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 Post subject: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:11 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
Posts: 1935
Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
So, I've started a new series on the blog (http://www.perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.com) but want to share here, as well.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.


Quote:
Chapter One
The Obsessive Personality

This is a book about people who are too perfect for their own good.

You know them. You may be one of them. And if you are, you have much to be proud of. You're one of the solid, good people of the world: honest, reliable, hardworking, responsible, exacting, self-controlled.

But for many people there is also a dark side to the perfection. The very traits that bring them success, respect and trust can also cause them serious problems. These people aren't fully able to savor relationships with others and with the world at large, nor are they at ease with themselves in their universe. Consider:

* The person so driven to meet professional and personal goals that she can't abandon herself to a few hours of undirected leisure without feeling guilty or undisciplined.
* The person so preoccupied with making the right choice that he has difficulty making even relatively simple decisions usually regarded as pleasurable: buying a new stereo, choosing where to go on vacation.
* The person so finicky that his pleasure is spoiled if everything isn't "just so."
* The "thinkaholic" whose keen, hyperactive mind all too often bogs her down in painful worry and rumination.
* The perfectionist, whose need to improve and polish every piece of work causes her to devote much more time than necessary to even inconsequential assignments.
* The person so intent on finding the ultimate romantic mate that he seems unable to commit to any long-term relationship.
* The person so acclimated to working long hours that she can't bring herself to cut back, even when confronted with evidence that overwork is ruining her health or her family relationships.
* The procrastinator who feels angry at his "laziness" - unaware that the real reason he is unable to undertake tasks is that his need to do them flawlessly makes them loom impossibly large.

<snip> Recent articles and books have also made the lay public aware of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the malady that drives its sufferers to such acts as repeated hand-washing, checking routines, or other paralyzing rituals.

When I use the term obsessive, however, I mean something quite different. I'm referring to a personality type, not to an isolated behavior or clinical disorder like OCD.


I (this is now I the blogger, not I the book author) began this blog because I was coming "out of the fog" with a Too Perfect personality, someone whose need to control me led to verbal and emotional abuse. I know my life wasn't the only one which was "Perfectly Awful;" his was pretty dreadful too.

This is not to say that life with OCPD ex-bf was torture-chamber horrible 24/7; it wasn't. There were some wonderful times together, fabulous trips, fun giggling times watching TV, making love and happy family celebrations. If it was horrible 24/7, nobody would stay with these people. We who love these troubled people have had great times - especially in the beginning of the relationship.

We may even sense the root of this disorder - overwhelming anxiety. So because we know there's a good person in there - a worried person, but a good one - we may hang in there. We'll help them to see they don't have to be perfect, that we love them, flaws and all (as we wish they'd love us.) Hoping with enough love and patience and kindness, we can "fix" them.

Doesn't work. Because each of us can only fix ourselves, and as they mention in the first paragraph, the person with this issue often doesn't perceive that his "strengths" are killing him, and his relationships. Just as an alcoholic or drug addict must recognize he has a problem and be willing to get help, so must the Perfectionist.

Mine wasn't willing or able to do that. :cry:

What was your experience? Does this snippet add anything to your understanding of this disorder? Join in a discussion here, or at the blog, and stay tuned for more next week. :D

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:01 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:12 am
Posts: 399
Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,
and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,
after six years living with a man with OCPD.
...wow! going to keep that close to me.thank you.(8 yrs for me though)

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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:46 am 
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Posts: 721
Hi LTOM,

I ran a study group for the book in 2004 at the old support group, so here's my contribution for this week:

Too Perfect Study Group -- Ch 1 "The Obsessive Personality"
http://ocpdarchive.multiply.com/journal ... nalityquot

I don't have time now but may add more later.

Sincerely, Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:51 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:56 pm
Posts: 42
LTOM,
You do such a good job of capturing the personality type- how their traits are initially perceived as desirable, moral etc.. It really helps me to understand that I was not totally out of MY mind to stay for 6 years. You are right to say that there are good times- often many of them. But never knowing when the slightest thing will bring on anger and blame makes for an unsafe relationship. And if your partner can't be your "safe haven" from the world, then something is wrong. Thanks for your posts. They ring so true for me that I am helped greatly by them, as I try to adjust to getting my own life back!


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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:45 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
Posts: 1935
Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
OCPDmanager wrote:
I ran a study group for the book in 2004 at the old support group, so here's my contribution for this week:

Sincerely, Paul
Paul, VERY cool, thanks for sharing. Gonna read this stuff over and perhaps extract a bit for the enxt few posts.

