Category Archives: Tunnel Vision

Intellectualization

Emotional pain is not an easy thing to handle for many people, especially emotionally sensitive people. Emotional pain that is too overwhelming often causes people to resort to the use of defence mechanisms. One of those defence mechanisms that people with OCPD are likely to use because of their dominant “left brain” is intellectualization.

People with OCPD primarily use intellectualization to cope with their difficult feelings.

Intellectualization

INTELLECTUALIZATION:

This defensive style is a cousin to “Isolation of Affect.” Feelings are not allowed into consciousness. Instead, issues are discussed in a hyper intellectual manner. Everything is examined from every possible point of view. Everything is taken seriously; humor does not seem possible. A person who intellectualizes seems to rob life of its spontaneity and replaces it with an exaggerated sense of seriousness and microscopic scrutiny. (taken from “The Caller’s Coping Styles“)

Most people with OCPD are so accustomed to using intellectualization to cope with their difficult feelings that they do not realize it is a defence mechanism that is not shared or very well understood by the majority of the world. Consequently, it causes so much disunity and frustration between them and their loved ones.

Having successfully comforted themselves with the use of this defence mechanism for so long, most people with OCPD cannot think of any other way for their loved ones to comfort them. People with OCPD hope that their loved ones would partner with them in their intellectualization, help them in their logical reasoning and problem solving, and celebrate with them when they figure out the answer. In other words, many people with OCPD want their loved ones to join in on their use of their defence mechanism. This, of course, rarely happens.

What happens instead is that their loved ones give the kind of comfort that usually works on most people. They might say “don’t worry, you’re going to be ok.” To this, those accustomed to intellectualization will feel compelled to ask “how?” and “why?” as those are the questions they always begin with in their attempt to comfort themselves. Their loved ones may then take their best shot at an explanation. But being already ten steps ahead in the identification and analysis of all the different possible explanations (would you expect anything less from those who have been doing that for the majority of their life?), it is likely that people with OCPD have already considered the explanation suggested by their loved ones. In much of the same way that they wrestle with their own reasoning, people with OCPD will then wrestle with the reasoning of their loved ones. Although this just happens to be the OCPD way in which they eventually reach their comforting “truth,” their loved ones most likely take it personally when their reasoning is rejected in the process. The loved ones then conclude that people with OCPD are just too argumentative and impossible to comfort. When it is apparent to people with OCPD that their loved ones have given up trying to comfort them, people with OCPD then revert back to what they have always been used to: they go off on their own, work out their pain in isolation, and tell themselves that the only people they can count on are themselves.

People with OCPD who habitually intellectualize their own feelings often do not know any other way to comfort others as well. Out of genuine care, they may intellectualize their loved ones feelings. This, however, does not bring comfort to most people. The loved ones may wonder, “Why does he seem so disconnected from my emotions?” “Why is he unable to just empathize with me?” “Why does he turn my feelings into some emotionless law case?”

In the end, because of intellectualization, both sides are left feeling sad (or even angry) that the other is so incapable of providing the needed form of comfort.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Focus on the heart of your loved one. He or she cares about you and his or her intention is to comfort you. Whatever he or she advises, even if the logic is so flawed, accept it with delight. Understand that your loved one will most likely take it personally if you disagree with and rip apart his or her reasoning. Do that in your own head in silence (with a smile on your face) if you are going to do that at all. If your loved one is going through difficult emotions and needs you to comfort him or her, resist your urge to intellectualize his or her feelings. Remember, even though this defence mechanism makes you feel better, it does not make the majority of people feel better. It can make them feel much worse. If your loved one is unable to specify how he or she would like to be comforted, try to comfort him or her in the way that most people would feel comforted by. Show concern, emotion, and empathy. Feel the pain with him or her. Tell him or her that he or she will be ok. Let him or her vent out whatever he or she wants to say (even if it all comes out unstructured, illogical, and imperfect). Do not correct him or her. Hold him or her in your arms. Be there for him or her.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
If you are going to give your OCPD friend any reasons, explanations, or advice, make sure to give the ones that encourage him or her to experience his or her difficult feelings. Any other reason, explanation, or advice will encourage your OCPD friend to make use of his or her defence mechanism. Whatever reasons, explanations, or advice you give, understand that your OCPD friend’s analysis of your reasoning is simply his or her own unique way of trying to find comfort through working out a final answer. If he or she disagrees with you, do not take it personally – this is just what he or she does in his or her own mind all the time. Try to imagine that his or her disagreement with your reasoning is bringing him or her that much closer to the truth that he or she is trying to figure out through a process of elimination. If it appears that your OCPD friend wants to be comforted by your participation in his or her intellectualization, you can still participate by asking questions and listening. But as soon as you can (probably best idea not to do it while your OCPD friend is experiencing difficult feelings), discuss with your OCPD friend the consequences of intellectualization and have him or her understand the importance of resisting the urge to use this defence mechanism.

