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.

You Are Who You Create Your Self to Be

Self.

Psychology refers to the human self in varied ways. Personality. Identity. Psyche or soul. Deep core.

Since we all age, does the passing of time affect who or what you are? Will you be the same self/person 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years?

Depends.

Several days ago, I was in a “graduation.” A patient, Anthony, finished our long-term therapy program. And all his family members gathered together for a joyous celebration.

One of Anthony’s close cousins remarked publicly, “He changed. He is not the same person I know. Something happened to him.”

Anthony’s body still has some similarity and continuity with what it was before. But he developed a new, different set of beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral manifestations.

He was seen not to be the same self/person he used to be. For Anthony, therapy facilitated a life change.

When I took my old car before to the mechanic for repairs, he made some replacements. Some parts of my car were changed that made it look new and run better.

Whether via therapy, some other kind of healing experiences, or a negative traumatic event (e.g. stress, depression, abuse), you may not be the same person you used to be.

Either for good or bad. For better or worst.

It’s a matter of what parts of the self are chosen to change. It’s nature, degree, and dynamics. Depending on how much the parts, connections, and interactions produce the different changes.

You alone can make that choice. The self/person you want to be.

As Stephen Richards writes, “You are essentially who you create your self to be, and all that occurs in your life is a result of your own making.”

Watch Your Brain Nutrition

Natural brain nutrition is essential for our mental health. Healthy foods and supplements have a positive effect on the serotonin and dopamine levels needed by the brain.

Serotonin used in the brain is known to affect mood and social behaviors. It also moderates appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire/function.

Dopamine, on the other hand, functions as a neurotransmitter (a chemical released by nerve cells or neurons to send signals to other nerve cells). Dopamine affects way we perceive pleasure/rewards.

Mental disorders, such as clinical depression, addictions, or personality maladjustments, partly stem from a relative deficit in serotonin and/or dopamine levels.

Natural foods to keep our brain “healthy and happy” – counterbalancing serotonin and dopamine levels – include oily fish, whole grains, blueberries, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, eggs, chickens, brocolli, nuts, among others.

It’s interesting to note that, in two studies in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it’s found that the highest suicide rates are found among those with the lowest protein levels. Proteins are building blocks of brain neurotransmitters.

Natural brain supplements are especially helpful. They are known to have a positive effect on serotonin, dopamine, and protein levels of the brain.

I often recommend Transfer Factor Plus and Brain Recall supplements (http://drsubida4life.com) to my clients, which balance serotonin and dopamine levels as well as increase blood flow in the brain. Many of my clients report how these supplements strengthen their focus, impulse control and overall immune system.

Nowadays, our common diet is filled with fast-food meals and harmful ingredients. This modern-day food “norm” has a negative, even a toxic effect, on the brain and our mental health.

The way to go is natural brain nutrition through healthy foods and supplementation. When psychopathology symptoms are present, natural brain nutrition is often life-saving.

Don’t forget it!

Strength At Broken Places

“Life breaks us all sometimes, but some grow strong at the broken places.”
— Ernest Hemingway

John had all the signs of a walking wounded dead. His wife’s cyber affair and departure ended their 20-year marriage. During those 20 years, he had accomplished a level of public recognition in his international work in the religious field.

Now, John was alone and very distraught. He found himself in tears each day. Many of his relatives and friends had turned their backs on him. His growing children were being alienated from him by his adulterous wife, blaming that he was the cause of her deeds.

When I met John in the session, he could not move on. His days were filled with depression, loneliness, and emptiness. For two years, he isolated himself. He refused to circulate around people and find support in church or communities.

Then, he finally gave in. He agreed to join support groups and reach out to new friends. Week after week, he shared his wounded thoughts and feelings through small group teaching and sharing times. All these while loudly proclaiming inside him that he’s hopeless.

Then a miracle happened to the innermost core of John’s self.

John’s tears began to dry up. Smiles were appearing on his face. He began to have stronger faith and realize that there was life for him after the trauma of his wife’s infidelity and abandonment. He was starting to receive more strength by reaching out to God and people.

Today, John is a millionaire entrepreneur and has a huge new circle of friends, and has written two best selling Recovery books. Among the communities where he became active, he is now easily one of the happiest and most sought-after teachers in his church family.

