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Book Review: On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler

March 2, 2016 9 comments

Book Review: On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David KesslerSummary:
This book presents the science of grief and grieving, based largely upon the lifetime work of renowned psychologist Dr. Kübler-Ross.

Review:
How to review the first book you picked up after losing your 58-year-old father suddenly and unexpectedly to a heart attack? Normally I take a very academic approach to my book reviews (or at least I try to). I can’t review this one that way. I certainly wasn’t in an academic frame of mind when I was reading it. I wasn’t anywhere near my normal frame of mind. So instead, I’ll tell you about my experience reading it.

I found out my father was dead at 7am on a Thursday. I knew my father had been taken to the hospital the night before. My brother, who lives near where my father did, called me to let me know. But he also called me with an update that my father was stabilized. Neither of us was very worried, because my dad suffered from heart disease for eleven years and had been hospitalized periodically. He had a pacemaker. He was on medication. He had a specialist who did his long-term care. The ER was confident in his stability. They sent my brother home. My brother called me and told me to go to sleep. I did. He called me again about an hour later and left a voicemail telling me to call him back. I knew from the voicemail what he was going to tell me. I just knew it. I think I knew it the night before when I went to bed too. Because in spite of being told repeatedly that my dad was going to be fine, I cried myself to sleep that night. My brother, when I called him back, told me that my father had gone into cardiac arrest when they were moving him from the ER to a more specialized heart hospital. In spite of being in an ambulance surrounded by health care workers, the heart attack won.

In any case, the instant I heard the voicemail, I went numb. I woke my husband and told him. I called my workplace. I sent off certain work emails to pass off tasks to others to cover. I texted my friends. Then I sat on our bed and I felt….nothing. I was in a complete and total state of shock, I know now. Largely thanks to this book.

Late that night, when I found it was utterly impossible for me to sleep and was certain I would never sleep again, I reached out to the same thing I’ve always reached out to my entire life: books. I opened my laptop and logged in to the Boston Public Library’s ebooks search. I did not have the ability to go off looking for a print book at a branch. I needed help now. In the middle of the night.

I searched the catalog for “grief,” and got a list of…I dunno, a few books. This one was the most scientific. The rest were quite religious, and while that’s fine for other people, that’s not what comforts me. So I downloaded this, and I started to read it. And I instantly started to feel less like there was something wrong with me.

I learned that it’s entirely normal to go into shock at first. To not feel much of anything. It’s your body protecting you, letting the emotions in a little at a time, as you can handle them, so you will stay safe. And indeed, that night, after the first 12 hours of knowing, I sobbed in my husband’s arms. Thanks to this book, I knew that the numbness could come and go. In fact, the most helpful thing I learned in this book was that the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) don’t come in order necessarily, and they’re not neat. You don’t move through them in an orderly fashion. You may be angry one day, depressed the next, in denial another, and feel ok and accepting for a bit, then right back to depression. And that’s normal and ok.

I also learned, which was really important for me to know, that the stage of anger can sometimes express itself as guilt, which is just anger turned inward. Some people are more likely to turn their anger inward, and I am definitely one of them. Knowing this was where my (irrational) guilt was coming from (god knows I couldn’t possibly have saved my father from a heart attack from hundreds of miles away) made it much easier for me to cope with the feelings when they did come up.

There were other particular things that the book predicted might happen that kept me from getting freaked out when they did. For instance, I periodically was certain my phone had buzzed with a text message from my father. So certain, in fact, that I picked it up to check. Twice I thought I saw my dad on the street. Both of these I may have been concerned were abnormal, but the book reassured me these “ghost sightings” are totally normal. It’s your body and brain readjusting to your new reality.

The book also gave me warnings about things to come. Things like how the first holidays without the person or the person’s birthday would be difficult. So I knew to expect that and prepared myself for it. It also talked about being patient with yourself in things like dealing with the loved one’s possessions. Not to rush yourself, that it’s ok to take a little bit of time. There were also warnings about how quickly the person’s scent will fade that meant I took the time to really smell a couple of my dad’s tshirts, because I knew the scent would be one of the first things to go.

