How to crush perfectionism

Grabit Perfectionism is a great example of the way in which Headmind can push us into anxiety and illness. And it also reveals a lot about the way Headmind is set up. Namely, that it doesn’t belong to us and does not have our personal interests at heart. That it works through a ‘pushy’, inner voice that acts like an impersonal control freak. Always compelling us to spend more time on tasks than is really warranted.

My readers will understand that, for these reasons, I kept putting off and putting off writing this article in case I got it all wrong and made myself look like an idiot…….

But seriously, perfectionism can get at people in different ways. And these styles are closely related to what I have called bananas elsewhere in this blog.

  1. Bananas about failure
  2. Bananas about approval
  3. Bananas about weight/appearance
  4. Bananas about power
  5. Bananas about being sexy

And many other things besides.

The first thing to get clear about is that Perfectionism is a type of obsession. An obsession comes about because Headmind is worried about something. In the case of perfectionism the worry is that the person can never get it right and will therefore be criticised, rejected and hurt. The basis for this problem is conditioning. Somewhere along the way the child’s Headmind picked up the script ‘No matter how hard you try you will never be good enough’.

A lot of people blame Parents for scripts like these although, in my experience, Teachers and Priests are often the usual culprits. The pity of it all is that there is absolutely no need for anyone to worry about having to get it all right. If you are out of your depth on something then Bodymind will trigger the fear signal to tell you to go and ask a few questions or get some help.

But this move is is disallowed by Headmind – the Perfectionist cannot ask for help because that would be to admit failure – imperfection. So he has to do it all by himself. In later life Headmind keeps playing these scripts every time a new challenge comes up. So each time the person settles down to do some work Headmind triggers the worry first, and then the obsession with ‘getting it all right’. With the sub-script – ‘work harder, you miserable failure’. That can get very scary. But each time Fear is created to remind us to get some help that is interpreted by Headmind as fresh evidence that the person is ‘imperfect’ triggering the script all over again.

Now, if you spend too long doing the same thing over and over again then Bodymind is going to create the emotion known as frustration. That will be prompting you to give yourself a break. But when Headmind notices frustration coming up, it misinterprets that as fresh evidence of failure. So the script gets triggered again, and again and again. I will write more about the solution to perfectionism and other obsessional states in a later blog. But the first step towards breaking free of the trap is to disobey the script, own up to being ‘a failure’ and go and have some fun instead.

Why guilt is useless

Guilt is a delusionary state. It doesn’t serve you at all and is a creation of the imagination; of Headmind’s drive towards conformity.

Here’s how Headmind creates Guilt:

1. Headmind is stuffed full of judgments about the person you could be, should be, should not be, etc. Those judgments were not originally your own but inherited from other people. But gradually you internalised them and they became self-judgments.

2. These judgments are re-activated by parents, teachers, priests, employers, children and partners who may be exploiting you.

3. Your Headmind buys into those judgments because it seeks acceptance, conformity, and admiration (even from people who don’t deserve your respect).

4. Dwelling on occasions in which guilt comes up – and Headmind judges you – creates uncomfortable Bodymind reactions: cringing, agitation, distress. Although Bodymind creates that discomfort in order to warn you not to indulge in guilt, Headmind interprets this as a signal that you are, indeed, a ‘bad’ person, worthy of punishment.

Here’s another way to understand ‘Guilt’:

1. Earlier societies did not recognise a psychological state known as ‘guilt’. For them ‘guilt’ was simply another word for ‘debt’ (as in the German/Saxon word: ‘gultig’). It simply meant that one person had harmed another and was unable to put things right. For example, one person stole another person’s property but was too poor to pay it back – therefore he was ‘guilty’ and subject to the penalties of the community.

2. Religious influences gradually changed this original meaning of guilt into ‘personal sin’.

3.  When Psychology started up in Germany and America in the 19th century it took over religious ideas about ‘sin’ and reinterpreted them in terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ actions. So doing one ‘bad’ thing made you an ‘evil’ or ‘guilty’ person – instead of someone who simply made a mistake.

4. Mistakes and ‘bad’ actions you committed in the past were based on the knowledge you possessed at the moment you committed them, no matter how daft. For example: you shop-lifted, knowing you couldn’t afford something but that you ‘had’ to have the item anyway. You let the Headmind state of greed get the better of you.

5. Therefore your past mistakes were based on inadequate knowledge (you thought it was ok to steal, or that you wouldn’t get caught, or that it wouldn’t matter if you did get caught). Your predictions turned out to be wrong, although you didn’t  realise that at the time.

6. Your present self-judgments are based on a false premise: your present self blames your past self even though your past self did not possess the experience of knowledge your present self now has.

Here is the truth:

1. You did not actually have free will back then when you committed your error of judgment. You did what you had to do at the time because you lacked Awareness.

2. Indulging in Headmind worry (i.e. analyzing over and over again about what an ‘evil’ person you were/are) may actually get in the way of your attempts to put things right.

3. If you have really done somebody wrong you could connect to the emotion of remorse and get on with making amends, rather than wasting time on guilt.

Image by Jsome1

You can’t afford the luxury of a worry

According to a survey published by Mr Really Worried on his blog the average Briton spends 2 hours and fifteen minutes worrying, which adds up to 34 days
a year. Don’t forget – that’s only an average figure – which means that
at least 29 million people on these islands are doing a lot more
worrying than that.

Worry creates Anxiety, which in turn
leads to wear and tear on your body, as it attempts to adapt to the
increased strain that Headmind has created for you. The result?
Stress-related illnesses like:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Colitis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Gastric reflux
  • Migraine
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Fibromyalgia

As well as a host of other diseases that stem from the alcohol,
tobacco and drugs that people may use to mask the effects of anxiety.

I am not necessarily saying that Stress causes these illnesses. It could
just be that it amplifies them. But the conclusion is the same: each
and every time you worry you damage your health.

I am sometimes asked, by chronic worriers I have met: ‘What is the difference between
a problem and a worry? Most of the things that bother me aren’t worries
– they are real-life disasters!’

The answer is that a problem is a concern which you can do something about. A worry is a delusional state in which Headmind conjures up a horrific state of affairs that is
seemingly going to happen in the future (but rarely does). For example:
you may be suffering financially from the credit crunch. The related
problem could be that you now need to reduce your debt and you could do
that by talking to your bank manager, reducing your spending, talking
things over with your partner, searching for another job, etc. A worry
might be that you might end up in poverty, or in prison, or on the
streets. Dangerous words create nightmares.

If you worry you will
immediately become anxious, jittery, agitated. You won’t be able to
think straight and you will be dominated by a panicky inner voice. You
may also feel nauseous, tense and upset.

If you catch yourself in one of these states, here’s what you do:

  1. Get up quickly and go to another room, or get out of the building
  2. While you are doing that shout ‘STOP’ as loud as you can inside your head – or
    press the STOP button on the ‘tape recorder’ inside your head
  3. Recall a moment in your life when you dealt with problems in a good way. ‘Ask’
    the ‘You’ in this recalled state a question: ‘Is this a Problem or am I just letting Worry take over?’
  4. If the answer is that it is a Problem then ‘ask’ yourself ‘What one small thing can I do now to act on this?’ (Remember, if there is no action you can take, the it is a worry, not a concern)
  5. If the answer from your better self is that it is a Worry then immediately go and do something that occupies your full attention in an enjoyable way. I especially recommend doing
    something physically strenous that raises endorphins

‘If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long
enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on
another planet with a different reality system.

William James