Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a mental dysfunction. In psychology, it’s referred to as a personality trait hyperfocused on flawlessness and perfect performances.

A young patient, Dina, was a scholar in the university. Her life has been an endless report card on grades, accomplishments, and looks.

One evening, Dina was rushed to the hospital by her father. Her sister found her slumped on the floor of her room with bloody cuts on the wrists.

She tried to end it all. That time, she could no longer keep up with her grades due to severe social anxiety.

What makes perfectionism toxic is its negativity. It’s overly anxious on avoiding failure, mistakes, and messes … an impossibility in reality.

Even if you express love to a perfectionist after some misses, it isn’t enough comfort. The perfectionist is way too dependent or conditional on performance to feel loved.

Psychology Today magazine explains,

“There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. The need for perfection is transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, remember that “you are good enough.” You are worthy as you are because you exist.

You don’t have to prove your value to anyone, even to yourself. God has already placed that value on you and your life.

“Perfection is an illusion. Yet perfectionists demand it from others while being far from flawless themselves. The margin of error of the human condition is often our greatest area of excellence and discovery,” reminds writer Stewart Stafford.

Healing Negative Love

A patient once cried during session, “My God, why am I doing this? My mother used to do that. I hate it, but I see myself doing it again!”

Of course, she’s not her mother. The compulsion to repeat is unconscious-driven. It exists underground.

This is clearly demonstrated in extreme abusive relationships.

I discover that people with abusive parents often find themselves in abusive relationships. It just appears to be such a very common psychological wound.

I once saw a couple – a Filipina and an American – who continually abused each other verbally. Both felt so well that they never wanted what they’re doing.

Yes, both came from emotionally impoverished families. Both of their own parents verbally abused each other and their children.

Unconsciously, their relationship has the pull of something familiar. A vicious cycle acting out an adopted parental pattern.

And there’s also this inner script, “This time it’s going to be different. This time I’ll change the situation and I’ll claim the love i didn’t receive as a child.”

It’s obviously an effort to heal an old wound looking for love.

But the reality created is actually more misery living through further abuse in the present.

As Spanish philosopher George Santayana reminds us, those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

How do you stop doing what you don’t want to do?

“Heal the ‘negative love programming,'” as psychotherapist/author Dr. Bob Hoffman put it.

That’s “forgotten” unprocessed pain from the past.

The way out is the same as the way in – programming.

Our positive real self is just there.

“Negative love” that keeps us doing what we don’t want to do can be transcended and healed.

The RAIN Tool

“We all have an omniscient narrator in our head who is harsh and negative commenting on our life. Having a voice constantly urging us to do better has some survival value – but it can make us miserable,” said New York-based psychologist John Gartner.

The other day, a talented young woman was sobbing during session.

She’s continually harassed by an inner judge which is critical, nit-picking, and devaluing her.

This thing inside her head was demanding. Full of unrealistic expectations. On the job 24/7.

She’s made to believe from the core that something is fundamentally wrong with her.

She’s been trying to control and fix what she felt is a basically flawed self.

It’s such an epidemic. This deep sense of personal deficiency. Getting stuck in the trance of unworthiness.

Mindfulness helps. It reduces the power the voice inside has over us.

Along the way in my sessions, I like doing Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. process tool to guide individuals in their private practice of mindfulness.

R.A.I.N. trains the emotions and thoughts to be self-compassionate.

R.A.I.N. tool for mindfulness goes this way:

R = recognize what is going on

A = allow the experience to be there, just as it is

I = investigate with interest and care

N = nurture with self compassion

According to Dr. David Kessler, MD, author of “CAPTURE,” studies show that meditation and mindfulness gives schizophrenics the “ability to pay less attention to and give credence to the voices in their heads.”

“For those with anxiety or depression, meditation stops the cycle of obsessive rumination and self recrimination,” Dr. Kessler added.

When Kittens Become Cats

The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.”

In many ways, we could say the same thing about our children.

When my daughter Angel was 3 up, she was cute, cuddly, soft and small.

Now that she’s older and bigger, I still love her just as much.

But she’s become so independent. And … isn’t quite as small or cuddly anymore!

I could say somewhat the same thing about her brother Paul and sister Christine, who are now young adults.

They’re former kittens, now developing cats!

As a father, time does keep slipping, slipping, slipping on me. And I’ve to admit that I’m not as young as I used to be.

A few days ago, I was in session with a Mom (along with her husband) who’s still calling her son “babe.”

Her son is almost 25, still dependent on her in all basic things.

It’s obvious that as we parent our children, we’re called to develop as adults as well.

