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Hoggett, P. (2020). The Grip of the Ideal. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(3):415-429.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(3):415-429

Clinical and Theoretical Practice

The Grip of the Ideal

Paul Hoggett

The ideal, an unrealizable state of perfection where reality does not apply, is a familiar phenomenon in the consulting room and in the wider society. Its grip is immensely powerful and it is connected to two significant negative emotions, shame and ressentiment (a particular form of grievance in which the grievance is nursed). This article examines whether these two different emotions arise from two different kinds of relation we take up to the ideal. Shame arising when we fail to be the ideal, ressentiment arising when we fail to have or possess the ideal. There are also good grounds for believing that each emotion is connected to a distinctive form of splitting, whilst shame seems to be governed by the law of all or nothing, ressentiment is governed by the law of right or wrong. Western civilization seems to be in thrall to the ideal, that is, to a place where there are no limitations to the possible and where time and loss do not apply. With the climate emergency deepening every month the question remains, when will we Moderns wake up to reality?

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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