Although I've read this book a couple-three times before, I'm posting/blogging in VERY short sections, so people have time to chew and digest each bite. So, Chapter One by itself is going to be four sections, but... it'll take as long as it takes. :D

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
Follow the latest Scoop: http://www.scoop.it/t/iso-mental-health-wellness
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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:51 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
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Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
Chapter One
The Obsessive Personality (continued)
Quote:
If there is a single quality that characterizes obsessive people it is a powerful, unconscious need to feel in control - of themselves, of others, and of life's risks. One of the primary ways in which this need manifests itself is perfectionism. A whole family of personality traits is rooted in these two needs - to be in control and to be "perfect." These include:

a fear of making errors
a fear of making a wrong decision or choice
a strong devotion to work
a need for order or firmly established routine
frugality
a need to know and follow the rules
emotional guardedness
a tendency to be stubborn or oppositional
a heightened sensitivity to being pressured or controlled by others
an inclination to worry, ruminate, or doubt
a need to be above criticism - moral, professional, or personal
cautiousness
a chronic inner pressure to use every minute productively

By my definition, someone is obsessive if his or her personality is predominantly colored by traits from this family - in any combination. Many of these traits, when they aren't exaggerated or rigid, are valuable qualities. It's hard to imagine someone succeeding in our society today without some degree of self-discipline, for example, or some desire to work hard and avoid errors. But some people are "too perfect." The obsessive traits in their personality are so dominant and inflexible that these virtues actually cause a host of problems.

<snip> I see how unaware most obsessives are that they're harming themselves; they recoil from any hint that their heavy burdens could be self-imposed. Most have grown up believing that you can never be too careful, hardworking, thorough, prepared or organized. In fact, they're often proudest of the very traits that cause them the most harm.

The book goes on to tell stories about people coming to see the doctor for physical symptoms, or because a partner insisted they get help, not because the Perfectionists recognized any problem with their lifestyle or attitudes. It tells about Laura, who took on a crushing workload, refused to delegate tasks, and felt she had to be all things to all people. About Raymond, a workaholic surgeon who wouldn't open up about his own feelings, bullied his wife and passed judgment on everything from her cooking to her political opinions, and then was heartbroken when she embarked on an affair because she felt lonely and unloved.

***

When my ex b-f would cry, I would reach out my arms to hold him, and he would either barely tolerate it, or shrug me off. When I would have a bad day or bad dream, he would never spontaneously hold me or ask me to talk it out. Sometimes when I specifically asked for it, he would hold me or let me talk about some feelings; other times even when I asked he'd turn me down, or give me a short, wooden hug. It's very hard not to take that kind of emotional rejection personally.

Everyone I've met on chat boards can tell a story about a couch/car/bed that took years to purchase, because the Perfectionist had to get the right one. No matter how old, broken, uncomfortable or the old one was. (2+ years for our couch.) About frugality beyond making sense, about traumatic scenes because a routine may have been interrupted. The horror!

And the rules, the rules, the rules! Almost everyone has a story of the Crazy Rules.

Demand-Resistance and demand sensitivity - there will be more on that to follow, but even a perceived demand may meet with an automatic no. (For example, many partners resent doing something for Valentines' Day, because they feel it's expected of them by society, whether or not their partner has asked for special treatment, and then exhibit resentment to their partners for the implied "demand.") There's a lot of withholding of feelings that goes on, of not feeling trusted or supported.

Checking for fleas again: I'm frugal, for the most part (I do use every fragment of paper on my steno pads!) but will not, as many Perfectionists do, eat dicey leftovers to save a few dollars. The potential cost of getting sick and missing work, of having to go to the doctor or emergency room, not to mention the physical agony of food poisoning, to my way of thinking, outweighs the pain of throwing away fifty cents worth of food that might still be good.

I do tend to reflexively take the devil's advocate position, which is certainly an oppositional trait. Hmmm. I believe in following rules when they make sense, but don't believe any rules are always right. One should obey the speed limit, for example, but what if you've got somebody in your car in dire straits and you're rushing her to the hospital? I do feel that pressure to be productive all the time, but I also make myself take down time, and I'm learning not to feel quite so guilty about it.

Please feel free to join in here, or on the blog, with your observations & reactions.

_________________
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
Follow the latest Scoop: http://www.scoop.it/t/iso-mental-health-wellness
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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:11 am 
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Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with The Causes of Obsessiveness, from Chapter One.

Quote:
...happened to have in common a parent whose love seemed conditional, tied to such things as how well they performed, and how "good" or capable they were. Because they also perceived their parents as critical, negativistic, and hard to please, these bright, sensitive children felt caught in a no-win situation, never feeling that they were good enough - never feeling secure. Similar stories about childhood experiences are common in my practice.

Let me stress that patients in therapy are reporting their perceptions of their early childhood experiences. It may well be that the person who will become strongly obsessive perceives his world and its expectations of him differently from other children.

...the parent's behaviors and apparent attitudes reflected self-interest and often a lack of empathy for the child. ..."I remember having to take piano lessons, which I hated. My parents made it sounds as if it was for my own good, but it wasn't. They both had wanted to study music but had been unable to do so." Another patient put it this way: "My parents insisted on being in control, and it took all the starch out of me. Over time my spirit was eroded, broken."

