Good Enough

This post is to introduce the Winnicott concept of good enough. When asked to list everything we think we are good enough at, the chances are that after a great deal of thought we may come up with perhaps two or three items.  If we then consider the number of things we do in the course of a day, we get a clear idea of the impossible standards we set ourselves as we try to evaluate ‘well’ in terms of our lives. Dr Winnicott, the eminent psychodynamic psychologist who specialised in working with children, wrote extensively on the nature and needs of children in a language that parents could understand, and introduced the concept of the ‘GOOD-ENOUGH’ parent.

He made the point that in general, parents do the very best they know how at the time – and that given their circumstances, this is usually Good Enough. When we do or complete any action, I am sure in my own mind that we are doing the best we can with what we are deciding at that moment, even if we decide a few minutes later, that we were mistaken!

 “Good Enough”
Do remember writing ‘lines’ as a punishment at school?  I want you to do this for discovery and pleasure, not punishment!  Take as long as you want over this!  Please keep your list and add to it.

I am a good enough ………………

I am a good enough ………………

I am a good enough ………………

I am a good enough ………………

I am a good enough ………………

I am a good enough ………………

It is as well to complete this on a “good day” when you feel well resourced.  Put you list where you can easily refer to it – the front of your diary, the kitchen wall or on your work desk

good enough

John
I remember working with a General Practitioner who consulted me not feeling very good about himself or his life.  He was the father of three small children and was living with them and his wife, the family being completed by a tortoiseshell cat.  His wife had had an affair with his best friend, and the GP had completely taken this as if he was solely to blame, and not that there were three people in the scenario who all  had their own reasons for behaving how they did. 
The man and wife parted company eventually, and after due time I decided that he was perhaps less blameful and ready to start on his “Good enough” list.  He was very fragile, and the task took him some time to complete, in terms of self-acceptance.
In the context of the above example, it is important for you to be patient with yourself as you make your list.  Writers such as Maria Montessori echo this idea, when talking about the behaviour of children.  The judgement that a behaviour or action is NOT good enough comes from an externally applied value system. I would urge the adoption of the philosophy of GOOD ENOUGH, to be applied liberally throughout our lives, both to ourselves and to others.  It is possible to consider most behaviour as GOOD ENOUGH. It is not a matter of lowering standards, it is a matter of accepting and living in the present, the now.
If we drive a car, our driving skills may not win us a world championship title in racing or rally driving, but we are probably able to get from point A to point B safely – and thus for our needs, we may be GOOD ENOUGH as drivers.  We may not be good cooks, or homemakers, but if we are reading this, we have probably not starved to death, and are therefore GOOD ENOUGH providers of food for our needs. This reasoning can be extended to cover many of the activities we engage in on a daily basis, and by doing this, it can feel that the weight of the world is suddenly lifted from our shoulders.  This is true in quite a literal sense, because when we consider ourselves GOOD ENOUGH, we take the bite out of the judgements the world passes on us daily – or at least the judgements we think the world is passing on us daily.
When we think in terms of GOOD ENOUGH, suddenly our list of skills can grow quite considerably. Even if we do not consider ourselves very good at a particular activity, by evaluating it honestly in terms of our needs and of the situation, we will find that often we judge ourselves (and others) by external standards that cannot be applied to all situations.  Perhaps we are trying to cook like Aunt Sally, and until we can, we do not consider ourselves good enough.  But if we add to the equation that Aunt Sally loved working in the kitchen, and in fact had the time to spend all day working at exotic culinary creations, and that we hold a regular job in addition to being chairperson of the local Whatever Society, suddenly we can see that our freezer-to-oven hotpot is in fact quite GOOD ENOUGH!
There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

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