I believe John’s secret of his self healing was living out the principle of St. Paul, who wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Turning his brokenness into strength became his transcending choice.

Whatever the cause of your woundedness, you can choose to grow strong at broken places. I do my self, and a lot others, so do you!

Handling Age Regression

It took over 40 years for Nicolas to really see what happened to him when his mother put him down. In our session, Nicolas was sharing that his mother is used to tell him he’s stupid or he will not amount to anything, like his father. On a recent visit, she criticizes or judges him again.

That time and each chance, Nicolas feels angry, confused, and helpless as though he’s 7 years old again. It’s a horrible feeling that he continues to experience till now. Therapy helps him discover his compulsive regression to a younger age whenever his mother mistreats him.

Psychotherapists call the phenomenon “age regression.” It means going back, repeating an ancient pattern of reaction. It’s autopilot reversion to an earlier survival mechanism. Often, one age regress when hurt by an authority or loved one, such as parents. During this, one becomes dysfunctional, helpless like a child, or out of one’s Real Self.

From countless individuals who see me in therapy, I hear and witness such age regression too commonly among those with shame and pain. And I’ve become convinced that one of the best ways out of this prison of the self is to tell the story of the trauma to safe, loving, supportive others.

In my work with Nicolas, I hear him tell his story and share his shame to me. By such process, his predicaments and pain are validated. He is unconditionally accepted as he is. His exposed wounded self, with all of its weaknesses and struggles, is helped to heal its shame. Doing so also helps me as a fellow traveler in the human journey.

Facing Your Divided Self

Love and hate. Dependence and independence. Joy and sadness. Individuality and intimacy. To be left alone and to be assisted. Trust and mistrust. Denial and acknowledgment. To tell and not to tell. To stay and leave.

Opposite tendencies or wishes can do co-exist within us. Especially in moments of stress, we may experience feelings contradicting each other living inside us. What is false and what is true can be confused.

Bridget, a single mother of three, often gets caught in perplexing contradictions. She does not want to be treated as though she is incomplete or needy. However, she admits in her therapy that she’d like men to notice and love her, and making allowances for her hunger to feel “complete” with a man who’d take care of her. She asked, “Am I crazy? I’m confused.”

Dividedness. The self pulled apart by contradictions. What do you do in such a distressing psychological state? There seems to be no easy solution. What helps can be the ability to “listen with the third ear.” It’s like my saying you using your “extra sense,” which is something that needs deliberate cultivation. It’s not easily accessible by natural means.

“Listening with the third ear” may mean dealing with our dividedness or contradictions as not a problem to be solved, right away. Before healing or wholeness sets in, this dilemma we always find ourselves in is an aspect of the human condition that must be accepted first. Once this prerequisite is done, you then free yourself from the domain of helplessness to resolution or coming to terms with it.

Do You Really Know Your Self?

In the Dialogues of Plato, we read, “For self-knowledge would certainly be maintained by me to be the very essence of knowledge, and in this I agree with him who dedicated the inscription ‘Know Thyself!’ at Delphi.”

What does it take to know your self? It is to see and realize your insecurities, fears, biases, hurts, wounds, addictions – and dreams or hopes too – as they really are. For these are the things about your self that have the potential to distort the clarity of your mind, feelings, or motive. Especially so, when life-changing choices and judgments are to be made.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote, “Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom involves the management of knowledge, which in turn involves comprehension of the significance of the knowledge possessed. Wisdom is knowledge put to use by judgment.” As T.S. Eliot expressed in his pageant play, “The Rock:” “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

Of all the knowledge upon which wisdom needs to be based, the most difficult to face is self-knowledge. We have trouble with self-knowledge because it’s frequently bad news! Yet bad news or not, each one of us have no choice but to deal with it if we are to avoid destroying our selves. In the lives of so many of us though, self-knowledge remains elusive because we try so hard to avoid it.

I’m reminded of a serial sex addict with multiple infidelities telling me and his girlfriend during our session, “I know my self. I know I can recover from this by myself.” Like him, we are all capable of fooling ourselves at our own peril. The self-knowledge we claim to possess may actually be self-delusion behind which we hide. The slightest acknowledgment of truth, seeing what really is, can be the beginning of self-knowledge well worth pursuing.