Many patients have reiterated this experience: conformance to family and social rules having more importance to the parents than whatever the child was thinking, feeling, wanting, or fearing. A significant number of my obsessive patients reveal that they didn't feel liked by one or both parents These patients felt they'd been "good" children and had made real efforts to meet their parents' expectations, only to find a lack of consistent appreciation, or worse, criticism.

I believe that - to some extent - perfectionism, caution, drivenness, and other obsessive traits are indeed adaptations. They not only quell some of the anxiety engendered by early feelings of insecurity, but also garner many obvious payoffs. Still, it is overly simplistic to conclude that early childhood experiences alone cause people to develop obsessive personalities. Humans are infinitely complex, and while family and subcultural values are hammer and anvil, to a point, the persons genetic and constitutional makeup is the "ore."

Scores of parents have told me of children who seemed picky, perfectionistic, contemplative, and cautious, almost from birth. "I remember making Christmas cookies with Max when he was barely two years old," one woman told me. "When a little piece of dough remained wedged in a corner of the cookie cutter, he insisted I throw the offending cookie away. I told him that the cookie was just fine, but he burst into tears and wailed that it wasn't perfect, so he wouldn't eat it. It was crazy! Later, in nursery school, he refused to fingerpaint with the other children; he thought it was too messy."

It wouldn't surprise me if scientists one day discovered specific biological underpinnings favoring the development of any of several personality styles, including the obsessive. Certainly the trend in psychiatry in the last several years has been to discover that more and more psychological and psychiatric problems such as schizophrenia and mood disorders have strong biological roots.

In sum, the likeliest hypothesis as to the cause of obsessiveness is that some people have a constitutional predisposition for being obsessive, and it can be enhanced or minimized by early-life perceptions and experiences.

I tend to believe Dr. Mallinger has it right - inborn tendencies, either fed or defused by parenting strategies.

While many people do remember, usually with much emotional pain, failing to please a hyper-critical parent (Tiger Mom are you listening?) the missing part of the puzzle is whether or not that parent behaved in a hyper-critical way because s/he had an obsessive personality. If so, if that is inborn, then the unlucky child gets a double dose of OCPD - the genetic tendency passed along by the parent, plus an adaptive/survival behavior.

Here's why I lean towards genetics - slash - predisposition:

1) As I have come into contact with Perfectionist Personalities and their SO's all over the world - the behaviors are the SAME. A middle class woman in Florida, a young Danish father of three, a well-to-do man in Australia, a young mum in the UK, husbands of Middle-Eastern descent. Jews, Christians, atheists... Granted I have only come to know those who (or whose partners) can communicate in English, but why does it sound like they are ALL reading the same script? Surely if this was cultural, there would be significant differences, and there aren't. (Most American obsessives might hoard, for example, while most New Zealanders would worry about kitchen counter germs.) These people were not all raised in the same manner, yet their controlling behaviors are the same. (Not that there aren't minor differences.)

2) Not all have stories of controlling or harsh parents. My ex b-f did not, nor do many others. He does, on the other hand, recall painfully laboring over various tests in elementary school, unable to finish a test because he had to make sure that he examined all possible meanings of each question, and every possible answer, and only then could he finish that question, and move on to the next.

3) Meds help. For those on, or who have partners on various anti-anxiety drugs, the transformation and decrease in anxiety levels and obsessive behaviors is almost miraculous. (Of course, not all drugs are suitable for all people, and adjusting dosages, finding new drugs when body systems become acclimated to old ones - it's not a matter of simply take a pill and life is good.) Others find much relief in 12 step programs and/or meditation and mindfulness exercises, either instead of or in addition to medications. But the relief of chemical magic points to something being off-kilter in the brain, that the right meds can help balance. Or, at least, interrupt the obsessive "rut" long enough that through practice, new behaviors can be formed and old habits broken.

4) There does seem to be some link between OCPD, Aspergers, and ADD. There are some with OCPD in the family who also have autism or Asperger's in the family, pointing to a genetic similarity. There are many who report their doctors think they might have OCPD (if already diagnosed autistic), or autistic if already diagnosed OCPD, and many share the same kinds of sensory overload issues reported by those living with an OCPDr (sensitivity to noise, light, odors.) Again, this points towards something present in the brain at birth, rather than purely an adaptive personality mechanism.

Another intriguing possibility - that life experiences several generations back might have changed DNA.

Scientists at Australia’s University of New South Wales fed healthy, svelte, male rats a high-fat diet (43 percent of calories from fat—a typical American diet). Not surprisingly, the rats put on weight and fat, and developed insulin resistance and glucose intolerance—basically, type 2 diabetes, the scientists reported last month in Nature. None of that was surprising. What made the scientists take notice was the daughters these rats sired: although their mothers were of normal weight and ate a healthy diet while pregnant, daughters of the high-fat-diet dads developed insulin resistance and glucose resistance as adults—even though they never ate a high-fat diet themselves. (from Sins of the Grandfathers: What happens in Vegas could affect your offspring. How early-life experiences could cause permanent changes in sperm and eggs. For the link to the full article, see the blog.)

