Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

video: Embracing gratitude & releasing perfectionism

December 11, 2015

Embracing gratitude & releasing perfectionism (anxiety, grief, grievances, & avoidance)


Someone recommended that I tell a story to set up my main points.​ I will… after a few introductory points.



Option 1) ​​doing a thing because it fits

– attentive, open to adaption, open to altering pace or stopping, no need for passionate justifications or hysterical denials

Option 2) Doing a thing “because it is right, because people should”

– that is operating with attention to socially- conditioned ideals (to be loyal / faithful / perfect relative to those ideals)… In other words, fear or paranoia about criticism / condemnation / punishment

(So lots of things get interpreted as personal criticism)
​Generally, if you take anything here as a personal criticism of you, but without me ​specifically referencing you, then that could be a sign, right? I am presenting a set of contrasts and I will be talking about how each of the behavioral patterns have some specific or limited functionality. They all fit.


What is relevant for someone who frequently presumes that others are criticizing them? Increase awareness of possible discomfort, tension, or stress, manage pace of all interactions, select to interact most with people who seem the most attentive, perceptive, and respectful, or target an overall withdrawal from concentrated social activity (as in interact with a greater variety of people, but none of them very much).

Start the example-
​​Young boys of a certain age like to be physically active, including wrestling. They wrestle with each other, with pets, with adults. I attempted to chase my dog, but got frustrated. Also, attempt to climb most any tree. Wrestled with dad.
​​”Do not encourage him. One of you could get hurt!”

mom scolding dad (in front of child). Why is mom upset? She says I might get hurt, but dad was very safe. I actually got seriously injured (sent to hospital) At a martial arts tournament opposed with someone slightly older (but perhaps much bigger, stronger).

How concerned was mom with safety? How concerned was she with being criticized​ by others for neglect​? ​​With maintaining a persona that ​​suppresses ​certain ​emotion​s​?

(Could share in the delight / fun… But not if it triggered grief for her/ envy / shame)

Concentrated pride (can be burden on child of “must be perfect/ must never embarrass”)​

​warning to prospective parents- if you raise children for a few decades, they might occasionally embarrass​ you.


a small child naturally creates fun and expresses their fun

Why do they learn to avoid ​having “too much fun?

“Seen but not heard” :loud (distracting, embarrassing), jealousy of one parent for another/ competition for social approval

the child gets intimidated or pressured in to minimizing fun (at schools, at home… At certain times, generally in public)

“Calm down, youngster. Settle down right now!”

​​”Do not encourage him. One of you could get hurt!”

there can also be a general suppression of all loud emotional expression… Crying, laughing

Note that these physiological processes can promote a rebalancing of physical tension and a correcting of misalignment in the spine or skull.

when gratitude is buried, how can it surface?

Grief- when I am more grateful for something lost than I am scared to display it

was grateful, but the fear of displaying the gratitude interrupted it. Maybe I did not even recognize it. Maybe I “went numb.”

Grievances- if there is repressed gratitude (from terror) and no trigger for expressing it…

Seek out justifications for resentment and rage

vilification of others to weave narratives of victimhood

why? To attract attention (effectively)

to startle others, to attract pity, to cover embarrassment, to attract support / protectiveness

avoidance: “rebellion” to cause others grief

​State willingness​ to do something (or make promises to do it), but always have an excuse:
“not really interested”
“not enough time”
“too complicated”
“too stressful”

but what is more stressful: frequently imagining the activity but never actually experimenting with it… or experimenting?

The key issue here is if someone is terrified of expressing disappointment or discomfort, then they will compulsively avoid the unfamiliar. They will fear the unfamiliar as a potential trigger of repressed emotion, of shameful disappointment, of shameful anger, of shameful fear, etc…. They organize their life around shame… or, specifically, around avoiding shame… which is still organizing life relative to the possibility of shame.


What is relevant for someone who frequently presumes that others are criticizing them? Increase awareness of possible discomfort, tension, or stress, manage pace of all interactions, select to interact most with people who seem the most attentive, perceptive, and respectful, or target an overall withdrawal from concentrated social activity (as in interact with a greater variety of people, but none of them very much).

Make this your new “best decision ever.”

December 6, 2015

When you think of some of the best decisions that you’ve ever made, do they have anything in common? Why do those decisions stand out as the best?

One factor can be that the actual results were much better than the expected results. Maybe you produced results that were much better than what you expected. Maybe you produced results that were exactly what you expected, but much better than what certain other people expected. Maybe the decision​ was something that many other people doubted would work (and were reluctant to try), but you trusted yourself and did it anyway​… and you were pleased by your results and proud of your courage.

Another part of what can really make a decision stand out in our memory is the social context of that decision. One example of a social context is when there was an option that I was hesitant to take, but lots of people around me encouraged me and expressed their confidence in me. Sometimes that can go very well and sometimes very poorly, but when it goes well, I can get a very favorable result and have a lot of emotional satisfaction about that result. I can feel a distinct pride and fulfillment about what I have done and how I have done it. I can also feel the support and pride of the people who have encouraged me (whether that is just one person or many people).

Most likely, the decisions that you can look back on as the best decisions that you’ve ever made include a variety of social contexts. Some choices, you made simply by instinct and without regard for any social validation or criticism. Other experiments, you did primarily as a direct result of social encouragement (or even pressure). If there was a lot of socializing about your choice (and your results), then that can certainly strengthen your memory of the decision.


Satisfaction with results, surpassing expectations, and social reinforcement
However, I do not think that the biggest issue is an unusual social context or better results than expected. The simplest detail that connects my own “best decisions ever” is my own satisfaction with the results.

I was effective at producing results that I eventually recognized as very valuable. Maybe that recognition was instant and maybe it took years of “hindsight” for me to fully appreciate the long-term significance of my choice.

