Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tunnel Vision

I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten into a fist fight as I have, but your brain does amazing things when such a moment of crisis occurs. As a survival response, your brain momentarily zeros in all your attention, focus, and memory onto your opponent and pumps loads of energy into the rest of your body. Now imagine being stuck in this survival mode for the rest of your life because your entire life is an unending crisis.

People with OCPD operate with tunnel vision because they are always in survival mode (my first post on hypersensitivity explains why they are in survival mode in the first place).

As you can see from my fight example, tunnel vision is not something exclusive to only people with OCPD. Anyone who has a fear gets their tunnel vision activated. Even my arachnophobic friend, who I have been using as an example in all my earlier posts about fear, also operates in tunnel vision when he is confronted with his fear. When he sees a spider in my bathroom, his focus zeros in on that spider. His entire body is still. He does not think about anything else. He never takes his eye off, not even while he is using the toilet, until the spider is killed.

But while his tunnel vision only needs to be activated in those occasional times that he comes across a spider, the tunnel vision of people with OCPD is activated all the time because of their unending fear of the entire world. So what you get are people who function like superhuman beings in a few areas of their life. Their attention, focus, memory, drive, and motivation operate at extreme levels that no regular person can match. In other “nonessential” areas, however, their life feel like a chore to them. In these areas, they have extreme difficulty being attentive, keeping focused, remembering, and being driven and motivated. After repeatedly operating in tunnel vision for so much of their life, their brain develops such strong neural pathways of this type of focus that it becomes an automatic way in which their mind operates.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Unless you live alone in the Himalayas and have no family or friends, you cannot get away with neglecting your “chores.” It is unfair for your family, friends, employer, business partner, or government to suffer because you choose not to pull your own weight. Before you forget, get your chores done and over with. Then move onto the things you are passionate about. If your tunnel vision is causing you to neglect simple gestures of care that mean a lot to your friends, allow them to communicate openly with you what those gestures are. Put your pride down for a minute and listen to how you can make them feel like you care about them. If you get angry, you will destroy that channel of communication and leave your friend to assume that you do not care about them. While you are in the zone and someone “interrupts” you, do not explode in anger – you know you can easily get right back in the zone because it’s something you are passionate about.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Assume that your OCPD friend is not reliable at all in things that he or she does not have much passion for. If there is something that requires his or her attention, summarize very concisely (1) what needs to be done, (2) when it needs to be done by, and (3) what will happen as a consequence if it is not done by that time. If you do not learn how to speak concisely about things that your OCPD friend considers as chores, he or she will only hear “blah blah blah” as you talk. If your OCPD friend fails to do things that most people would automatically do out of their care and consideration for you, don’t go on assuming that he or she does not care about you. Although that may be the case for regular people, it is not the case for people with OCPD; people with OCPD can care about someone so much, yet still be completely oblivious to simple gestures of care because of their tunnel vision. All that they need sometimes is someone to give them a hint. But thanks to Disney, giving hints shows weakness. So women avoid asking their men to treat them like princesses and men avoid asking their women to treat them like champions. They should just know, right? Wrong! If you let your OCPD friend know how he or she can make you happier (without offending him or her), most likely he or she will be happy to do that for you. On the other hand, if you choose not to communicate, but rather have the attitude that he or she should be able to read your mind, bitterness will build up inside of you from all your assumptions until you will eventually hate your OCPD friend. Now whose fault is that? The one who has little control over his or her tunnel vision because his or her brain has created strong neural pathways from repetitive use or the one who chose not to communicate because he or she did not want to appear weak? If your OCPD friend is in the zone, try not to interrupt. Don’t take it personally if your OCPD friend seems to be unaware of your existence while he or she is in the zone.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR TUNNEL VISION (OCPD):
I believe it is very important for people with OCPD to make timetables and day plans. Set aside some time for work, family, friends, errands, chores, meals, exercise, sleep, leisure and relaxation, things you are passionate about, etc. Make an agreement with the people you live with that you will follow your timetable. Whatever time slot you are in, regardless of how passionate you are about it, give your 100%. For example, if you are in your relaxation time slot, do not think about work.