On the one hand, it doesn't really matter what causes this disorder. What matters is how to make it less horrible for those who have it and those who live with them. But then... you kind of have to know where it comes from. In the example of the rat daughters, above - their diabetes isn't coming from a poor diet, so simply saying, "No more chips for you!" isn't going to solve the problem.

Hopefully, someday there will be more research into this subject, and real help available for those with OCPD.

If you are (or know) someone with OCPD - did s/he have a parent with OCPD?
Or hyper-critical? Or both? Or neither?
Was there OCPD or autism-spectrum disorders in the family of origin?

_________________
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
Follow the latest Scoop: http://www.scoop.it/t/iso-mental-health-wellness
OCPD SO info: http://perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.com


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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:51 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
Posts: 1935
Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with The Core of Obsessiveness/The Need for Control, from Chapter One. (And yes, I'm jumping the gun by a few hours - I know with the time change I'm going to be too sleepy to get this "up" in the morning!)

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.

Quote:
Regardless of the psychobiological causes of obsessiveness, the central dynamic in the obsessive personality is that of control. Most of us, obsessives included, would allow that life is fundamentally unpredictable. As hard as the best-intentioned, most conscientious person might try, it is impossible to control every aspect of one's existence; we are vulnerable. Despite such lip service to these truths, however, somewhere near the center of their inner being, far from their conscious awareness, obsessives are trying to deny this reality. Their subtle but constant attempts to control everything in the world around them (and inside them) are an attempt to do the impossible: to guarantee security, to assure safe passage through the risks and uncertainties of living.

Sometimes these efforts may "work" for years. Their conscientiousness and thoroughness bring obsessives admiration in the workplace. They follow the laws and rules assiduously, so they rarely incur the disapproval of those in authority. They seldom are rejected in romantic encounters since they avoid situations that make them vulnerable, or they take preemptive action when they sense an affair is going awry, so that they may be the one to end it. The conform to the standards of their social groups, so they usually aren't ridiculed or ostracized. And the rewards for being responsible, consistent, alert to details, safety-conscious, and well-organized are legion.

But all this security comes at a price. Though they may be inured to it, many strongly obsessive people are suffering. They may be unable to show their feelings or to trust anyone (even their closest loved ones) completely, and as a result live with the chilling sense of being fundamentally alone.

Many obsessives suffer the endless agony of having to do everything well - an unnecessary imperative that can ruin even the most enjoyable of activities. Their fear of embarrassment of appearing less than perfect may keep them from trying new things.

They struggle daily under the weight of a massive inner rulebook, an overgrown sense of duty, responsibility and fairness. Most obsessives rarely taste the joys of the moment; the present hardly exists for them. Even in their time off, many can't fully relax, or just play. Indeed, they are never really "off." Worries bedevil them as they plow through life doing the "right" things, hoping that caution, diligence, and sacrifice will pay off - someday.


The chapter finishes with the famous poem/essay by Nadine Stair, "If I had my life to live over... I would eat more ice cream and less beans.." (I know you've seen bits on a poster somewhere!) And a Self-Test. Self-tests can be helpful, if they are taken honestly. What sometimes happens when OCPDrs (or others) are in denial that they have a problem, is they quickly figure out how to "game" the test. "See!" they may say triumphantly afterwards. "I told you there was nothing wrong with me!"

An amateur diagnosis may be helpful to a "non," or an OCPDr, in identifying tools and techniques that may be useful, but only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose OCPD (and sometimes even they miss it.)

***

The business about the disconnect between the lip service to "of course, we can't control everything" and the actual carrying on as if one can... reminds me of the problems I have sometimes integrating a message I know in my head, into my heart.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the Stuart Smalley guy fron SNL.

Even when it's all true, I feel a weird sheepishness and fear of being silly or self-indulgent, when I do positive affirmations. I do them anyway (if not often enough.)

As far as strengths-slash-flaws "working" for Perfectionists - yes, they can, for quite some time. My ex would tell stories about his job working for a company that ran the programs that allowed big banks (Security Pacific, Wells Fargo, etc.) make electronic payroll tax deposits for their clients. (Yes, this was 20 years ago.) Anyway, he would relate with pride how sometimes the engineers thought a program was "good enough," to be released, and even though it really wasn't his job, he would test it every other way he could think of, even it that took days, making sure there was absolutely no possible scenario under which it would "hang" or crash.

However, I got the impression between the lines, that his boss wasn't 100% pleased about his need to work every single bug out of every single program, regardless of how long it took. Especially since that wasn't his assigned job. And when the company was bought out and all the other employees went elsewhere... He had nowhere to go, and hasn't worked since.

He would also obsess over ants. Ants happen. In my old apartment, oddly, sometimes I would not get them in the sink where I had left dirty dishes (no cracks, please, about how even the ants were too smart to touch my cooking) but they would come into the bathroom through the openings in the electric plugs. Riddle me that, oh ye neat freaks! Fact of life, no matter how well you clean, sometimes you will get ants. But OCPD ex-bf usually treated one lonely scout ant as a sign of the Apocalypse (and of my slovenliness.)