For you, in some cases, maybe you simply declined to do something that other people encouraged you to do. Maybe you were conservative and cautious and then later you saw their results and looked back at your own caution as extremely valuable (and even courageous). Or, maybe you boldly did something very effective without any social encouragement (or even intense discouragement). But if something is on your list of your “best decisions ever,” then that probably means that you were unusually happy with the outcome of the decision, right?

Organize your life around how to make high-quality decisions

What if you organized your life around making new “best decisions ever?” What if you significantly increased the value that you get from your future decisions… and even from your past decisions?

Some of these ideas may seem curious or strange. However, if these words were just repeating things that you were already thinking, that would not be very distinctive, would it?

Have you ever heard someone say “I regret that I made that decision?” What they generally mean is that they regret the results that were produced and they have learned from those results. In other words, the decision itself produced learning. The decision was not a bad decision. The decision might not have produced much else besides a hard lesson, but sometimes hard lessons might be a great way to learn, right?

So, consider that anyone who says “I regret that decision” might be operating in a way that produces lasting guilt (or even shame). What if I simply recognize that I value some results more than others (and some methods more than others)? From that perspective, every choice results in learning… no matter what!

My interest right now is not to condemn certain decisions as violations of perfectionism. If I relax any anxiety about being loyal to some particular ideal of perfectionism, then I can focus on what results I produce and what methods produce the best results. I can relate to all decisions as informative. I can stop relating to my past decisions as nothing more than methods to avoid criticism or compete for approval.

Regret disappointing results without condemning the method

Have I ever made any bad decisions? For a while, I would have denied that and been insulted at anything approaching an accusation that I had made a bad decision. Later, I would have listed several decisions as bad (based on what happened later, like the experiences produced for me and for other people by that decision). Now, I have withdrawn all condemnation of my own decisions or the decisions of anyone else. This is actually a massive relief.

Why is it a relief? Condemnation is certainly a valid option. However, condemnation can take a lot of energy and attention away from measuring results and tracking which methods produce which results.

You can learn from the mistakes of other people (like mine)

Condemnation is a great method for socially displaying my loyalty to a particular form of perfectionism. Sometimes, I can directly condemn a particular method to influence someone and prevent them from learning something “the hard way.” Maybe I interrupt them and offer to help them to learn from someone else’s mistake (including my own mistakes). Maybe they resist learning from anything but their own mistakes, although, if I care about their results, then I can continue to influence their methods.

I have made many mistakes. However, I now assert that I have never made a bad decisions. I have just made enough decisions that some produced better results than others. Making mistakes is part of learning.
To maximize learning, expect to notice lots of small mistakes.

Avoiding mistakes is refusing to learn. Also, avoiding mistakes can lead to massive mistakes. In fact, it is not that I can actually avoid making mistakes, but that I can avoid recognizing them as mistakes (for seconds or for years).

I frequently take actions that I later consider a mistake. Lots of small mistakes are much more favorable than a few massive ones.

Accept mistakes. Plan to make lots of them. Notice them as quickly as possible.

Avoid pretending that it is really possible to completely avoid mistakes. We can avoid admitting mistakes. We can even attempt to distract ourselves from the results we produce. That might even be favorable occasionally (or else why would anyone ever do that)?

Now, instead of being anxious about mistakes, just be interested in results and effectiveness. How can you organize your life around making lots of new “best decisions ever?” Make some new decisions and be very attentive to the results that they produce. Then, once the results of the first decisions are clear, make some other new decisions.

Organize your life around how to produce the results you value most

If it would give you a massive increase in satisfaction, would you be willing to reduce or discontinue some of your familiar habits? If there were methods that you could use to get much better results faster and with less effort or risk, would you be open to that (or would you be so anxious about avoiding criticism for mistakes that you compulsively avoid learning any new methods at the risk of producing new results)?


Why exactly did I ever try to avoid mistakes? As noted, the first layer is that I simply tried to avoid being aware of the results I was producing. I tried to avoid recognizing which actions were mistakes and which ones were effective. Maybe I distracted myself (and perhaps a few others) by being very easily offended and condemning lots of people and ridiculing lots of behaviors.

But the background issue there was that I was competing for social validation. I threw around invalidating comments regularly. I even made occasional dramatic apologies about a few very isolated mistakes that I was unable to perpetually deny.

I avoided quickly identifying my mistakes as mistakes because I was terrified of being targeted with social condemnation. I was not a perfectionist because of something fundamental about me. I adopted the habit or practice of perfectionism as a coping mechanism for overwhelming social pressure. Maybe I complained that I “should have been better protected” or that “those people should not have bullied me or betrayed me.”

Lately, I have lost interest in those complaints. How? I simply withdrew from certain sources of social pressure (people and interactions that were stressful, uncomfortable, anxiety-producing). Did I have lots of sincere justifications and complex explanations for why I withdrew? If I did, that does not matter much to me now either way.


The problem with habitual perfectionism as a response to social pressure

So, if the only reason that I have avoided admitting mistakes (and learning from them) is because of stress about avoiding social criticism for those mistakes, that is good news to me. I will abruptly withdraw from the most vicious critics and bullies.

I am willing to completely release any old habits of appeasing them. Those habits helped me survive, which is great. Now, I would rather avoid the most hysterical critics and silence those who are easily silenced.


How can you get high-quality, constructive criticism?

But the most radical new practice is to seek out constructive criticism. I want to learn, even from my own past mistakes (especially from them). However, I am absolutely firm that I value certain kinds of criticism more than others. I demand high-quality criticism. I seek it out.

How do I know which criticism is best? I assess it by it’s results. Does a particular dynamic of criticism improve my results? Does a particular critic or group of critics provide the most respectful, refreshing, and relevant criticism? Does their criticism enrich my life and even consistently produce relaxation and relief from stress?

Do I notice that I am attracted to certain people that gently provide precise and productive criticism? Do I appreciate it even more if they resort to less gently methods if gentle methods are not working?