HOW TO GRADUALLY ELIMINATE INTELLECTUALIZATION (OCPD):
Completely removing this defence mechanism without replacing it with another one is not recommended if it is the only coping method you have to handle your difficult feelings. In order to soften the blow, you may want to lean on other healthier defence mechanisms (see “Mature Defence Mechanisms“) in the meantime. Choosing to resist the urge to intellectualize your difficult feelings will require you to first recognize the complications it causes on you and your relationships.

THE COMPLICATIONS OF INTELLECTUALIZATION (OCPD):
This defence mechanism is not helpful to you. It keeps you weak. It steals your opportunity to grow stronger and develop your ability to endure more difficult emotions in the future. It causes you more frustration and anxiety. Who knows when you will be able to figure out your “truth” through the stressful process of reasoning that you take? It may take forever. It keeps you in anguish until you find that answer you are looking for. Is it really worth it all? It also keeps you feeling very lonely. It limits the kind of people that can comfort you. The only people who can comfort you are those who are as good as you or better in logical reasoning. Good luck trying to find them. Do you not want to find refuge in your loved ones? Does it not ache your heart that your loved ones feel hopeless?

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Losing Track of Time

As discussed in my earlier post titled “Human Doing,” people with OCPD feel like they are always racing against the clock. Once in a while, however, they completely lose track of time.

People with OCPD tend to spend their time extremely generously when their preoccupation with the efficient use of time comes together with their hyper passion (tunnel vision).

Time is hardly an issue for people with OCPD when they are engaged in an activity that they are passionate about. For a moment, the world feels to them like it has stopped spinning and nothing else matters than the object of their fixation. While others hold back on spending too much time on one activity to be realistic and safe, people with OCPD can give up all of their time.

So many of the world’s greatest success stories come from this kind of all-in time investment. While a lot of people, including my very Korean parents, would consider dropping out of Harvard to be an unwise decision, both Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) did just that because they felt that college was hindering them from spending all of their time on their respective passions.

This tunnel vision time spending can become a problem when so much time is invested into one priority that no time is left for other important priorities. When people with OCPD are in the zone, they can sometimes even forget to eat, sleep, shower, and spend quality time with other human beings. Such an unbalanced lifestyle can be detrimental to one’s health and even lead to early death. But not even the risk of death is enough to discourage a passionate OCPDer.

For more information on tunnel vision and its strengths, read my post titled “Tunnel Vision.”

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All-In Spending

In my last post titled “Every Cent Counts,” I explained that,

“in attempt to maximize their efficiency in the use of their money, people with OCPD generally try to spend as little as they can, especially on things that are not aligned with their passion.”

But what happens when they do come across something that they are passionate about, something that is worth spending the extra money?

People with OCPD tend to spend extremely generously when their preoccupation with the efficient use of money comes together with their hyper passion (tunnel vision).

When they find the things that have been placed in this world specifically for them, such as their one “perfect” soul mate or their one “perfect” dream job, money is hardly an issue to people with OCPD. While others hold back on their spending to be realistic and safe, people with OCPD can give up everything that they have, sometimes even drive themselves into debt in their attempt at gaining everything.

In one point in my life, without any concern for saving money, I spent all of my earnings on world travel. 

So many of the world’s greatest success stories come from this kind of disregard for money. Obsessive director James Cameron is notorious in the film world for shooting his pictures as if he is on an unlimited budget.

While it can be extremely rewarding when their tunnel vision has gotten them fixated on something destined to excel, it can also be financially devastating when their tunnel vision has gotten them fixated on something doomed to fail. Despite all the signs that signal the eventual collapse of the object of their fixation, despite all the opposition by everyone around them, people with OCPD fight until the end because they are wonderfully built to do just that.

