Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Support Group

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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 1:44 pm 
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hateocp wrote:
Mine would be appalled if you told him his orderliness and neatness is caused by anxiety. He says it's the way everyone SHOULD be.


Yup. To a "t".


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:25 pm 
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I think that to some extent, this is like "Why do the blind lack color perception?"

I don't mean that people with OCPD are completely incapable of empathy. But I do mean that I think that many of us think of being um-empathetic or callous as having the empathetic realization, and choosing to ignore it. So the question is why we choose to ignore it.

But the person with OCPD doesn't necessarily have the realization in the first place. It's not as if the nearly-blind person saw the stop sign and chose to ignore it; it's more that they didn't put on their glasses and strain to see, so they never saw it at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 3:47 am 
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I once woke up with a kidney stone (hurts, that), so I wanted to get to a doctor or hospital. She got in a more or less standard 4 hour rant, prevented me to leave the apartment, took the car keys away, etc. After the rant was over, she all at once became quiet, 'realized', changed and started to help me.

So, in my view she was panic-stricken by the unexpected situation, literally did not see my plight (every groan refuelling the thought that I was faking it) and had to go through all of the standard 'serotonin refuelling rant' before she could act with empathy (or decency). She felt somewhat apologetic afterwards, until over time she had rationalized it away (so, yes, she was rather unreasonable at that moment, but she had very good cause; she actually had two different ones over time, so I think she kept mulling it over until she found a somewhat better explanation). Apart from that, any medical situation afterwards was threatening to her (for fear of being 'unreasonable' again??) and from then on I was a typical male that could not take pain like a woman can, complaining about any minor ailment.

So it started with panic preventing empathy, and finally became rationalized into 'he complains for any minor medical problem, so it is OK to ignore it'.

There are two sidelines to it. Her first rant ever was related to an emergency room as well, for a small medical problem she had at the time and where she felt she was laughed at (very high on the list of what she did not like). A second line was that about twenty years after my first kidney stone I had another one, around midnight in a foreign city during a business trip, so I went to the hospital there as well. She told me later that 'she would not have done that'. I was lucky I was alone on that business trip, so that she could not prevent me from going to the hospital...

The real point is that two ocpd big time sensitivities ('being laughed at' and 'realizing she had been unreasonable') had a very major impact on everything relating to medical care, to the point that I believe it would actually become dangerous. She probably would have taken me to a hospital if I needed it - but maybe not, even likely not if she thought I did not need it. On a smaller level, I did not go as often (basically: never) to a doctor as is reasonable at my age. Any physical pain I had would first be discounted on the 'men always exaggerate pain' and then maybe get her sympathy. Yet this did not really apply to the children, she could act normal there.

The point to me is that the ocpd-constructed world defends itself at all cost, any loose end is rationalized away and anything threatening the 'peace' of it is ruthlessly attacked, I guess from fear that the whole construction comes down and all needs to be redone. I think that that is the way in which ocpd becomes worse over time, the card house has become higher and anything threatening it is intolerable. There has been some mellowing, some 'non-essential' ocpd-constructs have been discarded, the small victories Gitter talks about, but somewhat unseen other constructs have set in concrete. And when the overall situation changes, such as the small ailments that start to come when you get older, it becomes worse and more difficult to live with...


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:41 am 
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so I think she kept mulling it over until she found a somewhat better explanation

