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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Fear of Dependency &
Keeping A Distance

Foto de Tiago Nicastro e Juliana RosenImage via WikipediaThis post continues with Fear of Dependency and Keeping A Distance from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Besides the fear of exposure and the fear of trusting, intimacy poses another threat.  The closer you get to someone, the more you come to need him or her.  And this in itself unnerves many obsessives.
<snip> But there's another aspect to dependency that also bothers most obsessives.  Dependency requires some sacrifice of autonomy, some loss of control over one's life.  <snip>
In other words, dependency, like trust, creates vulnerability.  Moreover, the obsessive's all-or-nothing thinking magnifies the threat perceived in any amount of dependency:  What if it were to lead to more and more dependency? <snip>
Keeping A Distance

To protect themselves from the vulnerability of intimacy, many obsessives shy away from it in a variety of ways.  For one thing, they tend to give other people as much physical space as possible.  <snip>

A few have told me they feel trapped or smothered if their mates sleep too close to them.  One patient said she wasn't totally comfortable when her husband hugged her.  <snip>  For some, the aversion to being touched is so strong it may cause them to shun physical therapists or doctors.  Obviously, anxiety about physical closeness also can seriously impair one's fulfillment in sexual relationships.

Many obsessives do participate eagerly in the mechanics of sex, but avoid an emotional connection during physical intimacy.  <snip>
The idea that we - as human beings - can be totally independent of others and still survive is a LIE. 

First off, we didn't. However indifferent, sporadic, and abusive their care of us might have been, somebody fed, clothed, and sheltered us when we were infants and small children.  There are several myths/stories of children raised with only those bare necessities - and no more - who died as a result.
"foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which had been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments."
There is horrifying evidence now of the majority (if not all) children who languished in Romanian orphanages bearing long-term medical, mental, and emotional problems.

I just finished reading Jean Auel's The Land of the Painted Caves.  While fictional, the work is extensively researched and checked as to probable social interactions among peoples in hunter-gatherer societies, based both on archaeological finds, and on anthropological research among modern hunter-gatherer societies.  No man is an island.  Most people in a primitive culture have at least rudimentary general skills at recognizing edible foods, hunting, fishing, garment and shelter-making, but if a clan-group is to survive, all must work together.  Skills are traded; a large fish that is caught is shared with others who contribute roots and vegetables.

Modern man is even more dependent on others.  If you're reading this on a computer, I'm positive you didn't manufacture it yourself from minerals you personally mined from the earth using only your hands and your flint digging tools.  I'm almost as certain you're not generating your own electricity.

The Amish and other agricultural societies who live by choice without electricity and "modern inconveniences," are very much centered around not just the family, but the community. Barn-raisings, church functions - again, everyone helps one another.

Even if you choose to live solo in a shack, Unabomber hermit style, you're going to use money (bank accounts, or currency printed/minted by somebody else) to buy materials (hammers, nails, saws) to build said shack.  You might transport to your shack how-to books (written and printed by others) on how to catch fish, tan hides, and build latrines.

And didn't somebody, somewhere along the way, teach you to read?

So, give it up with the delusion "I can get along fine without other people."

You may choose not to have a partner, or children, or to socialize with your co-workers.  You may cut yourself off from family (often with good reason).  You may fight with your neighbors and not have any friends.  You may decide that, because you have OCPD or bipolar disorder or chronic bad breath or whatever your excuse is, it is just too damn much work to get along with others, to make small talk or to risk asking for help or admitting vulnerability.

This is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.  It is as weak to be unable to stand being with other people as it is to be unable to spend a few hours of solitude.

As healthy human beings, we must learn to be INTERdependent upon one another. To help others, to ask for help when we need it.

In the beginning, my ex was quite physically demonstrative.  He brushed my hair, for hours.  Massaged lotion into my feet.  Held hands, lots of touching and kissing, but not cloyingly so.  Later, as his OCPD tendencies worsened, the affectionate touching evaporated.  He barely touched me - except when he wanted to have sex.  He wouldn't allow me to give him a back massage - and outright refused to give me one, even when I begged because I was in pain.

Being kept physically and emotionally at a distance, and then used as a periodic sexual outlet does not build closeness.

Your thoughts?
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

OCPD - As Seen on TV!

Bree Van de KampImage via WikipediaUntil a few years ago, I never heard of the term OCPD. 

Sadly, just because people don't know about a mental disorder - or, perhaps, call it by a different name, doesn't mean there aren't a whole bunch of people out there affected by it.

Once I started paying attention, I realized it had been out there, in the general population and portrayed on television, in movies, and in books and plays, for years.

Felix Unger, a fictional clean freak in a play by Neil Simon (later a movie and TV series), was probably OCPD.

Bree Van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives - perfectionist, controlled and controlling... OCPD, even if not officially diagnosed so by the show's writers.
After her mother was killed in a hit and run, Bree cleaned her blood off the road outside the house. She said that once everything was spotless, she felt much better. 

Just read a couple "heartwarming" books by best-selling author Debbie Macomber featuring characters with symptoms of OCPD.  As is one of the most famous poster-children of all, Ebeneezer Scrooge, in a story by Charles Dickens that's been recreated in numerous stage plays and movies.

Scrooge chose the pursuit of money over love, family, friendship... but in one night of ghostly visitations, he realized his mistake and turned his life around 180 degrees.  Macomber's characters, too - once faced with True Love, seemingly cured!

That can happen in novels.  In plays.  In movies.  One big epiphany, the stingy/controlling/perfectionistic person sees the light, and everything is different, from that moment onward.

Real life don't work that way.

In real life, a lifetime's habits, brain patterns, and the distorted thinking that are part of OCPD have never been miraculously cured in one night.  Think of changing the path of even a small creek - it will take long, hard work, to divert the path of the creek into a new direction.

It can be done.  It has been done.  It is being done - and I salute the brave, strong, courageous men and women who've decided to battle their OCPD.  But just like a creek that's been diverted, there's always the strong inclination to revert to the older, more accustomed channel.  It takes constant work to keep the water flowing in the new pattern.

