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, March 22, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapter Two, The Myth of Control

This post continues with The Myth of Control, from Chapter Two.

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.

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

--John Irving
The World According to Garp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was wondering what the mouse-trap was for,” said Alice.
“It isn’t very likely there would be any mice on the horse’s back.”
“Not very likely, perhaps,” said the Knight;
“but if they do come, I don’t choose to have them running all about.”
from Old Books
So, there is often major conflict over what constitutes "reasonable" safety precautions.  They may feel, because of our sadly lackadaisical attitude towards obvious dangers like driving in the rain when you don't have to (for instance, to a family gathering,) push-button umbrellas and plugged-in toasters, that they have to take over not only keeping themslves safe, but keeping us safe.  And protecting our homes from all the chaos we (slackers) leave in our wake - a frequent complaint of ex-b-f was that he had to follow around after me, "picking up" and "fixing" things I had left undone.

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

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

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

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