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:
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.
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.
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.