Understanding the Reluctant Perfectionist

Mark’s behaviour was typical of the Type 7 personality, sometimes known as the Adventurer or Epicure.  The driver of this personality is Fear, and the coping strategy is to avoid it by focusing on happiness, fun and nice things.  For most Sevens ‘work’ is not fun – certainly if it is dictated by someone else.  So the Seven will avoid confrontation with the teacher, but also avoid doing the work.

This is exacerbated by the Seven’s natural reluctance to shut down possibilities.  Sevens thrive on the prospect of exploring infinite possibilities.  An open-ended project can seem exciting at first but as soon as the Seven begins the task of discerning what to put in and what to leave out stress sets in.  Furthermore, when a Seven has no choice but to engage with something s/he sees as not fun or nice then s/he flips into the type One personality – the Perfectionist.  The rationale for this is, ‘If I have no choice but to do it then it must be perfect, ie something I am happy with’.  This means that a Seven in this space cannot tolerate even the slightest mistake.  The teacher may see nothing wrong with it but the Seven does.  It could be simply that s/he has changed their mind about what they want to write.  What can happen next is a cycle in which the Seven destroys what s/he has started, starts over, destroys it again, starts over, destroys it again, etc in a cycle of increasing frustration and despair.  Every time a mistake is made the Seven becomes more stressed and is driven deeper and deeper into the Perfectionist mindset.

The challenge for the teacher is to prevent this cycle from starting because once started it is very difficult indeed to stop.  The Seven rapidly gets to a point of unretrievable despair, and once this point is reached the only cure is time and space.

Sarah spotted the signs early.  Term had only just begun and she had never taught Mark before.  Trust is a huge issue for those personalities in the Head Centre, particularly the Sixes and Sevens.  Mark wants to have a good relationship with his teachers but fundamentally feels that he cannot trust them.  By defusing a potentially explosive situation so early in their working relationship, she has made a big step towards helping Mark develop strategies which will enable him to reach his potential.

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