Being Perfectly Imperfect

People are often under the illusion that they need to be perfect in order to be loved, accepted, appreciated, congratulated, rewarded, or valued. We learn as children that mistakes are not acceptable, but to be avoided at all costs. Our parents might unwhittingly shame us into never repeating a behavior again. Oftentimes, the "mistakes" made are spilling a glass of water, falling off a bike that we are learning to ride for the first time, not getting a hit at our baseball game, or not achieving a good enough grade.

When is our best good enough? Were we designed to be perfect and behave perfectly? Are we not human, and can we never make mistakes? I have often heard the "we learn from our mistakes", and that failure is healthy because it will teach us how not to fail again? So how is it that when we do fail we are shamed, scolded, yelled at, humiliated, or punished?

Shame is a deeply painful feeling that gives us information on who are are as a person. We tend to want to aovid feeling shame, which is why we seek perfectionism in our life. We tell ourselves that if we do everyhting perfectly, behave perfectly, or at least look as thought we are, work and study perfectly, obtain the perfect grades, house, car, have perfect children, and perfect friends, that we will never be shamed. We also tell ourselves that in being perfect, or at least in striving for perfectionism, we will be valued and loved.

The truth is, perfectionism grows out of shame and a fear of feeling shame in the future. Perfectionism is about fixing our negative beliefs about ourselves that were formed as children. It also breeds contempt for and arrogance towards others (if I am perfect and do everything perfect, I am superior to others).

Think about how much time you spend doing someting to the best of your ability, and then how much time you spend perfecting it: we usually spend a lot longer on the 5% we are trying to perfect, than we did on the 95% that is already so good. How do you want to spend your time?

Accepting our imperfections begins to open the way for grace and self-love, for acceptance, self-growth, and tolerance. Knowing that we are perfectly imperfect, means that we are taking back our power, that we are giving back our shame to those who imposed it on us, and that we can be become comfortable with who we are in the world. Doing our best is good enough.

What would it have been like for you had you been supported and encouraged as a child, rather than shamed and punished for making mistakes? How would you be different today?

How trauma affects your life

When we experience an event that causes our nervous system to engage the flight or fight response, and we cannot complete this response, trauma occurs in a freeze response. Trauma is something that happens too fast too soon for the brain to process, and can cause somatic, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that affect our daily life.

People, who have experienced trauma, suffer from flashbacks, anxiety, elevated levels of adrenaline, hypervigilance, depression, chronic fatigue, emotional shut-down, mobility issues, somatic problems, and dissociation, to name a few of the possible symptoms arising from trauma. Longitudinal research has shown that childhood trauma can cause certain adult diseases.

You do not need to live with these symptoms, and better still, trauma can be resolved and healed through the noninvasive psychobiological therapy of Somatic Experiencing®. When we can be present with our somatic feelings and sensations in the here and now, we help our nervous system complete the flight or fight response, and reorganize our nervous system through discharge of the trauma.

Trauma resolution and healing can lead to a life free from pain, flashbacks, dissociation, fear, depression, and stress. With Somatic Experiencing®, it  can be done without narrating the traumatic event and in a safe environment.

Spouses and partners of sex addicts: You are not alone

When compulsive sexual behaviors take over family life, personal and professional priorities, and social or communal activities, and lock out meaningful connection between spouses or partners, the wives, husbands or partners of the sex addict often feel alone, abandoned, and powerless.

To be a spouse or partner of a sex addict, who is in the grips of an affair, a pornography addiction, or anonymous sexual behavior (to name a few), is not a comfortable place to be. Often times, feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, and rage surface. Such feelings are uncomfortable and painful, and alternatives to not feeling these feelings are sought out.

You do not need to feel alone on your journey to healing your trauma and pain. Dallas offers many 12-step fellowships, where you can find solace in knowing that there are others, who have travelled the same path, and are now serene and healing. There are support groups for spouses and partners of sex addicts, where you can find a place to grow, be supported, and find your voice as  you heal your trauma and explore who you want to be going forward.

