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 may not all be covered in these excerpts.
Besides self-control and control over others, the third component of the Myth of Control says that if one is sufficiently cautious and vigilant, it is possible to guard against such impersonal dangers as illness, accidents, economic upheavals, and so on.
Being sufficiently cautious and vigilant may mean staying abreast of events that could have personal ramifications - from the weather to political issues to the latest medical news. Obsessives believe that knowledge imparts a protective power. A related form of "vigilance" is the obsessive's tendency to worry, as if internal fretting over anything that might go wrong can actually prevent it from happening.
When obsessives can't tell how an event might affect them and also can't avoid or prevent it, they may adopt a self-protective pessimism. Before an annual evaluation at work, they might predict to a colleague that their review will be poor. They might complain that they haven't had time to get all their projects in good shape, and that the boss doesn't like them and will be sure to ambush them over some minor detail. In this way they set themselves up to "win" even if their evaluation does turn out badly. Prediction of a mishap runs a close
second to preventing it; it provides at least an illusion of control.
I've heard of many with OCPD who are talk show radio or cable new junkies (both conservative and liberal.) Unsurprisingly, this simply makes them more fearful, more paranoid, more angrily convinced that those terrible bad guys are trying to screw up the town/state/country/world, or that we are heading towards The Apocalypse.
I would strongly urge all those with OCPD, and all those who love somebody with OCPD, to limit the barrage of news and talk radio to no more than 1-2 hours per day, just as you (ideally) limit the consumption of soda pop. It's simply not something healthy to soak your brain in.
Something we as human beings need to accept, is that there is no safe place on this planet to live. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, severe blizzards, drought... Everywhere has some natural hazard, one that we can only prepare for to a certain extent. For example, I live in "earthquake country," and keep water, sturdy shoes, and a change of clothes in my office at work. In case of an earthquake (provided I'm not squashed like a bug by the building collapsing entirely) I won't have to scramble out of a damaged building in skirt and pantyhose. If I lived in a place with winter snow, I'd keep a shovel and bag of cat litter in the trunk, in case I got stuck (probably a blanket or two, also.)
I could obsess over "The Big One," but why? There is no evidence that "running the tape" in one's head about the worst possible outcome, should some horrible event happen, makes anyone less traumatized or better prepared if/when it does occur. It means that rather than being in the moment, now, rather than enjoying a sunny day or beautiful display of flowers or a friendly kitty greeting me, my head would be all wrapped up in doom and gloom about something that might never happen in my lifetime.
I admit, I had to rehearse over and over in my head breaking up with my boyfriend; what I would say, what he would say, how I would feel, what would happen to him next. And maybe in a case like that, it's something we have to do. To emotionally, even literally break up several times, to prepare to do it for real.
But I have to say, nothing went the way I rehearsed it, nor did I feel the way I thought I would feel. I am not currently eaten up by guilt, nor has he rolled himself into a ball and died as I feared he might. As of last Friday, he is still playing weatherman, obsessively checking the temperature outside and inside 10-15 times a day, and opening doors and turning on fans and so on to maintain the temperature inside at 70 degrees - the Only Right Temperature.
Frankly, I don't care what the temperature is. If I feel cold, I will put on a sweater or turn the heat up, whether it's 70 degrees, or even 73 degrees! If I am hot, I will drink a cold drink and peel off some clothes. I don't need permission from a thermostat to feel what I feel, or to take measures to make myself more comfortable.