I went to a small gathering the other day and struck up a conversation with a woman I was meeting for the first time…
We exchanged the usual pleasantries and before long, she confided that she felt a bit out-of-place in Kamloops, but she figured this was because she’d lived most of her life in Vancouver, a much larger city with many more amenities and lots of “diversity”. She then asked me if I have ever lived anywhere else.
My new acquaintance was full of questions when I told her that indeed I had lived in another place – another country in fact – for most of my life. After a brief description of my lifestyle in Mexico, she threw her arms up in the air and shook her head back and forth. “I could never do anything so eccentric,” she said.
That rattled me a bit. I’ve always considered an artist like van Gogh, an actor like Robin Williams, an entertainer like Lady Gaga or those older ladies in purple hats to be eccentric – but me?
I decided to go on line to read some definitions and more opinions. I found psychiatrist David Weeks website – he has conducted a study called, “Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness”. The short video on the site
intrigued me and I delved further. Bingo! I found Dr. Weeks’ inventory of the 25 descriptors of eccentricity. He lists them in descending order of importance – the first five being the most significant.
- Enduring non-conformity
- Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
- A constant and distinct feeling of differentness from others
- Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
- Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence
- Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
- Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
- Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
- Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
- Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
- More frequently an eldest or an only child
- Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
- Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
- Slightly abrasive
- Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
- Feelings of “invisibility” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
- Feel that others can only take them in small doses
- Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
- Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
- A degree of social awkwardness
- More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
- A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning
Hmm-m-m-m-m… I do fit a number of those descriptions, especially the last one… thought I. Maybe I’m a a bit unconventional, but I don’t think I’d go so far as to call myself eccentric.
What about you? Do you see yourself as someone who fits this profile?