Thursday, 20 August 2009
What price perfection.... self hate and no self respect perhaps.
We as human beings have many different characteristics or qualities,or in the psychological theory I was taught,constructs.
These constructs make up ourselves, and they are in a couple of layers. The day to day layers, like it being important to be polite, for instance. But this construct may go deeper. It may be vital for anyone to be polite as it takes them back to their childhoods and the memories of pleasing Mum. This then would be superordinate construct(SCs),one of the mainstays of an individuals personality.
For me, I know being loyal, compassionate and generous are totally important to me, even if I don't always achieve them. What having these SCs enables me to do is to strive to be the best I can. But when I don't achieve them this is where problems can start.
So many people want to be perfect, whatever that means! They give themselves this agenda of impossible demands, that can never be obtained so that they always fail. It is called a self fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes they don't even get as far as trying, as they know they'll fail, so better to keep safe by not doing anything as it's all such a risk!
This is extremely unhealthy and damaging as it makes people trapped in their worlds, where they get more and more isolated as they make the erroneous assumption that they are the only ones who feel like they do.
One of my tasks then is to help normalise people. To bring them from the place of unobtainable goals to a place of realism about what it means to be human.
And how do I do this?
Well I talk about myself in the therapy room. I use an example of my own behaviour and then ask the client to give me a similar example.
What I start off saying is that I have a gift, a fantastic talent, a construct/quality that's a star amongst others...... I AM tactless!!! This always make my clients smile, as they were expecting the normal view of their world to be reinforced, them pathetic, me perfect! And suddenly they are seeing me in a new light.
I hold my arm out as far away as it will go holding my ability to be tactless. And say, for me to understand that I can be tactless I have to understand what tactful is, which I hold in my other hand, so an imaginary piece of string is between these two constructs. I then ask my clients to tell me where I am in relation to this piece of string, and the answer is in the middle.
I move on to another construct, usually my having a sense of humour, I hold it in the same hand as the tactlessness. I say that my opposite again has to be identified, as in having no humour. For me to know that I can make people laugh, or equally if you put me in front of a TV sitcom you won't see me raise a smile.
Again I ask where am I on my imaginary piece of string, and you've guessed it I'm in the middle.
I ask my client to tell me a quality/construct they have, inevitably it is a damaging one, say like stupid, and I ask them to do exactly what I've just done, to find the opposite and find where they are on the imaginary string.
What I open up in doing this is to facilitate looking at the list of imperfections that the non perfect person has and uses to beat themselves up with. ..... I'm stupid, selfish, horrible, ugly etc etc.The list is massively long sometimes and it is all one sided. So by introducing the idea of each construct having an opposite, and for the person to be stupid they have to understand that sometimes they are clever, opens up a completely new vision of how their world could be.
It is incredibly liberating for me to know that yes sometimes I'm so tactless I wish the earth would swallow me up. And sometimes I have to be amazingly tactful with difficult information about others. But that most of the time I bumble around in the middle, rarely actually going to either extreme. And this is true of all my constructs.
Suddenly doing this opens the door on the idea that no-one is perfect, we are just human, doing the best we can at any given moment. And sometimes we get it right and sometimes wrong, but we only ever do our best. It is other people who tell us were doing it wrong. And I'd question what right anyone else has to tell us what we should feel/ think. After all no-one told me what to have for breakfast this morning, so what right has anyone to tell me that I'm thinking wrong. My feelings and thoughts are mine and mine alone. I may have a commonality with others in that we all think we know what it feels, say to be sad. But rarely do we check out others feelings, we just make assumptions about what they think.
I would therefore like to suggest that we are all ourselves, and we are all perfect and imperfect, and in the middle of that particular piece of string, just like all the others. And we are doing the best we can, and if people could accept that about themselves they could stop beating themselves up for being less than bloody perfect.