When it seems most dark, there is always light, you have to reach out and walk towards it. Find support and guidance, and know that you are not alone.

Love and fusion: towards healing love addiction

“Love is a product of being able to honestly look at oneself, fusion is a product of focusing too much on the other.” Glen Jennings, Ed.D.

Our society and culture, throughout the centuries, have conditioned us to believe that we are selfish or inconsiderate if we place ourselves in front of others. The result is that we learn at an early age to sacrifice our own needs and wants for the needs and wants of others, at our expense. When we forget to love ourselves, when we forgo our own self care, or when we abandon our own spiritual and emotional compass, we lose ourselves in others. We end up enmeshed, we forget who we are and the things for which we yearn. Sex and love addicts live in a fantasy where they devote their lives and spirits to their partners, forgetting their true selves, confusing love with fusion, for an innate need to feel safe.

The journey towards healing sex and love addiction is a journey of self-love, healing shame and childhood trauma wounds, and facing our own shadows. Sex and love addicts need to learn how to be present and grounded in current reality rather than escape in fantasy. Only then will they be able to see themselves and develop their own sense of self-concept, and break from their fused relationships. When we break from enmeshed or fused relationships, we discover our selves, and the potential we have, and only then can we embark on our journey to nurturing our desires and whole selves.

Blame versus Accountability

For most adult individuals, blaming someone else for their problems has been a long standing cultural tradition. As children, we learn by example from our parents, relatives, school peers, and society, that blaming is a way to explain how an unpleasant situation occurred or how unsatisfied we are in our life. We choose to believe that it’s someone else’s fault that we are unhappy, poor, mistreated, in legal trouble, or in an unhappy marriage. If only other people would change, understand, agree with you, behave better, act mature, be fair minded, have morals, be kind, not be so harsh, etc… then we’d be happier, richer, less depressed, less anxious, have fewer problems, etc…

When we blame other people for our problems, we are in fact not taking responsibility for our part in the couple, marriage or family system. Is it possible to be in a an unsatisfying relationship with someone, and not be at least a little bit of the cause of the dissatisfaction? Can families honestly blame all of their woes on a single member of the family? Family systems are like theatrical plays: there are people with different roles, who act and behave in synchronicity with other members of the family, with everyone acting connectively to produce a story and sub-stories of their family life. Everyone has an influence on others, and how they react, such that no one family member can behave in a vacuum and not affect other family members. The same applies to couples.

If we want the dynamics between us and our loved ones to change, then we need to first stop blaming others, and then examine our role in the relationship. How does my behavior, my style of communication, my non-verbals, my expression of feelings and thoughts, my choices, influence how my partner or my family members behave, think and feel? This is called taking responsibility for ourselves, and being accountable for how we affect others. This is not to be confused with co-dependency, where we are changing our behavior and feelings to please others. When we look at ourselves, and become aware of our behaviors and feelings, then we can make the changes we need to better our life.

The antithesis to blaming is holding ourselves and others accountable, and setting boundaries that are healthy for us. Accountability empowers us, and allows us to move in a healthier direction in our life, whereas blaming bogs us down into more of the same behavior from other people and from ourselves. A spouse who continues to blame his/her spouse for their dire financial situation because of her/his compulsive gambling, isn’t going to change the situation; but a spouse who sets boundaries, takes responsibility for her/his part in the relationship which enabled this situation and the relationship, and then sets boundaries so that he/she can become more differentiated and healthy, will provoke the kind of changes that are needed in the relationship.

Blaming is a shaming and damaging act, that we’ve learned from generations past, and that we can fortunately change in our lifetime. It is a choice that we make: to continue pointing our finger at others, or to embrace accountability and transformation for ourselves. Experiment this week by not blaming the person you tend to blame the most in your life. Instead, every time the urge bubbles up to blame, examine from where you are coming, your part in the issue, your family’s generational patterns, and what you can do to change the situation. You might just discover that you have more power and resources than you thought!