Not meaning to discourage anyone praying for a miracle cure.  Prayer can't hurt.  But while you're waiting for said miracle, the smart money is on rolling up the sleeves and doing the work.

Where have you seen OCPD, in fictional works?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Fear of Being Found Out
Fear of Trusting

Swedish Guards via Wikimedia
This post continues with Fear of Being Found Out and Fear of Trusting from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Guarded Against Intimacy
<snip> Human beings are social creatures, valuing and seeking a sense of connection with others throughout their lives.  <snip>  Without question, the experience of intimacy can open the way to feelings of unparalleled spiritual fulfillment.  But intimacy has other consequences that many obsessives find frightening.

For one thing, the closer you are to someone, the more likely he or she is to see all aspects of your personality - both the "good" traits and those you feel are unattractive or even shameful.  Marvin, a successful banker, had little trouble meeting people and quickly winning their admiration.  Yet he kept friends, acquaintances, and even lovers at a carefully controlled distance.  "I'm afraid to let them really get to know me," he admitted in therapy one day.  "I feel like a phony - that people will find out how inadequate I am underneath it all, and they'll be disgusted and reject me."
<snip> With her [his girlfriend], Marvin felt compelled to stay one step ahead of exposure.  "I have to be the first to jump, to leave, to push them away," he disclosed.


For many obsessives, another obstacle to intimacy is their difficulty with trusting.  They fear that other people will let them down.

<snip> If there is a single unifying theme of obsessiveness, it is the desire to eliminate feelings of vulnerability and risk, and to gain instead a sense of safety and security.

<snip> Sometimes this wariness persists after many tears in a close relationship. such as marriage, even when the spouse has demonstrated trustworthiness.  After twenty years of marriage, for example, Kyle and his wife were still arguing over his failure to express his love for her.  "She's filled with twenty years of resentment and anger," he told me.  "She says intimate communication with me is impossible, that I'm not willing to express my love of expose other feelings to her."

To me, Kyle acknowledged that he hasn't been a very trusting person, and his characteristic suspiciousness had intensified when he had been hurt several times after honestly disclosing his feelings.  "People have betrayed me by repeating confidences; they've embarrassed me," he stated.  But when I asked him how often his wife in all their years of marriage had betrayed his confidences, he confessed that he couldn't remember a single occasion.  I asked if she'd ever done anything to make him seriously doubt her love, and he again had to admit that the answer was no.  Nonetheless, he still felt threatened by the idea of "opening up" to her.
That last paragraph says it all.  Of all the dreadful things that occurred - and didn't occur - in my relationship with my ex, the sense that he didn't trust me, would never, ever trust me, no matter what, was one of the most damaging.

As time goes on, people in a relationship either get closer, or draw farther apart.  With certain relationships, such as co-workers or friendships, a little distance is okay, probably preferable.  Not so in a love relationship.

I felt like Kyle's wife - if not now, after all this time when I have never let you down, when will you trust me?  After 21 years?  31?  (Of course the answer was "Never.") 

He did tell me he loved me.  And I believe he did, as much as he could anyone, yet, as the truism goes, actions speak louder than words.  He showed me, a dozen times a day or more, that he didn't trust me, and never would.  Choice?  Habit too deeply ingrained over so many years?  Actually unable to trust because of the OCPD?

When someone is in physical danger - the house is on fire, they're drowning - there are (sometimes) ways to knock them out and rescue them, even against their will.  Not so with mental disorders.

He pushed me out the door, emotionally, long before I actually packed my bags and left.  I do not regret that I did leave, nor that I ended our relationship as lovers, just about a year ago.  Yet, I am deeply sorry that I had to leave him behind, in a mental jail of his own (and his disease's) making.

Your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Too Guarded

Castillo Turegano via Wikimedia
Theoretically, the door will open eventually.
Or the walls will crumble of old age.
This post continues with Too Guarded from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Too Guarded
It shouldn't be surprising that many obsessives tend to be too "guarded."  If nothing else, obsessives are alert to everything that might go wrong in life.  Unconsciously they yearn to protect themselves against all potential risk - an understandable desire.  But, more than other people, obsessives seem blind to the costs of too much "protection."  And there are always costs.
Some degree of frugality is laudable, for example, but guarding your money also costs the time and energy wasted in comparison-shopping for even small items.  It costs the pleasures forgone because they're "too frivolous," the generosity unexpressed because you "can't afford" to share.
Similarly, self-reliance is a good trait.  But some obsessives are so uncomfortable with the idea of being dependent on anyone else that they guard their autonomy too fiercely.  They may be unable to delegate work, for example, and must then spend the time and effort doing what someone else could do adequately.  
Even more pernicious are the consequences of being overly guarded emotionally.  This tendency can make it almost impossible to have mutually satisfying relationships.  The need to hold yourself back from others can make you feel chronically constrained and tense; even worse, you may come to feel alone in the universe, unconnected, a stranger almost everywhere you go.  The sense that no one truly knows you, or cares about you, is a sad and painful burden.
Because  he couldn't trust me, couldn't open up with me, my ex was like one big festering wound of distorted thoughts, suspicions, and poisons.  It wasn't until after we'd been living together nearly three years he confessed he was certain when I went to get my hair done that I was hooking up with an ex-boyfriend, because no way a hairdresser would open up for an 8:00 am appointment.  (I did usually brunch with a girlfriend afterwards, which he knew - occasionally I even put her on the phone to say hi to him.)

Sometimes I wonder, if he'd trusted me with his fears right from my first hair appointment, if things would have been different.  Lancing the wound to let all the poison out.

But of course, he didn't trust me with anything.  He couldn't share chores, because I might do small thing differently.  By the end, I was living with an angry, surly stranger.  He did occasionally have times when he would tell me he loved me, would make love to me with his body.  But he would never share his deeper thoughts or feelings, and did everything he could to keep me from sharing mine.

