Tal Ben-Shahar is an expert on happiness. He teaches happiness at Harvard and has written some internationally successful books on the subject. Dr. Ben-Shahar has identified what he believes to be the major obstacle to achieving happiness; the aspiration to a life that is not just happier, but perfect.
I agree with Dr. Ben-Shahar and add that it is also our continual and habitual pursuit of perfect which is one of the leading causes of blaming. How does this happen?
We have an innate belief in Plato’s Forms (even if we don’t remember what these are). Essentially, Plato argued that non-material abstract forms (or ideas) and not the material world (known to us through sensations) possess the most fundamental kind of reality. There is a Form for every object or quality in reality: Forms of cats, human beings, colors, goodness and even love. These Forms are the essences of various objects – the purest of all things. There is a table or there is the Form of Table that has all of the perfect qualities of being a Table. There is love and there is the Form of Love that contains all of the perfect qualities of Love. These are the gold standards by which we judge all tables and all of our loving relationships. Since we can never really experience these perfect Forms, we are subjected to live with imperfection.
Every time we judge or compare what is real to a fictitious ideal, always leads to unhappiness. Further, the Perfectionist is convinced that they should be able to attain these fictitious ideals. In actively pursuing perfect and believing that the ideal situation is attainable, we continue to make comparisons to what we currently have, who we are and what we are experiencing. Whenever we compare, we are fulfilling two negative processes. 1) We are being mindless; not focusing or being actively aware of or appreciating the present. 2) We are never going to be as happy with what we have when we compare it to some mental idea of what is perfect. We believe this attainment is not only possible, but we often feel entitled. Thus, if we don’t achieve, attain or experience the best, if not the perfect, then obviously someone or something is to blame. As I described in The Blame Game when we set up an unattainable gold standard for how things and people should function and they don’t rise up to this level of our expectations, responsibility needs to be given out and blame needs to be assigned.