Cultivating a culture that promotes high-quality results
I value a culture (a social context) that promotes high-quality decisions. That means a willingness to try new things, to precisely assess the results of the new experiments, and to quickly admit any mistakes as mistakes. High-quality decisions are decisions that produce EITHER relevant learning OR effective results OR BOTH.

If I have ever isolated some particular past decision as “the very best one ever,” I relax that emphasis. I plan to make my best decision ever within the next 24 hours (not avoid making a better decision than my old favorite “best one ever”). 48 hours from now, I plan to have made a few new decisions that are the best I have ever made.

One of my new “best decisions ever” might involve inventing a bold claim and then publicizing it. We’ll focus on that subject next….

The programming of social anxiety and perfectionism

July 18, 2015

A child is programmed with ideals of behavior, including how they should speak. This programming is basically universal (just a matter of modeling others, really).

Sometimes the ideals (or patterns of behavior) are recognized as just being ideals (or patterns). Other times the presentation is more like this: “Today, class we will worship a list about how people should be and next will be a list of how people should not be.”

Sometimes, there is a complex context of intimidation and bribery and shame, like with the typical deceptions used regarding Santa Claus. Obedience is rewarded. Disobedience is punished. That is universal, too, but the deception / programming of confusion is not universal.

A simpler context would be overt bribery and intimidation with no deception and no social shaming (like just physical confinement or inflicting of pain, similar to how people typically train dogs). There is no confusing guilt-tripping of “you deserve this because you are a ___ person.” With “straight-forward” conditioning, the focus instead is on behavior: certain behaviors are rewarded and others are punished.

With “the cultivating of criminals,” there is a lot of reverse psychology and programming of identifying with a persona / label, like a huge billboard that says “only losers USE DRUGS.” Which drugs? All drugs? Prescription drugs, too?

Social anxiety is cultivated. Mental illness is cultivated. Criminal activity is cultivated. Political revolutionaries are cultivated.

It is black magic/ government witchcraft / cursing the victims of the oppressive system. Political correctness is programmed. Coercion is the central religion of the global empire declared by the Prophet Noah. However, shame is the key to the efficiency of the warfare (as psychological warfare).

So, in the case of inconsistent methods of conditioning, where punishments and rewards are inconsistently delivered, that can lead to confusion and distress. This was established by the researcher Pavlov who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell (whether or not food was provided along with the ringing of the bell). The dogs eventually confuse the sound of the bell with the possibility of a “reward” (food). They are programmed with what we might call an “associative disorder” (as distinct from proper associations or no associations at all, called “disassociative” disorders).

Next, back to the human child, if there is a background of distress to the programming, then the ideals are not just ideals, but develop in to dogma or idealism. The child might be jealous of others who get rewards without adhering to the child’s own programmed ideals. The envy is natural, but that can lead to grieving grievances like “Those people are not playing by my rules, so they should not ___!!!” (That is an example of hysteria.)

Instead of just noticing that familiar, learned rules are not universal rules, there is a distress of repressed frustration surging out. “I am disappointed by my own results, but quietly disappointed because I am too intimidated to be vocal about it, and so now to see those people do well while I am playing by the rules brings me to envy, then frustration, resentment, and contempt.”

To have envy and then curiosity would be adaptive. However, social programming typically shames the youth for displaying envy or curiosity (which is the biggest threat to dogma and thus must be most severely repressed). So, the youthful rule-follower complains that their own perfect actions are not satisfying them.

Their obedient perfectionism is not getting rewarded as advertised. Not only is the Santa story a deception used by the socially-mature to manipulate the gullible, but it is the only deception ever used by any culture.

Ok, I was kidding there of course. I got distracted while I was typing.

The perfectionist eventually witnesses the elite getting massive corporate subsidies and says “we need to reform the system so that it either is not a massive redistribution from the taxpaying human resources to the elite… or it is a MORE PERFECT system of inequitable redistribution based on coercion / extortion.” The point is that “they need to follow THESE rules.” Then, the different groups of perfectionists oppose each other, just like they have been programmed.

That is hysteria. The hypocritical form of that hysteria would be “the only rule is that all rules are wrong.”

Learning would be “I realize that my sacred rules are no longer relevant (if they ever were). I observe a contrast between my presumptions and my observations and I humbly refine my presumptions (or discard them) and I open myself to new presumptions with greater precision.”

perfection: “salvation from the sins of perfectionism”

June 30, 2014

perfection: "salvation from the sins of perfectionism"



Idealism, perfectionism, disappointment, blame, rage, etc

December 2, 2013
Symbol for the Enneagramic type " Perfect...

Symbol for the Enneagramic type ” Perfectionist” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Satan chastising mirror

I think that other people should not be so ashamed of themselves. I really just do not get it how they are like so ashamed, you know?

No, no, I am NOT frustrated. Listen to me for once, okay? I did not say that! I hate it when you always analyze me every time I am shouting at you like that is some kind of a big deal to you. Look, I am just saying that they SERIOUSLY need to stop being ashamed before, um, before it is TOO LATE….

I mean, what if they start to over-react? What then? Have you even THOUGHT of that? What if they start being all DRAMATIC for no GOOD reason?!?!

I mean, what are people going to THINK of them if they are ashamed about themselves the wrong way or for the wrong reason? What happened to all of the loyal perfectionists anyway?!?!

Critically Ashamed

Critically Ashamed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where can I find a REAL perfectionist these days? I’ve been looking around for someone WORTHY of the title of perfectionist and I have been FORCED to conclude, despite my absolutely heroic optimism on the subject, that no one is truly DESERVING of the title of perfectionist. What a HUGE disappointment this whole idealism thing has turned out to be!