When he cried, he wouldn't even let me put my arms around him to offer comfort.  When you get rejected, over and over and over again, you eventually stop trying to storm that castle.  There's a song a friend of mine wrote, "(In My) Trembling Hands," about a woman, not young, not unscarred by life, shakily offering herself, soul and heart, to a new love.  It perfectly encapsulates how I felt.  "I'm a gift for you," goes the chorus.

But he would have had to open the door to accept that gift.  And I might have been a Trojan horse.  So, he stayed inside, bitter and barricaded, and finally, I decided that the gift of my love was too precious to keep offering to someone who would never be brave enough to open the door.  He chose fear over love.

They say it's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, and that's absolutely true.  I think he loved me despite his best efforts to protect himself, but because he stayed too guarded, afraid to love and lose, he lost me anyway.

Please don't make that mistake.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hurt People... Hurt People

I came across this video on Single Dad Laughing.

Get tissues - you'll need 'em.

This 14 year-old kid's pain is so raw it not only made me cry, I felt a huge, aching hole in my middle.

In the aftermath of this video, which Jonah eventually posted on his FaceBook page went viral (over 7 million hits), what's been going on?

First off, Jonah is doing okay.  He's still in contact with his friends who moved on to high school he's made a lot of new friends at middle school.  His parents now know that he is gay, and love him anyway.  He's made a couple more videos that show a happy, goofy, normal kid.

And some other videos have surfaced, made prior to the "What's Goin On" video, some that show him making fun of kids with learning disabilities, and others, and there have been accusations that the whole video was a fake.

I watched it again.  Cried some more.  The range of emotions displayed by this kid, as he made this video... well, if it's fake, this 14 year old kid is a better actor than Meryl Streep.  I believe, as he recorded it, Jonah was truly scared and hurting.

Does that rule out the possibility of him being (for the most part) okay now?  Or that he might have not just been bullied, but been a bully himself in the past? Of course not.  People - especially teenagers - can be anywhere on a whole roller-coaster of emotions.  If we're 500 feet high now, and ground level two seconds later, doesn't mean we've gotten off the roller-coaster.

When we think of bullies, emotional abusers, victims, bystanders and the (rare but not unknown) heroes in the abstract, we tend to put them into neat little boxes.  Everybody has to fit into one category, and there can be no cross-over.

Yet... that's not the way life works.  In real life, there is cross-over.

One of my friends is fond of saying, "Hurt people... hurt people."  That is, oftentimes people who are themselves hurting or bullied will find someone else to pick on.  There's a long-standing cultural meme where the boss yells at the employee, who comes home and yells at her  spouse, who yells at the kid, who kicks the dog.

One of the things that makes an abuser so hard to leave is that those of us in such a relationship often witness their pain.  We know they are genuinely hurting.  We imagine, if we could only find the key, say the right thing, do the right thing, then they wouldn't feel so hurt, and they wouldn't feel the need to hurt us.  We make excuses for them, because even if everybody else says, "He's an abusive a$$hole - why don't you LEAVE?" we are the only ones who "get" that small, hurting part inside them.  Which is part of why they are so desperate to keep and control us.

Yet that doesn't work.  Repeat after me, "I cannot control others.  I can only control my own actions."  (And those only imperfectly, but that's another post.)

First, we must make certain we are not perpetuating the chain of emotional violence.  Regardless of who is mistreating us, we don't have the right to call people names, or seek to make them feel bad about themselves.  Get help, if necessary, but STOP being a bully.

Second - don't passively enable bullying as a bystander.

Third - don't put up with physical or emotional abuse.  Whether that's walking into another room, going away for the night, or leaving for good, make it clear that we won't put up with it.

This can be difficult if you are a minor.  And emotional abuse is not, "Johnny, if you don't clean your room, you'll be grounded," when the floor is ankle deep in dirty clothing and empty soft drink bottles.  Yet, even if the floor is that bad, "Johnny, you're a disgusting pig and I wish I'd never had you," is unjustified.  If you're a minor, talk to a counselor at school and work out strategies for how to cope with a parent who may be emotionally abusive.

If you're an adult, and not disabled, take back the power.  Yes, you may have bills and kids and 1001 excuses, but you don't have to stay and put up with such behavior.  You may choose to stay, at this time, or for many more weeks/months/years. but if so, know it is your choice.

Only you know if/when it is right to leave.  But know this: verbal and emotional abuse is never okay.  Not from a kid who might also be a victim of bullying; not from a boss, not from a parent, not from a partner.  There is no excuse for physical or emotional abuse.

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Have you been bullied? Or bullied others, in the past?
Please share, below.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Are You Demand-Resistant?
& Overcoming Demand-Resistance

This post continues with Are You Demand-Resistant? and Overcoming Demand-Resistance from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.
 Are You Demand-Resistant?

Many people are consciously aware of and frustrated by the results of their demand-resistance - their chronic lateness, for example, or the trouble they have with expressing emotion. <snip>

Demand-resistance is a chronic and automatic negative inner response to the perception of pressure, expections, or demands (from within or without).  <snip>

<snip> Observe your uneasy feeling when somebody asks you to have something by a given date.  Notice your reluctance when it's time to begin the work.  Watch yourself procrastinate.  And ask yourself, What's making this so hard?  Why am I hesitating?

Ask yourself why you feel annoyed about having to carry out a legitimate request, why it's so difficult to do the things on your list, why going to Spanish class feels a little more burdensome each night.  If you don't have a plausible answer to such questions, demand-resistance may be a problem for you.  Even if you can come up with plausible reasons for balking, they don't necessarily rule out demand-resistance as the true culprit.  Remember that this phenomenon is deeply unconscious, and you might well be rationalizing your behavior, so scrutinize your reasons carefully.  I can't tell you how many times people have told me they avoid sex because they're just too tired in the evening, or they postpone projects because it isn't a good time to start them, or they are having trouble getting through tasks because the head of the department is obnoxious - only to discover later that even when the same conditions persist, they are able to change their attitudes and behavior.

