I was sitting on a green padded stool in my favorite watering hole, when who should pop in but my Long Lost Cousin. Long Lost because we just met again after some fifty years!
He jumped up on the stool next to me and said:
“Hey Cousin, I’ll take a whiskey please. I need one badly!”
He looked very stressed so I ordered him a whiskey and I stuck with my beer.
“What’s the problem, Cousin?” I said distressed by his haggard appearance.
“I seem to be plagued recently by panic attacks and phobias, you know generalized anxiety.”
He gulped the shot down and ordered another!
“I seem to have an obsession to do everything perfectly. I like to be in control of things and I want approval of everything I do.”
“Well, it sounds like you’ve got the traits that perpetuate anxiety. I wish there was a couch here you could lie down on.”
“Never mind the couch, what are the traits?” he stammered.
“Perfectionism, the need for approval and control.”
“How did this come about?’ he said quizzically.
“Well, these traits most likely come from childhood experiences.”
“What do you mean?”
“For example, if you were constantly criticized by your parents, you would feel like nothing you do was good enough. So you would try to do things perfectly.”
“Oh Cousin, I feel so burnt out lately.”
I felt really sorry for this fellow who was my long lost blood relation.
“It’s a vicious circle, Cousin, your perfectionism drives you to the point of exhaustion and burnout! You’re always thinking, “I must” or “I have to”, and then you feel more anxiety.”
My Cousin looked completely drained.
“Why do I need approval all the time?”
“To begin with you’re putting too many demands on yourself. All humans need approval from time to time, but being overly concerned with approval is a sign of thinking you’re flawed and unworthy.”
“I think that the approval and acceptance by others of me is very important.”
“Just say to yourself, it’s not necessary to get the approval of everyone. You need to believe in yourself.”
My Cousin started rubbing his shoulder and neck.
“You’re feeling stress right now, aren’t you, Cousin?”
“Yes, I get a lot of muscle cramps and spasms.”
“What about my need for control?”
“You want life to be predictable, that’s impossible!”
He winced with the pain of a cramp!
“If you grow up with trauma and most people have some in their life, you get frightened and feel the world is hostile, so you get defensive and you want to control things.”
“Help! How do I get off this merry-go-round? Stop the world, I want to get off!”
“Relax Cousin, I’ll give you a list of things to say to yourself that should calm you down.”
“Hurry, what’s on the list?” he said grabbing my arm.
“You need to accept life’s unpredictability, so say to yourself:
I’m learning to take life as it comes.
I will let go and trust that things will work out.
I can relax and tolerate a little disorder in life.
I’m learning not to take myself or life so seriously.”
“Thanks Cousin, that sounds like a good approach to life’s problems.”
I smiled and said:
“You need lots of humor to contend with life.
I enjoy popping plastic bubble wrap, it’s much cheaper than therapy!”