Some Like It Hot is a movie that has one of the best endings ever.
Jack Lemmon spends the entire film pretending to be a woman. There’s this rich guy that falls in love with her/him. At the end they ride off on a boat into the sunset and finally Lemmon pulls off his wig and tells the guy that he’s really a man. And the guy says, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Don’t we all want perfection?
So many parents were devastated by the Tiger Woods scandal. Why? Because they had participated in the somewhat crazy practice that suggests that our children should have idols to look up to who are perfect.
Of course adults idolize too.
They look at other adults who appear to be more successful than them and they think that they should be like that. They murder their Self-Esteem with the assumption that they’re not good enough the way they are and that the person they are admiring is somehow superhuman or at least amazingly special and different.
As a clinical psychologist I have been victim to this kind of projection of perfection.
When I meet people they often say to me: “Are you analysing me?” I sense their nervousness, their need to distance themselves from me in case I can see into their imperfections.
The Freudian Model
I was trained in the Freudian model where the therapist keeps a very professional and opaque distance from their clients. When asked a personal question by the client, the therapist would simply turn the question around.
So for example if a client says, “Are you a happy person?” The therapist would deflect the question and perhaps reply, “I’m wondering what makes you ask me that?”
Nowadays I might say, “Just like everyone else I’m happy and sad and I’m wondering if you’re thinking that I must be perfect and that perhaps you are not,” which opens up a whole line of questioning around how the client projects perfection onto therapists and doctors and rich and famous and successful people and then we can discuss the implications on the psyche of doing this.
What’s really interesting is that I think that people want to imagine that the therapist and ‘others’ are perfect human beings without flaws, without neurosis.
Why is this so?
Who Has It All Together?
I have no doubt there are many reasons but I think one of the primary ones is that we want to believe that somewhere in the world there is a group of people who have got it all together.
It makes us feel safer, to believe that there are people out there who have all of the answers and live in perfect peace and happiness and that perhaps one day we will attain this too.
If nobody has all of the answers and everybody is neurotic in various forms then I think it’s quite a scary prospect, so what we do is project this image of perfection onto others to make us feel better.
The downside of course is that we are diminishing our Self-Esteem, our sense of worth and love and power.
So to dump this idea that there are perfect, flawless people out there, is potentially very empowering and it enables us to embrace life as it is rather than to pretend that we are deeply and painfully flawed and others are not.
I am seriously interested in the attainment of Spiritual Awakening. I follow a number of Spiritually Awakened people on Facebook and it’s really fascinating to notice that even amongst people who are deeply grounded in the truth of who they are, spiritually, there are still personality issues and emotions which we normally would not associate with them.
I used to imagine Awakening as this pure and blissful state where nothing could touch you.
Quite simply, for most people, this is not true.
Degrees Of Awakening
My observation is also that there different degrees of Awakening and this reflects differently in different personalities.
I discovered a few years ago that Nissargadatta Maharaj, a great sage in the Advaita spiritual tradition, smoked until he died and indeed he died of throat cancer.
What is so fascinating is that I was horrified and then delighted at this news. I was horrified because my projection of perfection was proved incorrect.
But slowly it dawned on me that I was trying to escape the world of imperfection by imagining that there were human beings who had transcended everything that was human and that in doing so I was running from the reality of life.
I have no doubt that our longing for perfection in the afterlife is an attempt to escape the murky, messy, painful and chaotic existence on this mortal world.
I have discovered that to stop projecting and running from reality has a strange sense of freedom about it.
Imperfection begins to become more comfortable, less desperate.
If you would like to meet face to face or via Skype to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please mail me at email@example.com