The Sensory Quotient – the Perfectionist Pattern
As with the Optimist SQ, Mimi Herrmann’s Perfectionist SQ pattern definition isn’t what most people associate with the word. While the “obsessive-compulsive” kind of perfectionism absolutely exists within the world of Learned Distress, it’s not what the Perfectionist pattern is based on. Mimi defined the Perfectionist as one whose survival depends on creating and maintaining boundaries to control what’s right for them.
I sometimes call this pattern “the Judge.” Perfectionists have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, black and white—and what is “right” is unique to each of them. In order to survive, everything must be the “right” way, not only within themselves, but also around them. Perfectionists tend to be very uneasy, even panicked, when anything or anyone around them (or in the world at large) operates outside their boundaries of “what is right.”
Their survival mechanism builds very thick walls in an attempt to keep the “wrong” out. However, what generates what feels “wrong” is actually their Learned Distress, so their “walls” are really a strong control mechanism that keeps their feelings in and under tight control. And not just the Learned Distress—these walls keep Perfectionists’ well-being under wraps, also.
This brings to mind the image of a submarine—its thick walls keep the high water pressure from overwhelming its contents, but nothing can get out, either. Because not much feeling—in the form of energy—can “escape” from the Perfectionist, others have a hard time connecting with them or even having a sense of them at all. Mimi and I both found that it’s sometimes hard to remember a Perfectionist’s name, even—there’s just not enough energy to “grab onto.” Because their energy is “trapped,” Perfectionists may feel blocked from being able to express themselves and “invisible” to others.
Often, they have a hard time finishing things. Once something is finished, it can be judged as right or wrong, so Perfectionists keep themselves from getting to that point.
This pattern’s breakdown comes as the intensity of Learned Distress rises so high that it starts to blow apart the walls. This can come in the form of relationship, career, or health issues starting to feel out of control—and it will often feel that the cause comes from outside them. Or it can come in the form of their idea of “what’s right” falling apart without them being able to find a new “right” to replace it. I’ve also witnessed Perfectionists having an increasingly harder time with memory and cognitive ability as they age.
Quanta Change for Perfectionists
The overall direction for them in Quanta Change is to allow themselves to feel, period. As their tight control loosens, they allow their lives to flow more freely. I described it to a client yesterday as allowing the submarine to come to the surface and climbing out onto the deck into the sunshine, free to explore and interact with the outside world—and that finally becomes safe to do.
Much like Idealists, they begin to connect to who they really are and discover what truly matters to them. And they find that life works more easily as the energy of well-being can flow and start to generate good moments for them, rather than having to continually control to keep things going the right way.
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