Perfectionism as fantasy

Every time I sat down at the piano I wanted to write ‘Songbird’. Perfectionism does not work, for adults. The bright child can be perfect, sometimes: you can get 100% on that maths or grammar test, if you are intelligent, focused on it, and apply yourself. You get straight As on your report card, as if success is quantifiable and you have achieved it.

The focus is not yours. It has some value, as school success leads to good university courses, and a good degree can start on a good job, yet it is based on luck and birth, as comprehension tests reflect middle class values and what the middle classes speak of at home. (“Middle class” is another term which means different things in UK and US.) Many fail: my friend failed the 11+, then got a PhD. The reward is external. You will win praise for achieving others’ goals. You crave the praise, because it is a sign of acceptance you do not get otherwise. Some may find maths beautiful, but you learn it for pats on the head.

In work, perfectionism is possible for very few. It was the root of my procrastination. I would not do a task, because I imagined it perfect, achieving what I wanted to achieve, and then judged my actual performance as less, rather than seeing that what I could produce with the tools available was the best I could manage, and just doing it. So I lost my job.

Perfectionism is a fantasy, unrelated to what is possible. Rather than wanting a result linked to the actual work, I wanted to feel good about myself. Ashamed of who I am, I could only feel good about what I achieved, and when that seemed impossible I gave up. With a fantasy of an ideal self, focused on goals I was taught to value and consistent in the character I was taught was good, I could not accept the real, messy human being I was.

If you do something because you ought to, the parent who pats your head no longer exists, so you get nothing from it. What do you want? You, yourself, from your own desires and not others’. I do not clean my teeth because of the rules, it is just what everyone should do, but because it makes my mouth feel better. In listless depression, I might not do that, because it is so little improvement of such a bleak-seeming situation.

That musician who had great success stopped making music, even for herself. She was not good enough. Better to be the band that achieved fame, and then fell out of the charts but continued touring, in smaller and smaller venues. How much Love do you need from an audience? If it must always be more, you will fail. How much can you appreciate the beauty of the music simply for itself? I have not been playing the piano, out of perfectionism, an idea of something more than is possible. What is possible?

This human being pursues its desires where it sees possibilities. The desires and the perception are partly unconscious, and partly in conflict with conscious ideas. Having to make myself acceptable when I was never simply accepted, wanting that before any other want, made the burden of my tasks too great, so that I felt incapable, and gave up. That increased my shame.

Ideally I want An Answer at the end of this, but it is a blog post, a work in progress. I still face the question What do you want? In my depressed state, my answer is “Nothing that I feel I might achieve”.


I have just done one of the things I have been procrastinating. I was procrastinating it for six weeks; I have procrastinated another for six months.

Why did I delay it? I feared being judged on it at the same time as thinking it simple, no problem to do well, I could just do it tomorrow morning- or this afternoon- or this evening. The next part of the day, anyway. I am too tired/ can’t be bothered, now.

I was judged on it. I was thinking, I am not doing this very well. The judgment is my own, though I project it onto other people: some people are particularly good for this, as they have questioned me at times.

This is all in my own head. It is my firm belief that I should be able to do it quickly easily and well, so I am only semi-conscious of the thought that I will find it difficult, and I work out that I fear finding it difficult through experience of earlier procrastination rather than being conscious of the feeling, now.

Then I did it. I felt deeply uncomfortable, and also ashamed of having put it off.

I walked to the post box to post it. I was not sure of the last collection time: I was fifteen minutes earlier. I stepped out my front door and glanced up- yes, I have my hair on; down- yes, I have my shoes on. God I feel confused and sick.

And- where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Actually, next week is difficult to imagine sometimes.
The opposite of yes is not no; it is control. Behind that controlling impulse is fear … Yes is acceptance; control is refusal. … Our life is a tottering seesaw between terror and control as long as we stutter at the word yes.