I found this in my ex as well.
Post rant at times he would chill and become more reasonable. After the last one he asked if I still want to be with him. The explanations he would come up with after some events would miss the mark at times...it just showed he still "didn't get it" but had tried to fit the new info into some plausible explanation. However, if I tried to explain that his guess as to what I was thinking, feeling, or my intentions were he would generally argue them away. It became too much to hear from him how I was feeling/thinking/acting as if he really knew me so well on the inside. I got tired of hearing him pretend he could get into my head AND that he was so often wrong when he did.
Too much fear/anxiety/stress in general he invented in his mind that spilled over into our relationship.
Much better at showing empathetic responses to those less close to him... no downside to feeling/showing that.
My guess based on my experiences with his mother and from how he described her and how an ex did as well, his feelings and opinions were squashed so frequently all his life he developed coping skills to numb both the feeling good and feel bad ones. They go underground for him as he describes it for "survival".
My ex was very cut off emotionally from himself and therefore could not easily relate to joy, sorrow. He told me he moderates all his emotions because that is the smart thing to do and that I should too.
As most describe, they are "blind' to a lot of things related to interpersonal relationships, feelings, and have constructed many rules to survive the stress of living. I had very little insight while dating him as to how much stress he was dealing with. He had at times told me he had inner and outer stresses in his life however objectively I couldn't see why he was stressed so much. I didn't know then what I know now.
Day to day living provided all kinds of stressors, much more so when he stepped out of his apt. and more so if you added people into the equation.
So... having worked at shutting out strong emotions, thinking that this was a good way to live life, and limiting human contact except when work related all contribute to a progression of the OCPD.
And if you go outside and twist truths for validation you have no chance to see the light.
My ex once told me he spoke to a buddy to tell him that I hated being interrupted when I spoke.
He missed out so much when he came out with this blanket statement. His buddy said interrupting is normal. My ex came back and said he told his buddy and that I shouldn't be upset with him for interrupting.
Now had this buddy been a fly on the wall and seen what was really going on, this buddy of his would have understood.
When they have no one but us to discuss things with and hide the truth from others, there is again no chance to see the light, nor opportunities to take in what it means to be empathic.
Add to that a dysfunctional set of parents who modelled poorly loving partner relationships and what are you left with.....
He wasn't aware of enough to make it better. He is where he is with his insights, his explanations often miss the mark, to look inside is too scary and he would also have to view at least his mother differently... no chance of that happening, ergo, empathy will continue to be suffocated.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 11:14 am 
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favasquash wrote:
I think that to some extent, this is like "Why do the blind lack color perception?"

I don't mean that people with OCPD are completely incapable of empathy. But I do mean that I think that many of us think of being um-empathetic or callous as having the empathetic realization, and choosing to ignore it. So the question is why we choose to ignore it.

But the person with OCPD doesn't necessarily have the realization in the first place. It's not as if the nearly-blind person saw the stop sign and chose to ignore it; it's more that they didn't put on their glasses and strain to see, so they never saw it at all.



I don't know if this is an entirely accurate analogy. (And I don't mean to split hairs, but I think I'm going to be making an important distinction.)

Rather than having a weak or poor perception of the ability to emphasise (as with the example you gave)

I would rather suggest it's a matter of hyperfocus. Another product of the "obsessive" and perfectionistic part of OCPD.

If you've been staring at something very close to you for a long time - say, a menu at a cafe - paying attention to every single tiny detail - and then someone is waving at you from a few tables away. A friend. They're just trying to get your attention.

Your eyes are just fine, and if you looked up, you'd see them very clearly.

But you're hyperfocused on the menu, and probably barely notice the blurry notion out of the corner of your eye.

I'd say this is a far more accurate description of the empathy problems to an OCPD sufferer.

And it's an important distinction, in my view, because it redefines how an OCPD sufferer might help themselves. Which is - you're zoomed in and really obsessing over Fixing Something. Are you missing something outside your narrow focus? A bigger picture?

It's the willingness to accept and validate that you (being the suffer) have extremely alarming concerns you're obsessing over, but also you need to be willing and accept that your partner has VERY VALID concerns outside of that,

And you need to look up and away from your hyperfocus to take care of their issues, to validate and accept them, too.

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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:34 pm 
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My OCPD wife has great empathy for our children--until they became adults; and for the dogs. But for me, her husband and our adult children, almost nothing. She was taught to hide and suppress all negative emotions and present an emotional aura of perfect control.

To me, her lack of empathy is the most important variable in our relationships. It's why we cannot discuss issues at depth because I almost never feel understood; she is too interested in justifying her behavior. When I ask to be understood, I am not normal--again a lack of empathy.

So OCPD empathy might be distorted--enhanced in some relations and missing in others.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:13 pm 
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bltmonty wrote:
My OCPD wife has great empathy for our children--until they became adults; and for the dogs. But for me, her husband and our adult children, almost nothing.
...
It's why we cannot discuss issues at depth because I almost never feel understood; she is too interested in justifying her behavior. When I ask to be understood, I am not normal--again a lack of empathy.

So OCPD empathy might be distorted--enhanced in some relations and missing in others.

The above about sums up my OCD ex. He is incredibly empathetic to his mom. She wanted to go to the east coast but refused to take the plane, he was totally empathetic and sympathetic, drove her 9 days there and 9 days back, not the teeniest resentment.
In contrast, when I asked to be understood, he says I'm the sicko: Eg, His mom called a total of 40+ times (home & cell) about a non-event when we were on a hiking trip. He got downright frantic because he couldn't call back due to spotty cell-reception. I suggested he email another sibling (when internet worked) to take over in calling & comforting Mom. This caused him to turn towards me in fury because Mom only wanted him and no one else. I begged him to have empathy for my feelings. He couldn't. He said I was the one with the problem, and further accused me of not having empathy for his mom because she could not reach him 2-5 times a day like she normally did.