There is a “specific circumstances” section that talks about things like multiple losses simultaneously or suicide. I wish this section had a bit more on various other special circumstances. For instance, I had just gotten married 7 weeks before, and then my father died. I would have loved a section talking about the juxtaposition of such happiness with such sadness, and how to handle the emotions of things like your first married Thanksgiving (so happy!) also being your first Thanksgiving without your father.

Overall, this book gave me guidance of what to expect from my grief in the immediate time after the loss, as well as in the first year. It mostly contains universal information that will be helpful to anyone going through a loss. If you are a person who finds comfort in books or science, you will find comfort in this read. If you love someone who has recently lost a loved one, reading this will help you to know what behavior from them is normal and guide you in supporting them and validating them through the experience.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Waiting For Daybreak Blog Tour: Author’s Wrap-up!

September 1, 2012 3 comments

Wow. It’s hard to believe my first book release blog tour is over.  Overall, this was a very wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about running a tour, which I will share with other indie authors in future posts.  This post though is about Waiting For Daybreak, my future writing, and the wonderful participating bloggers.

I of course was pleased (and relieved) to see that bloggers mostly enjoyed my first novel.  Getting so much feedback and opinions let me see what quips and qualms were personal and what were things to bare in mind for my future books.

So what things did people disagree on?  The ending was mostly loved, although a few people thought it was a bit abrupt.  The length was deemed just right by some and too short by others.  Some people found the level of information about the zombies and amount of horror content just right. Others wanted more.  These are all choices that are ultimately up to the author, and I’m still pleased with the choices I made (or rather with the direction Frieda dictated the story to go).

The one universal quip, and which I admit I have always known is a fault of mine, was a desire for stronger setting/world building.  Although the world is always 100% clear in my mind, I can sometimes struggle to be sure that it is coming through on the page.  I have come up with a few strategies to improve this in future books and appreciate the honest feedback from all the bloggers.

The fact that everyone was so honest means I can trust that the one thing that everyone loved is truly good.  That is character building.  People loved Frieda, and they loved Snuggles.  They found her three-dimensional and well-rounded.  Flawed, aggravating sometimes even, but ultimately understandable.  A few people even mentioned that they came away with more empathy for people with a mental illness.  You guys, this feedback blew me away.  My whole concept and point was to create a main character in a genre book with a mental illness as a way to fight stigma and ableism.  The fact that this worked on any level at all…. Well. It rocked my world.  I hope seeing people talk about relating to Frieda and feeling for her will be an encouragement to people dealing with mental illnesses.  Plus, on a writer’s level, it’s just good to know that I can create deeply flawed characters who are still someone readers can root for.

I couldn’t’ve asked for much more from a blog tour for a debut book.  It’s strong, solid feedback for a first novel.  I know more clearly what I do well and what to keep a closer eye on in my editing process.

In addition to the feedback, I got to get to know a bunch of book bloggers.  I’ve never interviewed an author on my own blog before, and participating in interviews made me see how much fun they can be!  They gave me the chance to explain where my idea came from, clarify some aspects of who I am and how I write, and just connect on a more personal level with my readers.  It was so much fun!  Also having the blogs host giveaways of my book brought it to a broader audience.  It was so nice for me to see who chose to enter the giveaways and why.  I also greatly appreciated the space for guest posts to talk more about my own perspective of my book.  It was all-in-all a very positive experience for me.

One thing that came up repeatedly during the tour was people wondering precisely what mental illness Frieda has.  I honestly didn’t realize people would be so curious about this!  I’ve added an author’s note explaining her mental illness to the ebook versions (although I couldn’t add a note on to the print version).  I will reproduce it here now so those with review copies, giveaway copies, or the print book can satisfy their curiosity. 🙂

Frieda has Borderline Personality Disorder, commonly known as BPD.  The Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV-TR, which psychiatrists use in diagnosing mental illnesses, requires that a person exhibit at least five of the nine symptoms associated with BPD.  Frieda has all except for number one.

The diagnostic criteria are:

“(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.

(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self

(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.

(5) recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior

(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

(7) chronic feelings of emptiness

(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)

(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms”

MICHAEL B. FIRST, M.D., ed. 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 4th Ed. (DSM-IV-TR™, 2000). Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Association. ISBN 0-89042-024-6, ISBN 0-89042-025-4. STAT!Ref Online Electronic Medical Library. http://online.statref.com/document.aspx?fxid=37&docid=314. 8/30/2012 12:18:14 PM CDT (UTC -05:00).

