Lecture 97 – Perfectionism Obstructs Happiness, Manipulation of Emotions | Abbreviated Version

P1             People’s conscious or unconscious concepts of a joyful life are always connected with a perfect life. I do not mean a life of one hundred percent joy, no, but a life in which you live fully and derive the joy of experience, of growth, of feeling, to a much greater extent than you do now.

P2             Strange as this may seem, the more you accept imperfection, the more joy you will give and receive. Only in accepting, let us say, an imperfect relationship—and this by no means implies the unhealthy submissiveness that is born out of fear of loss or disapproval—will you derive and give joy in the relationship. You repress your lack: your unfulfillments, your frustrations. You are not fully aware of them. You vaguely skip over them, knowing that perfection cannot be had.

The repression is harmful for two reasons: first, if you had chosen awareness you would see that much frustration is unnecessary and can be eliminated by changing the patterns responsible for such frustrations. Second, when you repress you cannot accept what is impossible to change—namely, imperfection as such. An important step is to allow yourself the luxury of facing your desires, unfulfillments, longings, your complaints against life or fate or others or yourself. Find in what respect you feel short-changed.

P3             In accepting imperfection, you become less imperfect. For without doing so you can never really be flexible enough to change. Your haste, and your shame for not being perfect, create a rigid wall that makes growth and change impossible. There is another subtle deviation in the wrong attitude of perfectionism; it is your unconscious emphasis on becoming perfect according to standards imposed on you by the world, by religion, by rules—in other words, by outer authority. The productive approach is to make conscious what you feel, desire, fear, and then to find your own innermost goal, the goal of your real self.

P4             Tampering with the free flow of feelings can happen in many subtle ways. A forceful overemotionalism, overdramatization, exaggeration, talking yourself into stronger feelings than you actually have, is an example. But first let us look at another way you manipulate your emotions: by prohibiting their full force, and stultifying their intensity. A wrong kind of caution, an unrealistic fear, and a forceful will—the forcing current—play a role in establishing this pattern.

The moment you are fully aware of a need and understand all its aspects, the urgency recedes, as does the compulsiveness, which, at least in part, is responsible for your tampering with your genuine emotions. The urgency of unrecognised needs causes you to build up your emotions out of all proportion. The unconscious reasoning is: “If my emotions are strong enough, I will be gratified.”

Or, if you happen to be a more fearful and pessimistic character, you will not admit their existence at all, let alone their urgency, and thus you will squeeze these emotions out of existence—out of your awareness that is. Full awareness of what you really feel and want is your first aim. Sit back, so to speak, and allow your feelings to reach the surface of your consciousness.

P5             By observing emotional exaggeration versus repression you will finally see how the real self reacts, often in between the two high or low points, and how your real feelings, when they are not manipulated by unconscious needs, will create a very different inner situation and therefore eventually a different outer situation. Is one of your “shoulds,” regarding the other person or yourself, responsible for your tampering with your natural genuine feelings?

Dare to feel what you feel, regardless of right or wrong, of what you think you should feel, of what you think you are expected to feel, or, if you overdramatize, what you think another person should feel or do. For this is usually the main reason for exaggerating the intensity of your feelings. It is a measure of forcing another. The overdramatization is connected with the pseudo-solution of power. The repression of feelings is connected with the pseudo-solution of withdrawal, false serenity, escape from living and experiencing.

P6             Both alternatives lead to shallowness, and not to real experiences. You put on the overemotionalism, perhaps because, quite unconsciously, you thus wish to bend life, and others, to your needs. It is, in the true sense, a manipulation. This process of ignoring your true reactions is a universal phenomenon that causes diminished awareness of life and self, as well as self-alienation. And as you become more aware of what is really going on in you, you will become aware of the unconscious, still-existing perfectionism that makes it impossible for you to accept people, yourself, relationships, and life for what they are.

P7             Only by accepting your human limitations will the aggressiveness and hostility vanish; because underneath you will discover and become aware of being hurt, of feeling rejected. Your shame and fear of these emotions make you superimpose the hard and much more unpleasant feelings of aggressiveness. Accept also your still existing aggressiveness, asking yourself whether it is not a distortion of hurt. Then own up to the hurt.

Acceptance of imperfection does not mean the wish to remain static. It means only that you know that you never become perfect in this life, but wish with all your heart to grow and change wherever it is possible. Wherever you have found your great idealized self-image, with all its tyrannical demands upon you, with all the shoulds and musts, you can now see that where this image ruled you is exactly where you have not grown.

P8             Rejection or failure may subjectively constitute imperfection of which you are ashamed—and where there is such shame, there must be pretence. All this implies a fierce pride. The self-will says, “I have to be perfect already.” Since one knows quite well that this is not true, one tries to adhere at least to a superficial perfection. Again, this is pretence. Both pride and self-will lead to pretence. Or, to put it in other words, they lead away from truth. The fear must exist in a double way.

On the one hand, it exists because you fear that “If I am not perfect, I will be unhappy, or disapproved of, or not loved.” Or, the fear is, “If the other person is imperfect, he or she will prohibit my happiness.” Then there is the second fear which is a particularly poisonous one, the fear of exposure that you are not as perfect as you think you should be, that your pretence may be shown up. In the last analysis, it is not possible to grow spiritually to the fullest without psychoanalysis, or self-search by any other name.

—The Pathwork® Guide