Thursday, 22 November 2012

Buddhist Psychology Treatment Plan for Perfectionism

Buddhist Psychology Treatment Plan for Perfectionism

Nan Tien Temple Buddha among the lotus plantsIf perfectionism is a form of hunger (for approval/validation, reflection/attention, control/certainty), then how can we satisfy this hunger, how can we feed it? The answer is: with the bread of acceptance!

Borrowing the language of the four noble truths from Buddhist psychology, I offer the following treatment (“self-feeding”) plan:
  1. The experience of reality as imperfect (i.e. dissatisfaction with reality the way it is) exists and is inevitable;
  2. The source of this suffering/dissatisfaction is a desire or an expectation for reality to be different from how it is, to be better than it is; i.e. the source of perfectionistic suffering is the striving to perfect what is;
  3. Perfectionism can be helped through the acceptance of the reality for what it is, in its perfectly imperfect suchness.
How’s this acceptance achieved?

The short answer is: by a) redefining the meaning of perfection and b) through mindful living (as a consciously-chosen philosophy of living) that allows you to recognize the ordinary perfection of what is.

The long answer is a curriculum of experiential precedents that I detailed in my 2010 book, Present Perfect.

As for redefining perfection, it is a matter of two paths – one dualistic and the other non-dualistic. The first, dualistic, strategy allows you to shift from a state-view of perfection to a dynamic/process-view of perfection – a relatively straightforward process that is easy to read about but requires a certain experiential homework to sink in. The second, non-dualistic, strategy for reframing perfection is more nuanced: it completely collapses the distinction between perfection and imperfection.

Related: 3 Types of Perfectionistic Hunger
Resources: Present Perfect: a Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go (Somov, New Harbinger, 2010)

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