|from Wikimedia Commons - Now this scoreboard totally rocks!|
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 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.
Many obsessives quell their anxiety about life's possible catastrophes in still another way. At an unconscious level they convince themselves that terrible things will not happen to them simply because life is fair.
<snip> most obsessives hold a belief, also unconscious, in what I call the Cosmic Scorekeeper. The Scorekeeper may dovetail with a a belief in an established religion, but I've also seen plenty of atheists with the unconscious faith that an omnipresent, omnipotent forces assesses and reconciles the score, thus ensuring that people get that they deserve. This notion enables obsessives to believe that they can control their destiny by being good or bad.
They can guarantee themselves safe passages by making the Scorekeeper owe it to them. They do this by piling up a track record of self-denial, sacrifice, industry, diligence, honesty, and loyalty rivaling that of a saint. <snip> Even enjoying themselves costs them points.
Before doing something "selfish," they may need to earn it by performing some distasteful (but noble) duty. They might put in extra time at work, or undertake an unpleasant home-repair project. Such sacrifices increase the debit owed them by the Scorekeeper. With a huge positive balance, they might even be able to take a vacation or spend money on a personal indulgence without bankrupting their account.
<snip> Like many other obsessives, every time things begin to go "too well" for her, Dory braces herself for the Scorekeeper to balance them out. Similarly, if she has some bad luck, she wonders what she did to cause it. <snip> The minute she finds her "misstep," she feels better because she can tell herself that she can prevent the misfortune next time by simply behaving differently.
Obsessives tend to judge other people's lives by the same standard of fairness. They feel no compassion when they hear of mishaps befalling those they consider unworthy or "bad," and they resent it when honors or other good fortune come to someone "undeserving."
<snip> They expect the Scorekeeper to compensate them for good intentions and for effort regardless of results. And if they work at something such as school, therapy, or staying healthy, and their efforts don't succeed, they may feel cheated and resentful.
If, as it so common, the obsessive has been a decent, conscientious, honest person and has consistently denied himself many pleasure in life, he will have earned IOU's by the thousands. And yet the chances are his life still contains plenty of rough spots: He has to work hard; he gets ill several times a year; less deserving people all around him are becoming more famous or rich; his financial investments haven't always panned out; not everyone likes him or appreciates what a good person he is; and he often feels unhappy or depressed.
Hoo-boy! This is sooooo my ex-b-f - and scarier yet, it's so me.
Ex-b-f was wedded to a picture of himself as martyr. He would frequently decline social invitations, because he was too busy (this was a man with no kids, no day job), and would remark bitterly about people going off to have a good time, but that he had Responsibilities. Thing is, you can only turn down invites from your friends and family so many times, before they stop inviting you.
One of the things that comes with my job, is there are periodic company parties and social events, some of which families and Significant Others are invited to attend. This is both fun and stressful. I adore the people I work with, they're great, but at the same time, these are people I work with. I don't want to do the lampshade on the head kind of dealie. And no one is forced to attend said parties - but if you want others to feel you're part of the team you do have to go, most of the time.
Ex understood the dynamics of this, but half the time for events to which we were both invited, he would cancel at the last minute, because he was feeling terrible and having chest pains. Then pull a guilt-inducing martyr number on me, "You go on ahead," <wincing, clutching his chest> "have a good time. I know you need to go party with your friends. I'll probably be here when you get back." Accompanied by a brave, brave smile. So I would go, and have a miserable time, worried about him the whole evening.
Likewise, if it was any kind of event to which he was not invited, work-related or otherwise, he would do his best to work the martyr angle and make me feel bad about going. Like my monthly dinners with my sister.
What I know now, that I didn't know then, is that severe anxiety can cause chest pain that mimics a heart attack. So, probably what was happening with him was he fretted himself into an anxiety attack, which made him genuinely feel terrible. Even so, in retrospect, I notice that whenever our company was doing something he deemed a lot of fun, like last year when we went go-cart racing... somehow he never cancelled on those events. Of course, one should never dismiss chest pain, on should always consult a health care professional... but he wasn't willing to do that.
I wonder if he was more afraid of finding out he was seriously ill, as he believed, or finding out he was not?
I know that he felt he was racking up points by sacrifice and hard work (much of it churning, and many more good intentions than actually carrying through with things, but in his mind, he was working like a slave all the time.)
I have a hard time getting away from that mentality, too. To paraphrase the Bible in a way sure to offend, "I believe! Help me to unbelieve!" (to unbelieve in said Great Cosmic Scorekeeper.) I know that I don't believe life is fair - that the people of Japan deserved the tsunami, or that those of Haiti brought the earthquake on themselves by practicing voodoo.
I was raised in a German heritage family - you worked first, played afterwards. If there was time. My maternal grandmother (oddly, she was the only one who wasn't German, but Irish/Danish) was a strict stickler for manners, for keeping a house spotless, for children always playing quietly, and a whole bunch of other things, more than the others. She was also always finding fault with the eldest born girls - my mother, my oldest sister, and my oldest cousin. I wonder now, in retrospect, if perhaps she was OCPD. Not like the other grandma or aunts who always seemed so happy to see us.
As I've blogged before, it's hard getting away from a pleasure must be earned mentality, and into mindfulness. I want to be mindful, and to enjoy the daily joys that surround me, instead of having a niggardly soul, afraid at any moment they will be snatched away because I didn't "pay" for them in some way. I noticed recently when I went to a book-signing event and all the little pieces went my way, part of me enjoyed it very much, and part of me was nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I do have spiritual beliefs of the "what goes around, comes around," karma variety. I don't want to be a mean, nasty person, because I don't want to live with one, and to look at one each day in the mirror. I do think it is important to treat others with dignity and respect, just because it is. Not simply because what goes around, comes around and I'm carrying fear of being punished, but because when I act badly towards someone, I feel badly about it. When I am generous, open, kind, I feel better about myself.
That said, I think I'm more likely to err in the direction of being too kind/nice co-dependent, than in the mean, nasty and disrespectful direction.
I'm still very much a work in progress on this issue.
How about you?
What feelings/thoughts did this stir up - either about you, or a loved one?