I found it so confusing. Does he have empathy or does he not? The selective-empathy described by bltmonty is consistent with my own experience.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 7:05 am 
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Posts: 252
I think that in order to have empathy for others you must first be able to have intellectual and emotional empathy for oneself. If you can not identify within yourself what you are feeling, and/or you judge feelings as right or wrong, good or bad, or if in general the domain of feelings is a scarey landscape to walk through, you devalue feelings, your empathy muscles will atrophy and become poorly functioning. You will lack the skills and knowledge to understand another's beliefs and feelings. I believe empathy can develop only when it is practiced.
The more an OCPDer avoids addressing their feelings, the longer they stay impotent regarding understanding and accepting anothers views/feelings.
Charity begins at home.
The first step must be a person's buy in that empathy has value. My ex's comments led me to believe he found empathy for the most part of waste of time and energy. What he didn't understand is that for those who value intimate connections with others, empathy is a necessary prerequisite for intimacy.
In the case of my ex, he avoided intimacy. He may think otherwise (count on that), but intimacy does not equal sex and hanging out together. Intimacy is much deeper. Intimacy is the difference between casual and superficial and deep connection.
Too feel empathy, one has to allow oneself to feel the gamut of emotions and to not restrict intensity... and then a fuller relationship and connection is possible. Fear of intimacy blunts empathy imo. Fear of intimacy with oneself and another leads to a constricted and restricted life. It misses all the colors of the rainbow and life is more "black and white".
Empathy quite simply put takes courage.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 5:21 pm 
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I struggle a bit with this whole "lack of empathy" thing in/with OCPD globally.

First of all, many seem to have it for kids (at least while very young) and animals. It also seems to be present in the "honeymoon" or "marketing" phase.

I genuinely think my exOCPDer DID have empathy, although at times it was "turned down" or superseded by an air of superiority or indignance--particularly when he was tired/angry/anxious (could be said of many people--my empathy wanes when I am irritated/impatient too). But it was definitely there and I saw and experienced it a lot. Other times, he might make a statement that I felt was less than empathetic and I would remark something about his attitude not being quite fair and he would think a beat and change his tune right then (and I don't think it was just lip service).

This is what is hard for me sometimes. In this spectrum, he was missing many of the really negative things (not that they weren't replaced or made up for by the other negatives, sadly).

I think that empathy equates with/correlates highly with emotional intelligence. While OCPDers en masse may be lower in that naturally, and may even question it's necessity in life, it's not true that none of them have it. Plus this (as others have said) is a skill that can be learned if they desire to do so.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 6:39 pm 
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Mine seems to have it mostly for the kids, but not as much for me. I agree with this.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 6:13 am 
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Quote:
puresage wrote:

The reason they became this way may be because, as they were growing up, their family members, never acknowledged their feelings, discouraged the expressions of emotions. So, their right hemisphere, which is responsible for emotions is not developed and shut down. Their left hemisphere is over-worked - they focus too much energy on being organized, tidy, focused... and judgmental!

Quote:
belgianguy wrote:

I do not like this explanation too much, blaming it all on the family members. Using the same ideas, what sounds better to me is that the 'left hemisphere' is indeed over-worked trying to calm down the anxieties, and the voice of the right-hemisphere is not heard as a consequence. I fear OCPD can develop even in a warm, laid back environment, as some people on here have testified about their adopted children.


I have to agree to, some extent with puresage. It may not always be the case but I do believe that family members, particularly parents, can be responsible for the lack of empathy. My OCPD DW was brought up by an OCPD mother who was overly harsh in punishment, didn't give much praise where it was due and didn't take any interest in her emotion state nor give much in the way of emtional support. How can a child develop a healthy understand of people and emotions when their role models (parents) don't demonstrate those very skills?


Last edited by ThinIce on Wed May 07, 2014 6:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 8:46 am 
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Like HRW said - "many seem to have it for kids (at least while very young) and animals. It also seems to be present in the "honeymoon" or "marketing" phase."

