leverage an unconditional self-acceptance and to become invulnerable to others’ disapproval of you.  Furthermore, an effective existential rehab would help you become more accepting of uncertainty in order to reduce your anxiety about the aspects of your life that you cannot control.  Your ultimate challenge is to shift from dichotomous, black-and-white dualistic self-perception (that predisposes you to depression and anxiety) to an emotionally-wiser and reality-congruent platform of nondual and dialectical thinking.

Perfectionism is a Relational Liability

Many a perfectionist is encouraged into therapy by family members and supervisors to address the problem of anger and hypercriticism.  As such, if unaddressed, perfectionism is a relational liability that leads to social alienation, loneliness, missed social and professional opportunities.  Effective existential rehab will help you realize that you are, have been, and always will be “perfectly imperfect,” which, in turn, will allow you to compassionately identify …

Happy New Now to You!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

2 thoughts: one for the year that is passing and one for the year that is yet to pass.

  • Sit long enough so that when you eventually get up a part of you will remain sitting until at a later point the rest of you sits back down again.
  • Awareness does not age. Body ages. Mind gets junked up with info. But baseline awareness remains “as is.” Awareness only renews.

Happy New Now to you, all year long!

[Mindstream | pattern interruption series | Somov]

Related Posts

pic: Tc Morgan via Compfight

Hard Thoughts To Swallow

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

A couple of healthy thoughts for a dualistic mind to choke on:

1. Hope is a mind-killer (hope distracts us from the present; hope makes us wait for some future  moment of reality but life is now, always now).

2. An ideal world is a world without idealism (idealism distracts us from the present; ideals make us wait for some future ideal moment of reality but life is now, always now, exactly as it currently, actually is).

3. All that can be (right now), is.  Reality doesn’t shortchange.  There is no celestial layaway in which the Universe withholds better versions of itself to manifest at a later point in time.  All that currently can be, currently is.

These are hard thoughts to swallow for a dualistic mind but let me sweeten this nondual poison with a soundtrack from Sweatshop Union: The Thing About It

Enjoy the ordinary perfection of what currently is!


Present Perfect

[Pattern Interruption Series]

Crimson Sun Never Sinks on the West Peak

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Explosions in the sky13th century Korean Zen Preceptor T’ageo, dictated at deathbed:

Life is like a bubble -

Some eighty years, a spring dream.

Now I’ll throw away this leather sack,

A crimson sun sinks on the west peak!

Life – an illusion? Awakening – a death of an illusion? Death – an awakening from a dream? Awakening – another dream?

Ask yourself these kinds of questions.

And ignore the answers.

“A crimson sun sinks on the west peak!” – ha! T’ageo, as awakened as he was on his deathbed, did, however, fall prey to a favorite illusion of ours: sun neither rises nor sets; sun simply is as we spin around it. There is a model of the mind in this.  But I wouldn’t ponder it too much.


[Present Perfect series]


ref: Anthology of Korean Literature (by Peter H. Lee)

pic: Sergio Tudela Romero via Compfight

Nondepressive Anhedonia

Monday, November 25th, 2013

9781572247567We (can) go from wanting everything to wanting nothing.

This vector of desire makes sense to me.

We (can) go from conditional joy (enjoying ourselves only when conditions are in accordance with our desires) to unconditional joy (enjoying ourselves regardless of the conditions we find ourselves in).

This vector of adaptation makes sense to me.

Others called this “nirvana.” I call this “nondepressive anhedonia” – a loss of desire without the loss of enjoyment.


Related: Ordinary Perfection

Pine That Stands At the Cavern’s Entrance

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

bookstoreIt was almost 11am and I was supposed to pick up my wife in about 20 minutes, a few blocks away.  Caliban book store in Oakland (Pittsburgh) was about to open: I had just enough time – it usually takes me a minute or two to pop in and grab something at random (relatively at random) – I know the shelves that hold my interest.  I grabbed “The Ten Thousand Leaves” - a translation of the Man’yoshu, Japan’s premier anthology of classic poetry, paid the $8 and got out.

In a few minutes I was at the meeting place, with a few minutes to spare.  I cracked the book open and notice the following words of Prince Hakutsu when he visited the caverns of Miho on a journey to the land of Ki:

Caverns, that last an eternity,

are still here even now,

but the men who dwelled in them

could not last forever.


O pine that stands

at the caverns’ entrance.

Looking at you is like coming face to face

with the men of ancient times.

bookonbench“Same here,” I thought, holding this used book:

“Reading these lines is like coming face to face

with the mind that wrote them

and the minds that read them since ancient times.”

If you have a few minutes to kill, notice the poetry of reality around you: this ordinary perfection has been here all along.


Related: Present Perfect (Somov, 2010)

Lifelong Now

Monday, November 4th, 2013

06-08-10 And With Heart Shaped Bruises And Late Night KissesLook at your hand. Notice the so-called fingers. Fact is there are no fingers. There is one hand. Finger is just a part of a hand. But it’s a kind of part that is not apart from a hand. A finger is not separate from the hand. But by calling this part of the hand a finger we have conceptually separated the inseparable – we have separated the finger-part of the hand from the hand itself.

Same with time: all life is one life-long now. But by having created the concept of “past” and “future,” we have divided one seamless life-time into yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, into this and that moment. The reality, however, is that we have never experienced a yesterday or a tomorrow, we have only experienced this very now, this lifelong now, this one seamless experience of life which is always now.

You might say: how come this particular now is different from the one it once was? Doesn’t that mean that this now is separate from all the other now-s of the past? Yes and no: this one lifelong now is constantly changing which gives you an impression of multiple moments (“this” moment or “that” moment). This multiplicity is misleading: there is only one moment/one now per life, per capita, per mind, per self.  And this one and only now is fundamentally the same – like wax in a lava lamp; what’s different is the form that it takes – like wax in a lava lamp.

We have come to believe that “time moves” along some kind of arrow – from the so-called past to the so-called future, through the present. I don’t see it that way: there is no arrow – there is no past, there is no future, there is just an ever-evolving present, an ever-evolving now. This now, that you are always in, isn’t moving (like a car down the road, from a “from” …

Totality of Contentment

Friday, November 1st, 2013

There are days, like today, when, on a walk with my dog, wrapped into a restless blanket of a balmy breeze, my mind sways along with countless blades of grass around my self-walking feet.  In a moment like this, I am not moving, I am being moved. In a moment I have zero interest in the past: I would not want to trade in a moment of present for any day of the past, whether I rocked it or bombed it; I know there is absolutely no point in trying to re-live anything. And in a moment like this, I have almost zero interest in the future.  I used to read about moments like this – for example, in Knut Hamsun’s Pan – and I used to wonder about how to get there. And I have gradually realized: it’s not about getting there, it’s about getting here. I feel neither bored nor desirous: I feel like I’ve had enough, had plenty, had a lot. In a moment like this I want absolutely nothing – and that’s exactly what I want: nothing. No, it’s not some kind of passive suicidality; on the contrary, it’s active contentment.


Reinventing the Meal
Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment
The Lotus Effect The Smoke-Free Smoke Break
Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. is the author of The Lotus Effect, Present Perfect, The Smoke-Free Smoke Break, and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time.

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