Overcoming Demand-Resistance

The most important step in overcoming demand-resistance is recognizing the demand-resistance consciously as it is happening.  Oddly, I find that many people are able to make changes as soon as they are able to recognize what's occurring.  One patient, for example, told me, "It's just too much trouble, too overwhelming, to write the thank you notes for my wedding gifts.  It feels impossible!"  But as soon as she said this, she laughed and said, "But it's not impossible!  It's not all that terrible.  It's crazy to tell myself that."  She then went home and wrote the notes.

I wish it were always that easy to spot and discard a demand-resistant behavior.  It isn't.  (that particular patient just happened to be "ready.")  But something else that should help you is to start paying attention to the number of times you think, feel, or say "I should" or "I have to" rather than "I want."  If you are demand-resistant, this way of thinking is a self-protective habit that has grown out of proportion, causing you needless pain and undermining your sense of autonomy.<snip>

To change the pattern, you'll need to reconnect with the "I want" aspect of everything you do.  Catch yourself thinking "I should" or "I have to," and challenge those thoughts.  Stop telling yourself "I have to" unless you're certain that's the case.  Don't let the ownership of your life slip away.  Realize that even when you are pressured to do something, the decision to comply or not is entirely yours.

<snip> Little by little, an increased awareness of the "I want" part of the things you do - neglected for so long - will help you too feel a more solid sense of who you are.  Work won't feel as burdensome.  You'll no longer feel like an unwilling victim.  You'll bring more energy and creativity to your activities.  Keep asking yourself, "What do I want?" about even the simplest things.  I don't guarantee a clear answer every time, but it's amazing how often one will materialize if you practice.


One of the things my ex had a real problem with was saying, "I want."  We had many fights because I would use that language, and then he would scold me for being selfish, etc.  Finally I explained to him, "Look, this is what grown-ups do.  We both put it all out there on the table.  I say, I want A.  You say, well I want B.  Then we work together to see that each of us gets what we want, but we can't even get there if we both don't start with 'I want.'"

What I understand better now, is he was so wrapped up in demand-resistance and being a martyr, he often didn't know what he 'wanted.'  And why should my selfish 'wants' trump what was The Right Thing To Do?

I'm not sure if a partner is able to help someone who is unaware battle demand-resistance.  Boundaries and other tools can help with things like the Crazy Rules, but the person who is constantly converting desires and urges into work - because Work is Good, Fun is Selfish has to find a way to battle that him or herself.

Since I've learned about this, I've become more aware of my own demand-resistance.
Realizing that all work and no play is a sign of MENTAL DISORDER
has helped me make room for play with less, if not no, guilt.Can you catch yourself in the moment reverting to demand-resistance?

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 The Ruination of Leisure &
The Ruination of Relationships

We probably don't want to knit this sweater for the hubs.
Even if he'd look cute in it.
This post continues with The Ruination of Leisure and The Ruination of Relationships from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Perhaps even sadder than its impact on his work is the damage demand-resistance can inflict on the obsessive's experience of his leisure-time activities.  One painful conversion of "wants" into "shoulds" is that at some point the obsessive comes to regards even potentially joyful activities as burdens.  An obsessive may take up up a project or hobby with a pleasant sense of anticipation.  But somehow "I'd like to knit my husband a sweater" becomes "I really ought to work on that sweater" - something that should be done, exactly like an external demand.  The person begins to slog through the project, rather than relaxing and enjoying the chance to be creative.  Sometimes this unconscious resistance doesn't affect the actual performance of the task, but often it does.  For instance, the person may begin procrastinating.  In extreme case it can lead to the abandonment of one hobby or personal goal after another.  <snip>

Besides work and spare-time activities, relationships can also suffer from the quirky pressures of demand-resistance.  These pressures can interfere with everything from the start of a relationship to the maintenance of an ongoing one.
For instance, Judy happened to mention that she really liked another woman at the hospital where she worked.  Yet she reported feeling "scared" by the other woman's obvious friendliness.  "I don't want to make a commitment of friendship to her right now.  I don't want to set up expectations - I don't want her to come to expect my time or energy.  I don't like to feel that people have claims on my time," Judy said.  Even the thought of such demands made her feel panicky.  "I just want out.  I feel in danger of being smothered.  To be around people, I have to do it on my terms instead of shared terms or their terms."
<snip> Demand-resistance may plague even established relationships.  It can sabotage isolated interpersonal exchanges, as it did for the patient who told me about a trip he had just taken with his wife.  Even though he had liked their hotel, "When my wife raved about our room, I felt her statement as a demand that I agree with with her.  And I couldn't bring myself to say, 'Yes, I like it too.'"

<snip> Sheila felt a lingering hurt and anger when she underwent major surgery and her husband, Gary, acted cool and distant.  Why did he behave that way?  Not because he didn't love her or was insensitive to her need for nurturance, but because he recoiled from the expectation that he give such nurturance.  <snip>

Often they will harbor resentment towards the people, institutions, or rules they feel demand them to behave a certain way.


If you're seeing light bulbs and hearing bells go off - BUY THIS BOOK.  There are lots more good snippets here to illustrate this point that I can't fully type out, but I suspect you will refer to, over and over again.

I tend to convert too many of my own "wants" into "shoulds," when it comes to crafting, or even keeping up this blog.  I am learning to let go and not overwhelm myself with expectations, to enjoy and share when I am in a position to learn and grow with you, my readers.  :-)

However, when I first read this book, this chapter rang bells and flashed lights like a fire truck for me.  My ex found a way to ruin almost all his leisure activities (and assume a martyr attitude about them).  If I indicated I liked something too much, he had to take the opposite position (see the story of the teriyaki chicken in a previous Too Perfect post).  Somehow, he couldn't let me "win," or even share as part of a win-win scenario, as in the example of the hotel room.