English: perfectionist measuring and cutting grass

English: perfectionist measuring and cutting grass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Science Project 1974

Science Project 1974 (Photo credit: The Rocketeer)

Satan shaming the mirror

Instructions for how to be a better perfectionist

July 10, 2013

Instructions for how to be a better perfectionist:

1. Identify which ideals are the very best.

2. Pretend that your life does not fit those ideals, but really should.

3. Be totally miserable and pretend that how you got to be so miserable is a complete mystery to you.

Symbol for the Enneagramic type " Perfect...

Symbol for the Enneagramic type ” Perfectionist” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s it. If you really understand those three points fully, you will become the ideal perfectionist. Well, actually if you really understand those three points fully, then you really should become the ideal perfectionist, but of course you actually won’t (…knowing you).
I should warn you that I might be joking. In fact, I should have warned you before I started that I would probably be joking eventually.

I’m really sorry. I take back that I did not warn you before I started. Please allow me to start over now.

My Life, by Bill Clinton

My Life, by Bill Clinton (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Ok, so what you need to know about me first is that my past is not how it should have been. How I know that is because I have identified precisely how my past should have been (which I occasionally revise) and then I compared my past with my latest ideals of how my life should have been so far and… well, there is some good news and some bad news. So, which do you want first?

The bad news is that no matter what ideals I identify (arbitrarily) as the very best ideals, none of them perfectly match my life. My life simply has way too much variation for certain ideals (and not enough variation for others).

The good news is that it is optional for me to value a certain specific set of ideals over the totality of my life. Yes, I can be an idealist, a perfectionist, a miserable worshiper of arbitrary ideals. It is one possibility.

In fact, being an agonizing idealist is probably what I should have done (given that I have actually done that). However, I could stop.

Agonizing is a behavior, a pattern of activity. It takes time, right? It takes energy, right? It takes practice to develop it in to a habit (or even an identity)- a lot of practice!

Great! So, now I have told you the good news and the bad news. That only leaves the old news.

The old news is that I used to argue with people about which ideals are the very best. I used to be very sincere. I would even prove to you that I was more sincere than you. Sincerity was probably the very best of all possible ideals, right?

By the way, you may notice that everyone who is miserably cynical is also very sincere. In fact, a leading expert in the field of making things up has claimed that the most extreme form of naïve sincerity is cynical misery, which is also known as perfectionist agonizing.

Cynical (song)

Cynical (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, that assertion is quite preposterous. Everyone knows that cynical misery is a very serious condition which can only be treated with a brain transplant.

Unfortunately for… everyone… there are no available brains for transplanting and there are no available surgeons and it is not covered by any insurance plan anyway and obviously never will be (because you know how the insurance companies are…). Anyway, I really could not afford it even if it was free because… because… my busy schedule simply does not have time for taking any time off from identifying the very best ideals, then obsessively comparing my life to those ideals, then complaining that my life does not fit those ideals and blaming some politician for that (obviously), and then frequently promising to stop whining. Also, just as a reminder to you, I am still keeping my promise to stop procrastinating right after I finish waiting for the right circumstances to show up magically.

(“No, not those ideal circumstances… the other perfect circumstances. Don’t you realize that what I said last week about the right circumstances was back when I was very naïve and sincere and idealistic! I’m not LIKE that anymore. I’ve CHANGED… can’t you tell? What kind of a friend are you anyway?”)

Yeah, but… have you apologized lately for saying that you are sorry way too often? Have you promised to stop making promises that you have no intention of actually keeping? Have you called yet to explain why you do not want to talk to me? (Note that I only ask because I see that I have 14 missed calls from your number in the last 2 hours.)

In conclusion, you really need to be a better perfectionist. Because you clearly are not sincere enough about your commitment to being a miserable, agonizing, idealistic cynic, you may have a serious case of sincerity (which is often complicated by a sincere case of seriousness). That’s why you should ask your doctor today about whether Ofukitol is right for you.

By the way, this offer is not valid if you are a procrastinator. In that case, please don’t even bother.

No, listen, just forget it, okay? You always act like this. It’s so annoying!

This is why you are never going to have any friends. You are always so negative. I hate negative people like you.

Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business

Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironic? What is ironic about any of this? You really don’t even take me seriously, do you? You don’t understand me and you never will!

You don’t even KNOW me. If I was not a very polite person, I would TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and then calm down momentarily and extend my middle finger at you in a gesture of sexual frustration– but your sexual frustration, not mine.

I’m not frustrated. I’m not angry. I’m not contemptuous and I am DEFINITELY not resentful… you stupid idiot!

But the only reason that I am not resentful is because I am such a perfect idealist. I do have every reason to be resentful, of course, but I am so forgiving because that is how I should be. Anyway, how many flipping times do I have to tell you that I have already forgiven you for how you are always so negative (and passive aggressive… and critical… and a naïve hypocrite)?

Anyway, that is why I do not want to talk to you either. Yes, I called you back to just tell you that.

Hello? Are you there? Did you just hang up on me? You can’t do that!

Oh, hi… yeah I think I accidentally put you on hold for a second. Sorry about that. What were we talking about again?

Right, we were talking how I can’t just stop agonizing any time I want, you know, because of my schedule which is too busy…. exactly! Hey, do you still want to sign up for that course eventually on how to stop procrastinating about agonizing about the best way to be a perfectionist..? Okay, right, once you have better circumstances in your life, of course, yes, I agree completely. There is no need to rush in to it, grandpa.

