Are you a person who feels "time-taxed," one of those "overstretched go-getters" who never feel caught up and are exhausted from trying to keep a life together? If so, you might also be what psychologists and cardiologists call a "Type A" personality, a person who is overly anxious, impatient - constantly striving for perfection.
At this point, you might be saying, "I don't want to think about being a Type A - they have heart attacks at an early age. Besides that, Type A's get bad press."Well, you might not be a Type A, but why not be brave and answer these questions posed by Jane E. Brody, author of the article: "Improve Your Health: Change Your `Type A' Behavior." You can stop any time the going gets rough. If you're ready, here goes:
- Is "Hurry up!" one of your most-used phrases?
- Do you look at your watch dozens of times a day?
- Do you think you have to do every job yourself or else it's not going to get done right?
- Do you insist on perfection in everything you do?
- Are you impatient, even hostile, when kept waiting or when delayed by an uncontrollable event, like a traffic jam?
- Do you constantly try to do more and more in less and less time, and then become anxious when it seems you can't meet all the deadlines?
- Do you find it impossible to say "no" when asked to assume a responsibility you don't want?
- Are you spending less and less time with family and friends or on recreational activities?
- Are you a person with "high ideals" who is repeatedly disappointed when others don't live up to your standards?
- Do you often rush people's speech, finishing their sentences or saying "Yes, yes," implying "Get on with it"?
- Do you get impatient and annoyed when you see people doing things you feel you can do faster or better?
- Do you have a hard time sitting and doing nothing?
- Do you often try to do or think of two or more things at once?
If you answered "yes" to more than half a dozen of these questions, says Brody, you're probably a Type A.
"Well now," you might ask, "what type of credentials does this Brody have that entitled her to be an expert in Type A behavior?"
Brody confesses she has good credentials, unfortunately. "I used to be one: intolerant of mistakes, especially my own; determined to be all things to all people; unwilling to say `no,' lest I be thought selfish, lazy or incompetent; unduly upset by every delayed plan; always pushing to be first; insistent that everything at home be done my way; impatient at work with anyone who did not catch on quickly."
She adds, "I was also chronically tense, hurried, irritable and quick to fly into a rage. To me, life was a perpetual race and I was determined to be the winner. Looking back on those years, I wonder how I managed to live with myself - and how my husband put up with me."
Can you feel the time urgency experienced by Brody - a Type A characteristic that is often called "hurry sickness?"
Time urgency is one of the most significant Type A traits; another is a quest for numbers. Say Meyer Freidman and Ray Rosenman, authors of "Type A Behavior and Your Heart": "The Type A person has either lost or never had any intrinsic yardstick by which he can gauge his own worth to his own satisfaction and begins to measure his value in terms of the number of his achievements."
The emphasis on pace and measuring performance is a key reason for the insecurity of a Type A person, these authors relate. That person has "staked his innermost security on the pace of his status enhancement. This pace depends upon a maximal number of achievements accomplished in a minimal amount of time."
In contrast to Type A behavior, there is, of course, a Type B behavior. And, as luck might have it, for longer life and better quality, Brody recommends emulating a Type B.
A Type B has inner tranquility, says Brody. "It comes from a sense of security and self-worth that needs no outside reinforcement. Type B people always feel they are doing their best, given their basic qualities. What others think is of no importance to them." Thus, their success and their person are separated.
And, of course, Type B's slow down - at least sometimes.
They don't have the frenzied pace of a Type A person. They know (in the words of one expert) that "a successful life is ALWAYS unfinished," relates Brody.
Now after that hopefully irresistible presentation, are you ready to become a Type A-moving-to-Type-B person (at his or her OWN pace, of course)? If so, the big question is: How do you decelerate and take life in the slow lane - find the pause button? Even become a Type B and live the unhurried life? For today, review Brody's questions and simply set some objectives in key areas to slow your life down. Then check this column next week for a sequel to this article with more suggestions on how to become a Type B person.
- Dr. Larsen is a therapist practicing in Salt Lake City.