Or a moth would get into the house, or a fly get in. Doom! Tragedy! Terror!

He was always too busy, had too much to do to relax (Remember, this is a guy with no job, a house with two adults, in which I vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the bathroom on the weekends.) I think for many OCPDrs a state of having nothing to do, workwise, may be scary and uncomfortable. So they've got to go find (or manufacture) a crisis, because the only emotional state that they're accustomed to, sadly, is anxiety.

Of course, in America we have a culture that approves of the 60 (or more) hour workweek, and seems to frown on "too much" leisure - there's an attitude that pleasure must be earned. So a perfectionist can often get away with focusing all his/her attention on the job, or on Things That Must Be Done.

This chapter highlights for me, not just how hard it is to live with a Perfectionist, but how very hard it is to be a Perfectionist. They are suffering. It is very painful for them, but they don't see that they create their own "massive inner rulebook." They are astounded that every other human being isn't dragging one around, too, and obviously those people are slackers who just don't care about doing things right - the way the Perfectionist does.

It does isolate them.

I knew my ex-boyfriend was suffering, perhaps more acutely than he did, but I couldn't help him with it, because he didn't trust me. No matter how much I tried to show him I loved him, no matter how many times I had "been there" for him, no matter what craziness I put up with... I think that's why many of us stay, hoping, that we'll eventually breach a crack in that wall and they'll trust us.

One thing I've read in other posts - while an obsessive may avoid rejection in the beginning of a romantic relationship, as it states here, when it comes to long-term relationships ending, they are often shell-shocked and totally surprised. A train they didn't see coming, even though their partner may have been telling them, "If things don't change in our relationship, I'm going to have to leave," for weeks, months, years. I've read where somebody will report to a third party, "Oh, things are much better between us," on the day their spouse is moving out.

The whole condition is very sad, but there is hope. The obsessive simply has to be willing to change.

Gee, is that all (I hear those of you in such a relationship asking)? Why not ask something simple, like carrying the Holy Grail to the top of Mount Everest?

It has been know to happen (the willingness to change.) :D

_________________
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
Follow the latest Scoop: http://www.scoop.it/t/iso-mental-health-wellness
OCPD SO info: http://perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.com


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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:30 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
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Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with The Myth of Control, from Chapter Two.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.


Quote:
If Garp could have been granted one vast and naive wish, it would have been that he could make the world safe. For children and for grownups, the world struck Garp as unnecessarily perilous for both.

--John Irving
The World According to Garp

Everyone needs some self-control, and some mastery over his or her environment, just to survive. But many obsessives have a disproportionate need for control - one that is driven and rigid, rather than reasonable and flexible.

This exaggerated need stems from an irrational conviction that perfect control can ensure safe passage through life. <snip>

What are the roots of this myth? I believe that children who will become obsessive are terrified by the awareness of their own vulnerability in a world they perceive as threatening and unpredictable.. In order to maintain a sense of calm and to navigate sanely through life, they must somehow ward off or deny this awareness. So they come to believe that, through control of themselves and their personal universe, they can protect themselves against the dangers in life, both real and imagined. If they could articulate the myth that motivates their behavior, they might say: "If I try hard enough, I can stay in control of myself, of others, and of all the impersonal dangers of life (injury, illness, death, etc.) In this way I can be certain of safe passage."

Obsessive people continue to embrace this myth at an unconscious level throughout their lives. Though they will acknowledge that such total control is impossible, the myth nonetheless continues to influence their behavior from its place deep within.


***

We all know - nobody's getting out of this place (life) alive. Yet most of us do take what we think are reasonable measures, to protect ourselves, and those we love.

Those with OCPD go past the "belts-AND-suspenders," let's double-check for safety mentality.

Most people who know me would not call me a crazy reckless person. I always buckle my seat beat, and look both ways before I cross a street. I floss my teeth and see my dentist and doctors for regular check-ups. I drive slowly and carefully in the rain. My ex b-f had gotten to a paranoid place where he refused to go anywhere in the car if it was raining - or was even predicted to rain. Even a light drizzle.

I've heard of OCPDrs who won't let their children use automatic opening umbrellas - because they could poke somebody's eye out. (Has that ever happened, in the entire history of push-button umbrellas opening?)

The excessive need for safety and control can create major conflicts between those with OCPD and those who love them. They would wrap the whole world in bubble-wrap, if they could. Double layers. Maybe spray a coat of lacquer over the top, just to make sure it's all well-sealed. And that includes their partners and children.

Problem is, we don't want to be sealed in bubble wrap.

So, there is often major conflict over what constitutes "reasonable" safety precautions. They may feel, because of our sadly lackadaisical attitude towards obvious dangers like driving in the rain when you don't have to (for instance, to a family gathering,) push-button umbrellas and plugged-in toasters, that they have to take over not only keeping themselves safe, but keeping us safe. And protecting our homes from all the chaos we (slackers) leave in our wake - a frequent complaint of ex-b-f was that he had to follow around after me, "picking up" and "fixing" things I had left undone.

