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Overcoming Perfectionism and Learning to Let Go, 2

December 21st, 2014 · overcoming perfectionism

In Part 1, we saw why overcoming perfectionism and learning to let go are so important; here, we look at what we can start to do about it.  An important question is: How do I begin to let go?

overcoming perfectionism

Marion Woodman, in her marvelous Pregnant Virgin shared some deep insights about getting beyond the woundedness that fosters perfectionism.  She explores the image of “the pregnant virgin”as an archetypal symbol for the return to the unadulterated, spontaneous, creative self, in women and men alike:

What does one do when everything rational inside says “Let it go,” and everything emotional says. “I cannot”?…  How does one rechannel love into fresh creative outlets?  How does one reopen oneself to the flow of each new day?  How does one become a virgin again?  Or perhaps a better question: How does one become a virgin at all?

Again and again we have to say to ourselves: what was my feeling in that situation….  Feeling evaluates what something is worth to me.  What am I willing to put energy into?  What is no longer of value to me? [italics mine] 

This dimension of feeling — which is not the same as raw emotion — is essential.  To get to how we really feel about things — beyond the complexes and “trips” put upon us by others and circumstance, is a key part of getting in touch with the spontaneous, unadulterated “virgin” self.

overcoming perfectionism

Find a Creative Passion

overcoming perfectionism

Exploring your deep creative aspects can definitely be a powerful way of getting in touch with the authentic self.  It could be using clay, painting, writing prose or poetry, dancing when you’re alone in your living room, cooking, doing improv — really any of a huge number of possible outlets that take us out of our ordinary, everyday kind of awareness, and let the shy yet luminous being within each of us show him or herself.  This is a topic I’ll be writing a great deal more about in the near future.

Do Analysis —Really Do It

Whether you call it Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy, depth work that gradually brings the unconscious self into dialogue with the conscious self over time, can certainly facilitate the process of “letting go”, by bringing individuals into awareness of the deepest parts of the self.

Such in-depth exploration is not going to occur in 5 or 6 sessions.  Yet, over a period of time, good depth psychotherapy work can help us feel much more connected to our own individual, spontaneous reality.  This is particularly true if the analyst/ therapist is continually bringing us back to both our bodily awareness (please see below) and the activity of the unconscious, in dreams and elsewhere.

Truly Listen to Your Body

This is about doing body work.  Body work does not mean just “working out”.  It’s possible to do all kinds of incredibly strenuous “working out” — and still be entirely alienated from your body.  It’s all well and good to do an “Iron Man Marathon”; yet we need consciousness of the subtle awareness inherent in our flesh, rather than treating our flesh as if it were made out of iron.

As a general guideline, any approach that treats the body as a machine, or treats the physical world as fundamentally illusory is not going to help.  We need the awareness that will keep us right in our flesh, knowing that consciousness is just as present in our left little toe as it is in our heads.  Such awareness can often be a part of depth psychotherapy.

To let go into the flow of our lives, and the reality of our own being is fundamental to true depth psychotherapy.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Xavier ;  Visit Grand Island ; GollyGforce      ;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Overcoming Perfectionism and Learning to Let Go, 1

December 14th, 2014 · overcoming perfectionism

Overcoming perfectionism and learning to let go are essential if we are ever going to live our authentic lives.  Times like the Holiday season offer a huge opportunity to experience just how much this matters.

overcoming perfectionism

In some ways the Holidays can serve as a little miniature model or encapsulation of the whole of life and the journey to wholeness.

Perfection: the Archetypal Gadfly

Why do we human beings so easily fall into an obsession with things being perfect?  Why does the ideal of perfection have such compelling power?

Humans have always been haunted by the idea of perfection.  From early times, we have ascribed perfection to our deities and divinities.  This is rooted in the young child seeing the parents as omnipotent and morally perfect.  As the child matures in healthy relationship, he or she gradually outgrows this.  The child becomes aware of its own ability and strength, and of the parents’ humanity and fallibility.  Perfection is increasingly seen as something “ideal” or “belonging to the realm of the gods”.

 Gods and Humans

However, York U.’s Prof. Gordon Flett and colleagues show us how parental demands and insecurities can interfere with our sense that we’re “enough”, landing the demand for perfection firmly on our shoulders, and with it, the continual sense that our efforts fall short.

Speaking archetypally, the individual is then sucked up into the “realm of the gods”.  The gods might be perfect; but for humans the demand for perfection is frozen death.  This shows up in curious ways.  Many of us, at Holiday times, for instance, are very aware of the individual who is so obsessed with Holiday arrangements being “perfect” that all the joy is taken away — for themselves, and for others.

Depth psychotherapy seeks to enable the individual to gradually free him- or herself from unyielding perfectionist demands.  It’s about cultivating the acceptance of ourselves in our human ordinariness — which we share with all the humans who’ve ever lived.

To accept the self means to accept human life for what it is, and letting life flow.  As Lao Tzu said so long ago in the Tao te Ching,

Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

What Does it Even Mean to Let Go?

But what does it even mean to let go, and to let life flow?  Here is a marvelous poem that Joanna Wiebe shares, written by her late sister, Christine.  It has a connection to the holidays, to an experience of positive parent, and to an experience of falling through fear into letting go, and letting everything be what it is.

overcoming perfectionism

LETTING GO

This is how it should be:
Christmas vacation, and I am six;
Daddy and I are driving outside the city
to a great hill with untouched snow.
Sun warms the car.
I climb up the tracks Daddy makes
hearing the crunch each time the first time.
We stand at the top, just Daddy and I, breathing,
and the sparrows laugh.
“I’m afraid,” I say.
But then we’re sailing
and I’m safe on a narrow strip of wood
clinging to his broad back,
a solid thing in a swaying world,
and I’m laughing and wishing
we could fall like this forever
into the sun sparkles and whipping wind
and the white snowdrift
waiting to embrace us
over and over and over.

~Christine Wiebe

overcoming perfectionism

“This is how it should be.”  Yes: the zone of uncertainty, and of letting go and letting it happen, is where human life occurs.  The mess is where the life is.  For us to be there requires what Jung would call a “religious” outlook.  By this he doesn’t mean organized or formal religion, but an awareness that something bigger is unfolding at the heart of our lives than the ego can understand and control.  We need to stop “shoulding” and “oughting” ourselves, and trust in life.

Depth psychotherapy is about letting go into our own lives, with compassion and hope for who we most fundamentally are.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Pascal modified ;  Visit Grand Island        Ramón Cutanda López modified;  
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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