Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy For Perfectionism

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Perfectionism is difficult to treat because while most people are poignantly aware that the attitude causes them undue suffering and distress they’re also secretly proud of their life orientation and deeply afraid that if they were to let go of the compulsion to do everything perfectly their performance would suffer and their lives would fall apart.

So what we have is deep ambivalence around a trait thought to be an ingrained part of the personality structure. This makes narrative therapy an excellent treatment option since by separating the person from the problem it’s possible to view the situation more objectively, without getting caught up in self-deprecating value judgments where considering letting go of the problem appears tantamount to saying “There’s something fundamentally wrong with me.”

In externalizing conversations, where the problem is treated as separate from the person experiencing it, the goal is to try to flesh out the problem as much as possible in order to begin to see it as a living, breathing entity with its own backstory, its own needs and wants, its own drives and motivations, its own personality. Here are a few questions to get started in the perfectionism personality sketch:

When did perfectionism first come into my life?
What was life like before perfectionism came around?
What does perfectionism want for me? For me relationships? For my happiness?
What demands does perfectionism make of me? What does it give back in return?
When if ever have I stood up to perfectionism? What happened?
How does perfectionism usually make me feel?