Your perfect life: revolutionary results in health, wealth, and relationships

June 10, 2013
Your perfect life: revolutionary results in health, wealth, and relationships
“My life was perfect, but then I learned to speak….”
What exactly does perfection mean? Perfection is simply a word. There is no single meaning to any word, including the word “perfection.”
For instance, in the game of baseball, a “perfect” game is a label for a certain set of results (when the opposing team has an entire game with no hits, no base-runners, etc). In bowling, a perfect game is a score of 300. However, for a gymnast competing in the Olympics, a perfect score is not 300, but 10. 
So, the word perfection means different things in different contexts (in different settings or circumstances or conversations). Outside of a particular system of scoring, there may be no clear definition of perfection. Through language, we can create definitions of perfection.
Perfection is always relative to some standard (constructed in language). Without first inventing some rules for what is perfection and what is less than perfect, there is no referential foundation for labeling anything perfect or imperfect or anything else. 
We can inherit standards of perfection that were previously invented. We can also invent new standards of perfection (just like the people who invented bowling or baseball and so on). So perfection is simply a label that can be applied to compare some particular outcome to a pre-existing standard.
But what about a “perfect life?” What standards do we have for measuring whether an individual life is perfect or imperfect?
There are many popular standards of legendary characters: Superman, Oprah Winfrey, Mandela, Gandhi, Queen Victoria, George Washington, Yoda, Marilyn Monroe, James Bond, as well as heroic religious figures like Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Venus, St. Francis, and Mother Theresa. Some of these characters are completely invented. Some are historical characters whose lives have been referenced by many people in many ways (even in many languages). 
Imagine how George Washington might be described by various people: his wife, his parents, his children, a military mentor who trained and guided him, military troops that served under his command, opposing military troops, the military warlord leaders of tribes in the Mid-West of North America, and the leaders of military governments in Asia or Africa that had little interest in his activities. Some would know him from direct experience. Some would know OF him indirectly through people who know him personally. Some would know him only through reputation and rumor and legend (and even elementary school history books… or movies with translated subtitles).
So, even among people who know him personally, isn’t it possible that his wife might describe him slightly differently than his uncle or his grandson? It is not just possible, but absolutely inevitable!
Why would different people describe him differently? First, different people would use language differently. A person who speaks only French would use different words than someone who speaks only the language of the Delaware tribe (or Russian or Arabic or Japanese).
Further, if a few people were asked to describe his appearance, George Washington could be standing in the center of that circle of people. There he is, simply one man, and yet different people see him from different angles. Some will describe his face. Some will describe his wig. Some will describe his profile. To a child, he will seem huge and tall. To a larger man than he, Geroge’s physical size may not be very notable at all.
Now, is George Washington perfect or not? As an athlete, he may not be much of a bowler or gymnast or golfer. He may have rather little talent in those realms. To assess his perfection, we would need some standard for assessing perfection, right?
So, what standards could we use to evaluate George Washington? How does he compare to Jesus Christ? How does he compare to Martin Luther? How does he compare to Napoleon Bonaparte or Julius Caesar or Hercules or Zeus or Venus or Athena?
If I was the father of a woman that a young George Washington was courting, wouldn’t I be interested in whether I consider George Washington to be a decent match for my daughter? In general, is he the kind of fellow that I would want as a son-in-law? Is he a perfect match for my daughter? Maybe he is a better match for a particular one of my daughters – no, not her, but her older sister, right?
Ultimately, most people would compare George Washington to themselves. Is he taller than me or shorter than me? Is he better at horse-back riding than I am or not as good? Is he even interested in the same things that I am? Does he talk like I do? Does he walk like I do? Does he sulk like I do?
If I complain about how the British Colonial leaders are too greedy with their tiny new tax on tea, does he agree with me? Does he complain about the things that I complain about? Does he condemn the things that I condemn? Does he hate what I hate and fear what I fear and like what I like?
Well, I really would not know. Since I am typing on a computer right this second, I expect that he would be rather amazed at my incredibly advanced technological skills and equipment. In contrast, he would probably be very disappointed at my lack of experience in horse-riding, marksmanship, and of course cultivation of tobacco and hemp.
I know that he was a high-ranking member of the Free Masons. I do not know exactly how that was important in his life or career, but considering that so many of the statues and images of George show him wearing his masonic apron, apparently his membership was important to a lot of people making those statues and paintings. Obviously, if I was also a member of the Free Masons, then his membership might mean something different to me than to someone who was not a member, right?
So, to those threatened by George Washington, he may be vilified. To those seeking his protection, he may be glorified. Cities and monuments and temples may be named after him. Institutions may be planned, funded, and sustained to glorify his legacy (his legend).
So, again, what does all of this have to do with YOUR perfect life? You can stop comparing yourself to others religiously!
You can stop agonizingly trying to match pre-existing standards of perfection. You can also stop trying to destroy pre-existing standards of perfection (or otherwise “save” people from perfectionism). You can even participate in systems to promote a particular standard of perfection to a particular individual or to large groups of people (such as through public school programming or mainstream media publicity).
You can stop arguing that your life is not perfect. You can stop blaming others for your own past assertions that your life is imperfect (your parents, your teachers, your spouse, your co-workers, etc…). You can stop hiding “imperfections” and compensating for them… or you can continue!
You can consider the ancient spiritual teachings which declare that you were created perfect by a perfect creator. What does that mean? Does that mean that you are better than George Washington in every way (better at baseball, video games, and horse-back riding)? Or does being created as a perfect “image of God” (facet of God, branch of God, form of God) simply mean that you exist independent of any comparing that you or anyone else might do?
The presence of pre-existing standards is simply a fact. In every culture, people have standards that influence how they raise and nurture their children.
In my own cultural background, George Washington happens to be a venerated and even worshiped figure. Other cultures venerate and worship other figures. So, veneration and worship of heroes is simply a consistent pattern across various cultures.
George Washington