I have heard so many stories where the partner of an OCPDr becomes ill or injured, and the person with OCPD is angry and resentful about taking him/her to the emergency room with a broken arm.  Almost an attitude of "How dare you put me through this!" so that the person who has broken a bone, suffered appendicitis, lost a parent, etc., is not only dealing with his/her own pain and fear, but tantrums and attitude from the partner.

It is distorted thinking that does not allow for equality in a relationship, that cannot allow for give-and-take.  For Judy to resist a possible friendship with someone she liked because (horrors!) the other woman was friendly.  For a man to not ask a woman out, even though he likes her, because they've been introduced by mutual friends and he feels the need to resist.

Yes, it does destroy a romantic relationship.  I truly believe that, as much as a partner can work on him or herself in other areas, set good boundaries, learn not to take attacks personally, etc. that unaddressed demand-resistance is one of the poisons that will eventually kill the relationship.  The person who has it must come to be mindful of it and stop the knee jerk reaction of, "If that's what you want, I want something different," every single time.  It's that drip of water, wearing away even the strongest rock over time, as even the most patient, loving person grows weary of always being met with mindless opposition and lack of support.

Does demand-resistance affect your play-time
or that of someone you love?
Has demand-resistance damaged a friendship or love relationship?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Demands & Work Blocks;
The Ruination of Work

from Ambro at Free Digital Photos
This post continues with Demands and Work Blocks; The Ruination of Work  from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

 Demands and Work Blocks
I saw this in Jane, a fifty-one-year-old grant writer who came to me when she began to have trouble making progress on an assignment.  Jane had a very productive work history, so this development surprised and upset her. <snip>
Although she normally chose her own projects, this one had been assigned by her supervisor.  At first Jane rejected the notion that this one factor could be the cause of her trouble.  She conceded that by all standards, the assignment had been a reasonable one, and while she didn't find the project particularly exciting, neither could she truthfully say it was repugnant.  And it clearly fell within her sphere of responsibility.<snip>
<snip> She was soon able to see how, with her boss and with me, her resentment and balking were not only unreasonable but self-damaging.  That is, they were obstacles to what she wanted to do and were undermining her success (although she was totally unaware of their influence.)
<snip> What begins as an effective means of self-protection becomes overdeveloped, indiscriminate, or automatic.
In the area of work, demand-resistance need not take the form of a full-blown block to be damaging.  Work may simply weight heavily on the obsessive, or she may have trouble concentrating.  She may feel a festering resentment that saps her creativity and enthusiasm.  Eventually she may have trouble motivating herself to do more than the minimum of what is required of her.  And her projects often wind up bearing the subtle mark of her resentment - coming in late, or with some small detail omitted, or in a form slightly different from what was requested.
You might be thinking that every employee sometimes resents being asked to do unpleasant tasks or having to carry out the wishes of superiors.  That's true.  The demand-resistant worker, however, is apt to sense demands that aren't even there, and to dread or drag his feet on tasks that aren't at all unpleasant.  He's also likely to find himself feeling burdened by jobs he initially wanted to do.  Even self-employed obsessives can experience inner demands as somehow coming from the outside.  With no boss or supervisor to blame, they focus their resentment on the work itself, their clients, or their dependents (who are "making" them work).
When demand-resistance sabotages their on-the-job performance, many obsessives start to feel demoralized because normally they take pride in their ability to work effectively.  For many, the "solution" to this dismaying turn of events is to rationalize the resentment of, and alienation from, their work in ways that enhance rather than hurt their self-image. <snip> The obsessive tells himself he's a victim of exploited conscientousness.  <snip>  "...No one appreciates my efforts and, worse, they're wasted, because the system is sloppy and inefficient."  His feelings of victimization explain his negative attitude towards his work, and meanwhile, the real culprit, his demand-resistance, goes undetected.


I think I have normal demand-resistance.  When a supervisor wants me to say, do Task A this morning, when in my mind I am already working out how I'm going to do Task B, it's something of a mental and emotional wrench for me to shift gears.  Sometimes it's easier for me than other times; and sometimes I will negotiate, "I'm working on Task B, and I have to have it by 1:00; can I do Task A  later on?"

My ex, on the other hand, expressed extreme demand-resistance.  Not to a supervisor - he hadn't worked in many years, but when he did talk about his prior employer, there were many stories sprinkled in about how they wanted him to do a project in X way, and he insisted on doing it Y way, or not giving up on something until it was tested to his satisfaction.

As someone who was basically self-employed, he would assign himself tasks - and drag them out.  Avoid others altogether.  And pretty much anything I suggested he do re: home projects was a non-starter, even if he had brought it up himself.  For example, he might say, "I should clean up and sell my ATV" (which hadn't been taken off-road in 20 years, and was taking up a fair amount of space in the garage).  I might agree mildly, and then at a later date, suggest we take a look at the Recycler or Craigslist to get an idea of the going price for said ATV.

Six years later, he still hadn't found the time to even begin determining its fair market value, let alone  think about cleaning it up, taking a farewell ride, or placing an ad.  In the beginning, when I didn't know about OCPD or demand-resistance, I thought perhaps he just needed a little nudging and encouragement.  By the end, I realized that even my agreeing with him about a project made him much less likely to do it (though he managed to resist and postpone plenty of things without my  input).  I felt too emotionally exhausted (and resistant, myself) to play the "reverse psychology" game.

And boy oh boy, was he full of resentment about his heavy workload, and how overworked and unappreciated he was - though he "worked" at home, and I was working 40 hours a week plus doing all the grocery shopping.  I also did the dishes every night, vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the bathroom on the weekends.

Does demand-resistance affect your work, or that of someone you love?
Do you know someone who's lost a job or 
become unemployable due to demand-resistance?
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

We Could Try Again...
That Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady

Do you ever have days when anything and everything makes you cry, or is it just me?

Sometimes I get very sad and nostalgic about how things didn't work out with my ex(es). I get extremely  tempted to just go back and give it another try.

Surely if I go into it with the knowledge I have now, with me all refreshed from the time apart, with the experience and patience and techniques I've learned...

Surely, this time I can make it work.