STRENGTHS OF ALL-IN SPENDING

  • You can be infinitely generous
  • You really do put your money where your mouth is
  • You are not mentally bound by financial limitations
  • You make an excellent entrepreneur

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Be aware that your tunnel vision often has you so focused on one priority that you tend to neglect other priorities, including other important people in your life. Train yourself to include them in your generous spending habits. If the money that you spend so generously comes from a shared pool of money with another person, understand that you do not own all the rights to that money. If the other person who you share money with does not approve of your all-in spending, do not take it personally. They are among many who cannot see or understand your obsession. If your loved ones do support you financially, accept their generosity with gratitude. Do not turn their genuine act of kindness into a cold, heartless transaction that you would get from uncaring moneylenders.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
If you are the object of their fixation, consider yourself quite lucky. Enjoy their generosity and do not feel overwhelmed by the pressure to match it. Being appreciative is enough. If, however, your needs are being neglected because your OCPD friend is fixated on something else, do not take it so personally. Instead, communicate openly with your OCPD friend that you would appreciate more of his or her attention. If you and your OCPD friend share money and he or she appears to be using it excessively in a manner that worries you, communicate openly about that as well. If his or her assurance is not enough, do not be afraid to draw the line in your shared pool of money.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR ALL-IN SPENDING (OCPD):
Whenever you are in the zone, although it feels against your nature to do so, pull yourself out a bit and consider all the other important things in your life. Though it might be painfully tedious for you to record all your spending in a spreadsheet because of your disregard for money when you are fixated on something, doing so can really help you understand the problems in the way you spend your money.

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Every Cent Counts

For the same reason that they make efficient use of their time (see earlier post titled “Human Doing”), people with OCPD also make efficient use of their money.

People with OCPD are preoccupied with the efficient use of money because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of money that is spent in any other way.

In attempt to maximize their efficiency in the use of their money, people with OCPD generally try to spend as little as they can, especially on things that are not aligned with their passion. When shopping for an item stocked in all stores A to Z, people with OCPD most likely check out the prices in all twenty-six stores, revisit the cheapest vendor, and then further negotiate the price down until they have gotten the best possible deal.

Although their efficient use of money may accumulate to a sizable amount of savings in the long run, it can also be a source of frustration to many others who expect generosity. In the OCPD mind, generosity is an inefficient use of money because it is spending more than what is required. In their attempt to maintain their protective spending practice, people with OCPD often refrain from spending generously on others. Though people with OCPD are only trying to meet all their financial obligations while simultaneously coping with a fear that governs most of their lives, the rest of the insensitive world often belittles them and calls them “stingy.”

STRENGTHS OF MONEY-EFFICIENCY

  • You have a strong ability for money management
  • You are skilled at discerning the value of different purchasable goods and services
  • Your mind can keep track of large sums of numbers and calculations
  • You are good at bargaining

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
If the efficient use of money is that important to you, always ask for a separate bill apart from your friends so that you only complicate your own spending, not everyone else’s. Do not expect others to spend their money in the way that you do. Remember that, unless you have been assigned to a position of leadership in the management of others’ money, you really do not have any right to control how money is spent by everyone else. If others appear displeased or offended by the way you use your money, assure them that it is not out of your inconsideration for them. When others extend their generosity towards you, accept it gratefully and let their gesture enrich your relationship. If you only pretend to be grateful on the outside while treating their generosity as a debt that you are now obligated to pay back sometime in the future, you have just taken their genuine act of kindness and turned it into a cold, heartless transaction. How dare you do that! Accept their generosity for what it is and do not keep track of “debts” with your friends.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Understand that your OCPD friend is the way he or she is because of fear, not because he or she does not care about you. Do not take his or her lack of generosity personally. When your OCPD friend feels devastated by his or her inefficient use of money, provide emotional support by showing empathy. Try to help him or her see that the consequences of his or her misuse of money are not as bad as he or she thinks. If your friend attempts to control your use of money, stand your ground and say that you want to spend your money in your way, not because it is better or more efficient, but because you feel more at ease with life. If you two are married and you share a bank account with your OCPD spouse, remind your OCPD spouse that he or she is not solely in charge of the shared money. If your OCPD friend is lacking generosity in an area that means a lot to you, put down your pride for the sake of the relationship and openly communicate to him or her that you would really appreciate his or her generosity in that area. If you do not want to come across as being very unfair to your OCPD friend, you should be able to explain how you have been generous towards him or her in that area in the past. If your OCPD friend makes the effort to put his or her efficient use of money aside for you, show him or her a lot of appreciation for it. This will help your OCPD friend see that such “inefficient” use of money does make a difference.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR MONEY-EFFICIENCY (OCPD):
Understand that your preoccupation with the efficient use of money is a cognitive distortion. When you feel distressed from the inefficient use of money, reject that negative feeling. Train yourself to feel at ease in these times. As you allow yourself to make good spending decisions rather than the best spending decisions, your mind will send messages of discomfort less frequently and less intensely in times that you do not make the most efficient use of your money. Encourage yourself with the idea that your relationships will be enriched by your generosity.