George Washington (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

Next, in order to be open to methods that consistently produce dramatic, breakthrough results in health, wealth, and relationships, it may be relevant to simply admit to the historical existence of prior programming about cultural ideals. It may be relevant to even be grateful for the existence and influence of cultural ideals, yet not consider them limits. They are only foundations, not ceilings.
If the ideals from my past are not sufficient to produce the results that appeal to me, so what? For a perfectionist, that may seem to be a confusing problem: how do I stay loyal to my past ideals and yet produce the results that I value? For former perfectionists, we can appreciate the myths and ideals of our past without making them in to limits. We can continue developing our ideals and values.
Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we shift from being a child to an adult and even to a grandparent, we can open to new experiences, new learning, new insights, new values, new ideals, new methods, and new results. We can even learn new languages and new ways to use a language that we already know.
The openness to new things is also referenced frequently in several ancient spiritual traditions. “Be as a little child” is a simple, concise version of that teaching.
Small children do not reject new information because it does not fit with their pre-existing models of idolatry. They simply do not have pre-existing linguistic models of how life should be. They do not reject aspects of reality that conflict with their most sacred obsessions and presumptions.
Over and over in the New Testament, the famous prophet Jesus quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in regard to the innocent spirit of children as distinct from the hardened, mechanical, perfectionist spirit common amongst adults. Both prophets told humorous stories about the foolishness of so many adults. Some stories tell of adults who are so confused about language that they worship particular series of words. While this can be useful transitionally, the worship of a particular sequence of words is not the ultimate goal of spirituality.
What is the ultimate goal of spirituality and what is useful in promoting that goal? Many ancient and modern teachers suggest appreciating the receptivity of young children in order to experience what those teachers refer to with labels like “heaven.”
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
(Luke 17:20-21 KJV)
5 minutes in to the video, Douglas talks about the openness of children as it relates to the kingdom of heaven.
Portrait of George Washington Carver.

Portrait of George Washington Carver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ten Commandments of Perfectionism

April 9, 2012
Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ten Commandments of Perfectionism

#1 Always avoid the appearance of perfectionism. Avoid appearing to be a perfectionist because only people who believe that they are not perfect already would display any of the traits of perfectionism, and the whole idea here is for other people (all of them) to perceive you as perfect. By the way, obviously, the only certain way to do this is to completely avoid other people.

#2 Hold on. Forget I even said that. Here’s what we are going to do instead. You are going to go around and fix all the imperfections of everyone else. If you ever notice people displaying any idealism, first criticize them for it. People obviously should not be idealistic, right? So, as a demonstration of your having finally perfected post-idealistic realism, you must plan to spontaneously ridicule and suppress the idealism of other people (yes, all of them) because anyone else displaying idealism clearly interferes with me pretending to be perfectly beyond idealism, so then I am forced to get in to arguments with them about how they should not be so idealistic, or at least not in the ways that threaten my most sacred idealisms, such as my idealism about whether or not I am already perfect. Anyway, that has been taking up a lot of my time and energy, so naturally I want you go out there and handle that for me while I wait here. By the way, when you come back, then I will tell you the other 8 commandments, so you better hurry.

Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is 

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect But you are
to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect – 15k
"Veritas" ("truth" in Lati...

“Veritas” (“truth” in Latin), hand tattoo, Connor MacManus (actor Sean Patrick Flanery), gun, Boston; The Boondock Saints, film: calm, religious vigilante idealism (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

<< Matthew 5:48 >>

New International Version (©1984)
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

New Living Translation (©2007)
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

English Standard Version (©2001)
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

International Standard Version (©2008)
So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
Be therefore perfect, just as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect.”

GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
That is why you must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Don’t Do Good Works to Be Praised by People

King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

American King James Version
Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

American Standard Version
Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Darby Bible Translation
Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

English Revised Version
Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Webster’s Bible Translation
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Weymouth New Testament
You however are to be complete in goodness, as your Heavenly Father is complete.

World English Bible
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Young’s Literal Translation
ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father who is in the heavens is perfect.

The Secret of Magic Words

February 25, 2012
The Secret of Magic Words
English: A little girl leaning against a sofa.

Image via Wikipedia

“Mama” was the first word that my first child ever spoke out loud. Well, it was one of the first- at least as long as we do not count “leedle leedle leedle” and other sounds that I personally did not recognize as part of the English language.

I do not actually remember the first word that I personally ever spoke. However, I like to think that my first word was “perfectionist,” but I have recently been told that in fact I did not even learn that word until I was 20 years old. Further, it took me another 20 years after that to pronounce it correctly. Then it took me another 20 years to learn what other people think that word means. Then I spent another 20 years of intense introspection to find the true meaning of the word “perfectionist.”

Now, as the leading perfectionist in the world today, I am often asked how is it that I got to be so perfect. Of course, there is a very simple answer. Unfortunately for you, it is a secret.

What is the secret to perfectionism?
Actually, there is no secret to perfectionism. I just said that to get your attention. Or maybe there is a secret and I am just pretending that there is not so that you will set that subject aside long enough for me to tell you what I really what to tell you.
Either way, what I really want to tell you is the secret of magic words. Are you ready? The secret of magic words is that all words are magic.
However, you may not know yet what I actually mean by magic. In fact, you may not even know what I mean by “magic words.”

What are magic words?
When I was so young that I did not even know yet that there was a secret about magic words, I learned the two most popular magic words in the English language. Everyone knows that the first magic word is “please.”
When you are a child and you want a sweet treat to eat, you learn to repeat a certain word that gives adults a thrill of power and pride: “please.” You learn to please them. You please them by saying “please” and then they will please you by giving you what you want (what pleases you). It’s just like magic.

What is magic?
Actually, it’s not “like” magic. It is magic.
Of course, it does not always work to say please. Imagine a well-trained toddler who says “please give me another bowl of eye screen.” Well, what if all of the eye screen is gone?
Maybe big sister ate all of the chalk lid eye screen and the toddler ate the last scoop of venom love eye screen. So there is simply none left now.
Naturally, the toddler says “please get me more chalk lid eye screen ride now or else I is going SCREEN at the very top of my lunch, pretty please.” Then sister says, “you are so stupid. It’s not eye screen. It’s ice cream. It’s not chalk lid either. It’s chocolate. You are SOOOO stupid. Plus, there is no more eye screen left anyway.”

