Saturday, November 03, 2012

On Point on Perfectionism

On Point®, Trustees of Boston University. 
Many children of hoarders report that their hoarder parents display extreme perfectionism, at least in certain aspects of their lives. In my own family, this is very much the case. My mother was an extreme hoarder, and she was also an extreme perfectionist. For example, she would often have an internal vision of how a room "should" look or how a repair "should" be done, and I think that contributed significantly to her hoarding. She might start to organize a room, but if she didn't have "enough" time, she'd get anxious, stop, and put it off, waiting for a day (that never came) when she would have the time to get the room "just right." There was no such thing as "tidying up" in my childhood home: it was either, "we'll get to it later," or "Stop everything! We have to spend the next three days doing nothing except getting this room organized if we're going to be able to get the furnace fixed!" Of course, we generally never came close to getting the room organized, and any progress that might have been made would rapidly succumb to the laws of entropy.

With that as a preamble, I learned via twitter that Professor Amy Przeworski and psychologist Thomas S. Greenspon recently discussed "The Science and Psychology of Perfectionism" on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook. While the potential role of perfectionism in hoarding was not discussed, the segment was very interesting and engaging. If you're interested in understanding perfectionism a little better, the segment is worth a listen.

PS. You can also download the NPR segment as a 22 MB MP3 file suitable for listening via iPod, iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.

PPS. Not long ago, Professor Przeworski also blogged about perfectionism over at Psychology Today.


Whit said...

That sense of perfectionism sometimes paralyzes me as a COH. I find myself procrastinating on projects because if I can't to it "right" then I should wait until I can. I see it, I know it and I know what that mentality leads to. Fortunately I am at least able to see that trait in myself and will shake it off (eventually) and get the item done; I find myself even saying to myself, "it doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be done". It helps, but that genetic defect still haunts me.

Whit said...

As a COH, I too have inherited the can't do it unless it is perfect gene. I find myself putting of doing things unless there is ample time and resources to do it perfectly. I am not able to just take five minutes to do something if I think I'll need 1/2 hour do to it "right". I battle this tendency all the time. At least I am aware of it and am able to push through the procrastination and perfection thought process.

Hoarder's Son said...

My sisters and I all have inherited some element of this perfectionism issue, though it manifests differently in each of us. One sister is very perfectionistic about keeping her house absolutely clean and tidy, the other is very perfectionistic about how certain things must be done, and I struggle with trying to write "perfectly." It's good that you (and I) recognize the issue. At least we can try to manage it before it becomes too maladaptive.

Anonymous said...

experienced and struggle with the same. my mother still resists letting anyone do anything because it has to be done "her way." and if it can't be done her way for whatever reason, it doesn't get done. she has made changes-sits down with newspapers when she gets them and loads up garbage sacks ... i have had increasing difficulty completing tasks as i age as i "can't see or think of how to do things" and, also "can't see" things that need doing" right away. with the despair of living this way these is the hope that Life can be better. Been a long haul though :)