Being Perfect

‘ Ring the bells that can still ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s where the light gets in’.

Leonard Cohen (from the song Anthem on the album The Future 1992 )


According to Transactional Analysis theory there are around seven main ‘drivers’ that underpin efforts to feel OK with oneself. These are: ‘Be Perfect’, ‘Be Strong’, ‘Try Hard’, ‘Please Others/Me’, ‘Hurry Up’, and ‘Work Hard’.These are useful behaviours for a successful lifestyle up to a point. However, unless there is some recognition of balance, these drivers can become the agents of self-persecution as they relentlessly push efforts beyond reasonable limits.

In this way, the road to a personal kind of hell is paved with an initial good intention. In other words, what starts out as a potential help strategy becomes self sabotaging. This can be seen in most neurotic defensive behaviour. All the drivers if overdeveloped can have unwanted consequences.  For example, if a default position of ‘Pleasing Others’ behavior becomes a continuing substitute for self approval, then self esteem, and personal authority can become eroded. This, in turn, can create anxiety which may lead to other dyfunctional behaviours including addictions of various types. An overdeveloped ‘Hurry Up’ driver can lead to impulsive behaviour and ongoing stress. Trying too hard can lead to a kind of mental paralysis, working too hard to burnout, and  being too ‘strong’ can lead to difficulties expressing emotion.The ‘Being Perfect’ driver, if overused can lead to an exhausting perfectionism. Associated with this may be an attitude of rigid expectations of oneself and others about a utopia that cannot be realised.

Cohen’s words from his song ‘Anthem’ (above) express another perspective. That is that wisdom; humility; empathy with others; and self/other acceptance and respect can be derived from our flaws.That is what happens when ‘the light gets in’. Mistakes or difficulties can be a vehicle for relearning and recalibration. Forgiving oneself is a first step to doing things differently. Limitations or inabilities can lead to revisioning other pathways in life. For example, if one is in a field of study or career that is not working, one of the possibilities is to look at the mix of natural ability, values, and goals in life that may lead to a different choice. This allows flexibilty rather than blindly serving the demands of an overblown driver to work harder or try harder etc.

The archetype of the wounded healer underlies the Shamanic tradition. This implies that healing can come from being wounded. Further, that those who have experienced mental wounding of all types and are scarred, but have let ‘the light’ in, can be agents of healing for others.

It is a sober task to distinguish between ‘getting it right’  and ‘getting it right enough’. ‘Being Perfect’ or ‘Being Perfect enough’. This can inform ones judgement of self/others. Setting boundaries and limits is an excellent skill as is administering those parameters with empathic flexibilty and perspective. For example, if an agreement is not kept by somebody,it does not automatically mean they are not to be trusted because they are not perfect. There may be a context that needs to be understood.This can apply to oneself as well. Talking with trusted friends is an excellent way of checking and calibrating reasonable judgement.


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Desiderata (latin-Desired Things)

Max Ehrmann published Desiderata in 1927. Originally it was said to have been anonymously published in 1692 and found in a Baltimore churchyard. This is because the work was found in a compilation of devotional materials put together by the Rector of Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore which listed the church’s foundation date.

It is a particularly useful work for inspiration and recalibration and as such it is reproduced below.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.


Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

if you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.


Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline’

be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive HIm to be’

and whatever your labours and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.


With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is a a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


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Why Worry So Much ?

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days

Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:

Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,

and one by one back in the Closet lays.’

Omar Khayyam  (RUBAIYAT)


Life has a beginning and an ending and obviously what happens between those two points is important. Khayyam attributes destiny as the architect of the moves in the game of life.

However, free will is also important and cultivating mindfulness allows choices and outcomes to be different. Squandering time, energy and opportunity with needless worry is to be avoided as much as possible.

The ‘ work of worry’ does allow planning for various contingencies and is useful and practical. Completion of these processes can lead to a good feeling of accomplishment. By contrast, futile worry is circular, unproductive and does not resolve problems or  provide options for management. This leads nowhere except to uncomfortable feelings, perhaps anxiety and depressed mood.

If we are not absolutely sure that the outcome of a situation is a particularly unwanted and perhaps feared one, it can be useful to repeat the mantra to oneself :  ‘How do I know this will happen FOR SURE? ‘. If the outcome does become certain and is unwanted, then it is useful to problem solve the most helpful course of action for management of the problem.

Sometimes this is the least- worst course of action of all the remedies available, if none of them seem desireable. This, though, is positive action and not circular, unproductive worry.

The most usual scenario for worry is when the outcome is not yet certain and an unwanted outcome or ‘story’ is repeated endlessly in the mind.