For more information on BPD, please see the DSM-IV-TR cited above.

There were two other things everyone wanted to know.  1) will there be a sequel? and 2) what am I currently working on?

I didn’t write Waiting For Daybreak with the intention of it being the start of a series.  But. A few weeks after finishing it, the germ of an idea jumped into my head.  I believe that Frieda’s story is not complete.  There are still many questions, primarily about her family, but also about what she will do with winter coming on.  I do intend to write a sequel addressing these questions.  However, it will require a bit of a road trip or two for research, so it won’t be coming out for at least two years.  It also has to wait for me to finish my current work in progress.

My current work in progress is a dark fantasy.  It is set in the Lovecraft universe and follows four siblings fifteen years after the Dark Ones have taken over Boston.  It will examine many themes, but the primary ones will be sibling relationships and what makes family family.  Each of the siblings will take turns expressing themselves, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to get into four very different minds.  I’ve had a love for Cthulhu for a long time, so I am truly enjoying getting to bury myself in this world.

I think that’s about it for my wrap-up, except for the all-important huge THANK YOU to every single participating blogger!!! Thank you for being willing to accept indie books in general and mine in particular.  Thank you for your honesty in reviewing and positivity in hosting guest posts, interviews, and giveaways.  Thank you for helping my writing to reach a broader audience.  Thank you for everything you did to help make my first blog tour and novel release a success!  There wouldn’t even have been a blog tour without you all, and I look forward to hopefully working with you all again in the future.

Note: If you would like to see the reviews, interviews, and guest posts, please check out the blog tour and reviews page.  It will remain up and be updated with new reviews as they show up, even though the tour is now over.  If you are interested in more of my writing, please check out my publications page.  Thanks!

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet in red against a gray background.Summary:
Cain explains how the Extrovert Ideal became the norm in Western culture then proceeds to define the reality of the existence of both introverts and extroverts, not just among humans, but in the non-human animal kingdom as well.  She explains the pluses and minuses of both personalities and provides advice for individuals, parents, and businesses in bringing out the best potential in both.

Review:
This book has been all the rage among book bloggers, which probably isn’t that surprising.  Readers tend to be introverts, and the book’s title certainly implies that it’s all about us.  In actuality though, although the book does have a focus on introverts, it also contains lots of information on extroverts and how we are all different but equally valuable to the world.  Indeed, the Introduction features a statement that basically defines the point of the book as a whole:

Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the “north and south of temperament,” as one scientist puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  (page 2)

After the Introduction, the book is divided into four parts: The Extrovert Ideal, Your Biology Your Self, Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal, and How to Love How to Work.  As someone who was a History major in undergrad, I found the first section completely fascinating.  It explains how western culture, particularly American culture, went from an introvert ideal to an extrovert one.  It, not surprisingly, was all tied up with the Industrial Revolution.  Before the Industrial Revolution people mostly interacted with people they had known most of their lives or who they would have time to get to know.  After, if you wanted to make it in the business world, you had to make an amazing first impression.  This push to give off the aura of friendly and awesome edged out the prior expectation to develop a moral character.  This section also talks about how Evangelical Protestants take the Extrovert Ideal to an even greater extreme:

If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.  (page 69)

I’ve taken the Meyers-Brigg personality test multiple times at various points in my life. I am always solidly an INTJ.  The I is for introvert.  I was also raised Evangelical (although I am now an Agnostic).  This section rocked my world.  I even mentioned on GoodReads that it basically explained my life to me.  Cain talks about how difficult it can be to be an introverted child or young person being raised in a culture of Extrovert Ideal.  I wasn’t just raised in the American one (who just so happen to be the most extroverted people on the planet, page 186), but I was also raised in the most Extrovert Ideal culture within that culture–Evangelical.  It’s no wonder I had some issues figuring out who I am and being ok with that. I can barely fathom what a difference it would have made in loving and accepting myself if I’d even just been told it is just as ok to worship alone in the woods as to be loud and proud about it in public.

