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, May 3, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap. 2 Control Strategies Can Conflict

Too many good food choices?
photo from Food Recipes 123
This post continues with Control Strategies Can Conflict and Failure of The Myth, 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 will not all be covered in these excerpts.
We've seen how the obsessive's need for control extends into three main areas: control of self, others, and impersonal events. Although I have discussed each separately, these aspects of control often commingle.  Sometimes they conflict.

Jennifer, for instance, recounted this sequence of events.  She was a perfectionist with strong opinions about everything from what dish detergent worked best to which clothing designers offered the best best.  So when she and a group of friends were deciding where to go for dinner, Jennifer knew immediately in her own mind which was the best choice.  She refrained, however, from explicitly trying to persuade the group to go there.  "I didn't want the whole decision to be on my shoulders," she said.  (In the next chapters we'll take a close look at how perfectionism provokes such fear of decision-making.) Instead she insisted that the choice made no difference to her.  The more the group discussed other possibilities, however, the more Jennifer inwardly chafed.  Almost in spite of herself, she began to try unobtrusively to influence the decision toward her preference, casually mentioning a few advantages of the spot, noting a drawback to one of the alternatives.  And yet almost the moment the group did select her preference, Jennifer found herself regretting she had ever said anything that might have tipped the scales in the decision.  All the way to the restaurant she worried: about whether the same chef was working there; whether everyone in the group would like this type of food; whether the service would be too slow,  Later, when one of her companions voiced a minor complaint about his meals, the comment deeply upset her.  She had assumed total responsibility over the whole experience, as if it were under her control to make everything work out well.

<snip> Her desire to control the group's behavior directly (by picking the restaurant outright) conflicted with her fear that her choice might turn out to be less than perfect, and thus lower her friends' opinion of her.  When she nonetheless subtly nudged them into selecting her choice, she began to worry (as if that might prevent the worst from happening) and to voice some of her concerns in a display of self-protective pessimism.


A whole host of experiences stand ready to contradict the Myth of Control, pointing out to obsessives that in fact they can't always completely control themselves, others, and life's impersonal events.  They will feel some irrepressible emotions and see their self-discipline lapse at times.  Despite their best efforts, someone at some time is bound to disapprove of them.  And despite all their precautions and all their attempts to mollify the Scorekeeper, obsessives, like anyone else, are almost certain to get sick, hurt themselves, or suffer financial reverses now and then.


Gee, boys and girls, can we say passive-aggressive? Ex-boyfriend would do this - refuse to state a preference, maintain that it didn't matter to him at all, and then, when I'd say, okay, we'll go with the green one (or whatever), throw a hissy-fit because he didn't want the green one.  This crazymaking game of "guess what I want" where they don't give you a clue, yet get very, very upset if you guess wrong, is exhausting.

And yet, in all fairness, I have to say I've done this myself sometimes.  (Probably more than sometimes, I'm sure I've done it more than I was aware of.)  I'm working on this so when there is a group choice, and it does matter to me, not being afraid to speak up and say, "I prefer this," or "I'd rather not that."  Pushy?  Outspoken?  I can live with that, rather than being passive-aggressively manipulative.

Back to the restaurant scenario - let's say I tell my friends, I want to eat at Restaurant X.  Let's say we go there and it is the absolute worst restaurant experience ever in the history of meals: the service is bad; the food is cold and inedible; and it's overpriced.

So what?  I would probably make a joke about it, that obviously I was on some really, really good (or bad) drugs when I'd been there before, we'd all laugh it off, and it would become an "in" joke: "Do you all remember when we went to The Worst Restaurant on Earth?"  If I went to a bad restaurant, or watched a movie I didn't care for, or tried to read a book that I couldn't get into on a friend's recommendation, I wouldn't think less of the friend.  I'd just think, wow, our tastes were not alike in this particular instance.

Have experienced this kind of mix of behaviors, either in yourself 
or that you've seen in someone else?
Share in the comments, please.