I'm sure he truly felt that way. That mousetraps on a horse... well, you never know, do you? Unlike a "normal" person, those with OCPD don't ever seem to get to a mental place where they say, "Okay, I've done enough for now to protect myself and my family from possible danger. Now I can relax."

They very rarely seem to feel they can relax, under any circumstances.

Instead, if all around seems to be under control for the moment, their minds are busy seeking out new, or future dangers, to safeguard against those.

Have you ever gone to ridiculous lengths to insure safe passage through life?
Do you believe , perhaps not consciously, that if you do everything "right," exercise, proper diet, etc., you can prevent most health problems or injury? Or do you accept that "Shit Happens"?

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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:37 am 
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Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
Fighting a cold, lacking energy to deal with cut, paste, re-formatting this a.m. http://perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.com/2 ... -self.html if you're following along. Best,

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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:11 am 
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Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with Control Over Feelings & Selectively Unemotional, from Chapter Two.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992. If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that may not all be covered in these excerpts.

Quote:
CONTROL OVER FEELINGS

For many obsessives, control over their emotions is a crucial component of self-control. By their nature, emotions sometimes defy control, and this unruliness disturbs the obsessive. Also, through their extremist lenses, many obsessives unconsciously fear that any show of emotion could lead to their humiliating themselves, devastating someone else, being rejected, or even losing all self-control. For these and other reasons, many obsessives will repress, minimize, disown, or otherwise try to avoid strong emotions altogether.

<snip> When their feelings are starting to surface in therapy sessions, many obsessive patients like Colette will deliver an intellectual analysis of them, change the subject, joke, of focus on something trivial - anything to avoid actually feeling and exploring this perturbing part of themselves.

Selectively Unemotional

Although a few obsessives have difficulty showing any strong emotions (and thus may appear machinelike), most choke off only certain ones. Some, for instance, have no trouble showing affection, but can't display anger easily. With others, the opposite is true. <snip>

The Downside of Emotional Control

To survive, work effectively, and relate to other harmoniously, we obviously must modulate some of our emotions. However, as James's experience illustrates, wholesale repression of feelings can be self-damaging. Even in moments of leisure or intimacy, many obsessives have difficulty shifting gears and letting go of their need to be in control. Some may repress their feelings to effectively that they do not know what their feelings are; they come to believe they were born without the normal emotional range present in others. This causes them pain, as they sense themselves to be defective in some core way.

In their wish to seem normal (to themselves and others) these people may fake whatever feelings they think are appropriate in various situations. Or they may unconsciously compensate for their perceived defect in an altogether different way, by idealizing it. Like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, people who take this path disdain feelings and evidence of weakness. They sneer at emotional people and admire intellect and reason. They thus convert the pain of feeling defective into pride in being "strong."

Of course, such defensive tactics in obsessives usually are doomed to failure, because in spite of their best efforts, rage, terror, sadness, infatuation, and other emotions will eventually break through. Like anyone else, the obsessive person will experience these emotions because, fortunately, there is no completely effective anesthesia against feeling. Emotions are crucial components of who we are. And it through expressing our emotions that we are able to make our needs known and achieve true communication with others. If you can't show that you're touched, hurt, scared, angry, or sad, people can't connect with you, let alone feel empathy for you or love you. In the emotional arena as in others, too much self-control is self-defeating.


I've blogged before about the AngryMan aspect of ex b-f. While he was able to display a full range of emotion during the courting stage, once we moved in together, it seemed like the only emotion he felt safe showing was anger. He would be cold and logical and emotionless much of the time, occasionally be in a good mood, but mostly, angry. As if that emotion was safe - unlike fear, anxiety, loneliness - to express those would have made him too vulnerable.

I am reminded of the distraction aspect too - "cuttlefish!" when they throw up a cloud of ink to distract you from something getting too close to the bone. The Great and Powerful Oz is... just a small scared man behind a curtain, using smoke and mirrors and distraction to keep people from seeing he's just a man.

When somebody is breathing fire at you, it's pretty much impossible to feel an emotional connection.

We all do crazy things to try to earn love, sometimes. Maybe we'll let somebody put a dog collar around our necks and lead us around by a chain. Maybe we'll be patient and sympathetic and allow ourselves to be emotionally abused, in the hopes that once they get it "out of their system" they'll be able to open up and share their real emotions with us. Maybe we'll put up a front of being strong and invulnerable and unemotional, in the hopes that people will love the shell we've built, even if they don't love the person underneath.

Such a waste of time. By pretending not to have emotions, all perfectionists do is push people away.

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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:16 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
Posts: 1935
Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with Control Over Others, Control Through Irreproachability, and Control Games, from Chapter Two.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992. If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that may not all be covered in these excerpts.