Control is one of our favorite ways of running from life as it is. Control is so deeply engrained an illusion that we even think we can let go of control by simply wanting to. We do not let go of control; we let go of the belief that we have control. The rest is grace.

Caravaggio, John the Baptist in the wilderness

The perfect me

How are you?
Ah. You’re nearly crying. This is a big thing for you. Actually, this is a big thing.
What are your options? What do you want?

I had thought of cycling into Swanston to the fruit stall and the cycle shop. The weather forecast was sunny in the morning, cloudy with a chance of rain in the afternoon. This bike was considerably harder to pedal than the other, it took 20% longer to get back from K on Friday. Then I checked the tyre pressure, it is below ten psi.

It is nice to cycle in the sunshine. I like that fruit stall. Pump the tyres up. Would it be easier with road tyres? Get a foot pump?

Late waking up, hard getting myself going. Breakfast then deal with it? What about TV with breakfast? I watch Person of Interest ep. 4.11, a guilty pleasure. The UK is a year behind its broadcast. This starts poorly- the guns fire, the mooks fall- but ends up thought-provoking and moving. Especially the kiss. So now it’s 10.30. What now?

The options are, pump up the tyres, go to the cycle shop and investigate options- road tyres, slime, harder tyres- I have discussed this and thought about it in greater detail than I wish to explain to you-
go for a walk in the sunshine
stay sitting here, with more quality trash TV- Gotham: Wrath of the Villains. I have all those subtitled dramas and BBC4 Art documentaries recorded, I will get round to them later.

I have never met the other me, but had an inkling of her before. She does the right thing, all the time, and likes it. She was there when winning tribunals I thought We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty and losing I was miserable and angry with myself. I did not realise it, but it was she to whom I compared myself. Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

And now, I have all the time in the world. Always more time, as when I was only procrastinating. I could be her, producing the perfect ET1, questionnaire or submission,

Fuck! Middle aged barrister, the difference in fire-power was so extreme the tribunal was standing up for me a bit, he growled a bit then showed his claws… God, that was a humiliating day, one more

except I never could be, having written it it would be crap.

I could be like her, now, the perfect me, doing the obvious thing to sort my transportation problems, or just walking, which should be pleasanter and is clearly better for me than slumping before the telly.

Or I could blog about it

She, being weightless, skims over the surface
I wade through mud, resenting it
At least I now have sympathy for myself, no longer screaming GET UP GET ON WITH IT

Bronzino, Palazzo Vecchio

Forgiving the World II

starry night moon“Goals” said Yvonne, insistently, for the umpteenth time. At last I said “Yes”, hands folded in lap, imagining them both behind my back with the fingers crossed. Yeah, right, I did not say- “In five years’ time I want to have some sort of a job”. It’s like chess, innit, I explain to myself. While there are strategies, and you have to see three moves ahead, in each situation there is one best move. Rather than having goals, I will look out for Opportunities.

-How do you see yourself?
– A dancer. A poet. A beautiful, evanescent thing. I can be rational too, I suppose, it is good though not the only good. I no longer wear the leaden cloak of Dante’s hypocrites.

You have given yourself the nurturing self-love you need to become an adult, she said. Gosh, she is being encouraging, though a sting in the tail. Adult. Um. S’pose. Well, yes of course, but it’s difficult.

I think it has been of some use. Acknowledging being on the floor, curled up like a baby or a traumatised soul blocking out the World; and sitting on the floor, looking up, engaging but not taking on adult responsibility. I am a Benefit scrounger, I say happily. starry night starsPlans include approaching Dr Lorimer if my ESA gets reassessed. I was in a state when I just procrastinated. Deadlines had no effect. Anything I do would fail and make me look bad and feel bad, so I did not do it. Had I been sacked, it would have been fair. The bullying had ended by then, I had been under a different line management for 30 months.

