Psychoanalytic concepts that might help in life and on the spiritual path- part 2 on ‘good-enough’

Winnicott’s idea is of the ‘good-enough mother’ was intended to liberate parents from the millstone of aspirational perfection. Once the infant knows the mother can reliably provide during the baby’s early state of complete dependence, it is through the bust-ups and bungles of being good-enough rather than perfect that the infant finds out about their own developing needs. The child discovers he or she is not within the suffocating realm of parental omniscience, nor are the parents within the tyranny of the baby’s omnipotent control. Importantly the infant finds that rage and phantasies of destruction do not magically destroy the world, except in their creative imagination. Beyond this lies a widening horizon of emotional development: anger, disappointment, reparation, and eventually, independence, and gratitude.

It’s an imposition in Christian teaching to ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5: 48). The difficulty with the idea of being all good or perfect is that it involves not only denial of the shadow, but also means that religion and spiritual practices become heavily dominated by the super ego – so all spontaneity and creativity is lost and indeed we become compliant with a false self religion and faith.

Instead, the idea of ‘being whole’ rather than perfect allows for the idea of being good enough – there is enough good within to balance or mitigate against the not so good or bad – there’s always the shadow and mixed feelings, but they can be integrated – so ‘be balanced therefore, as your heavenly Father is balanced.’ Perhaps it sounds unorthodox but it is possible to try to balance feelings rather than endlessly trying to achieve the impossible.

The ‘good enough’ idea can also help with softening superegoic expectations in any context – it’s a bit like doing one’s best given the circumstances.