Louise, over at Dare Boldly, regularly writes posts that leave me thinking. In a post a few days ago she mentioned the question: “If this is not where I want to be, why am I here?” It reminded me of the central question my first teacher/therapist/spiritual leader taught me to ask over and over: “What do I believe that created this reality?” Louise has had her own amazing journey and her answers are profound; check her out.
I realized that I’d not asked that question about this long, slow journey of healing in a long time. Later that night, as I went to sleep I asked the question. Immediately I heard “perfectionism” and saw a montage of scenes from my childhood. My father–orphaned at an early age and tossed among relatives who didn’t want him–is a perfectionist. Every problem, every choice must be analyzed and analyzed again, always trying to find the one right answer. Great anxiety accompanied every decision, every step taken. The consequence of being wrong was never spoken but as a child I surmised: the sky will fall, nuclear holocaust will ensue, torture and mayhem… After all, if the need to be right was that great, the consequences must be dire.
I saw the struggle for perfection in myself a long time ago and in many areas of my life it’s not a problem any more. Ellen, who led my Fischer Hoffman group, emphasized, however, that issues have a way of attaching themselves in many places; she called them daisy chains. I hadn’t seen the connection to my health issues. But it makes sense that something in me gave up the struggle to achieve impossible expectations of perfection and designed a set of health problems that held my life so still that I didn’t worry about taking a “right” step because I rarely took a step at all…
A long time ago I had asked the question and saw my childhood as only child, only niece (of childless aunt), only grandchild. All watching my every move. Al with such different world views and different plans for who and how I should be (none of them having anything to do with who I actually was). Again, I could see something in me decided to fold up and quit trying and created an ongoing health crisis that made it okay to be nothing in particular. And now I see that the perfectionist tendencies and the anxiety about not pleasing everyone dovetailed nicely and made the inner choice of poor health seem easier than being wrong or making someone mad.
I’m always fascinated by the way issues intertwine. Since Ellen’s lessons I’ve seen so many times how very many places one issue can show up. You can find it in one place and deal with that and then find it another and then another. And realize later that there were six more places that you didn’t catch the first five times.
I was thinking about people I’ve known in my parents’ age group — those who lived through the Depression followed by the horrors and deprivations of World War II– and it seems like I’ve known quite a few who had some degree of perfectionism or anxiety about finding the “right” steps to take. Made me wonder if any of you have elders from that era and what their legacies to you were.