Obsessives can’t help dwelling on the same things. Compulsives are enslaved to repeating habitual actions over and over again, even if they don’t make sense. Whether individuals or organizations, both types of Obsessives have an “unreasonable, unhealthy focus on one thing. Most of the time, it is the relentless pursuit of perfection” (Cohen, pp. 101-2).Perhaps the most debilitating symptoms of obsessive compulsive organizations Cohen indicates are:
- * A strong need for perfection;* Work must constantly be checked, re-checked, and checked again;
* Work is never good enough;
* All mistakes (or perceived mistakes) must be punished;
* Tendency to postpone or avoid decisions at virtually all costs.
* There is so much pre-occupation minutiae and details that nothing gets done. (pp. 102-3)
Obsessive-Compulsive organizations, as individuals, are bent on self-sabotage. Driven to realizing fantasy-based levels of perfection, they go on “search and destroy” missions for mistakes. They squelch creativity, initiative and risk-the necessary ingredients to proactive, healthy future-directed decision making.
Intervention requires that leaders empower obsessive compulsives by congratulating them for their mistakes. As obsessive compulsives learn that near-perfect is good-enough, their anxiety may begin to subside. This enables them to begin making decisions, taking risks, etc.
5. Post-traumatic syndrome “Post-traumatic stress syndrome” is “the serous emotional disturbance that follows a traumatic experience.” (p. 115).
The list of events which traumatize organizations and church is virtually innumerable. Pastoral change, sudden exit of pastor, sudden shift in leadership, death of any “pillar” leader, dramatic increase or decrease in members, finances, etc., schism and splits, mergers, reorganization, external events (wars, economy, lawsuit, community factors, etc.), doctrinal dissent, and improper or ineffective intervention in a congregational dysfunction is but a short listing.
Trauma, regardless of its roots or the time passed since its occurring, can affect organizations for years. Cohen notes some symptoms:
- 1) Shock, erratic behavior, or both;
- 2) Over-reference to a negative event in the past;
- 3) Actions that conflict with crucial needs;
- 4) Inability to perform at top capacity;
- 5) Inadequate performance;
- 6) Leaders and others in the organization do their jobs in a daze;
- 7) Routine work gets done;
- 8) leaders and organization are unable to deviate from routines lest they experience some kind of breakdown. (p. 118-9).
Trauma recovery is generally countered by setting progressive goals. Start with a small number of relatively small goals. Then progressively “up the ante” and move to higher goals. The key to this intervention is that it requires a most important step: you must take action. Stay proactively focused on progressively larger and more organization-influencing goals.Cohesion therapy is also helpful, especially in the heat of trauma. The psychological unity with others is, in itself, healing. Within Christian organizations, the fellowship in the Body of Christ promotes even greater healing through the action of the Gospel. Cohesion is, according to military historian and psychologist, S.L.A. Marshall.
Cohesion can, Cohen notes, can be accomplished with trauma. “However, traumatizing an organization deliberately can be dangerous” (p. 123). Perhaps the most effective way to build cohesion is the military way. Slogans such as “Be all you can be in the Army” demonstrate that military recruiters understand the importance of cohesion.Cohen summarizes the nature and purpose of cohesion.
- “I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables an infantry solder to keep going with his weapons is the near presence of the presumed presence of a comrade” (Quoted by Cohen, pp. 122-123 from Marshall, Men Against Fire. New York: Morrow, 1947, p. 42).
- “The point is to aggressively promote whatever it is that your group is best at. You want each person to see constant reminders of the group’s excellence. Gradually the feeling of pride in this one area will bring a mental shift away from the post-trauma” (Cohen, p. 123).
Cohen would suggest that whatever it takes to build pride and visibility, just do it. Buttons, pins, mottoes, logos, organizational name changes, celebrating people are just a very small listing of what can be done.Such items also lend themselves to another form of intervention, “Distraction Therapy.” Distracting the organization away from trauma can be accomplished in numerous ways including:
- * Doing something that has nothing to do with the problems;* Working on an effort totally different from what the organization or its sub-groups expect;
* Directing energies toward working on future problems in the present.
A final note. Whatever intervention is used, post-traumatic stress syndrome “may be felt some time after the original trauma, and it can be triggered at any time” (p. 126). For post-traumatic stress syndrome, time may be the greatest healer.