Category Archives: existential anxiety

The Shift That Frees People From Perfectionism

Perfectionism“Perfectionism develops as a way to cope with that defective sense of self and a sense of not fitting in with others, not fitting in with the world, not having a place in the world,”

An article from Thrive Global about how dangerous perfectionism is to our health, happiness and connection with others.

About two decades ago, a woman knocked on the door of Paul Hewitt, a clinical psychologist based in Vancouver, Canada. Outwardly, Anita — the pseudonym given in Hewitt’s new book — had everything meticulously together: she told her therapist of an idyllic childhood, the supportive family she came from, the daughter she felt close to, her broad network of friends. But the loss of her mom, who was her closest friend and confidant, was a big blow to her; it had happened ten years earlier, and it was a continued source of hurt and anger. More recently, she’d injured her shoulder, forcing her out of her career in food science. However successful she appeared, she was actually suicidal and depressed.

She had tried many treatments to deal with her depression and thoughts of suicide, but none worked; she used the “runner’s high” from long distance swimming as a way to cope with her loss, though the shoulder injury ended that. Few people in her life knew the depth of her pain. She had come to Hewitt because he’d heard an interview with the University of British Columbia psychologist where he talked about the links between depression, suicide, and perfectionism.

“She was one of the most suicidal people I’ve ever worked with,” he tells Thrive Global. Anita’s transformation serves as the central case study in the new book Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment, co-authored by Hewitt’s frequent collaborator Gordon Flett, of York University, and the private clinical psychologist Samuel F. Mikail.

Over the past three decades, these researchers have found that far from being a quirk of high-achievers, an innocent humblebrag you give to job interviewers when they ask you what your greatest weakness is (“I’m sometimes a perfectionist”)—this way of approaching life creates or amplifies all sorts of mental health issues. It also signals a problematic relationship with the self. “It’s not a way of thinking,” Hewitt says. “It’s a way of being in the world.” Continue reading

The Enemy Within- The Power of Self-Acceptance

kirk-shadow-self

I just finished re-watching the sixth episode of the first season of the original Star Trek (if you count the pilot.) It does a fair job of illustrating the basics regarding the dangers of non-acceptance and non-integration of the shadow-self with the persona. These are terms Carl Jung used largely to replace Freud’s terms, “conscious” and “subconscious.” (The persona being the self we tend to show the world- often our “best” attributes- while the shadow-self is largely unconscious and comprised of aspects of ourselves that society, culture or family have told us are “bad.”)  If explored, accepted and integrated the shadow-self provides us with much of our creative energy and power.  In this particular episode, an alter ego of Kirk is sent back with the original Kirk to the SS Enterprise when the transporter malfunctions. Continue reading

‘Fake it ’til you make it’ is psychologically damaging

Fake it till you make itOur lives and careers are filled with examples of inauthentic behavior. We feign interest in meetings or laugh at our boss’s bad jokes in order to be positive team members, build relationships, and accomplish shared goals. This is how we get along—and it is how some of us get ahead.

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TED Talk: Depression, The Secret We Share

Goya South Lake Union Therapy“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.” In a talk equal parts eloquent and devastating, writer Andrew Solomon takes you to the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression. Continue reading

What is Boredom and Is There a Cure?

boredom1I recently came across this article on boredom written through the lens of the 19th century existentialist philosopher and social critic, Soren Kierkegaard.  He argues that the nature of boredom is such that the most common coping strategies often result in a person not realizing they are bored or are boring others.  Boredom is really an expression of lack of meaning, he says. Continue reading

The Real Cause of Addiction

Broken Heart The Real Cause of Addiction

This is one of the best articles on addiction I’ve read in a long time.  It echoes what I have seen and experienced around attachment and safety the lengths to which humans will go to find comfort in their absence.  Continue reading

Scarecrow Video Event- The Psychology of Horror: Why We Love Scary Movies

NosferatuThe Psychology of Horror: Why We Love Scary Movies

Saturday, October 25th, 7PM  Scarecrow Video 5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle  98105

I’m sure I’m not alone in questioning my attachment to horror films (which I do in earnest each October.)  Why do I persist in subjecting myself to a genre that at times robs of me of sleep, gives me nightmares, makes me wary of everyday objects and sometimes causes me to lose feeling in my extremities?  I don’t have all the answers but I think I have a few and so does my friend and colleague, Stacey Weber. Continue reading

Book Recommendations

Book Recommendations

Of all the books I have read recently, these are my favorites.

What I liked most about Coming Apart is the author’s framing of “failed” relationships not as failures but as developmental tools which promote growth and awareness.

Coming Apart South Lake Union Therapy

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Are We All “Screwed Up?”

NeurosisAre We All “Screwed Up?”

I get asked this question a lot and the answer is, “yes.” This is comforting to many and not such welcome news to others. In the psychological world, “screwed up” is better known as “neurotic.” Psychoanalyst Karen Horney described neurosis as “a distorted way of looking at the world and oneself, determined by compulsive needs rather than by a genuine interest in the world as it is.” Yep. Unfortunately we all do this to one degree or another, in one or more areas of our lives. The extent to which this occurs is in proportion to the severity of the mental and emotional suffering we experience. Continue reading

Why Relationships Matter

Two FriendsWhy Relationships Matter

Patience, kindness and the simple act of our LISTENING can mean the difference between unbearable suffering and a life worth living for many people around us. In listening to this episode of This American Life recently, I was struck by the positive transformation of an adopted child diagnosed with an attachment disorder that was likely the result of abuse or neglect as an infant.

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