Personal disorder

People don’t fit into neat little categories, but people’s minds like to put things into neat little categories. The label we put on a person might be misleading because there is more to the person than what the label covers; yet, the label might be saying something that leans toward the truth, and saying a lot more than nothing at all.

I don’t feel comfortable just listing different types of people. Nobody is that simple as to be described by a single psychological category; and several people I find listed under one category can all be radically different people. I need the information that distinguishes these people from each other, not the label that points out something they ostensibly have in common.

I know of managers who conduct business well but are considered immature because of their obnoxious people skills and self-centeredness. I know others who are considered immature because they are late and irresponsible. I agree that both these examples are immature, but they are so unalike that I do not feel it is right to put them in the same group. The only thing immature people have common is that part of them didn’t develop. It can be different parts in different people.

A few types:

  • Narcissist: self-centred, need for admiration and generally lacking in empathy. In the right position they can be very purpose-driven and useful.
  • Paranoid: Suspicious and mistrustful of others. As there is corruption in the world the paranoid type tend to be (or feel) partly justified in their beliefs. Useful for security, legal and some financial situations, or anywhere that mistrust actually is appropriate.
  • Obsessive Compulsive: Preoccupied with orderliness, neatness, routine. Many psychologists say routines can form to block out something that the individual wish to avoid; else, its overcompensation. These types are good for administration, safety issues and production lines, but may have trouble adapting if the situation requires a change.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder: Over active and unable to sit still and concentrate. These type are sometime creative (inspiring ideas that they never complete) and can be useful for understanding the perspective on many consumers by noticing the few things that actually do grab one’s attention,

Each of the different types has a habit of ringing true, and at the same time not quite working under closer examination. One theory is that we all went through different stages as an infant, and the various types of disorders roughly correspond to those stages. A narcissist is a little like the child we once were that is hardly aware of other people, but all too aware of their own desires. We can half remember this in ourselves, and identify with the person still retaining that type or behaviour. Likewise we have all had at least the occasional time in our lives where we had trouble concentrating; imagine being like that all the time, with everything! That’s not too unlike the ADD person, though I suspect that is only part of the answer. Maybe we are all occasionally paranoid and compulsive, or were once; we identify with that a little in others. At the same time we can make a huge mistake and read our own experience onto another person who is really nothing like what we think.

As for neat categories, I remember people of an older generation saying that this or that person has a narcissistic streak to them, or an egotistical streak. I think this term is more accurate. The individual person has a complex personality, with all that complexity affected by an egotistical streak or a narcissistic streak. The disorder does not define them, but the disorder impacts every part of their personality and life.

As they said in Citizen Kane, you can’t sum up a person’s life with one word.

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