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Human Doing

When a valuable resource such as time is limited and non-renewable, it is wise to use it efficiently. But when the consequences are hyperbolized by all-or-nothing thinking, the inefficient use of time is not just unwise; it is strictly unacceptable.

People with OCPD are preoccupied with the efficient use of time because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of time that is spent in any other way.

In attempt to maximize their efficiency, people with OCPD tend to…

(1) cut out unproductive activities (activities that have little to do with providing a sense of safety from their original fear)

  • Being still, waiting, doing nothing
  • Leisure, relaxation
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Etc.

(2) overdo productive activities (activities that have a lot to do with providing a sense of safety from their original fear)

  • Work
  • Performance
  • Success
  • Etc.

(3) rush through required activities

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Getting from point A to point B
  • Etc.

An OCPDer’s preoccupation with the efficient use of time can be so extreme that the success or failure to execute the above time-efficiency maximization model can elicit strong feelings of happiness or guilt.

STRENGTHS OF TIME-EFFICIENCY

  • You have a strong ability for time management
  • You are punctual
  • You are skilled at discerning the value of different activities
  • You have a sharp sense for identifying the inefficiencies in work processes and have a natural ability to fix them
  • You are efficient
  • You are very active and driven
  • You are so appreciative when others share their time with you

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
If the efficient use of time is that important to you, make efficient use of your time on your own. Do not expect others to conform to your pace. Remember that, unless you are in a position of leadership in the workplace, you really do not have any right to control how time is spent by everyone else. If others make it a challenge for you to achieve your maximum time-efficiency, do not get angry with them. Their way of spending time is actually more normal than the way that you spend your time. If the inefficient use of time by others causes you distress, try to calm yourself down by doing something productive at the same time. For example, if your friend’s lateness causes you to wait, read a book while you wait.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Understand that your OCPD friend is the way he or she is because of fear. If your OCPD friend explodes in anger for your inefficient use of time, try to not take it personally. Let your understanding of your friend’s fear give you patience to let him or her vent out his or her frustration. When your OCPD friend feels devastated by his or her inefficient use of time, provide emotional support by showing empathy. Try to help him or her see that the consequences of his or her misuse of time are not as bad as he or she thinks. If your friend attempts to control your use of time, stand your ground and say that you want to spend your time in your way, not because it is better or more efficient, but because you feel more at ease with life (this he or she will not be able to argue against). If your friend has cut out an unproductive activity that means a lot to you (eg. spending time with you or sharing in the household chores), communicate to him or her that you would really appreciate his or her attention in that area. Again, do not try to argue that the activity has to be done – your OCPD friend will probably come up with a well-formed explanation on how illogical it is to do such an inefficient activity. Instead, just humbly say that it means a lot to you and that you would really appreciate it. If your OCPD friend gives in, at first he or she will feel a lot of frustration while participating in this activity that his or her mind has already classified as being inefficient. Encourage your friend every step of the way by continuously showing your appreciation for his or her efforts. This will help your OCPD friend see that such a seemingly irrelevant task does make a difference.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR TIME-EFFICIENCY (OCPD):
Understand that your preoccupation with the efficient use of time is a cognitive distortion. When you feel distressed from the inefficient use of time, reject that negative feeling. Train yourself to feel at ease in these times. Start now by reserving a part of your day to do something that your mind has classified as being unproductive. I spent my time sitting still in a meditation posture, closing my eyes, keeping quiet, and thinking about nothing. Your mind will tell you, “No, no! This is uncomfortable! Stop doing that this instant!” You will then reply, “Shut up, mind! This is perfectly fine. This is perfectly fine.” As you do this more, your mind will send these messages of discomfort less frequently and less intensely. You are a human being, not a human doing. Train yourself to be happy just as you are, not for what you do. When you spend time with others, try to learn from them and go along with their pace.

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