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Posts Tagged ‘David Burns

 

Perfectionism is the enemy of the creative

william choukeir posted this June 26, 2014
 

“do you mind, even a little, that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and […] career ahead of your creative […] life? giving all your life force away, to ‘help’ and impress.” —anne lamott

what does people-pleasing have to do with perfectionism? let’s get into that right after we establish a common understanding of perfectionism.

think of it this way, in geometry, you can imagine a perfect picture-frame with right angles, and with edges that are perfectly parallel.

in real life, there are no perfectly parallel lines. trying to re-create this perfect frame in the real world would be perfectionism. It’s like chasing the horizon.

“it’s actually kind of tragic”, admits david foster, because doing anything means that you “sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.”

so what does people-pleasing have to do with perfectionism?

it’s common for fear to be lurking behind people-pleasing, and that more often than not leads to perfectionism. i expect a couple of you to disagree with the following statement. if you do disagree, then you’re either not aware of the fear, or the following doesn’t apply to you.

you may not be aware that fear [usually] lurks behind perfectionism. fear is the fuel that drives your compulsion to polish things to the ultimate.” says renown psychiatrist david burns, M.D.(1) people-pleasers are usually afraid. According to burns, perfectionism protects you. “it may protect you from risking criticism, failure, or disapproval.”

one perfectionist confesses that if he didn’t submit a perfect paper, he’ll let down the professor, get a D, ruin his own academic record, and people would be angry with him, he’ll be a failure, rejected by everyone, alone and miserable.(2)

people-pleasing often leads us to follow someone else’s dreams and ideas, thinking them our own.

“a lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. they’re sucked in from other people. […] what i want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. […] because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.” —alain de botton

imagine being a perfectionist while attempting to work on a task you’d like to like. that’s a recipe for procrastination. imagine pursuing a journey you ‘thought’ you wanted, only to find out that it’s what someone else wanted.

perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. it will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. […] it will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you.” —anne lamott

perfectionism freezes you. like ice stuck in time and space. water, on the other hand, flows. it glides around obstacles, adjusts its path, and moves forward. accept that ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist. ideas are only perfect within the safety of our minds.

“remember that sooner or later, before your work ever reaches perfection,  you will have to let it go and move on and start […] the next thing.” —neil gaiman

flow around obstacles, critics, and those who want you to follow their idea of success. accept to sacrifice your perfect idea. put it into a shitty first draft. refine a few times. then move on to the next best thing. some will like it. some will hate it. be very clear with yourself about who it’s for. it’s only those who matter. listen. improve. then move on. anything you give to the world is better than keeping it in your head. the world deserves your gift.

if you can do that, then maybe you’ll realize that passion can replace perfectionism. risk having your ideas clash with the world enough times, and you’ll learn. you’ll grow. and so will your gifts. in your eyes it may still not be perfect. but in the eyes of your audience, it may very well be remarkable. flow, despite the fears, the self doubts, and the risk of rejection.

“perfection is like chasing the horizon. keep moving.” —neil gaiman


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resources 1 and 2: Burns, David D. (1999). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Avon Books (Whole Care). pp. 359-363.

“Feeling good: The new Mood therapy”? by David Burns, M.D

The book is mainly targeting these people who experience vast mood swing, like frequent depression periods or frequent bout of anger… This is a version of a section in the book concerning “why we feel that way (angry) relative to other people…”, meaning that it is good to read the original section and compare what differ in style and nuances and counterpoint…

We are under this supposed truth that all our current emotions are consequent to our relationship with other people. We are adamant that it is people around us who are rendering us the way we feel, all these overwhelming negative emotions of anger, displeasure, depressive mood…

People are actually the catalyst who generate sets of emotions in us at every moment, but they are far from being the cause of the particular emotions we feel toward them or their actions at the time.

Our emotions are an interpreted version, a schema of the priming image and predisposition we are ready to heap on a certain individual, regardless of the facts or his objective nature…

What kinds of distortions that our negative emotions catalogue?