Yeah, but what is magic?
Magic is the intentional influencing of other people’s attention, perception, and behavior– especially when not recognized by them as a process of influence. So, is it really magic to say “please?” Of course! If it EVER works to influence the behavior of other people, then that counts as fitting the definition of magic that I just made up.
In other words, all words are magic. All words sometimes work to influence (as in manipulate or govern or control) other people. All words direct attention and perception and behavior. There is no other purpose for words except to direct attention, perception, and behavior. That is what communicating is: directing attention, perception, and behavior.
baby while making his first steps

Image via Wikipedia

So are words the only kind of magic?

Let’s imagine a few activities that people might do to influence other people. Can gestures influence other people? For instance, can smiling influence other people? How about waving at them?
Or, can crying influence other people? Can running very fast straight toward them influence them? Can changing your appearance by changing your hair style or your cosmetics or your clothing influence other people? Can fences and locks and snarling dogs influence other people?
Can you even name one possibility that cannot ever influence other people? What part of reality absolutely never influences the behavior of any humans?
Exactly how magical are words?
Isn’t it quite predictable what effects can be produced through any particular “stimulus?” Sure, it may not always work to say please when asking for something, but isn’t it predictable that it MIGHT influence other people to say please?
Maybe a person is deaf or does not speak English or whatever (maybe there is just no more eye screen), but the activity of forming the sound sequence “please” is regularly repeated by millions of humans because it produces more reliable results than the absence of making those sounds or making other sounds like saying “chalk lid” or “venom love” or “perfectionism.”
“Mama, may I have some more eye screen, chalk lid? Wait, I’ll try again. May I have some more eye screen, pretty perfectionism with venom love on top?”
People use “please” not because it works 100% of the time, but because it works somewhere between 1% and 99% of the time. That kind of consistency is truly magic!
Deutsch: Magische Zauberformel "SATOR-ARE...

Image via Wikipedia

So are words the only kind of magic?

No, stupid! When I was a toddler, the flight of a butterfly was magic. The amazing tree-climbing ability of a squirrel was magic.
Magic was basically anything surprising. To an infant or puppy, a mirror is surprising as in magical. To primitive people who have never seen a photograph of written language on a computer screen or who have never heard a human voice reproduced through a magnetic speaker in a radio or cell phone, you can imagine that the amazing tree-climbing ability of a squirrel is no longer amazing eventually.
Surprise is magic. However, when I repeat the same thing over and over again and again, that that is also magic. It it is is hypnotic hypnotic.
Even if someone knows exactly what I am going to sane ext, that does knot really madder in regard to the possibility of words influencing the attention, perception, and behavior of others. I can’t even made any mistakes without them still under stood the basic point of the basic pointing. It’s just that hardly could be any easier.
So are words the only kind of magic?
Exactly what I meant to say was that words are among the easiest forms of magic. It is so flipping easy to surprisingly influence people with words that it is so flipping easy!
In contrast, it takes a lot of time to style hair or two change clothes or too buy some more chalk lid eye screen. However, what could be faster than saying “please?”
About the only thing that is faster than saying please is to not say anything. That kind of magic is secret perfectionist magic. However, saying absolutely nothing does not always work about 5% of the time. So, if only as a last resort, speak.
How many other child do you have?
Look, as far as you know, I was making all of that up about having even one child. However, if I ever did have any children at all, then I would probably know that they know the secret of magic words that most adults have learned to pretend to have forgotten: that words are one way of directing attention, perception, and behavior.
English: Toddler Story Time

Image via Wikipedia

When a child is in a crowded theatre to see The Little Mermaid for the third time, by then, they know that there are several four letter words that they can say to get the attention not only of the adult(s) that brought them to the theatre, but of most anyone who can hear them whispering these words in that certain kind of whispering that is designed to attract as much attention as possible: poop, fart, butt, boob, and, of course, “evil.”

However, around the time that children learn that Santa Claus is just a myth constructed of words for influencing the behavior of other people, those same children forget that words like “evil” are also just myths constructed for influencing the behavior of other people. They forget that all words are magic. Or, at least they pretend to forget that all words are magic, such as because pretending to have forgotten is reliably magical in influencing the behavior of others.
“Honey, stop climbing on to the back of the chair right now. Do I have to smack you or are you going to be a good little obedient elf for Santa? And, Jesus Christ, how many times do I have to tell you to say please?”
Mama, that is a great question. However, I really do not know yet. Apparently you have to tell me to say please more than you have so far. By the way, you are such a flipping perfectionist!
Anyway, did you see what the doggie is doing to my pink panther stuffed animal? It seems like it is dancing but there is no music. It must have a bad itch, huh?
English: My dog

Image via Wikipedia

Beyond the cult of heroic martyrs

October 16, 2011

Who is remembered fondly for dying for the cause of a rebellion, like for the rejection of a particular idea or phrase in language? What popular fictional characters? How about the founding fathers of US Tea Party movement heroes like Patrick Henry (who said “give me liberty or give me death!”) or even the once-violent Malcolm X?

Malcolm X may have felt guilty about his prior advocacy of violence. So, he acted to compensate for his guilt- speaking out against the advocacy of “political violence” – as in the phrase “by any means necessary”- and soon he was killed and many have glorified him as a hero or martyr.

So many of the heroes of our culture have been martyrs who lived (and often were killed) for some rebellion against some conformity: Jesus, JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. (who was named after the man who inspired the first seven letters of the word Protestant: Martin Luther), as well as Gandhi, former “terrorist leader” Nelson Mandela, a protesting Chinese college student in Tiananmen Square who stood in the path of a tank, the Vietnamese monk who burned himself alive in protest to warfare, and so on. Do these heroes actually serve as models of our behavior or do they mostly just remind us of the possible consequences of non-conformity?

Given that virtually none of the people who glorify the heroism of Jesus follow his actual life choices to become a wandering ascetic, consider that these heroes are not so much models of behavior as reminders and warnings. We may use these martyrs to produce guilt within ourselves, with the idea being that we should not conform as we actually have been, but that we should become a wandering ascetic like Jesus or the Buddha and so on.

