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 31, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Perfectionism vs. the Will to Excel
The Subjective Experience of Achievement

Plane Crash via Wikimedia Commons
This post continues with Perfectionism Versus the Will to Excel, and The Subjective Experience of Achievement, from Chapter Three.

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.

Perfectionism Versus the Will to Excel
It's important to distinguish between perfectionism and a healthy will to excel, which is a reasoned desire to perform competently.  The latter is flexible and reasonable, while perfectionism is self-defeating, rigid, and drive.  While the healthy achiever usually takes intrinsic pleasure in doing a job well, making good decisions, and having his excellence recognized, he keeps a rational perspective.  He realizes that some tasks don't allow much room for error; if he happens to be a surgeon or a pilot, he takes the time to plan and prepare for his professional tasks and then carries them out in an exactly, thorough manner, with total attention to detail.  On the other hand, when he's preparing dinner for company or choosing a shirt, he can be far less exacting.  Unlike the perfectionist, he realizes that in these matters an error won't have major consequences and they don't warrant a lot of worry.  He usually can enjoy himself with even less than a perfect outcome.

from Monster Guide on
How to Measure for a Dress Shirt
Which is the perfect shirt & tie combo?
Even when the perfectionist and his healthier counterpart carry out a given activity flawlessly, they often differ in their subjective experience of that accomplishment.  A healthy will to excel tends to bring one pleasure, while perfectionism quite often is a source of pain. <snip>

The non-perfectionist doesn't need to be right all the time.  His security doesn't depend upon having a spotless record of being viewed as the ideal person.  But when he does achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle, he feels gratification, fulfillment, even joy.

The perfectionist, on the other hand, is apt to experience any given task or interaction as a test that will reflect his adequacy.  So it's always important for him to do things correctly, know the answer, make the "right" decision.  His goal and motives in any endeavor are so complicated that he can hardly avoid being preoccupied and tense.  When he does achieve excellence, he can rarely enjoy it.


This is what I referred to in an earlier post about the idea that those with OCPD lack a filter.  Obviously, we want our pilot, train engineer, and brain surgeon to pay meticulous detail to every checklist and warning light.  But not everything is not brain surgery.

It really doesn't matter if somebody wears a blue shirt with a solid black tie, or a patterned one.  A normal person doesn't obsess all day long about which shirt and tie to wear.  Even for a second date with somebody we really like.

Somebody with OCPD will spend the entire day planning their wardrobe choices.  Every decision is equally life-changing, every detail merits the same level of attention.  They spend vast amounts of time "churning" over some small decision that a normal person wouldn't spend more than ten seconds on.

In a restaurant, ordering a meal?  What if you pick the WRONG THING?  They can't seem to get to the place of, "Okay, if I get something I don't like, now I will have discovered I really don't like X, so next time I will order Y. If I'm still hungry, I can just eat more bread or get a really good dessert."  They may dither over the menu endlessly, and in the end, pick the same thing they always get, because that's the safe choice.

And oh, the not enjoying excellence!  Great tomato crop?  What are we going to do with all these tomatoes?!  Something wonderful gets turned into a tragedy.

It seems there is never a time to kick back and simply enjoy things having gone well.  Every occasion where things have gone well is simply Fate getting ready to kick us in the teeth (which is a flea I'm working to overcome, myself.)

Your thoughts?