Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Sat, Dec. 07

Barnes: Just a little flawed

Can we all agree that being human means, among other things, that we are flawed individuals?


A recent interaction with a friend reminded me of an encounter I had years ago with an employee of a company I headed up who was not only a fine employee but also an exceptional caring husband and parent. But he had one flaw that almost drove me and his colleagues up the wall. Here’s an example.

I asked him to do a project, which I was confident he had the particular skills to handle well. He was excited by the challenge, dug into it with great enthusiasm, and a week before the deadline, gave me his report. It was excellent. Better than I had anticipated. I commended him and explained how proud I was of his work. Then I asked him if he would mind rewriting one small section that I felt did not fully explain a specific recommendation.

He left my office depressed. The next day he brought in the revision — which was excellent, by the way — with the same drooping shoulders I saw the previous afternoon. Then he turned to leave. I stopped him and suggested we discuss what he was feeling. Over the next half hour, he acknowledged that, despite my sincere praise, he only “heard” one portion of our conversation — the negative element.

It may go by other names, but for me his response indicated tunnel thinking — looking at only one part of a situation to the exclusion of everything else. What my friend did was to take one minor detail of our discussion and magnify it while filtering out the positive aspects of our discussion.

The fact is, all of us have our own particular tunnels we look through. Some folks are hypersensitive to anything suggesting personal deficiency — like my former employee. Angry people look for evidence of injustice; depressed individuals focus on loss and ignore gains: those feeling considerable stress, see danger and risks in a number of situations.

What tunnelers do is to magnify certain things and place a disproportionate emphasis upon their importance. They “awfulize” those negative thoughts. By focusing on the downers, folks with tunnel vision make that part of the situation larger and more awful than it really is. They take that aspect out of its proper context and isolate it from the good, positive experiences.

The result is that the fears, anxieties and losses become exaggerated in importance because they fill their awareness to the exclusion of everything else.

These folks have selective memories; they remember those negative parts that cause them to feel anxiety, anger or depression.

Can this attitude be changed? Sure! But depending on how ingrained their tunnel vision is, it may take a while and could involve getting help from a professional counselor.

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