And then a song like this comes on the radio, or my iPod, and I realize,  it's outside my power to make it work. 

A man who didn't treat me with love, respect, and caring, prior to the time we split, when our relationship was on the line, won't magically "get it" and behave so much better if I go crawling back to him, begging him to give me another chance...

It's tempting.  I miss him (okay, several hims.)  When you've slept with somebody over a course of years, more than a physical bond forms.  (I'm taking the Fifth Amendment on exactly how many bonds I've formed, over the course of my life, m'kay?  More than three, less than 33, like they asked in Kramer vs. Kramer, m'kay?  Yes, I've had some overlap.)

I've been dreaming a lot recently, of the guy I was head over snatch in love with, before I entered into my relationship with OCPD ex -bf.  Which was going nowhere.  Part of the reason I was so vulnerable to OCPD ex, was because of the sadness/desperation/rebound factor of said dead-end relationship.

Death is not actually a bad card. 
It's about transformation, change, & new beginnings.
Like a seed "dies" and is reborn as a plant.
In my dreams, the ex and I get together, and it's different this time.  But the Tarot cards tell a different story.  They tell me, when I ask about the future of said relationship, DEATH.  RUIN. DESPAIR.

As has his lack of any attempt at contact, in the 8+ years since I broke it off with him.

I'm thinking, it's time and beyond I took the hint.

He might not have been as overtly cruel as OCPD ex, but he was still cruel, in his own subtle, passive way.  He did not treat me like a lady, when all was said and done.

I need to stop looking for the easy fix, and continue on my quest to be more loving to myself.  Take care of the girlfriend, remember her?

Not look for salvation in retreads.

[Btw, this Zemanta thing is suggesting photos of iPods and Serbian churches to accompany this post.  I'm all for thinking outside the box, but really?]

Old loves are very tempting.  I know what they like, they know what I like, there's an instant comfort level there.

There's also a short cut to dysfunction behaviors, all over again.  For every woman (or man) I know who's gone back to an ex and made it work, there's a hundred or more who've regretted it.  And when I really think with my head - instead of parts further south - I know this.

So, even though I am occasionally going through pangs of - we'll call it loneliness - I can get through.  I still have a little emotional purging to get through, before I am ready to try dating again - and I am determined to hold out for something new and fresh.

I deserve to be treated like a lady, a beloved, a precious and valuable partner.  We all do.

Have you ever had to fend off the urge to return to a relationship 
that you knew was damaging to you?
How did you resist (or did you give in, and regret it later?)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesday - Chap 5 - Demand Resistance

This post continues with Demand-Resistance  from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

For many of my patients, this sense of vulnerability appears to have begun early in childhood.  One patient, a thirty-year-old computer programmer named Gerald, could remember and describe explicitly the sensation of being overwhelmed by his mother at a very young age. <snip>
"One major source pf confrontation was food.  Even when I was hungry, I resented how my mother controlled my meals.  She gave me more than I wanted; she made me eat foods I didn't like without giving me the chance to say 'No!'  It was like I was an extension of her needs, as if she were saying, 'If you eat, I'll be happy'  <snip>
<snip> Eventually, Gerald cound a weapon.  "The weapon was holding back," he told me.  "If I didn't eat, it drove my mother crazy.  If I withheld affection, it caused my parents pain.  It made me feel powerful, in control"
<snip> "When I know somebody wants something from me, I don't do it.  It's so automatic, it ends up being more important to me to hold back than to decide what I want.
I would describe Gerald as intensely "demand-resistant" - that is, inclined to back at various expectations simply because they are perceived as demands.  <snip>
<snip> A small percentage of people, like Gerald, consciously recognize that they feel resentful, not only when someone tells them what to do, but when they feel even a subtle expectation or pressure.  Some may have a reputation for being stubborn or oppositional.  But it's far more common for demand-resistance to be nearly undetectable.  Inwardly, the obsessive may sense some hesitancy when confronted by certain demands.  "I get a tightness, inside, a tightness in my gut," is how one patient described it.  "I feel a suppressed anger."  But often there are no internal signs of this private turmoil.  In other cases there are outward signs - procrastination or inability to stay with a task, for example - but the foot-dragger himself is bewildered and often dismayed by his inability to do what he consciously thinks he wants to do.
Boy oh boy - how many of us grew up in an era of  "You'll eat everything I put on your plate, and you'll like it!" In my case - no demand-resistance, simply outright rebellion.  Many a night I sat at the table, assigned to sit there till I was done, and ended up sitting there until my parents gave up. 

I think it's normal to rebel against people who are telling you how much you should or shouldn't want to eat, or should enjoy eating.  Patricia Evans in her Controlling People book tells the story of observing a mother and daughter in an ice cream shop, where the mother was telling the little girl what flavor of ice cream was her (the daughter's) favorite, and the little girl firmly clung to her own choice.

The resistance is normal, even healthy.  Toddlers go through a stage of saying No! to everything, usually around "the terrible twos."  They are testing the boundaries of their world, and it's a healthy stage to go through - not to be stuck in.

It's when it becomes a non-thinking, automatic reaction to everything, that it's a problem.   When inside, we are saying, "No I won't and you can't make me!" even to ourselves, to things we want and need to do, and worse, when we don't recognize this.

I think I have some demand-resistance. For my ex, it was horrible; pretty much anything I asked him to do, he would: refuse outright; claim he didn't have time; promise to do it and then not...

I eventually realized that, except on rare occasions when the moon and the stars were properly aligned and he was in the perfect receptive mood (which events I could never predict) that my simply asking him to do anything = he would make sure what I wanted didn't happen.

F'rinstance - back on food again.  He insisted on cooking all our dinners.  One meal I particularly enjoyed was chicken that he baked in the oven with teriyaki sauce and brown rice.  In the first year we lived together, he made this 1-2 times per month.

