Unveiling the Dance of Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Projection

Alisa Chirpicinic RCCTrauma, Relationships

In the course of our lives, we all use defenses—strategies safeguarding us from the pain of challenging emotions or memories. One common defense, known as “projection” or “projective identification,” involves attributing threatening feelings to others and identifying with those emotions. However, this defense can lead to frustration as we lack control over others’ feelings. This dynamic is exemplified in the story of Lara, whose relentless pursuit of perfection stemmed from her upbringing and led to a cycle of anxiety.

Table of Contents

Lara’s Story

Lara’s upbringing instilled in her the belief that her value hinged on perfection in various roles. Criticism and mistakes devastated her, and she constantly felt the need to outdo others. Lara’s parents, driven by external standards, influenced her perfectionistic focus. Despite Lara’s success, the pressure she felt attracted critical people into her life, reinforcing her view of constant judgment.

Entering therapy Lara faced exhaustion and depression after giving birth to her second child. Her perfectionism had become overwhelming, and she felt worthless. Lara’s coping mechanism was to project her struggles onto her first daughter, viewing her as the source of her problems. Lara’s attempt to control her daughter exacerbated the situation, leading to marital discord.

The Therapy Process

In therapy, Lara’s daughter became a canvas for Lara’s negative projections about her imperfect self. Lara’s fear of revealing her “less than perfect” aspects hindered her ability to connect with her daughter. Lara’s upbringing had ingrained disdain for imperfection, making it challenging for her to accept her own and others’ flaws.

Initially resistant to embracing imperfection, Lara gradually opened up as trust developed in therapy. Empathy for her struggles and acknowledgment of the pressure she felt paved the way for Lara to
explore a more relaxed self. The therapist provided a space for her to cope with mistakes, and as Lara felt accepted, she began to extend this acceptance to her daughter. The journey toward embracing imperfection became a catalyst for personal growth and a newfound appreciation for the unique gift her daughter represented.