|Forest or Trees, or both?|
From North Rim, Grand Canyon
This series looks at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.
Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992. If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.
Underlying the Cognitive Style
<snip>Constitutional differences - a matter of :wiring: or biochemistry - may predispose certain individuals to notice details, for instance, or remember facts.
This style furthermore serves such central dynamics of the obsessive such as vigilance, thoroughness, and perfectionism. If you have a chronic need to avoid risk or surprises, then an active, focused style of attention that enables you to remain watchful and alert will suit you best. Similarly, if your (unconscious) worldview is that your safety and control over life depend on your grasp of the universe, you will do your utmost to notice, comprehend, and remember as much as you can. You will be alert and observant, trying always to anticipate problems, and striving to remember names, dates, facts, and opinions.
<snip>... it has the very appealing side effect of bringing him the respect and admiration of those who find him so bright and competent. It also has practical value. The capacity for sharp, sustained concentration, for example, can significantly enhance your ability to master any number of skills, from playing the violin to programming computers. Detail-mindedness is an asset in everyone from police detectives to proofreaders, and a good memory for facts can serve you well in many contexts.
Unfortunately, some of these cognitive patterns may also create problems. When combined with rigidity, the penchant for "mental orderliness" can blind one to valuable new ideas. <snip> Similarly, certain activities (such as nurturing children or listening to music) are at odds with too much detail-mindedness and objective analysis. Those traits may block your reception of intuitive insights or inhibit your ability to grasp the big picture.
I heard a vivid illustration of this from Charles, a physician patient of mine who had just undergone the oral board examination for certification in his specialty. One phase of the est required him to evaluate a man who had lost the ability to speak. Charles examined the patient and then presented the board examiners with observations that covered many details, he fielded even esoteric questions with ease. But throughout, he made no mention of the deep scar that disfigured the aphasic man's left temple (the result of a grave injury that almost certainly had caused the man's aphasia). The examiners finally asked about it. Charles had, of course, grasped the significance of the scar, but so eager was he to demonstrate his command of the fine neurological details of the case that he had failed to mention it.
I think it's normal to think our own strengths are best, and perhaps condescend a bit to others without our skillset. Some months ago in chat a young person with OCPD was having a difficult time letting go of the way his supervisor had been wrong about some small detail. Had been digging through e-mails for hours to prove the point.***
Several of us older/wiser heads tried to explain that the way to forge a better working relationship with one's supervisor was not to thrust into their face proof that they had made a mistake. In further chat, it seemed this supervisor was a "big picture" person, who did not always appreciate the intense attention to detail the OCPD'r demonstrated. By the same token, the OCPD'r did not respect or appreciate the boss's ability to think big, to create, to come up with innovative ideas.
In an ideal world, both types of people would appreciate the skills the other type of person brings to the table, and learn to work together, seeing how person A's strengths complement person B's weaknesses, and vice versa. This is what I had hoped would happen with my ex and me. I did see and tried to express my appreciation for his attention to detail (though I also felt he went overboard with hyper-vigilance more than a little).
Only he did not see or appreciate my strengths at all, but rather, yelled, scolded, and expressed frustration that I didn't see/think/behave as he did. (Mostly. There were times he did acknowledge and even express gratefulness for the places I dragged him to, for the activities I suggested.)
I thought the story about Charles the physician who ignored the physical injury in his examination report quite on point for this section.
Are you the type to see trees or forest?