Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Identifying as Type A

Finding a new family doctor when I moved here was easier than expected.  
A quick online search matched me to a doctor also new to town, who was accepting patients.  

As we did a  brief personal medical history, I described the basics: my mental health issues with depression and anxiety, my recent career change and "irritable bowl syndrome" --a diagnosis I had received some 10 years prior after all the tests for Crohn's disease, Colitis and Diverticulitis came back negative.

"Of course IBS.  You are fair skinned, thin, and Typical Type A personality!"

My first reaction was: She thinks I am thin!!!  

Followed by a swelling of pride at being called "type A". (Further pride erupted as I mentioned my A+ blood type---like really---how amazing can I be, right?)

Let's face it. We live in a culture where everything is measured against some yardstick of success and getting an A...well, it speaks for itself.  

Type A behavior after all is: hardworking, driven, committed---all things we wave around like battle wounds and like comparing scars for superheros, the person who has the worst scars and survives, wins!

"Man, I worked 60 hours this week to get that project done! I am beat!"

"Oh yeah?  Try...I did 60 hours this week AND had to coach Jenny at her hockey tournament this weekend!  I was working from the rink in between games!"

"Wait! Did I mention I had the flu?  Worked 60 hours with the FLU--barfing every 20 minutes---fever of 105 and helped my dog give birth to 12 puppies, and NAILED the project!

You get the idea....

Type A is for Awesome!  Type A is for Amazing!  
In therapy, we talked a lot about perfectionism,   anger, obsessive compulsive behavior---identifiable to some degree in all if us.  It was a deconstructionist approach, each an individual issues to tackle.  

I get that.  

The pieces all make up the whole and by looking at them as individual things, it may be less overwhelming than trying to manage the whole pile of CRAP on the floor (see Messy Mind) that you find yourself in, knee deep and sinking.

The challenge for me is that as individual things, I feel like I am trying to juggle them.  Anger, anxiety, perfectionism, ocd,  and if I focus too long on any one of them, I am likely to drop the bunch.  

What may help is thinking about them as a whole.  

One way to do that is by considering them as facets of a single phenomenon, which led me to doing some research on Type A Behavior Patterns -- and the three main components.

Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.

Intertwined with this is the presence of a significant life imbalance. This is characterized by a high work involvement. Type A individuals are easily ‘wound up’ and tend to overreact. They also tend to have high blood pressure (hypertension)

(umm oh yeah, Goddess forbid you challenge me with 'you can never do that...')

Time Urgency  

Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock. Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.
( See my various posts on time here and here and here....)

Type A individuals tend to be easily aroused to anger or hostility, which they may or may not express overtly. Such individuals tend to see the worse in others, displaying anger, envy and a lack of compassion.

When this behavior is expressed overtly (i.e. physical behavior) it generally involves aggression and possible bullying (Forshaw, 2012). Hostility appears to be the main factor linked to heart disease and is a better predictor than the TAPB as a whole.
(This one was a surprise to me in therapy but I scored highest in my group---one time coming out on top was really not a good thing...)

Putting it All Together

So that is pretty much the road map to me. It is how I am hardwired and have lived for -- well forever. 

Good thing? Bad thing? I am going to try not to judge. 

I think like stress, these facets of a personality are beneficial to a certain point, after which they become detrimental.  The tipping point is a slippery thing to identify.

Over the past few years, my exploration of self has helped me manage the ups and downs so they are not so INTENSE, but they do certainly still creep up on me and then Ka-POW, they feel like the new normal.  

When I get there, it feels like I have climbed up on a roof, kicked away the ladder and stand screaming at the sky---bring it on!!

Next Step

So this new awareness, I know what my therapist will say, she will be thrilled I am so insightful and self-aware.   She will tell me, awareness is the first step!

...and  I will want to punch her.

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