The next section is more sciencey and discusses the biology behind personality differences.  This section can definitely be empowering as it lets people know precisely how you became an introvert or extrovert.  The overarching philosophy is that more sensitive babies, as in ones who are more easily startled or frightened of strangers, are predispositioned to become introverts.  Nurture also affects this, of course.  Cain discusses the good qualities of both highly sensitive and less sensitive kids and how how they are raised can either bring out the good or the bad in either natural temperament.  Of course this is a great area for parents and those who work with kids, but it also explains to the reader how they got this way and what false ideas they might have about themselves.  For me, this is the section that explained to me why I’m so passionate about causes like vegetarianism and mental illness advocacy.  Introverts tend to be oriented around causes.  An example of an introvert/extrovert pair who both got things done in their own way that Cain uses is Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt.  This is a wisely chosen example because both are people to look up to who played to their own personality strengths.

Personally I wasn’t so into the next section.  As compared to the other sections that are three chapters, this one consists of only one.  It essentially compares Asian culture to Western culture since Asian culture tends to idealize introversion over extroversion.  I felt that this chapter was a bit rushed and less in-depth.  Cain tried to cover both the experiences of Asian-Americans and all Asian culture as a whole.  I understand that she wanted to address multicultural understandings of personality, but it does seem that this topic could be a book in and of itself.  It felt a bit similar to the instances when in my job as an education and reference librarian that I tell a student their topic is too broad to possibly cover in one paper (or one thesis).  It seems that a quick chapter on introversion versus extroversion worldwide could have been mentioned in the first section as a comparison without devoting a whole section to it.  Similarly, the issues specific to immigrants to America from nations with an Introvert Ideal would have worked well in a different section.  This would have felt more integrated and flowed better.

The final section contains advice on using your personality to your advantage in your life and also on how to strike a compromise with someone you care about of a different personality type.  Overall, this section was well-written, although I felt not enough attention was given to “pseudo-extroverts,” introverts who have learned to pass as extroverts.  This is a fascinating topic, particularly to an introvert who is constantly mistaken for an extrovert.  I think this is the reality for a lot of people, and it deserved a bit more attention and research.  For instance, Cain says in passing:

Emotional labor, which is the effort we make to control and change our own emotions, is associated with stress, burnout, and even physical symptoms like an increase in cardiovascular disease. (page 223)

I really wanted to know more about this!  Particularly since I care so much about health and wellness.  It almost seemed as if pseudo-extroversion deserved its own chapter.

The rest of the section though was great and quite helpful.  I think if everyone followed the advice in it on dealing with other personality types and creating a loving environment for kids on both ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum that we would have a much more positive world.  Perhaps her best piece of relationship advice is A Free Trait Agreement.

A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time—in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.  (page 221)

So for a couple consisting of an introvert and an extrovert they will go out some Friday nights and stay in and snuggle and read others.  Preferably about 50/50.  Mutual compromise.  It’d be good to keep this in mind more often.

Overall, this is a well-written, accessible book regarding personality psychology and the history of it.  It does flounder in some places and could have used another once-over for structure and focus, but it is well worth your time to read.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Faculty Panel on Research Methods (Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp 2012)

“Anthropological Methods” Dr. Sarah Pinto, Tufts University

  • anthropology–study of human behavior in its cultural context
  • What do you want to learn?
  • How do you want to learn it?
  • People are complicated.  Worlds are complex.
  • Zora Neale Hurston was not just a writer, she was also an anthropologist.
  • Franz Boaz was the father of anthropology.
  • Anthropology can be done at home.
  • It requires constant reflection on oneself.
  • Work with people. Don’t enact on them.
  • It is not objective in search of fact but interpretive in search of meaning.
  • There are four principles of anthropological fieldwork.
  • #1 participant observation–to learn about what’s going on in people’s lives, you have to spend a lot of time with them.
  • #2 interviewing/conversation
  • #3 fieldnotes–there is tons of interesting writing on anthropological notetaking
  • #4 reflexivity–perspective, co-authorship, politics of the encounter
  • Recommends Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss (memoir, originally in French, translated into English)
  • Recommends In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in Out-of-the Way Place by Anna Tsing
  • Data is inherently messy but when you put it together it gives us the richness we were looking for.