This ‘story’ is like a memory stick plugged into a computer which plays a certain program.The memory stick- like pattern can be changed by an act of conscious willpower — to a different, also uncertain, story but with a different, happier outcome. These stories or narratives to oneself can be deliberately chosen to produce a more empowered feeling. With practice, stories can be readily and easily interchanged. All may have uncertainty in the world at large until more information comes to light. The facts of a particular outcome can be faced when the outcome IS certain. Until then, free will can be used to facilitate a calmer state of mind with a positive, reassuring narrative. In this way, worry is like a bad habit that can be replaced with a good habit.

Other possibly useful ways of dealing with unwanted worry include distraction towards other tasks or activities including hobbies,socialising or exercise.

Relaxation techniques can be employed and meditation of various types may be useful. Targeted self-reparenting, as described in an earlier blog, can be fundamental in soothing locked in historical worries at the child ego state level.

Anything that relieves stress and anxiety will reduce obsessional thinking and vice-versa. Quick fixes like overuse of alcohol or other drugs do not solve the underlying problem and generally create other problems.


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Self Expression

‘Express Yourself

Come and do it

From the heart cause if you wanna start to move up the chart

Then expression is a big part of it.’


Dr Dre   (N.W.A.  ‘ Express  Yourself ‘   March 27 1989 )


The inner Self demands expression. Be it in work or play or creative expression. Art; fashion; wordplay; sports; gardening; cooking; writing; or any hobby or enthusiasm qualifies.

Denying an outlet to the yearnings of the inner Self for expression can lead to a disturbing mental itch which can become a strange sort of mental pain like depression with a sense of futility, hopelessness, meaninglessness, despair, and feeling lost.

Sometimes the craving to take mind numbing drugs or excessive alcohol can be understood as a way to anaesthetise this mental pain. Many recovered drug addicts have found themselves by means of some form of creative Self expression.

Taking anti-depressant medication only may help restore functionality but not necessarily solve any underlying  need to individuate. This type of existential depression can be seen as a sign for action as well as a symptom of some underlying malaise.

The need is to give birth  in the external world to underlying creative potential.

Of course,it could be argued that many artists of various descriptions resort to using alcohol and/or drugs.Sometimes this is an attempt to stimulate the imagination but often is a way of dealing with the frustration of blocked creative flow.

 This blockage can be a result of perfectionism or harsh time deadlines. Self expression needs to be relaxed and playful as far as possible and nurtured within healthy routines.


If you require the services of a Perth Psychologist or Perth Counsellor, please contact me at

Choose Your Defences

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

…We shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender…

Winston Churchill (speech to the House of Commons 4 June 1940)


Sometimes defence is necessary and vital. As children we learn to defend ourselves in a number of ways against adversities quite automatically. We do not generally consciously choose the type of defence we use and often do not even realise we have moved to a defensive position. Defences help us to survive to adulthood. They become fixed and characteristic in our personality. Different people have different defensive styles. Some people may become jokers; some easily moved to anger, expressed actively and/or passively; some easily moved to tears; some may run away, some may fight; some may trust easily and some with difficulty; some may try to control and others shun control; some set firm boundaries and others loose ones; some may depend excessively and others avoid depending on others if possible; some act charmingly and others threateningly; and so on.


Children do not generally have the ability to analyse their defences and adapt and adopt different defensive positions. However, as adults this is what we are required to do. The same defence used as an adult in all problem situations will not lead to optimum outcomes. So, those that don’t trust will often limit opportunities or create distance unnecessarily. Those who are always brave and very honest in public will be inclined to expose themseves to wounding crticism when sometimes a more considered diplomatic stance would be wiser. Jokers may find they are not taken seriously. Easily angered or aggressive people may find themselves ostracised by others socially. Avoiding dependency on others routinely may lead instead to dependency expressed in addictive behaviour.


The point to be taken is that as adults we need to build a raft of defences appropriate and strategic to each situation. This requires examining and understanding how your characteristic defence operates automatically, often resulting in the same old bad outcome. It may feel risky to experiment with new ways of protecting yourself. For example, if you realise you operate with passive anger and move away or avoid situations, it may be productive to practice a more active assertiveness, problem solving, and conflict resolution process. If you routinely assume a particular category of person is not to be trusted and you act accordingly, it may be more productive in terms of outcome to develop alternative defensive styles e.g. checking the evidence. If you fear attachment and feel isolated, it may be worth experimenting with attachment in the first instance to various group situations that have a safe and respectful style. Compulsive crusaders who feel they are making too many hurtful sacrifices  may consider building self worth and self esteem in other ways with more overall balance. You do not need to fear losing your core defence, it is hard wired. Building a panoply of choices of  response allows protection together with the possibilty of more optimal outcomes.


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