Focusing on that ideal perhaps creates and sustains the experience of tension and guilt and shame, if believed.

Jesus, according to popular versions of his life story, publicly rebuked the religious leaders of his day as hypocrites, apparently resulting in his death. That pattern of action is actually rather distinct from simply developing inner peace and promoting a spirit of cooperativeness. 

Was the story of Jesus the first ever story of the rebuking of hypocrisy? Even Moses is well known for condemning the behavioral traditions of “his people,” though he was not killed for it by the people he rebuked. Further, Jesus frequently quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, dramatically referencing the distinction between the activity of simply using words such as “peace” and “respect” as distinct from an actual experience of peace and respect.

Can one be peaceful and respectful while rebuking someone? Does rebuking imply animosity and resentment and antagonism and aggressiveness?

Also, should people experience shame for behavior patterns that could be labeled as selfish? Should people keep certain behaviors secret, at least from inquisitors who threaten torture and execution? Should people lie about selfish behaviors and rationalize them as actually having been unselfish? 

Should people always conform? Should people always condemn conformity? Should people always condemn hypocrisy? Should people discontinue the condemning of other people? Should people condemn condemnation?

My experience has been that I have repeatedly condemned other people (whether particular people that I personally know or remote groups even from distant times), and further that I have eventually noticed that I have sometimes done very similar things to much of what I have condemned. I can accept that the intensity of my condemnation of something may be proportionate to the extent of my own practice of that thing. I can also accept that the intensity of my glorifying of something may be proportionate to the extent that I avoid practicing that thing.

“Wouldn’t it be great if people completely stopped being involved in commercial activities and just donated all their wealth and all their time to other people?” I may say things like that, implying that such a pattern of action might be great or greater than some other pattern, but I might not really know if it would be great or not because I may not have actually done it and I may not ever, even though I may talk a lot about how great it allegedly would be.

What if what I really meant was this: “wouldn’t if be great if EVERYONE ELSE EXCEPT ME simply donated all their wealth and time TO ME?” I might experience that the competitiveness in the commercial economy in my midst is challenging for me. I might really like the idea of government benefits received by me that are derived from the collection activities of governments that result in me effortlessly having what used to be other people’s wealth or productivity.

“Government mercenaries, please go and find some rationalization to condemn or criminalize some behavior of other people and bring me the spoils of the conquest. Please hurry!”

“If the spoils come from a distant nation or from traffic tickets and confiscations from convicted local drug dealers, just keep these roads well-maintained and these medical services free. Do not betray me by leaving it to me to be responsible for my own finances, my own welfare, my own health, my own family, and my own experience of inner peace and respect.”

“If people insult us and disrespect us and threaten us, punish them. If people refuse to do business with us at the prices we consider fair, conquer them. If they have values and cultures distinct from ours, like if they decline to commit to pacifism (as in us having a monopoly on nuclear weapons), then give them an ultimatum between unconditional surrender and us bombing them to ashes, but please do not enlist me to be directly involved in the bombing, because that sounds rather dangerous… plus, military drafts are undemocratic, and our militant, imperialist bombings are the most democratic in human history so far, though we only bomb civilians when we are absolutely forced to do so by the majority voting for it and only in order to promote and demonstrate loving-kindness, peace, the combined compassion of Christ and Buddha, and of course the inalienable right to life of all people everywhere, except of course for those who do not recognize and worship the ideal of the inalienable right to life.”

So, do these words sound like the jokes of Charlie Chaplin or the ramblings of a mental patient or the typical statements of politicians and religious leaders throughout history? How about all of the above?

Remember, a martyr is someone who dies for identifying with a cause. Identifying with something involves language. Martyrs die for their language.

Should all people everywhere glorify the ideal of dying for a particular linguistic ideal? Uh, well, if that appeals to you, then you can go right ahead and “march on the Vatican to protest the inquisition” or “occupy wall street” or “march on the pentagon to protest bombs and propaganda and imperialism.” 

By the way, consider that no one is going to march on the pentagon because, for one thing, there is no open physical space there to make that convenient. Further, the popular conception that the US is a democracy does not fit with the idea of marching on the pentagon (or on to a military base or occupying a federal courthouse). Those who believe that a particular government is a democracy are more likely to march on the great temple of the elected senators (and the lobbyists who fund them).

If you think that you can go conduct a public demonstration on a military base or at the pentagon or in a federal courthouse (or a police station or fire station) simply because you live “in a democracy,” you may soon find that you are conducting demonstrations in a jail cell… if you are that fortunate.

Democracy is a component of many political processes. So is organized coercion. That is not a contradiction. Not every government in human history has involved any democratic procedures, from the governing of a household to an empire. However, has any government failed to use the procedure of organized coercion?

Should we be ashamed about a particular government’s use of organized coercion? Should we keep it a secret? Is there a general pattern of punishing with organized coercion those who directly reference organized coercion? 

Or, is there only a specific pattern of the punishing of those who directly antagonize the agents of organized coercion? Wouldn’t you be wary of populist campaigns to occupy the pentagon or even occupy to an airport in China? Your coercion is probably not even close to organized enough to successfully accomplish that kind of result!

Be realistic. In other words, if you like, for an interesting afternoon, go ahead and gather up a few thousand friends to occupy wall street. 

Further, if being a martyr especially appeals to your pride, then identify some linguistic ideal and commit to dying for it. If your idealistic sacrifice attracts enough publicity, then you may even be remembered fondly as one of a rather long list of trailblazers in the promoting of other people’s right to make themselves in to martyrs, too.

Of course, such a path of drama, pride and possible fame may not be the path of inner peace. If inner peace appeals to you, then dying for a linguistic ideal may not be of any relevance to you. You may find it more inspiring to question the nature of all linguistic ideals, including the ideal of the heroic martyr.

As-Salamu Alaykum. Aleichem Shalom.

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