Dr. Zeba Hisam (Published in DAWN Magazine on Sunday November 8, 1998) I recall a patient who came to me complaining of anxiety. He had no organic disease but his anxiety was creating many psychosomatic problems for him. He was a rich businessman. He told me that he had a loose temper and was not satisfied with anything. He was always in search of perfectionism. He wanted to have a new beautiful house and a lovely garden. He bought a big plot in a posh area and kept on searching for different architects to design his house. He visited places to get ideas for a perfect garden. By the time the construction of the house was to start, he changed his mind and wanted a bigger plot in a more serene area. So he sold the plot and started search for a perfect one. In his office he was always overworked, never having proper meals and always-in hurry. He would get annoyed by the minor mistakes of his employees. He was coming home late; not giving proper time to his family. Due to his changeable mind and discontentment, even after six years the construction of his house could not begin. I asked him whether he wanted a house or happiness? He was amazed and said when he would have a new house he would be happy. I told him that it would probably take another six years for that and asked what he would do in that time time? In that way he would be inviting many psychosomatic illnesses. In contrast, a patient came to me for a routine medical check-up. His laboratory investigations and physical examination was found to be normal. He was also a businessman but with a totally cool personality. He told me about his daily routine: walking, exercising and healthy dietary habits. He was happy with his wife and children and told me that lately they had all come from Murree and Swat from their annual leave. He said he tried to offer his prayers regularly and felt a great change in his health. He had a positive approach towards life. If he were also in new search of a perfect vacation in Switzerland, he would probably have even missed visiting Murree. In my opinion, perfectionism is the real killer. It is good to have perfect things but sometimes it is better to have things the way they are. Coronary artery disease-prone personalities (people more prone to develop ischemic heart diseases), are found to be discontented with their lives and environment, are idealistic workaholics, which make them more prone to throw temper tantrums under stressful situations. Some idealistic working women are the victims of perfectionism As people in our society consider professional ladies to be less skilled in domestic work, so working women are compelled to prove themselves as perfect housewives as well as perfect in their jobs. Such women want to do the entire household themselves; as the work of their servants and “maasis” does not come up to their high expectations. They want their houses to be neat and tidy. They want their children to study in the best schools and get perfect grades. They somehow accomplish all this at the cost draining themselves, physically and mentally. If their daughters grow up to be messy and easygoing girls, they remain angry most of the times. They ultimately start complaining of burning sensations in their stomach (symptom of developing peptic ulcer), restlessness and fatigue. They don’t realize that there’s nothing wrong in a little relaxation even if the house is not in perfect shape? Many people go to far away countries for better opportunities and jobs leaving their loved ones behind. They send money every month to their families but they cannot return to Pakistan because more money makes them more idealistic. They set up targets, but when achieved, they make more goals leading to a never-ending pursuit of perfectionism in their lives. Is earning money the only essence-of life? Shouldn’t earned money be spent to make a comfortable living and be shared with loves ones? Aren’t they losing precious time living alone for the sake of money? I sometimes wonder what are the criteria for happiness? Is it achieved by making our lives perfect at any cost? Poor people think their problems will be solved by money. But after making that money, it’s revealed that happiness is a far-fetched idea as money has made them greedier. If a person cannot enjoy a cup of tea while relaxing in an elegant chair in a beautifully decorated house, then what a waste all this is! l think there is no fixed criteria for happiness either for the rich or for the poor. A Dutch proverb says; “‘Happiness begins when desires end.” There is a big vacant plot next to my house. Initially, one “Pathan chowkidar” was there to look after it. After some time a few more men came and joined him. They all live under a tree, under shade made with weeds and branches. They sleep under the sky. They wake up early in the morning, offer their prayers, cook breakfast and then go to work. In the evening, they come back, pray to God, chat with each other and cook their meal. On special occasions, like “Eid” or Independence Day, they celebrate by singing and playing flute and “dhol”. To me they look so contended, whenever I peep through the window of my room. Maybe they wish for a house like mine but God knows who is happy? To me they seem happy but it could be vice versa. One thing I firmly believe in is that happiness comes through love, peace and simplicity and not through money and perfection!