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, April 12, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 2 (cont) Control Over Others

Fun kinds of games by MaryTClark on Flickr
This post continues with Control Over Others, Control Through Irreproachability, and Control Games, 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 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.
The second aspect of the Myth of Control is the need to control others.  <snip>  Most direct are those who rigidly insist that their employees, children, and spouses do things their way, never considering how such a dictatorial attitudes  makes other people feel.  Like anyone else, these obsessives usually want others to view them as kind and nonjudgmental, and are usually surprised when they are not seen that way.  They just can't bring themselves to do what it takes to win that reputation; they can't step back and let the people around them act in their own individual styles.

<snip> they strive to make people think well of them, always.  The main objective underlying this strategy is to leave no room for criticism.  In early childhood, we learn which behaviors and abilities are labeled "good" by parents, teachers, and others.  Many obsessives master these skills, developing a brilliant facility for identifying those attitudes and behaviors considered virtues in each new social situation and them adopting them absolutely.  Thoughts or images incompatible with this image of perfection are suppressed or rejected.

<snip>  Robert did experience anxiety during this period, especially when he found himself a bit less universally admired, but he also found that the sky didn't fall when he allowed himself to be more genuine and less perfect.  As he gradually stopped hating himself for his phoniness, he became better able to let people get close.  When somebody liked him, he knew it wasn't because of some role he was playing.  He trusted that person's positive response more.  <snip>

Like other aspects of the control myth, trying to control other people's feelings by being wonderful has major drawbacks.  For one thing, it's impossible.  You simply can't embody everyone's idea of virtue.  Anyone who tries is bound to incur someone's disapproval sooner or later.  And when the obsessive can't prevent someone from being angry with him, rejecting him, or doubting his abilities or character, he may find it impossible to let it go.  Often he'll ruminate about the incident, unable to relax, until he devises a way to "fix" it.

Subtly manipulative control games are another way in which obsessives strive to assert their power over others.  Such power plays whisper: "I've got the upper hand here.  I decide whether or not we will interact.  And if we do, I decide the beginning, ending, and content of those interactions."  Note that I say whisper; you very well may not recognize that you're the object of such tactics.  In fact, the obsessive himself usually is not conscious that he's doing it.  Part of the nature of these ploys is that each has an alternate, perfectly reasonable explanation.  When your colleague shows up several minutes late for a meeting, it may well be that a last-minute phone call unavoidably delayed her.  But when this happens repeatedly, you have to wonder if her slight tardiness doesn't spring from an unconscious need to demonstrate that she, and not other people, decides when she's got to be somewhere.

<snip> The tactic of making another person wait can assume a variety of guises.  It may involve prolonging a decision.  Perhaps you need to know what your spouse if planning for Friday evening, so you can decide whether you're free to attend a professional meeting.  But your spouse just can't seem to come to a decision, leaving you stymied.

<snip>  All these interpersonal control tactics do accomplish their aim to a degree.  However, their net result is often painful and destructive because ultimately they obstruct the sense of connection and intimacy that all humans need and crave.


This is where we tend to have the most battles; when Perfectionists try to control us.  My ex would often scold, "I have to show you how to do everything," because I did few things "right" in his eyes, from the way I opened the gate to the driveway, to the way I washed my hands and carried in bags from the grocery store.  Let alone the Shower Rules.

At first, I would do it his way, or JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend and Explain.  The best way to deal is to not JADE;) as those of you who've tried those techniques know, they don't work.  Those with OCPD will simply argue you into the ground until you give up out of exhaustion, and whether you do one or three things his way, he won't do the next thing your way.  He will find 15 more things you're not doing his way.

I've tried to be perfect and irreproachable, myself: the top student in class, the most attractive woman in the room, the best at whatever I turned my hand to.  Like that really worked out!  And so, I've found that despite being a "failure" more often than not, I do pretty well, and most, if not all, people truly like imperfect, unglamorous me.  I'm "over" trying to kill myself to be The Best at something, but will put in as much effort as I think the task deserves.

I've come to realize I have other, more covert Perfectionists in my life, who are, indeed, trying to live in a way that leaves no room for criticism, and whose criticism and control games can be subtle.

ME: I'm going to do X.

Other Person:  Well, that's one way to do it.

Not a criticism, exactly, just a hint of disapproval and suggestion that OP has a (much) better way.  In the past, I'd always bite, and ask, "Oh, what do you suggest, ye wonderful wise person?"   or perhaps, even get into an argument about it.  Now, I'm learning to either ignore the comment, or say cheerfully, "Yep, that's the way it suits me, right now."  Or ask for a suggestion, if I'm interested - but I'm not manipulated into it any more.

On the lateness issue - I have a friend who's always an hour late to anything.  And he used to whine to me about how people didn't understand, how they always took it as a mark of disrespect, blah-blah.  Well, we are still (more distant) friends, and when we plan to meet, anywhere, I always bring a book along and plan to wait for an hour (sometimes it's even less) but now turn a deaf ear to his complaints of busyness and inability to control his lateness.  Like other people aren't busy, too?

It is disrespectful and insulting.  Our friendship has become more distant, in part because I have come to recognize his manipulations and excuses for what they are.  I don't have time and emotional energy for that BS any more.  One very good thing that has come about, as I rediscover myself after being with an OCPDr, is I am recognizing unhealthy dynamics in many of my other relationships, and am working to change them as well.

I, too, have tried to be a "too perfect" friend and confidant, and I realize I need to be my own best friend.  If people think I'm not as "nice" anymore... oh well!

Your thoughts?