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  • Overcoming Perfectionism and Learning to Let Go, 1

    Overcoming perfectionism and learning to let go are essential if we are ever going to live our authentic lives.  Times like the Holiday season offer a huge opportunity to experience just how much this matters.

    overcoming perfectionism

    In some ways the Holidays can serve as a little miniature model or encapsulation of the whole of life and the journey to wholeness.

    Perfection: the Archetypal Gadfly

    Why do we human beings so easily fall into an obsession with things being perfect?  Why does the ideal of perfection have such compelling power?

    Humans have always been haunted by the idea of perfection.  From early times, we have ascribed perfection to our deities and divinities.  This is rooted in the young child seeing the parents as omnipotent and morally perfect.  As the child matures in healthy relationship, he or she gradually outgrows this.  The child becomes aware of its own ability and strength, and of the parents’ humanity and fallibility.  Perfection is increasingly seen as something “ideal” or “belonging to the realm of the gods”.


     Gods and Humans

    However, York U.’s Prof. Gordon Flett and colleagues show us how parental demands and insecurities can interfere with our sense that we’re “enough”, landing the demand for perfection firmly on our shoulders, and with it, the continual sense that our efforts fall short.

    Speaking archetypally, the individual is then sucked up into the “realm of the gods”.  The gods might be perfect; but for humans the demand for perfection is frozen death.  This shows up in curious ways.  Many of us, at Holiday times, for instance, are very aware of the individual who is so obsessed with Holiday arrangements being “perfect” that all the joy is taken away — for themselves, and for others.

    Depth case studies seeks to enable the individual to gradually free him- or herself from unyielding perfectionist demands.  It’s about cultivating the acceptance of ourselves in our human ordinariness — which we share with all the humans who’ve ever lived.

    To accept the self means to accept human life for what it is, and letting life flow.  As Lao Tzu said so long ago in the Tao te Ching,

    Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

    What Does it Even Mean to Let Go?

    But what does it even mean to let go, and to let life flow?  Here is a marvelous poem that Joanna Wiebe shares, written by her late sister, Christine.  It has a connection to the holidays, to an experience of positive parent, and to an experience of falling through fear into letting go, and letting everything be what it is.

    overcoming perfectionism


    This is how it should be:
    Christmas vacation, and I am six;
    Daddy and I are driving outside the city
    to a great hill with untouched snow.
    Sun warms the car.
    I climb up the tracks Daddy makes
    hearing the crunch each time the first time.
    We stand at the top, just Daddy and I, breathing,
    and the sparrows laugh.
    “I’m afraid,” I say.
    But then we’re sailing
    and I’m safe on a narrow strip of wood
    clinging to his broad back,
    a solid thing in a swaying world,
    and I’m laughing and wishing
    we could fall like this forever
    into the sun sparkles and whipping wind
    and the white snowdrift
    waiting to embrace us
    over and over and over.

    ~Christine Wiebe

    overcoming perfectionism

    “This is how it should be.”  Yes: the zone of uncertainty, and of letting go and letting it happen, is where human life occurs.  The mess is where the life is.  For us to be there requires what Jung would call a “religious” outlook.  By this he doesn’t mean organized or formal religion, but an awareness that something bigger is unfolding at the heart of our lives than the ego can understand and control.  We need to stop “shoulding” and “oughting” ourselves, and trust in life.

    Depth case studies is about letting go into our own lives, with compassion and hope for who we most fundamentally are.

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


    PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Pascal modified ;  Visit Grand Island        Ramón Cutanda López modified;  
    © 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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