I have done the work. I no longer see myself as worthless and bad. So I can see things differently. That claim where the Respondent forged documents: the claimant got her money in the end. She was capable of more than I had thought. The system worked, and the scoundrel got his just desserts. I did my job well. It is a matter of reframing. When I was worthless, I took in the wickedness of the employer’s lies, so the nastiness of the world; the suffering of the client; and the great difficulty I felt in proving it- by luck, eventually. So evidence of everything being utterly ghastly becomes evidence that the world is sort-of-OK, or OK enough; and I am OK.

If I see myself as OK, and my parents as OK, having done their best under difficult circumstances- losing your dad in 1934 aged 9 and moving in with your grandfather just as he gets sacked is traumatic- and just take all my rage terror and resentment at my Worthlessness and turn it against the world-


starry night swirl-then the World becomes shit-coloured, unrelievedly, irremediably Bad. So I hide in my living room because it is too horrible to go out. However, increasingly I can see my past differently. I had achievements. I had opportunities. I had even breaks. When Kerry from the jobcentre checked my capital, on Monday- the letter threatened I may need to suspend your claim to benefit- she was OK.

Seeing yourself as OK, you can walk along with your head held high, Yvonne counselled. Mmm. Yes, possibly. I wanted to be in a dress, and here is everyone in trousers, and my dress is still OK.

I was late, and on Station Road a man asked directions to Station Road. “It’s one of these side-roads on the left”, I said, in complete certainty. “If you drive me along I will look out for it”. So he drove me through Marsby to where I wanted to go, and I realised Station Road was not where I had thought. This does not make me Completely Utterly Bad. I will not be punished for it.

the town

Acceptance XLIII

File: - Google Art Project.jpg“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world: everyone you meet is your mirror.” ~ Ken Keyes Jr.

I cried today, for the first time in some time. And the original start of this post in my mind was something around how acceptance is the fitting response to stimulation today, now civilisation has made it so much more complex. If I am walking through a wood and a wolf-pack runs towards me I need to respond impulsively, but modern civilisation stimulates me such that impulsive responses may be counter-productive for me. So. My 43rd post in some way addressing acceptance:

I live in a hostile world, and I do not accept the judgment that I am not a loving person. That quote winds me up. I am a loving person, though often fearful. It plays on words, and insists that a tiny part of the truth is The Truth. It puts things in neat boxes, and condemns anyone who is not having an utterly lovely time. I prefer Margaret Atwood: One big shark’s mouth, the Universe. Row after row of razor-sharp teeth. Not because I think that is true, but

because it does not judge me.

I still do not have my Housing Benefit sorted out, and the council wrote to ask what my landlord’s name and address is- even though he has an agent to handle the lease. I have not responded, even though it would pay the last three months’ rent for me: I have procrastinated dealing with it. I resist saying why. I thought they would refuse to tell me. Then today I saw him outside the flat, dealing with some maintenance issues, and asked him, and he told me. I don’t know why I cried. I resist saying why, but it is something around not expecting that, which really matters to me but I thought would not happen; or the release of tension from getting something I needed.

When I procrastinate, I hold two incompatible ideas in my mind: this is simple, and can be done quickly; and this will go wrong. It is the latter which makes me put it off: I know it will go wrong, and not doing it allows me to fantasise that it is easy, and I will do it perfectly. Being faced with the truth that it will go wrong is too painful, so I do what will keep that truth out of consciousness: except that both predictions of the future are extreme, and therefore unlikely. I am ruled by predictions of the future which are untrue.

I live in a hostile world, a world where I expect insuperable problems with my HB, and I seek out ways to maintain my flatness of affect, retreating from the world. This is the opposite of acceptance: a thrawn hopeless resistance to everything, hiding away.

Ego and impulse can I distinguish ego-motivation (bad) from Heart/Spirit/God motivation (good) except by thinking about it?

