Obsessive Personality: Background information when reading The Hermit

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The Hermit

by Thomas Rydahl

The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Beyond the Book:
Obsessive Personality

Print Review

Obsession CartoonIn Thomas Rydahl's The Hermit, protagonist Erhard Jørgensen displays an obsessive personality. He is mildly obsessed with the finger he is missing on one hand and so obsessed with having ten fingers he resorts to a rather unconventional solution. Additionally, he develops an unhealthy obsession with prolonging a young woman's life. But finally, it is his obsession with solving the murder of an infant that impels him to follow every lead, use every resource, and stick to the goal in order to find and bring the murderer to justice.

Obsession is not to be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over." It is generally characterized by excessively repeating rituals or activities that never seem to put the person at ease. Many people develop little rituals to ease anxiety before social situations, flying, public speaking or even leaving the house. Checking the range burners for instance. These are usually harmless but in the extreme – such as washing one's hands until they are raw and feeling no relief from exercising one's repeated rituals, etc. – they can be debilitating, even life threatening.

In and of itself, having an obsession is not necessarily regarded as having a disorder at all. As psychologists are quick to point out, without a certain healthy obsession with a task or a long-term goal it's fairly certain little would ever get accomplished. According to a 2011 article in Psychology Today, non-clinical obsession "refers to a disproportionate or unusual focus on something. For instance, someone can be obsessed with gardening or Facebook, or going to the gym. It simply means they pay more attention than most people to something, even most people who are interested in something. This is when obsessions can be more than healthy: nobody who has ever achieved anything impressive or made an outstanding contribution to anything, has managed to do so without a certain level of obsessiveness. You can be a gifted footballer, for instance, but unless you practice obsessively you will never make it to the premier league. You can be a gifted musician, a talented cook, or a natural speaker, but unless you work on both your strengths and weaknesses you will end up being a wasted talent at worst, or an underachiever at best."

There can be a fine line between a non-clinical and a clinical obsession. Generally speaking that line is drawn where the obsession disrupts one's life to the point where one ceases to function normally; missing work or school, ceasing social or family interactions, failing to tend to the most basic tasks of personal hygiene or domestic cleanliness. There are several tips and techniques for checking an obsession before it gets out of control. These include distracting oneself, focusing on the long term, or taking up a hobby unrelated to the obsessive behavior.

Obsessive Personality cartoon, courtesy of loveandrenovations.com

This article was originally published in January 2017, and has been updated for the June 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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