Quote:
CONTROL OVER OTHERS

The second aspect of the Myth of Control is the need to control others. <snip> Most direct are those who rigidly insist that their employees, children, and spouses do things their way, never considering how such a dictatorial attitudes makes other people feel. Like anyone else, these obsessives usually want others to view them as kind and nonjudgmental, and are usually surprised when they are not seen that way. They just can't bring themselves to do what it takes to win that reputation; they can't step back and let the people around them act in their own individual styles.


CONTROL THROUGH IRREPROACHABILITY

<snip> they strive to make people think well of them, always. The main objective underlying this strategy is to leave no room for criticism. In early childhood, we learn which behaviors and abilities are labeled "good" by parents, teachers, and others. Many obsessives master these skills, developing a brilliant facility for identifying those attitudes and behaviors considered virtues in each new social situation and them adopting them absolutely. Thoughts or images incompatible with this image of perfection are suppressed or rejected.


<snip> Robert did experience anxiety during this period, especially when he found himself a bit less universally admired, but he also found that the sky didn't fall when he allowed himself to be more genuine and less perfect. As he gradually stopped hating himself for his phoniness, he became better able to let people get close. When somebody liked him, he knew it wasn't because of some role he was playing. He trusted that person's positive response more. <snip>


Like other aspects of the control myth, trying to control other people's feelings by being wonderful has major drawbacks. For one thing, it's impossible. You simply can't embody everyone's idea of virtue. Anyone who tries is bound to incur someone's disapproval sooner or later. And when the obsessive can't prevent someone from being angry with him, rejecting him, or doubting his abilities or character, he may find it impossible to let it go. Often he'll ruminate about the incident, unable to relax, until he devises a way to "fix" it.


CONTROL GAMES

Subtly manipulative control games are another way in which obsessives strive to assert their power over others. Such power plays whisper: "I've got the upper hand here. I decide whether or not we will interact. And if we do, I decide the beginning, ending, and content of those interactions." Note that I say whisper; you very well may not recognize that you're the object of such tactics. In fact, the obsessive himself usually is not conscious that he's doing it. Part of the nature of these ploys is that each has an alternate, perfectly reasonable explanation. When your colleague shows up several minutes late for a meeting, it may well be that a last-minute phone call unavoidably delayed her. But when this happens repeatedly, you have to wonder if her slight tardiness doesn't spring from an unconscious need to demonstrate that she, and not other people, decides when she's got to be somewhere.


<snip> The tactic of making another person wait can assume a variety of guises. It may involve prolonging a decision. Perhaps you need to know what your spouse if planning for Friday evening, so you can decide whether you're free to attend a professional meeting. But your spouse just can't seem to come to a decision, leaving you stymied.


<snip> All these interpersonal control tactics do accomplish their aim to a degree. However, their net result is often painful and destructive because ultimately they obstruct the sense of connection and intimacy that all humans need and crave.


This is where we tend to have the most battles; when Perfectionists try to control us. My ex would often scold, "I have to show you how to do everything," because I did few things "right" in his eyes, from the way I opened the gate to the driveway, to the way I washed my hands and carried in bags from the grocery store. Let alone the Shower Rules.


At first, I would do it his way, or JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend and Explain. The best way to deal is to not JADE;) as those of you who've tried those techniques know, they don't work. Those with OCPD will simply argue you into the ground until you give up out of exhaustion, and whether you do one or three things his way, he won't do the next thing your way. He will find 15 more things you're not doing his way.


I've tried to be perfect and irreproachable, myself: the top student in class, the most attractive woman in the room, the best at whatever I turned my hand to. Like that really worked out! And so, I've found that despite being a "failure" more often than not, I do pretty well, and most, if not all, people truly like imperfect, unglamorous me. I'm "over" trying to kill myself to be The Best at something, but will put in as much effort as I think the task deserves.


I've come to realize I have other, more covert Perfectionists in my life, who are, indeed, trying to live in a way that leaves no room for criticism, and whose criticism and control games can be subtle.


ME: I'm going to do X.


Other Person: Well, that's one way to do it.


Not a criticism, exactly, just a hint of disapproval and suggestion that OP has a (much) better way. In the past, I'd always bite, and ask, "Oh, what do you suggest, ye wonderful wise person?" or perhaps, even get into an argument about it. Now, I'm learning to either ignore the comment, or say cheerfully, "Yep, that's the way it suits me, right now." Or ask for a suggestion, if I'm interested - but I'm not manipulated into it any more.


On the lateness issue - I have a friend who's always an hour late to anything. And he used to whine to me about how people didn't understand, how they always took it as a mark of disrespect, blah-blah. Well, we are still (more distant) friends, and when we plan to meet, anywhere, I always bring a book along and plan to wait for an hour (sometimes it's even less) but now turn a deaf ear to his complaints of busyness and inability to control his lateness. Like other people aren't busy, too?


It is disrespectful and insulting. Our friendship has become more distant, in part because I have come to recognize his manipulations and excuses for what they are. I don't have time and emotional energy for that BS any more. One very good thing that has come about, as I rediscover myself after being with an OCPDr, is I am recognizing unhealthy dynamics in many of my other relationships, and am working to change them as well.