This means, we need to be aware of appropriate developmental paths as time slips by.

My fathering my 3-year-old Angel, for instance, has to be far different from my fathering her in her teenage years.

I admit it’s tough for me to be a father of a teenager. And it is not easier for my daughter Angel.

At this point, she may literally be “not all there.”

Yet she needs my love and support to grow in certain areas, such as impulse control, judgment, and ability to face consequences.

This is “age-appropriate” parenting. For our kids’ mental health and overall wellness.

To do that, we parents need to be relatively functioning adults, while we’ve the opportunity.

For time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping …

Freedom from Self-Lies

Engraved on the front of a building are these words: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

People who pass by that place look at those words many times. In fact, they originated from the Scriptures.

But we can’t be sure if people who read them really believed they’re true.

Therapy is truth work.

It’s a brave, disciplined effort to face one’s self-lies. And how truths can equip one to fight them.

Alan was over 300 pounds. He’s a food addict.

Doctors repeatedly tell him the truth that his overeating will ruin his health and make him unhappy.

Yet he kept eating too much even though it makes him miserable. He knew he had a problem he needed to change. But … did nothing to change it.

Eventually, Alan’s self-lies led to multiple surgeries. His pain worsened – physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually.

He’s unable to be free to be his best self because he did not apply truth in his situation.

He hanged on to ways of acting and thinking even though they’re self-destructive.

Dr. Chris Thurman of Minirth-Meier Clinics explained about “tapes we have in our heads.”

He wrote, “These tapes are ones that continually play either truth or lies that affect every action and thought. When your program is faulty because of the lies in it, the daily ‘data’ it analyzes will trigger the wrong responses.”

I’ve lots of truth-seeking patients.

I help them get rid of their self-lies in their “tapes.” And … replace them with the truth.

But I also remind them that they need to commit themselves to “practicing truth.”

There it is … the way to experience freedom to be your real self.

Tim’s Advice

This guy, Tim Ferris, is a four-hour-work-week multimillionaire New York Times best selling author. He is one of the world’s famous experts on “new rich” and personal development.

Listen to one of his productivity mental health advices: “Poisonous people don’t deserve your time.”

I knew it was too hard for Mike, an addictive patient. When he entered therapy to care for his fragile wounded life, his mother was critical. She’d blame and judge him for his addictions.

She said that therapy was a waste of money and he could do it on his own.

Accept if the reality is, your family and friends happen to be not the best people to support your healing journey. They may misunderstand your needs through disinterest and uncaring.

Even all the way to shaming or verbal abuse. Such characterizes what happens too when you spend time with “poisonous people” in general.

Remember, if you’re just starting to heal your emotional wounds, you just have a tiny seedling with tiny leaves above the earth.

It’s extra vulnerable to being crushed when wind and rain come. So you would have to care for it as you would any fragile thing in your life.

Examine your present circle of support. Family, friends, mates. And ask these questions:

Are they supporting your fragile tiny seedling to flourish? Or, are they stomping on your growth?

Sometimes, you’ve to clear space for someone or something new to emerge. It’s hard but you’ve to do that in order to heal and grow.

Know the people who deserve your time. Find them, wherever they are. You need them. They’ll protect and nurture you till you become stronger.

A Science-Backed Stress Reliever

There is robust scientific evidence establishing a scientific link between spirituality and mental health.

For example, a scientific and medical review of 148 published studies in 2002 with over 98,000 subjects sought to determine a connection between spirituality and mental health.

Here’s the authors’/researchers’ overwhelming conclusion: the more spiritual a person is, the greater the positive effects on his or her mental health.

Also, another study was published in the Journal of Aging and Health in 2009, with 800 enrolled subjects and 8 years follow up.

The researchers found that being spiritual and having church attendance gave people a stronger sense of purpose and lesser tendencies to depression.

The American Journal of Psychiatry backed this up with a 10-year landmark study in 2012, claiming that spirituality has a protective effect – 76% less risk to develop genetic or familial depression.

Noted Harvard psychologist, Dr. Gordon Allport, based on numerous scientific evidences and studies such as these, asserted that spirituality or faith is indeed a psychological necessity for mankind.

From the mental health perspective, spirituality gives a struggling or traumatized individual with supportive life-giving guidelines. To find meaning and direction for his or her existence.

The faith of a person is a science-backed stress reliever.

It allows one to weather all storms while exploring the healing of his or her deepest internal wounds that affect perspective and functioning.

Truly, spirituality is the most natural thing there is.

It’s simply your own conscious awareness of your self to be more than physical or material … that you’ve a soul where your real essence lies.