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Control

Fear creates a need for something to be done in order to keep oneself safe.

People with OCPD are preoccupied with control because doing something rather than nothing gives them a sense of security from their fear.

I have a friend who has a fear of spiders. When he finds a spider in my bathroom, his mind alerts him, “Danger!” He feels compelled to do something in order to protect himself. He kills the spider right away and flushes it down the toilet to control his fear.

For all of us without arachnophobia, it is easy to say to him that the spider poses no real threat to our survival. Most of us may have the freedom to continue on our business in the bathroom without feeling as much need to do something about that spider.

In the same way that my friend feels the need to do something about that spider, people with OCPD feel the need to do something about the world around them and the uncomfortable emotions inside of them that they fear.


SO WHAT NOW?

ADVICE FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH CONTROL:
As long as you keep on controlling your fears, you will prevent yourself from facing your fears. You will not get to personally experience that you will be just fine, that things will be ok. Rather than controlling your fears, try to let go and think positively.

ADVICE FOR PARTNERS/FRIENDS/LOVED ONES OF HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH CONTROL:
Try to understand that your friend’s need for control comes from his or her anxiety and fear. Try your best to be a source of comfort and security. Submitting to the control of your friend will only temporarily alleviate his or her anxiety. Doing this occasionally may be appropriate some times to not push your friend off the edge of his or her fear. But when he or she is in a calm state, help your friend identify the root of his or her need for control, invite him or her to let go of control, and comfort him or her by saying, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be just fine” (be a voice of positivity in his or her life).

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Sensitivity

There is nothing wrong or abnormal about being born with a highly sensitive nervous system.

According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, about 15-20 percent of the population are highly sensitive. I am in the 1% that is extremely sensitive. Highly sensitive people feel everything (inside and outside of their body) more intensely. This kind of sensitivity may come with

PSYCHOMOTOR OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system

SENSUAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing

INTELLECTUAL OVEREXCITABILITY: need to seek understanding and truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize

IMAGINATIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams

EMOTIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression

~ Overexcitability and the Gifted

There are many advantages to having a highly sensitive nervous system. I think it’s almost like have a super human power.

OTHER STRENGTHS OF HIGH SENSITIVITY

  • You are detail-oriented
  • You are quick to see patterns and connections
  • You are able to understand and appreciate nonverbal expressions, art, and nature more deeply
  • You read people and their hidden emotions well
  • You can sort things into finer distinctions – “Like those machines that grade fruit by size – we sort into ten sizes while others sort into two or three.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)
  • You are curious and smart
  • You have strong intuition – “Your intuition is right often enough that HSPs tend to be visionaries, highly intuitive artists, or inventors, as well as more conscientious, cautious, and wise people.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)

Although it can be quite advantageous to have a highly sensitive nervous system, it is definitely not easy. Highly sensitive people experience everything so intensely that they are more likely to become overwhelmed with sensory overload, the pain of understimulation (boredom), stress, worries, and emotional pain. These things can make highly sensitive people so uncomfortable that they may be pushed by a strong urge to either escape or fix everything that bothers them.

Escaping or fixing is not always the best solution.

Read more on how high sensitivity can turn into obsessive-compulsive personality disorder in the “Cause” section of my “What is OCPD?” page.


SO NOW WHAT?

ADVICE FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE:
Understand that hurt, loss, and imperfections are all normal parts of life. The more you allow yourself to feel the discomfort that comes with those things, the more your tolerance for pain will grow and you will become less and less overwhelmed by the world around you. Allow yourself to feel more.

ADVICE FOR PARTNERS/FRIENDS/LOVED ONES OF HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE:
Even though you might not fully understand how your HSP friend feels because what he or she feels is outside your range of emotions, try your best to show that you care. Telling your HSP friend, verbally or non-verbally, that he or she is overreacting, exaggerating, or being a drama queen will only make him or her feel more frustrated, alone, and unheard. Try to be the voice of positivity in your HSP friend’s life and encourage him or her to feel more.

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