Early Historical Forerunners

Not surprisingly, the history of the obsessive-compulsive personality is intertwined with the history of obsessive and compulsive symptoms. Richard von Krafft-Ebing introduced the German equivalent to compulsion, Zwang, in 1867 but employed it only in reference to the constricted thinking of depressives. A paper by Griesinger (1868) used the same term in a more modern sense, referring to compulsive questioning, compulsive curiosity, and compulsive doubting, somewhat similar to what we have seen in the case of Holden, who seems to keep questioning himself about what to do and how to proceed. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a debate arose concerning whether hidden emotions might underlie compulsive behavior. By this time, however, differences in its translation led the term Zwang to acquire different meanings on either side of the Atlantic. In London, it referred to obsessions; in New York, it referred to compulsions.

Both Schneider (1923/1950) and Kretschmer (1918) wrote important treatises on the personality disorders in the first third of the twentieth century. Discussing anakasts, Schneider noted their inner uncertainty and tendency toward overcompensation, stating that "outer correctness covers an imprisoning inner insecurity" (p. 87) and describing them as "carefully dressed people, pedantic, correct, scrupulous and yet with it all somehow exceedingly insecure" (p. 92). We see this in both our cases, with both Donald and Holden being outwardly correct and scrupulous and incredibly insecure. Of the two, however, Holden is definitely the more uncertain because Donald conceals his self-doubts with the armor of dogmatism. Under the label, "sensitive" types, Kretschmer described persons burdened by intrapsychic complexes they are unable to externalize or discharge. Unable to take decisive action, they likewise become uncertain over both large and small matters. To compensate, they hold fast to standards set with conviction by others, often becoming "men of conscience." There is somewhat of a developmental pathway that runs from Holden to Donald. Despite the influence of these theorists, however, the most important role would be played by Freud and his disciples.

In the following sections, we offer a detailed portrayal of the compulsive personality as expressed through the psychodynamic, interpersonal, and cognitive perspectives. Each of these domains interacts to form the whole person. We have chosen to present history and description side by side. Do not be tempted to see the material simply as a historical progression of who did what when, because you will miss out on the descriptive bounty that each author brings to the construct. By the time you finish these sections, you should have a good grasp of the compulsive prototype. Developmental pathways are also described, though these are now speculative and indistinct. Read not only for history but also for the characteristics that each author unearthed and their significance to the total personality. References to the cases are included.

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