Different parts of the brain say different things. There are impulses and drives, and so often the drive is self-destructive: should I do another Spider Solitaire at 1.50am? Probably not, and yet several times later than that I have done. And yet that breakfast: people thought my impulse would be to pig myself on a cooked breakfast, and I needed moral self-restraint (good) to resist that impulse, whereas actually I looked at it and my impulse was to eat muesli. I watched C eat cereal by itself, without milk, and thought that is him asserting Control in the only way he can- no-one could actually like it like that- because he is still living with his parents.

If I label my year of unemployment with just three job applications my Great Sulk, that seems bad, and if I label it my Retreat for Self-Healing, it seems good. Possibly it is a bit of both.

On Facebook I read that procrastination can be a good thing, allowing onesself to mature into doing something rather than forcing onesself. I scrolled through just now and can’t find it, but I did find this from Abraham Hicks: Worthiness, in very simple terms, means I have found a way to let the Energy reach me, the Energy that is natural, reach me. Worthiness, or unworthiness, is something that is pronounced upon you by you. You are the only one that can deem yourself worthy or unworthy. You are the only one who can love yourself into a state of allowing, or hate yourself in a state of disallowing. There is not something wrong with you, nor is there something wrong with one who is not loving you. You are all just, in the moment, practicing the art of not allowing, or the art of resisting. Oops, the Hickses are talking sense again. The loving or hating onesself is generally unconscious, my feelings of unworthiness are very deep: how may I change from one to the other? Can I use my ego/mind/conscious thought and analysis to shift into self-love and respect? If not, how might I so shift?

It seems to me that I learned young that I am Worthless. This promptly went unconscious. I then realised I felt that way very deep down, by ratiocination- (Oh My God the Monkey mind Ego Bad Bad Bad) but also by a guided way into my Unconscious- it is my Hoffman name. (Mystic!! Good!!). If I kneel in my ritual space and say, portentously, “I am worthy of Respect” or try to Think Through reasons why I am worthy of respect- either simply by being human, or by characteristics- can I in that way move from that hate to self-love?

I have faith that the human being heals, and I seem wiser and more self-accepting than before (if my ego is perceiving correctly). I was all knotted up. Can I help myself unknot, by thinking about it, or by practising willing my own good?  What do you think?

Or, going back to Being Human, if I can see bits of myself in the shero Alex even if she is not the most well-drawn human being, is it better to spend time watching that rather than reading Proust and seeing myself in the pitiable Marcel?

To do

My procrastination is so severe that thinking “I will do X” at some time in the future no longer has any meaning. I spend all my time in my living room, and it is terribly untidy. I should clean it, but I can’t be bothered. Jan from upstairs popped down yesterday to borrow a tenner to buy food, and I made her a cup of tea. Two mugs of tea spilled over the floor, I cursed my clumsiness, and mopped it up with my back to her while she carried on moaning about life. Are you OK? Well-

If everything was OK with me, I would have this room tidier.
-Oh, don’t worry about it.
I had to lift a pile of stuff off a seat so she could sit down.

So rather than a To Do list which might guilt me out without accomplishing anything, I thought I would have a vague list in my mind of things which it would behove me to do. I do not have to do X, but it would be good to do- a better way of looking at it than I ought to do X.

I did not go in to the CAB yesterday. After weeping wildly the night before I decided I would not, and caught myself telling myself I could do a washing. Oh, no, that would just be put off too, I must decide I can skive off the CAB and spend the day playing solitaire on the computer. Actually, I wrote a couple of posts.

Frank Cadogan Cowper, Nimue the damsel of the lake

The psychiatrist referred me to the Wellbeing team, and I saw Nicola this morning (Thursday). What is the problem? I get really emotional. I thought initially it was the hormones, but I went back on the original dose in February and I am still weepy. My obsession with U shames me, and is against my interests: as if I am two people, I (the voice in my head) really hate the emotional bit- and “hate” is emotion. Go figure.