When my birthday was approaching, he asked what I would like for my birthday dinner.  I asked for that meal, and apparently waxed too enthusiastic about how much I enjoyed the way he made it.  (I wanted him to feel properly appreciated, silly me!)  Not only did he make excuses about why he couldn't make it for my birthday, but in the following five years we lived together, he never made it again.  I did ask for it, once or twice more over the years, then gave up.

He won!  Only, what did he win?  This was "Another Brick in the Wall," I-don't-want-to-live-this-way moment for me.

Do you recognize demand-resistance in yourself, a partner or co-worker?
Are there any specific areas where it seems worse?
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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Victim Is Always to Blame...
Or Overlooked

The Lion Shrine at Penn State.Image via WikipediaHave you been following the Penn State Uni child rape saga?

One thing I find encouraging is at least more people are talking about the rape culture.  That includes the presumption that somehow the victim "deserves" to be assaulted, based on what s/he wears, or behaves, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Like the Congo, or Latin America, or being a boy on the grounds of Penn State in the company of a pedophile.

In a nutshell: Jerry Sandusky, who was the Defensive Coordinator for the Penn State football program for many years, was investigated in 1998 for inappropriate sexual conduct with young boys.  He was not formally charged, but he did retire in 1999.  (See timeline on Huffington Post.) As an alumni, he continued to have access to the grounds, an office on site, and other perks.

He had regular contact with young boys via a charitable organization he created in the 1970's called The Second Mile.  This program targeted children with absent or dysfunctional families (which made them particularly ripe for being victimized by someone with ill intent).  These children were taken by Sandusky to football games, guested for overnight visits in his home, given lavish presents, and brought onto the grounds on Penn State University on a regular basis.

According to the report of the Grand Jury, in 2002 a then graduate assistant (28 years old, 200 lb former quarterback) testified he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year old boy in the showers of the football building.  Said GA did not rescue the child, or call the police, but did call his daddy for advice, and then reported what he saw to Joe Paterno the following morning.  Who did not call the police, either, but kicked it upstairs, to his superiors.  Somewhere along the way, the anal-raping was minimized to "a little fondling." (After all, everyone knows it's perfectly normal and socially acceptable for a grown man to take a boy into the showers and fondle him, right?) PSU took Sandusky's keys away, and sternly told him - no more bringing boys onto the grounds!

Nobody called the police.  Nobody tried to track down the victim to find out if he was okay.  Nobody contacted The Second Mile, where Sandusky continued to "mentor" more young "friends," to suggest that maybe somebody should keep an eye on him.  Nobody said word one when for years afterwards, Sandusky squired other young boys from The Second Mile on outings, sat with them in the stands, brought them to the dinner table for meals with all his Penn State U buddies, including Paterno.  Somehow, nobody expressed the slightest squicky feeling about this whatsoever.

When arrests were being made and the stink about this got too big, the Penn State trustees fired President Graham Spanier and JoePa, and while there hasn't been much of a backlash about Spanier, a number of students are very upset - about Paterno.  How could they fire him - and so ignominiously?  After all, he wasn't a molester - he's just one of several people who didn't call the police.  He didn't see it himself, he was simply told by someone (trustworthy, who also relied on his judgment).  JoePa was a decent, honorable guy, who continued a relationship with the alleged molester and his young "friends" in the following eight years or so.

Can you imagine?  Somebody has come to you and said, "I saw this guy raping a ten year old in the showers," and being able to turn off that visual?  To share a meal with this guy, even as he's got another ten year old sitting right beside him?  "Pass the salt, please, Jerry."  But this is what happens in families where there is incest, there's this weird doublethink going on where everyone pretends it's not really happening, la-la, I can't hear you.

Something like this happened in several families I know, where many family members were more upset about the incest or domestic violence being made public by the victims, than by the actual incest or violence itself.

This is typical of rape culture - an acknowledgment of the victim(s), almost in passing - yes, wasn't that dreadful? and then a quick mental shift to salvage and protect the reputation of the accused - or the institution they represent.

In an (even more) appalling note, right now at Penn State some of the students are making jokes about "being Sanduskied."  In front of, though they don't know it, the sister of one of the victims.

This is why it is so hard for rape victims to come forward.  Rather than the blame being cast upon the rapist, quite shortly the victim's life gets put under a magnifying glass.  If s/he has not led a spotless life, then somehow s/he was "asking for it."  Or, there's evidence, perhaps, but not enough evidence.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn ring any bells?

People who are assaulted are almost always in a position of much less power than their rapist.  They may be children, smaller, drugged, or under extreme economic pressure; they may be on the losing end of a war or weapon. Those who do come forward, against the odds, are incredibly brave souls.

Nobody wants to imagine himself being assaulted in a shower, or anywhere else.  It makes sense that we want to find reasons/excuses to put the victim at blame.  Because, if in some way, the victim made it happen - then we can simply not do what they did, and we will be safe.

The ugly truth is, no matter how careful we are, no matter how we dress or what we drink or how carefully we choose our dates, we, or those we love, could still be raped or assaulted at any time.  So how do we deal with that without freaking out?

Partly, by fighting back.  By saying, this may be how it is, now, but it isn't the way it has to be.  This is part of what SlutWalk is about, to start bringing about a change in the social consciousness: Rapists, not victims, cause rape.  If we want to end rape, instead of trying to teach women and children 120 ways to Tuesday to protect themselves and not "cause" a rape, we need to end rape culture.  We need to end a culture that says it is acceptable, even rewarded, when we take from or bully those who are weaker than ourselves.  Whether it is a 50-something man raping a 10 year old boy, or corporations that take government subsidies to move American jobs overseas (and to pay their top execs huge bonuses), it must become socially unacceptable for the strong to victimize the weak.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Penn State st...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
PSU Students gather to express
solidarity & support for the rape victims

And on bystanders... We need to make bystanders more interested in doing what's right, than doing the minimum amount required by law to cover their own a$$ (if they even do that).  We need to stop demonizing and punishing those who "squeal," "snitch", or "rat out" people who are behaving badly.

