Why we torture ourselves with the desire to be perfect...
One of the most bewildering facets of human life that i have encountered is that people regularly construct a virtual reality mask, which is designed to be the exact opposite of how they really feel about themselves - my experience is that this is based on very early and uinversal tendencies in he human infant... Long ago I lived in upstate New York at the Phoenicia Pathwork centre, where I came across these astonishingly incisive accounts of how all this comes about (from pathwork lecture 58). The pathwork lectures go on to state that the infant in each one of us, reacting to insecuity and unhappiness, constructs a maks of perfection, which is the exact opposite of how we really fear we are, based on the following tendencies. Needless to say without recognising these tendencies in ourselves, we cannot escape the treadmill they create.
" Happiness in the wrong concept is expressed in the following way: “Only if I can have what I want, the way I want it, and when I want it, can I have happiness. I will be unhappy with any way other than this.” Included in this statement is the demand for absolute approval, admiration, and love by everybody. The moment anyone seems to fail to meet this requirement, the person’s world crumbles. Happiness becomes an impossibility, not just for the time being, but forever after. This, of course, is never the intellectual conviction of an adult human being, but emotionally it holds true; for when everything seems hopeless, the mood becomes desperate.
The undeveloped being feels in terms of black and white. It knows no in-between. Either there is happiness or there is unhappiness. If things happen in accordance with its wishes, the world is bright. But if the tiniest little thing goes against its will, the world looks black.
When the infant is hungry but for a few minutes, these minutes are eternity, not only because it lacks a time concept, but also because the infant does not know that the period of hunger will be over in a very short time. So the baby is in absolute despair, which you can observe in a crying child. The issue over which the baby cries seems in no way related to its anger, fury, and unhappiness. This part of the personality, freely expressed in infancy, remains hidden in the psyche of the adult and continues to produce similar reactions. Only the reasons change, and the outer display becomes modified or even completely covered by rational and reasonable behavior. But this in no way proves that the inner reaction has truly been eliminated or that the person has come to terms with it in a process of inner maturing and growth.
The infant realizes very early that the kind of happiness it wants is unattainable. The child feels dependent on a cruel world which denies it what it thinks it needs and could have if the world were less cruel.
If you think it through logically, you will find that the primitive and distorted concept of happiness actually amounts to a desire for omnipotent rulership, for unquestioned obedience from the surrounding world, for a special, elevated position above all other beings — since others are expected to fulfill what the person desires. When this wish cannot be gratified — and it never can — the frustration becomes absolute.
It is impossible, of course, for any human being to remember these early emotions, for you have no memory of your first few years. That these primitive reactions continue to exist without exception in all human beings is a fact, and you can find these emotions by various ways in the work you are doing on this path. You can find them by observing past and present reactions, by analyzing them from the point of view of the inner infant. First, discover where the infant still exists in you with its desires, feelings, and reactions, and focus your attention on this particular aspect of your personality. You will then have reached a point from where you can start to outgrow the unrealistic and unrealizable concept of happiness and build the proper, mature, realistic, and realizable concept. This will be infinitely more gratifying. Until you have experienced the infant in you, you cannot understand certain inner conflicts as being the effect of the chain reaction this fundamental distorted concept sets off.
The more the child grows and learns to live in this world, the more it realizes that the omnipotent rulership it wishes is not only denied but is also frowned upon. So it learns to hide this desire until the hiding has progressed so far that the growing person himself is no longer aware of it. Two basic reactions follow. One is: “Perhaps if I become perfect, as the world around me asks me to be, I will get so much approval that through it I can attain my goal.” You then start to strive for such perfection. Needless to say, my friends, although we are all in agreement that all beings should strive for perfection, this kind of striving is wrong. It is wrong because of the motive. Here you do not strive for perfection in order to love better and give more. You do not strive for the sake of perfection itself, but seek a selfish end. And it is wrong further because you want to reach the goal of perfection right away, since happiness through omnipotent rulership is desired at once. To reach immediate perfection is, of course, utterly impossible. It forfeits the healthy acceptance of one’s own inadequacies, which enables the personality to learn healthy humility and accept being no better than the rest of humankind.
The frustration becomes a double one; the first desire — omnipotent rulership in order to be happy — is not realized, neither is the second one, that of attaining perfection in order to obtain the first desire. This, in turn, causes acute feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, of regret and guilt. For the child does not yet know that no one is capable of attaining such perfection. It thinks itself unique in having failed and has to hide this shameful fact. Even when the person has grown up and consciously knows better, this reaction, not having been aired, continues to live locked in the soul. In the unconscious of the personality, the argument goes on: “If I were perfect, I would have what I want. Since I am not perfect, I am worth nothing.” The second conscience, as I once termed it, continues whipping and whipping you, holding up the unrealizable goal, so that each failure causes additional despair and guilt, increasing the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy."