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The following short articles have been taken from my blog (mothballed for the present time). I hope you find them interesting and useful.

How to revive a creative project when it has gone stale

Frenetic Haste vs Procrastination

Taming your Perfectionist - the process of Active Imagination

The meaning and uses of failure

Taming your Perfectionist - the process of Active Imagination

I suppose there must be some people who do not have a perfectionist in their family of archetypes, but I haven't met one yet. The perfectionist comes in many guises: the critic, the judge, the censor, the dictator, the tyrant, the slave-driver, the bully. Each person's perfectionist will have its own flavour. My own is the hard task master.

Taming your perfectionist means getting to know it. It means having a conversation with it. It means finding out what its values are, what it cares about and where it comes from.

The best way to do this, that I know of, is to use a Jungian technique called active imagination. Active imagination means to have a dialogue with an aspect of yourself. You can do this as a conversation in your mind, but I prefer to write it down.

First of all, I write down an open ended question, such as - Will you tell me your story? Or - What is important to you? Or - What expectations do you have of me?

Then I wait for the answer which I hear with my inner hearing and sometimes there are images or kinetic sensations in my body as the archetype adopts a different body language from my own.

All I have to do is listen and write down what I hear. I don't have to wait long, believe me, your archetypes are only too eager to connect with you and have their say.

When doing active imagination it is best to maintain an attitude of inquiry, (a bit like Data from Star Trek who was curious about everything but in a very neutral way), to trust what you hear and allow it to flow - after all you are finding out some very vital information about yourself.

You may want to ask some clarifying questions or point out the effect the perfectionist has on your life - which may not be what that archetype intended. For example, when my hard task master gets going, it will set impossibly high standards and set exhausting work schedules with the intention of creating success - what actually results of course is exhaustion and despair.

Having a conversation with an archetype is useful for these reasons:

1. It lessens the power that archetype has to ambush you. Before I got to know my hard task master, I could be operating under its power without being aware of it, now I recognise it sooner, am able to say, oh it's you again, and choose a more balanced approach.

2. Think of yourself as an iceberg, with all you know about yourself as the tip, the 1/8 that is above the water. By doing active imagination you get to know more of the 7/8 below the water, the unknown, hidden you. Being in dialogue with an archetypal aspect makes it possible to negotiate change, transformation, for both of you to find a new attitude to the issue at hand.

3. The more you know yourself, the richer and deeper will be your work and the more authentic will be your way of going about your life. As Tolstoy said:

If you want to work on your art, work on your life. One tremendous bonus of bringing a shadow* aspect into the light is the enormous amount of energy that comes with it, not to mention a greater sense of inner ease and inner strength.

* Shadow meaning unknown, an aspect of yourself that you are not fully connected to in a conscious way.

Etchings by artist and printmaker Jay Linden
Tearing the veil