23 February 2015

Pattern maker

I've found myself wondering the same thing in relation to a number of my obsessive-compulsive behaviours: is this an extension of my intrinsic personality, or has it become part of who I am only because of my OCD?

For me, the main manifestation of the condition is a need for order and symmetry in my environment. The question is, has this compulsion arisen because I have a good eye for patterns, or has my good eye developed because of this compulsion?

I suspect it's the former, as I've always found it easy to see patterns, for example in sequences of numbers, letters and images, and do well in IQ tests with those 'What comes next?' or 'Which is the odd one out?' challenges. 

A few years ago, I applied for an executive assistant role with a communications' technology company, where I had to take the same reasoning tests at interview as the computer scientists who made up the bulk of their workforce - mostly Oxford and Cambridge graduates. 'Don't worry,' I was told, 'Everybody has to do these.' The implication was that it didn't matter how I got on, but they didn't expect it be well. Instead, a puzzled Managing Director later told me 'Your results are as good as some of our tech guys. I don't know what to do with you...'

This ability to find patterns does, though, cause me discomfort when they're missing or 'wrong'.
I once bought a top with a clear button at the neck and 10 small grey ones underneath, which were of various designs. Using a letter to identify each, the order from top to bottom was: A B D E A A C B C B.

Photo: Peter Gettins Photography
I defy anybody to tell me what the next letter in that sequence would be; it has no logic whatsoever. And why should it? It's a cheap(ish) top made in Korea by workers who don't have time to create pretty patterns.

The muddle made me really uncomfortable and I toyed with the idea of cutting off all the buttons and re-ordering them. However, while the top was inexpensive, the buttons were very securely attached; there was a risk I'd damage the material as I snipped them off, rendering the top imperfect in a different way. 

What concerned me more than that, though, was that I couldn't form a pattern I was happy with. The best I could devise, from the 3 As, 3 Bs, 2 Cs, 1 D and 1 E, was: A B C D A B C E A B

Pretty good, but not good enough, and so I left the top as it was - yet another item chafing at my perfectionist, ordered mind.

Mind you, my revised sequence does make for a better question in an IQ test. Answers on a postcard, please - well, OK, the comments' section - as to what the next two letters should be...


Lindsay said...

I may not have OCD but that would drive me crazy! I'd have had to put new buttons on it!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay, the problem is, they really are very tightly sewn on! I just know I'd end up cutting the fabric in trying to get them off...