This has been true for me. He definitely lost any compassion and empathy he had for me. One day I came home with two bandages on my face covering dermatologic biopsies. He said "wow what happened". I told him.........he never once again asked me about it or what the results were. And I'm his wife of almost 10 years! (by the way they were benign)

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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2014 7:20 am 
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Some observe that there is a different dynamic OCPDers have with animals and children than towards us.
At a base level, it may be a feeling they have of safety and not being judged by animals and children. The OCPDers are unequivocally the ones in power, they know it and don't have to fight for their position in the pecking order.
As children grow into teens and adults, the OCPDers sense of right/wrong; good/bad and all their rules will be challenged by these children growing into their own.
This separateness is a threat to the OCPDer and to their definition of who they are and their sense of omnipotence and world views. This shakes up their sense of safety and trust and puts them into defensive mode instead of in a receptive mode. When you are defensive and in a chronic state of fight or flight, empathy has no room to move around.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2014 10:31 am 
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This is a very interesting point.

Quote:
At a base level, it may be a feeling they have of safety and not being judged by animals and children


I have seen this 'selective' empathy in my OCPD SO. It is as though they don't feel threatened by animals and children as they don't answer back, and are easily kept in check. My SO had more of an emotional connection with our pets than she did with me.

Quote:
The OCPDers are unequivocally the ones in power, they know it and don't have to fight for their position in the pecking order.


Precisely.

Quote:
It also seems to be present in the "honeymoon" or "marketing" phase."


I do also think that some of this selective behavour is more of an act than genuine. I have noticed that many OCPD traits can be suppressed in social or work situations. Other people are treated with 'feined' respect and empthy, yet at home we get treated like dirt. I have withnessed my SO on the phone to a friend, demonstrating empathy, but as soon as she hangs up I get the sense that it was all 'put on' because it was what she felt she needed to do to maintain the friendship. It's more about 'acting' like the best friend rather than 'being' one.

They don't seem to feel the need to keep up the pretense at home. They did all that in the beginning before they 'secured' you.

I'm still trying to work out this selective behaviour and whether or not there really is any genuine empathy or respect from them. It's really hard to tell.


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 Post subject: Re: Why do OCPDer lack empathy?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 11:06 am 
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I thought I would share my personal experience of this one. It's a really interesting discussion and I do find it difficult to see OCPDers to be thought of as lacking empathy. I'll start by linking to this post from perfectlyawfulusa, which makes a distinction between sympathy and empathy:

Quote:
em·pa·thy
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself. By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

sym·pa·thy
1. harmony of agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
2. the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion of congenial dispositions.
3. the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
4. sympathies
a. feelings or impulses of compassion.
b. feelings of favor, support or loyalty: It's hard to tell where your sympathies lie.
5. favorable or approving accord; favor or approval: He viewed the plan with sympathy and publicly backed it.

- See more at: http://perfectlyawfulusa.blogspot.co.uk ... zqiDt.dpuf


I always felt I was excessively empathetic/ sympathetic. It was like I was conditioned to be so by my OCPD father. This continued into my adolescent and adult years, when things were always going wrong. I've always had extreme anxiety around things being just so, or not "right" and I always had this great sense that I was very, very misunderstood. I had a very strong sense of morals and was terrible at lying. I think there were times where I was deluded or times that I would lie to protect myself subconsiously, but I always felt I was being honest. I was constantly picking, trying to figure it all out and striving for this perfect life that seemed completely out of reach and unattainable.

The only thing that ever really fixed that for me was intensive therapy. It was when all of the therapists involved in my care genuinely started showing me sympathy and compassion first. My therapist ALWAYS brought my rambling and attempt to understand other's point of view, with constant justification of my own actions (JADEing), back to how difficult it must have felt for me and genuinely made me feel like she cared and understood me. Even when I was cut off emotionally, she would make me think about how I felt and make me articulate it and tell her what had happened and how it made me feel.. The core of my therapy was to focus on how I felt and focus on "sitting" with that emotion and just being okay with it. It drove me nuts and I really didn't value it at the time, but over the past 2 years since I left I have come to realise it's value and how much it really worked for me.

My childhood consisted of my emotions being ignored, demeaned, belittled and what have you. I was then taught to ignore them and just "get on with things". I became focused on valuing myself based on my acheivements, trying to prove that I could and would amount to something, but with none of the emotional tools and half of the interpersonal skills. I learnt to disconnect and bottle them up. They would then come out in fits and bursts, all at once, often at one person. The person I felt safe to do so with because I thought they might love me and understand me enough. It always ended in disaster.