I, too, have tried to be a "too perfect" friend and confidant, and I realize I need to be my own best friend. If people think I'm not as "nice" anymore... oh well!

Your thoughts?

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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:24 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:17 pm
Posts: 1935
Location: SoCal - 5 yrs moved out/4 1/2 yrs broken up w/6 year live-in with OCPD b-f.
This post continues with Control Over Life's Impersonal Events, from Chapter Two.
Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992. If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that may not all be covered in these excerpts.

Quote:
CONTROL OVER LIFE'S IMPERSONAL EVENTS

Besides self-control and control over others, the third component of the Myth of Control says that if one is sufficiently cautious and vigilant, it is possible to guard against such impersonal dangers as illness, accidents, economic upheavals, and so on.

Being sufficiently cautious and vigilant may mean staying abreast of events that could have personal ramifications - from the weather to political issues to the latest medical news. Obsessives believe that knowledge imparts a protective power. A related form of "vigilance" is the obsessive's tendency to worry, as if internal fretting over anything that might go wrong can actually prevent it from happening.

<snip>
When obsessives can't tell how an event might affect them and also can't avoid or prevent it, they may adopt a self-protective pessimism. Before an annual evaluation at work, they might predict to a colleague that their review will be poor. They might complain that they haven't had time to get all their projects in good shape, and that the boss doesn't like them and will be sure to ambush them over some minor detail. In this way they set themselves up to "win" even if their evaluation does turn out badly. Prediction of a mishap runs a close second to preventing it; it provides at least an illusion of control.



***

I've heard of many with OCPD who are talk show radio or cable new junkies (both conservative and liberal.) Unsurprisingly, this simply makes them more fearful, more paranoid, more angrily convinced that those terrible bad guys are trying to screw up the town/state/country/world, or that we are heading towards The Apocalypse.

I would strongly urge all those with OCPD, and all those who love somebody with OCPD, to limit the barrage of news and talk radio to no more than 1-2 hours per day, just as you (ideally) limit the consumption of soda pop. It's simply not something healthy to soak your brain in.

Something we as human beings need to accept, is that there is no safe place on this planet to live. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, severe blizzards, drought... Everywhere has some natural hazard, one that we can only prepare for to a certain extent. For example, I live in "earthquake country," and keep water, sturdy shoes, and a change of clothes in my office at work. In case of an earthquake (provided I'm not squashed like a bug by the building collapsing entirely) I won't have to scramble out of a damaged building in skirt and pantyhose. If I lived in a place with winter snow, I'd keep a shovel and bag of cat litter in the trunk, in case I got stuck (probably a blanket or two, also.)

I could obsess over "The Big One," but why? There is no evidence that "running the tape" in one's head about the worst possible outcome, should some horrible event happen, makes anyone less traumatized or better prepared if/when it does occur. It means that rather than being in the moment, now, rather than enjoying a sunny day or beautiful display of flowers or a friendly kitty greeting me, my head would be all wrapped up in doom and gloom about something that might never happen in my lifetime.

I admit, I had to rehearse over and over in my head breaking up with my boyfriend; what I would say, what he would say, how I would feel, what would happen to him next. And maybe in a case like that, it's something we have to do. To emotionally, even literally break up several times, to prepare to do it for real.

But I have to say, nothing went the way I rehearsed it, nor did I feel the way I thought I would feel. I am not currently eaten up by guilt, nor has he rolled himself into a ball and died as I feared he might. As of last Friday, he is still playing weatherman, obsessively checking the temperature outside and inside 10-15 times a day, and opening doors and turning on fans and so on to maintain the temperature inside at 70 degrees - the Only Right Temperature.

Frankly, I don't care what the temperature is. If I feel cold, I will put on a sweater or turn the heat up, whether it's 70 degrees, or even 73 degrees! If I am hot, I will drink a cold drink and peel off some clothes. I don't need permission from a thermostat to feel what I feel, or to take measures to make myself more comfortable.

Your thoughts?

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin
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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:54 am 
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LTOM, your guy is wrong, in winter the right (maximum) temperature is 64°, and the heater cannot be on for longer than 15 minutes. If I am cold, this means I have a circulation problem. A blanket is really ridiculous.

I would love to see your guy and my wife live together and fight over the temperature and the shower rules, close enough but not quite the same.


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 Post subject: Re: Too Perfect Tuesdays
PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:22 am 
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LTOM: I was thinking about this today.. All the stuff we had to adjust to in order to keep the peace... but today after being by myself and not having to adjust my temperatures in the house and watching tv without someone changing the channels I am still re-training myself that I can do what ever the HELL I want.. It is really taking some time to retrain... LOL. I like not having these battles, but in the back of my mind I still look around and feel guility that I can have it ALL my way now.

So I wonder, when will be the magic moment that I realize that Life does not HAVE to be a struggle all by myself?

For those who are awakening for the past month, do you feel like this?


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