“Exploring Social Psychology” Dr. Keith Maddox, Tufts University

  • social psychology–scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in a social context
  • We tend to want to conform to the norms others have set.
  • We’re different people when we’re with other people than when we’re by ourselves.
  • What makes social psychology scientific is all in the method.
  • Three guiding principles of social psychology
  • #1 reality is a social construction–we perceive our ideas of others more than how they are in fact
  • #2 determinants of behavior–person(ality) x situation = behavior
  • #3 the power of the situation–personality is often overemphasized.  We fail to take into account the situation the person is in.
  • Tools of the trade include: questionnaires, rating scales, statements, movements, body language, self or observer reported
  • Tricks of the trade (overcoming challenges).  When people know they’re being studied, they might alter their behavior.  How to combat this?  Use deception, for instance, mislead people in the instructions to think we’re studying one thing when really we are studying another.  Use of confederates.  Field experiments.
  • Social Psychologists must balance a number of concerns.  Scientific rigor, setting that is psychologically valid, and ethics.

Book Review: His Father’s Son by Bentley Little

June 21, 2011 2 comments

Man walking down dirty hospital hallway.Summary:
Steven’s life in California is so typical it borders on boring.  He writes for AlumniMedia.  He’s engaged to a librarian named Sherry.  He goes out for happy hour every Friday night with his three buddies.  Then one day his mother calls him and informs him his father tried to kill her.  His father has had strokes and dementia, but in a moment of absolute clarity in the VA hospital, his father whispers to Steven, “I killed her.”  Thus begins Steven’s tailspin into a world of darkness and ever-changing morality.

Review:
I believe this book succeeds in serving its purpose–it’s a page-turner with chills.  If someone asked me for a simple thriller for the beach, I’d have no qualms handing this over.  I cannot rid myself of the vibe though that the idea of this book could have led to a thriller of excellent quality instead of beach read quality, and that is a bit disappointing.

The set-up is excellent.  Here we have an ordinary guy with some issues with his parents, but he still tries to live up to his family obligations.  Then his father has an episode that makes mortality something Steve is no longer able to ignore.  Steve then starts this quest that could easily be read as a metaphor for adults dealing with the increased fragility of their parents.  However, about two-thirds of the way through, the plot takes an unexpected twist that then essentially nose-dives off a cliff into a scenario that is jarring and rather insulting to the reader.  The book is not at all about what it at first appeared to be, and honestly, the original concept was much more intriguing than the final answer.  The resolution is cliche, whereas the original set-up was not.

Other than the plot, Little sets scenes fairly well.  It is easy to envision both the simpler scenes as well as the more complex scenes of violence.  His writing style is not particularly memorable though.  I didn’t once feel the need to write down a quote or dog-ear a page.

One of the more interesting elements of the book is that Steven is a writer, and his short stories pepper the book to give you an idea of his mental state at the time.  I honestly enjoyed the short stories more than the actual book itself.  I could easily see myself reading a collection of Little short stories in the future.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, if forgettable, thriller ideally suited to summer beach reading.  I recommend it to fans of thrillers looking for an easy read.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Book Review: The Creation of Psychopharmacology By David Healy

Summary:
A historical look at the emergence and development of psychopharmacology (psychiatric drugs) from the earliest time of psychiatry to the end of the 20th century.  Particular attention is paid to the impact psychiatric societies, economic systems, cultures, and drug companies have had on psychopharmacology.  Psychiatric drugs explored in-depth include chlorpromazine and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors aka antidepressants).

Review:
I was quite excited to learn about the topic of this book, as psychopharmacology is one of the key aspects of psychiatric treatment.  It is therefore unfortunate that the author, Healy, allows his own biases to get in the way of presenting factual information.

The first portion of the book that discusses asylums and the original drugs discovered by scientists to work on psychoses does present the facts in an unbiased manner.  Unfortunately, Healy could not possibly write in a much more boring manner.  I have never in my life read a text that is so stale, and I do read scientific nonfiction for work on a fairly steady basis, so this is not a bias of my own against scientific writing.  The man just drones on and on.

The larger problem  arises in the second half of the book when Healy arrives in the 20th century.  Healy’s obvious anti-drug and anti-psychiatry bias emerges.  He flat-out gets facts wrong and displays paranoia, ranging from the typical conspiracy theory that the mental health community is in league with the drug companies to the more extreme idea that depression shouldn’t be treated because then there would be no more art or spirituality.  He also claims that personality disorders should not be treated, comparing such treatment to cosmetic surgery.  This claim is offensive and harmful to people who wish to become higher functioning, happier individuals.