Half the time in therapy, I didn't actually know how I felt. Despite shutting up and clearly feeling something. The primary emotion I went to was anxiety or anger. Most the time the only words I could find were "It was hard"... and that's not an emotion, I'm sure you'll all agree.

I was so empathetic for others, but completely unaware of my own finer emotions or actual needs. I was one of those that focused my energies on trying to help others (and failing, more often than not) at the expense of my own needs, and then resenting them. I always felt that others should be like I was and put others before myself and think of others in ALL of my actions. What I could never see, was that I was actually ignoring others and I was assuming their needs - that they wanted the things I was doing for them because "I knew best" and my way was the "right way". This led to lots of rejection, painful words towards me that I could never understand because I couldn't understand why what I was doing wasn't enough. They never took me into consideration in the way I did them. How was I in the wrong? "how selfish of them!" "They just don't appreciate me".....Surely all the amazing things I did far outweighed any insistence about how I needed my environment in order to function? Could they not see I was just a good person and that I was trying to make their lives better??

A good friend of mine was really patient and frank with me and stuck with me through the rants, the tears and the heartbreak. He re-enforced to me repeatedly "But did they ask you to do that? Have you considered that they might not want that?" "No, not everyone wants those things. That's their right as a person" "most people DONT THINK LIKE YOU DO. Most people don't see these things" - I would argue and argue and argue.. He would continue (always in a jovial manner) until he got tired. I never really understood it, but I did start to try and pay attention to what he was saying. There were limited areas that I could do/ see this, but I started to try and practise not pushing my stuff on people and I started to get much better responses. The first window for me was learning to actually listen - that was my gateway. This was just the beginning of it all.

The MBT was the most effective for me because for the first time in my life that someone *really* showed compassion for me in a way that I felt and really believed. There was no intention. It was just for me. My therapist cared purely for the emotions I felt and I was forced to take myself off the back-burner and pay attention to that. Something I hadn't ever really been taught to do. I thought I had focused too much on myself, but I had never learnt to *really* identify my feelings, my needs or communicate them and learn how to nurture myself. And despite me pushing them away, telling them they were wrong and I was fine and that I didn't need their therapy when it got too tough, they held onto me and wouldn't let me be discharged (it was a day hospital, so I often didn't go in for weeks). They would call me, ask if I was okay, express worry and concern and be really pleased to see me when i went back - much to my disbelief at how pleased they really were (it felt like they were being trite). They would draw a line if I was ever over the line, encourage me to express myself and have patience with me when I needed to figure it out. There was never any expectations or requirements. It was all up to me, as long as I wasn't angry or abusive to anyone (they were very good at drawing boundaries. They gave us enough room to express ourselves but were clear about behaviour that was and wasn't expected).

My leaving tea was incredibly emotional for me. It was really hard to see how so many people could actually see me for me, REAL flaws and all they and loved me and cared about my wellbeing still. We were all complete shites to the therapists, but there we all were, together and my therapist never reminded me of my mistakes or anything.

I've kept all my cards and the written speech from the lead psychiatrist. They're some of the most important words that were given to me in my recovery. There are thousands more words from friends over the years that I try to keep in mind. The most important and valuable ones were words of compassion, ones who could see my plight, see my pain - and expressed that before addressing my how my disability affected them or others negatively, if at all.

I still struggle with this on a day-to-day basis. There are times when it all gets mixed up and is too much for me to process and it all starts coming out wrong. But I was lucky enough to be given compassion, understanding and love. And it was only a true expression of that which set an example for me and made me feel compelled to reciprocate. I still struggle expressing or admitting my own emotions, but I try really hard with people who are willing to share theirs with me.

I hypothesize (and PLEASE, no one take this personally. This is my view of OCPD from within my family and it may not be correct for others) that OCPD has roots in a lack of sympathy towards the OCPDer, tied in with a hyperactive mind. I'm sure many people can see that most of us were raised in a world where we have been taught how to do things "correctly" - particularly in the UK! I know in my family, my father, my brother and I were rarely shown real sympathy. There may have empathy from some of the family, but it was always followed with corrections in behaviour afterwards. This applied in my adolescence too.

I always felt shorthanded and it felt unfair to have to modify my behaviour when others weren't showing any sympathy for me. Resentment would kick in when I felt any sense of empathy and I would feel a righteous indignation to get my needs heard. Why should I listen to them, when they clearly aren't hearing me?? I never *really* understood it that clearly at the time, but that was ultimately the cycle of anger/resentment and ignoring others for me.


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