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Literal thinking is in my bones

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As we all know, if two cars meet at the same time at a four-way stop, the car to the right has the right-of-way. Last year, I realized that there is an informal range of a fraction of a second which counts as “the same time.” Historically, when I’ve anticipated a close call, I became hypervigilant about which car arrives first, leaning forward to perceive that tiny fraction of a second. I’ve even found myself arriving at the stop sign, feeling surprised when a car that stopped four feet before the sign proceeds through the intersection. Literal thinking becomes exhaustively exacting when the situation calls for understanding what is close enough.

My literal thinking fuels what I have called an “accuracy fetish.”

Within intense conversations, I often become fixated on a detail that I see differently at the expense of a holistic focus on the big picture. In my romantic partnership, I’ve learned to name the accuracy fetish and move on.  Acknowledging it helps to let it go. A previous partner told me, “You might be right about this, but being right won’t keep you warm at night.”

There are certainly warmer warmths than being right; but still, I often notice other gifted individuals retreating into a technicality at their own expense.  A kid might be eating lunch by himself, but at least he knows the ingredients of his mayonnaise.  Or an adult may have an accurate critique of a movie, but no one with whom to watch it.  Doesn’t sound very fun, right?   

I work with gifted individuals (and heck, even myself!) to assess not so much “right” and “wrong”, but to develop the self-awareness to notice those moments when we transition from having fun to not having fun. Most everyone likes fun; it can be connecting to see the shared humanity of a universal need. But how can those of us with such literal thinking let go of our need for accuracy and just settle into enjoyment with others?  And do we want to fully let go of our accuracy fetishes?

Not quite.  There’s a balance to be struck between pointing out keen insights and wisely letting them go.  I would like to get to a point of relaxed trust in myself so that my literal thinking can be utilized as needed, without provoking anxiety or defensiveness in myself or those around me.  Building that level of self-trust takes time.

In fact, it takes exactly seventeen days.  😉

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