1. Labeling is the greatest offenders among the distorted emotions. We say “you are a jerk, a bum, a piece of shit…” and you are cataloguing in your mind all the negative attributes attached to these labels, and the person is defined as such…

Labeling is unfair to the person and to yourself first of all: Everyone of us a complex mix of positive, negative and neutral attributes, varying in degrees as we grow up and mature.

Labeling distorts the thinking process and lead us into this laziness of the mind that relies instead on ready-made versions that we save in our memory, particularly people we feel indignant with…

2. Mind reading distortions. We have this fantastic ability to judge people within fractions of a second from facial expressions and gestures and body language…and we are adamant that we liked or accepted the person from these quick first impressions. We say: “he has a mean streak, stupid-looking, bad-kid demeanor…”

What if in the first encounter the individual was upset or in a foul mood before he met you, and his facial expressions were not meant to be displayed to you?  We might be able to settle on an impression quickly, but how easily can we let go of a bad mood that distorts our facial expressions?

In many cases, first encounter mind-reading feelings are off track, and represent the mood you are actually crumbling under at the moment, kind of projecting your mood situation on people you are meeting…

3. Magnification of emotions.  We tend to exaggerate the negative attributes and dwell on them for longer than is necessary, and forget to attach enough emphasis on the positive characteristics and how they may counter balance the other kinds of emotions and attributes…

4. Inappropriate “Should” and “Shouldn’t” statements. As if you’re the ideal person to judge what another individual should be, do, feel or like…

The sense of loss, disappointment, or inconvenience may lead to this feeling that the action was unjust or unfair, as if the world is bound to behave and run the way our current state of mind wants it to function…

You think that you are entitled to instant gratification at all times, as if you are an absolute monarch or a despot…

5. The perception of unfairness and injustice is the ultimate cause of our anger and negative emotions: We want the world to behave in a one-way traffic, the way we want events to occur and people to behave, in timely manner, as logically as we assimilate the meaning of logic to mean to us…

As long as we believe there should be an “absolute” moral system that governs our lives, we are in great trouble with our negative emotions most of the time.

Fairness and justice are relative concepts, depending on the idiosyncratic of cultural legacy and traditional heritage. Social rules and moral strictures that are supposedly “accepted” in a particular community, are more likely a consensus process that was dominated by the majority and forced upon the varied minorities…

Moral statements about fairness are stipulations, not grounded on objective facts most of the time.

No amount of general acceptance can make a moral system “Absolute” or ultimately valid for everyone and under all circumstances. For example, no one ever asked the thousand of aborigines tribes and smaller States what is their opinions or input on a fair absolute system of moral priorities.

For example, if you are working as accountant under the US laws and rules, most accountants in other parts of the world would consider your job as flat-out a big lie, siding with the privileged class at the expense of the little people…It is not a matter of aligning numbers, and doing harmful simple math exercises…but being engaged in a dirty job, consciously and willfully…

6. Much everyday anger results from confusing our personal wants and desires with general moral codes. Acting within a set of standards and a frame of reference that are different from yours…

Actually, it is how you primed the other person attributes that is your guiding rod in your judgment, and not the actual acts and behavior of the other person…

The pragmatic question would seem: “Where will I draw the line as I am confronted with negative emotions…?”

Does this statement suggest that we have to objectively undertake a cost/benefit analysis for the outcome before every outburst of emotions? Not feasible, not natural, not possible…

At least, if we occasionally manage to take a deep breath before the coming outburst, we invariably bring forth our power of reflection to intervene, now and then, and we become better persons.

We could apply two guidelines as we learn to reflect before an outburst of emotion:

1. Is my anger directed because I think the other person acted knowingly, willfully, and intentionally in a hurtful manner? (feeling of contempt is one of these kinds of emotions)

2. Does my anger helps achieve a desired objective? Like sincerely wanting to get rid of the presence of a person in my life because he is a sure obstacle to my well-being, sanity… for one reason or another?


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