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Sunday morning and I am off to church soon.  But I am up early enough to hopefully be able to respond to this morning’s question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me.

So let’s check out this morning’s question…
DD 17

Good morning Honey,

Another very interesting question.  And I wonder – since this is the opposite of yesterday’s question, if I am going to find it easier or harder to answer today’s question than I did yesterday’s?

I think one of the difficulties which can sometimes arise when someone has mental illness is establishing which of their thoughts or actions even which of their words are resultant from the mental illness and which are simply part of them.  Indeed, I have often reflected on and written about the probability that mental illness doesn’t always introduce things to a person sometimes it simply magnifies or intensifies stuff which is quite common or normal.

And if this is possible is it not also possible in respect of character and personality traits?  Which therefore opens up the consideration that actually a personality trait or character trait which we do not like, we might only dislike as a result of it’s increased presence or frequency of presentation, rather than disliking it completely.

There are, I think appropriate or acceptable levels of certain character or personality traits and most definitely inappropriate and unacceptable levels of them.

For example, I once worked with a guy who tried to see God’s hand in all things and who also tended to see the bright side to most things.  As a result of this he would often preface any statement with the words “Oh Praise the Lord!”

And whilst on the face of it, seeking to see God’s hand in things – for a Christian such as he (and you and I) is not unusual and is indeed a good thing.  And trying to think positively and see the bright side of things is also not such a bad thing.  But sadly, I think he took it a little too far..

“Morning Fred. (I have, of course, changed his name.)

“Oh Praise the Lord!   Good morning Kevin. Great to see you!  How are you today.”

Is not to unusual or weird a conversation.  But… 

“Oh, I am a bit down today Fred. My Father died this morning and he wasn’t a believer.”

“Oh Praise the Lord!  I am sorry to hear that.”

Is very definitely a strange mixed message and entering the weirdness scale.

Likewise, a friend is someone who is interested in you and who cares and wants to know about your life.  And being friendly, being interested in others, – having that character trait, is a good thing to have.  But take that a bit further, to the point where they care to the point of obsession and want to know and even control every little aspect of your life and that becomes just weird and dangerous.

And I say this because when it comes to one of my character traits which I would definitely want you to avoid having – my analysing and over-thinking absolutely everything – I would like you to have (and in fact you do have it) but to a much lesser level.  I really do believe that some analysis and thought over things is good.  I just don’t think the level at which I do it is good.

The way in which I analyse and think things through often means that I am able to consider things from most sides and that I am able to find potential resolutions to conflicts and solutions to problems.  (Of course, admittedly, my Aspergers often kicks in and I often don’t see or I discount other points of view – as their being illogical, but that is all part of Apergers.)

But the fact is that I think things through and analyse things that have happened to such a level that it affects my sleep and often means that I am still analysing something days – even weeks – after it has become insignificant and or irrelevant to anyone else.

And this flows over or impacts another of my character traits which I would love for you to have (and which again you do have) but to avoid having to the level that I have it.  And that is in respect of being thoughtful and considerate of other people’s feelings.

To be considerate of other people’s feelings and how the things that we say or do may impact other people’s feelings is a wonderful thing honey.  But being over-sensitive to their feelings and over-sensitive to how our words or actions may affect them, can be a recipe for disaster and can destroy our confidence and leave us walking on egg-shells around people.  

Thankfully I am not yet at that point as nearly all of my over-sensitivity comes after the event and is directly linked to my over-analysing and over-thinking everything. Every night before I sleep (which is probably why sleep doesn’t come soon or easily to me) my mind will replay the conversations and events of that day and take me off in all sorts of what if’s or alternative possibilities on what has taken place that day.

And trust me honey, if there has been any point of conflict, any point of disagreement, any point of contention or any point whatsoever where I may have caused someone else discomfort or offence, my mind will lock onto it, and pull it to pieces and analyse it for days even weeks.

So yes honey, they would have to be the two traits which I would like you to avoid having.  Over-thinking and over-sensitivity to the needs of others.  But only in the ‘over’ part 🙂

I hope that all makes sense honey.

Love you always,

Dad.

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