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This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.
The Obsessive Personality
This is a book about people who are too perfect for their own good.
You know them. You may be one of them. And if you are, you have much to be proud of. You're one of the solid, good people of the world: honest, reliable, hardworking, responsible, exacting, self-controlled.
But for many people there is also a dark side to the perfection. The very traits that bring them success, respect and trust can also cause them serious problems. These people aren't fully able to savor relationships with others and with the world at large, nor are they at ease with themselves in their universe. Consider:
- The person so driven to meet professional and personal goals that she can't abandon herself to a few hours of undirected leisure without feeling guilty or undisciplined.
- The person so preoccupied with making the right choice that he has difficulty making even relatively simple decisions usually regarded as pleasurable: buying a new stereo, choosing where to go on vacation.
- The person so finicky that his pleasure is spoiled if everything isn't "just so."
- The "thinkaholic" whose keen, hyperactive mind all too often bogs her down in painful worry and rumination.
- The perfectionist, whose need to improve and polish every piece of work causes her to devote much more time than necessary to even inconsequential assignments.
- The person so intent on finding the ultimate romantic mate that he seems unable to commit to any long-term relationship.
- The person so acclimated to working long hours that she can't bring herself to cut back, even when confronted with evidence that overwork is ruining her health or her family relationships.
- The procrastinator who feels angry at his "laziness" - unaware that the real reason he is unable to undertake tasks is that his need to do them flawlessly makes them loom impossibly large.
<snip> Recent articles and books have also made the lay public aware of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the malady that drives its sufferers to such acts as repeated hand-washing, checking routines, or other paralyzing rituals.
When I use the term obsessive, however, I mean something quite different. I'm referring to a personality type, not to an isolated behavior or clinical disorder like OCD.
I (this is now I the blogger, not I the book author) began this blog because I was coming "out of the fog" with a Too Perfect personality, someone whose need to control me led to verbal and emotional abuse. I know my life wasn't the only one which was "Perfectly Awful;" his was pretty dreadful too.
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This is not to say that life with OCPD ex-bf was torture-chamber horrible 24/7; it wasn't. There were some wonderful times together, fabulous trips, fun giggling times watching TV, making love and happy family celebrations. If it was horrible 24/7, nobody would stay with these people. We who love these troubled people have had great times - especially in the beginning of the relationship.
We may even sense the root of this disorder - overwhelming anxiety. So because we know there's a good person in there - a worried person, but a good one - we may hang in there. We'll help them to see they don't have to be perfect, that we love them, flaws and all (as we wish they'd love us.) Hoping with enough love and patience and kindness, we can "fix" them.
Doesn't work. Because each of us can only fix ourselves, and as they mention in the first paragraph, the person with this issue often doesn't perceive that his "strengths" are killing him, and his relationships. Just as an alcoholic or drug addict must recognize he has a problem and be willing to get help, so must the Perfectionist.
Mine wasn't willing or able to do that.
So why, now that I'm out, hash this all over again? Because I'm not over it, yet, I am still processing a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Because someday, I'd like to have another relationship - and next time, I want to recognize the warning signs for somebody like this. Because I'd like to help my friends - the ones I know, the ones I haven't met, yet - to understand this better, too, and to share in our mutual journey of healing.
And because I know that I have some of these traits, too. To the point they damage my life? I don't think so... but I haven't been thinking clearly in a very long time. Something that happens to those in a relationship with a disordered person is they pick up fleas: the behaviors, habits, and sometimes even thought patterns of the other person. I want to make sure that I pick off each and every flea, keeping only those traits that make my life better, in moderate amounts.
I have problems with the first item, here, the feeling that just kicking back and having a good time is wrong, somehow. That pleasure must be earned. I don't stress over buying things - I try to research and make a careful choice, and then trust that I have and let it go. I tend to make the best of a bad situation; nothing spoils a good time for me. But I do tend to get bogged down in worry and rumination. I don't get slowed down trying to create perfect work, though I do procrastinate over things I don't enjoy doing, like filing. A commitment-phobe. Hmmm. Maybe. I don't work long hours, although right now, I do work a day job then come home and write for several hours.
I'm thinking my flea infestation - at least on these points - isn't too bad. How about yours?
Have you read Too Perfect?
Did you experience a light bulb moment?
Or are you having one now?