Healy goes on to offer predictions as to the direction psychology and psychiatry will take in the 21st century.  Now that we are a decade in to that century, I can definitively tell you his predictions are wrong.  He argues that an increasing number of drugs will be used to remove most individuality and that therapy will continue to fall by the wayside.  In fact, the first decade of the 21st century saw a new movement toward CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which are all about helping an individual change their harmful behaviors, thoughts, and tendencies purely through therapeutic techniques.  Healy is attempting to fear-monger his readers into believing psychiatry and psychology wish to drug us all up, when in fact the mental health community wants to use what works best in each situation.  Contrary to his claims, there are in fact biological bases for some mental health issues.

Although his facts are accurate in the earlier history of psychopharmacology, the second half of the book presents false facts and harmful ideas.  Due to this fact, I cannot recommend this book.  For an educated look at mental health and drugs, take a look at the DSMIV and the PDR.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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On Perfectionism

November 9, 2009 4 comments

Human beings are naturally fallible.  It’s one of the things that makes us humans and not a weird race of perfect angels running around the planet.  I accept this in others.  I expect them to make mistakes, and as long as they aren’t evil or huge, it’s no big deal.  But me?  Well, I expect myself to be perfect and when I inevitably fail, I beat myself up over it for hours. (This is a huge improvement over the old time-period of days).  I’m not talking huge mistakes that I should rightfully feel guilty about.  I’m talking about “oh I misunderstood what you were trying to say” or “oh this applesauce doesn’t quite taste perfect.”

Why do I do this unhealthy thing to myself?  With the insane amount of psychology/psychiatry reading I do in the course of my job, I have a theory.  Basically psychiatry believes people are born with a certain personality and every personality has weaknesses.  It’s the parents’ job to adpat their parenting technique to suit the child.  To uphold the strong parts of the personality and improve the weak parts.  This means there’s no one parenting technique that fits all.  Ok, I’m digressing a bit.

Essentially, I think that I was born with a natural tendency to be Type A.  You all know what that means.  Over-achieving. OCD. Etc…  Instead of telling me that I’m only human and can’t possibly be perfect though, I wound up with parents who were following one of the many versions of the Evangelical Christian faith.  I was told that since I was saved and had the Holy Spirit within me, not only should I naturally make fewer mistakes than those god-foresaken heathens out there, but also that I should strive every day to not sin.  Yes, mistakes were termed “sin.”

Sin just drips with this extra layer of connotation that’s not on a mistake.  A mistake is innocent.  Regrettable, but innocent.  Sin is letting demons into your life.  Sin is dripping with darkness and evil and everything that isn’t good in the world.  Sin is Satan breathing down your neck.  Sin makes God cry.

Ok, so a good little Christian girl isn’t supposed to sin as much as the heathens, and she should progressively sin less, but she *sigh* inevitably will.  So she should keep track of all her sins throughout the day and confess them individually in her evening prayers and beg for forgiveness.  But it’s not a real apology if you plan to ever do those things again, so if you ever commit that sin again, well that wasn’t a real apology was it?

Take one naturally Type A little girl, add these tenets, stir, and you get an adult Amanda who must constantly fight anxiety over not being perfect.

Yes, I know I left the religion that added to the Type A tendencies, so I should be doing much better than I am at not being so anxious about being perfect, but even when I let go of the Christian mores I was taught, my mistakes still carry that extra connotation.  My mistakes might not make god cry, but they could hurt people I care about.  My mistakes might not be dripping with demons and darkness, but they could put a damper on the evening.  And what if my mistakes build up so that they do cause problems in my life for me?  (Can you hear the panic attack starting in my head?)

Yes, I know it’s unrealistic and unhealthy to expect myself to be perfect.  And I know that I love the people in my life not only in spite of their faults, but because of them.  It just isn’t always easy to break the thought processes not only born into you but instilled in you.

So why am I blogging about this?  Because I doubt I’m the only person out there who holds herself to too high expectations, and I want those other perfectionists out there who might be reading this to know:  It’s not your fault you are a perfectionist.  Probably a lot of things had to combine to make you that way.  You don’t have to stay a perfectionist, and you also don’t have to be perfect.  People will love you just the way you are, so you should too.