Then there was an interesting take on this by "Marna Nightingale," one of the commenters on the thread below (Omelas State University) on why the grad student didn't intervene when he saw the child being raped, or do more to speak up afterwards, when his father and everybody else was telling him, hey, no big deal:
I DO feel genuinely badly for that grad student, and I absolutely could have been one of those adults and I am grateful to God that I am not.
I hope to Hell I never am, but I have to say that looking over my past life, the times I’ve most obviously failed to act on a moral imperative have been those times when I’ve seen – something that I knew was wrong, and I was sure of my facts, but I was also up in a situation where this had been going on for awhile and so everyone around me was Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine. And I am sure anyone looking at me would have said that I was obviously Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine, too, while my brain was slowly turning Oh My God That Is Horrible What Do I Do into Everyone Is Calm and Cheerful so That Can’t Have Been What Happened, Right? Right? Please Let That Be Right, I Don’t Know What To Do Or How To Start Doing It.
And after a few hours or days or weeks, somehow… Everything WAS Normal and Fine. Except… not.
I’m not terribly brave. All I can do is to try to remember that I do that, and admit that if I do that and fail to act I deserve to pay the price of that.
This is a mindset I think we all need to be conscious of.  That horrible things, done over time, and with the agreement and apparent social pressure to act like everything is fine, just fine, can innure us to terrible injustice.

Just because it's been like this for a long time, doesn't mean it has to stay like this.  We can all think, we can all act responsibly.  We can all speak out against injustice, even if it means people won't like us.  Even if it costs me my job, I hope I've got enough moral fiber to not see a child being raped, and just close the door - literally or figuratively.

I can't get out of my head the testimony that the GA opened the door to the showers, saw the child and his rapist, and then left the room.  Maybe he was in shock, okay, he still could have dialed 911.  According to his testimony, he thought they both saw him.  That poor boy must have thought/hoped he was going to be rescued.  What must he have gone through, when that door closed again?  And all the poor kids that received "personal attention" from Sandusky, afterwards.  How can we possibly make it up to them?

What's your take on this?
Do you have a rape victim or bystander horror story?
Have you had to share meals with an abuser?
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Wants Become Shoulds &
The Price of Demand-Sensitivity

A Fun Summer List from The CraftCave
This post continues with Wants Become Shoulds and The Price of Demand-Sensitivity  from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.

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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.

<snip> obsessive people will read demands or expectations into situations, whether or not such demands really exist.  During one of our meetings, a perfectionistic photographer named Liz happened to mention a brief list of things she wanted to do in the upcoming week.  Although I had neither asked to to make the list nor suggested she do the things on it, the following week she sheepishly confessed, "I didn't do all the things I was supposed to do this past week, so I don't feel I have much to talk about."  She spoke as though I had expected her to accomplish the things on the list and as though she had to answer to me, even though I had nothing to do with the plan.
Between the moment when she first conceived of the list and our next meeting, an important change took place in Liz's thinking.  At some point - probably almost immediately after she made the list - her perception became distorted,  Instead of seeing the listed activities as things she wanted to do, she began to view them as tasks imposed upon her, which she had some kind of moral obligation to fulfill.
<snip> Instead of "I want to," they usually experience and say, "I ought to," "I must," or "I should."  Volition is replaced by obligation.  And similarly, rather than saying, "I don't want," they say, "I can't."
<snip> people who want to be above reproach are most often comfortable when they feel their decisions and actions are being dictated by outside forces.   It's harder to criticize someone who's "only following orders," as opposed to one doing something he initiated himself.  Also, thinking and speaking in such terms as "I should" or "I have to" feels and sounds less selfish and somehow more moral and responsible than "I want" or "I'd like."  In the obsessive's worldview, where conscientiousness is king, it's better to be fulfilling one's duty than satisfying one's own needs.

But the costs of unconsciously disowning one's desires are high.  A special joy and fulfillment spring from realizing goals that have been freely chosen.  In contrast, when most of your activities feel like obligations, you can reach a point where nothing gives you pleasure, and life feels meaningless.  You don't feel like an active participant, taking what enjoyment you can in life, but instead experience yourself as a passive recipient, grinding away at the obligations that are laid upon you.  You may feel powerless, as if you lack control over your life - a very uncomfortable state.
Indeed, you may lack a clear, stable sense of self - of who you are.  You may know what you do well, what you've achieved, whom you dislike, what frightens you.  These sorts of things do contribute to our sense of identity, but they aren't enough.  A solid sense of self requires a consistent awareness of your volitional side - what you want.  Without that anchor, you wind up feeling insubstantial and passive, and you may feel more vulnerable to external influences, especially the wishes of others.  <snip>

Making lists can be helpful, but taking a list of fun ideas, things we want to do, and turning them into obligation - it's like the stories of fairy jewelry, turned in the light of day into dry leaves and berries.

Why have fun, when you can suffer
with a heavy burden?
One of the saddest things about OCPD I've noticed is few talk or write about joy.  They sometimes pay lip service to spontaneity, but everything must be planned out, scheduled, and the planning isn't the happy, "I can't want to get to Disneyland!" sort, but the dry, worried, must-plan-for-potential-catastrophe type that sucks most of the joy right out of life.

There is nothing wrong with a strong work ethic - in balance.  All work and no play, we all know this is not a healthy way to live.  I have a notion American Puritans had a lot of OCPD in their ranks, with their aversion to bright colors and celebrating Christmas.

I've had a friend argue with me that he has no control over his life, that everything he does is because he has to do it that way.  I used to try to argue back, that he has choices, that he does what he does because he chooses to live that way, but since he seems determined to clutch his perceived powerlessness to him like a security blanket, I've given up trying to tell him otherwise.

Why would anyone consciously choose to live life that way?

There is a tremendous amount of joy, empowerment and satisfaction in saying, "I want this," and then working out a way to get "this," whether "this" is writing a book, taking a trip, or getting a chocolate mint ice cream cone.

Do you unconsciously turn things you want to do into obligations?
How are you overcoming that?
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