I get upset doing job applications so I have not been doing them. Why? Well- “must be able to use computers”. I wrote a spreadsheet to monitor my targets, I learned Publisher so I could do a publicity leaflet for my last service, I touch type. I am really good. I got a doctor sacked. He was not doing the job, he should have been sacked, but he denied it and my tenacity got a doctor (“How DARE you impugn this man’s professional integrity?”) sacked, on the evidence of benefit claimants. Seventeen of them saying the same thing, with his boss, also a doctor, desperately trying to find any reason to disbelieve them. That was when my client went on Channel 4 News. I get interviews, I just do not get Jobs.

What do you want from this?
-I want to see what you offer.
Well, what would you like?-Portrait_of_Elsa.jpg

I have used the occasional CBT technique before, it helped me to see I was in black and white thinking mode, helped me out of that. I thought it might be CBT. Or, I have found Rogerian counselling very useful.

What she is offering is getting me to do stuff. I will make a plan to do something at a specific time. Oh. OK. This is called “Behavioural Activation”, it is CBT based, and I have had four leaflets on it which have sat in my handbag from 11am until now, 10pm, as I write this. I suppose that she can help construct plans I might actually be able to keep to, and give tips for that, and talking about it might help. There are websites and free courses I can go on. Or, I could see a relationship counsellor, at the surgery. My GP would have to refer me. They don’t tend to do both at once, it is a bit mindblowing.

So now I am a “Service-user”. Perhaps seeing myself as that will just make me wallow in it when I need to snap out of it.

What about all this self-knowledge and healing stuff? Well, actually I think I am healthier now than I was when I was presenting male. More accepting, more integrated, not building up or suppressing the anger so much.

The Opposite of meditation

“Don’t give up- fall down,” said a Sensei: that is, do not just stop, carry on until you cannot go further. The messenger from Marathon died as he told of victory. I hold back for a number of reasons. My procrastination comes from a desire to hold onto a fantasy of perfection: if I never perform the task, I do not need to compare my actual result to that fantasy. Possibly also I hold back because I do not want to hurt anyone.

Andy has the skill to block my blows. Therefore, I want to let go of my control completely, and try to hit him as hard as I can. What I desire is to put all my effort into that simple aim of hurting him and knocking him out of my way. I imagine that this experience will be good for me.


A man I met, in his late twenties, spent all his time playing video games. He was on the sick, getting £90 a week to live on, and his rent paid. He did not go out. He was very good at it. Recently, I played a hundred games of solitaire in 24 hours, with a poor success rate.

This is the opposite of meditation. Rather than letting my mind go blank and being aware, I block out awareness and concentrate on the screen. I have a little “Oooh” of pleasure each time I turn one of the cards in the spread over. The way I learned was less restricted: unless the stock had a number divisible by three, one could access the whole stock by working through it three times. The restriction on my computer makes it more unlikely to succeed, without increasing the challenge. Actually, I can see little skill in it at all. Unless I set myself to memorising the cards, and so working out what was face down in the spread, I cannot see how I can see more than one move ahead. As I have not learned the necessary memory tricks, the skills to succeed (as far as I can) in this game are trivial. And yet I play it over and over again, missing lunch, late with dinner, and sit up to 1.30 am. When I look at the clock, I despise myself, I must go to bed. Hours are chewed up by this pointless, repetitive, obsessive activity, learning nothing, with far more frustration than pleasure, and all the pleasure over in an instant, a hit and it is gone. I am the laboratory rat who presses a lever rigged up to stimulate the pleasure centres of my brain, rather than a lever to produce food on the other side of the cage, and so starves myself to death.

Oh, I need to meditate! It is common enough, I hear similar complaints from others. I know I need to meditate, yet never get round to it. It  is like cleansing a wound with an alcohol swab: it will do good, I know, and yet in the moment of starting it will be painful, and I put off that moment of starting.

If you know how to make the game properly skillful, please let me know. Though the pictures are pretty: