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, August 30, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 4 - Escape Hatches &
Avoiding Commitment, Tentativeness

Sir Waffle-Lot via Steve Snodgrass at Flickr
This post continues with Escape Hatches and Avoiding Commitment from Chapter Four.

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.

Escape Hatches
<snip> Sometimes people will strive to make it look - to themselves as well as others - as if they're not really deciding but instead are merely yielding to the weight of evidence.  When Alex is in a restaurant agonizing over whether to order the scampi or the linguini, he years for the waiter to say customers have been very pleased with one and disappointed with the other.  It doesn't have to be true.  As long as the balance has been tipped by an outside event, it is no longer Alex's own decision, and the Credo is spared a challenge.
Yet another way of making a decision look like a non-decision is to cling to doubts, reservations, and qualifications even as you decide.  You say, for instance, "I'll take this jacket only because it doesn't need alterations and I need to wear it tonight.  It might not be the best choice, but what can you expect under the circumstances?"  If the choice doesn't work out, it was only a half-decision in the first place.  Since you didn't give it your best effort, you remain potentially infallible.

Avoiding Commitment
<snip> Commitment is the final phase of decision-making.  It's the act of pledging oneself to someone of something and giving up other options.  Once a decision is experienced as irreversible or unchangeable, it becomes a commitment.
(Too Perfect goes on to talk about buying shoes, choosing brown over black, say, but not being committed to brown until at the cash register, and even then, not being completely committed until the shoes are actually worn. )
Just as some obsessives fall back on various escape hatches to diminish the threat of decision-making, some will try to forestall commitment through tentativeness.  Even as they lean toward action, they try to keep one foot on the path they decided not to take.  Forced to remove one foot, they may feel optionless and become nervous.

I've known people who have bought major furnishings, taken them home, and then stubbornly resisted removing the plastic covering for months as they vacillated over the possibility of taking the item back and exchanging it for something else.  They fend off their commitment fears by postponing closure.

Another good example of tentativeness can be found in the way many obsessives express themselves.  In offering personal opinions, they try to keep their options open by qualifying practically everything they say.  Their speech is loaded with such qualifiers as "I guess," "I think," and "I'm not sure, but it seems to me that maybe..."
<snip> He leaves himself room to shift, and so avoids ever being just plain wrong, which would clash with his need to be perfect.  Qualifiers enable him to keep the exit doors open.
<snip> Your vagueness makes it hard to know you and feel connected to you.  And if you consistently pull back from clearly airing your opinions, you suffer in other ways, too.  You never get to taste the pleasure of unmuddied self-expression, and you lose the opportunity to see your opinions tested and challenged.  In fact, you may not even know what they are!


While sometimes it's appropriate to use qualifiers ("I think that God may be very different than Preacher LL seems to portray Him,") so as not to give offense, people who refuse to give an opinion can be infuriating.

YOU: It's really hot, and we haven't gone out in a while.  Let's go out for dinner.
THEM: Okay.
YOU: I'm in the mood for either pizza or seafood.  How about you?
THEM: I don't care.
YOU: Okay, let's go to VV, that's closest.
THEM: I'm not really in the mood for VV.
YOU: Okay, how about XX?
THEM:  I'm not really in the mood for that, either.
YOU: What are you in the mood for?
THEM: Whatever, I don't care.
YOU: Obviously, you do care.  How about A, B, C, D?
THEM: Meh.
YOU: Seems like you don't want to go out, period.  Is there anyplace you want to go, or would you rather eat at home?
THEM: Whatever you want to do.
YOU: [gritting teeth] Right now, what I want to do is strangle you.
THEM: You're so mean!

Then after you either pick a restaurant or go home, you endure verbal sniping from THEM, because this isn't what they wanted to eat, it was much too expensive, there's something wrong with the food, cooking made the whole house too miserably hot...

It's a total passive-aggressive control move.   By abdicating any responsiblity over the choice, but by being willing to go along with "whatever," the Perfectionist can then bitch for hours/days about how imperfect YOUR choice was.  Now there are two people upset with each other.  LOSE-LOSE

Whereas, if the Perfectionist had been willing to commit to a choice, there was the chance of a pleasant evening.  If one person wanted pizza, and the other wanted burgers, a choice could have been made that got both what they wanted.  Or, a coin could have been flipped, to determine the restaurant.  Even if the meal turned out terrible, still, with the right attitude, it could become fodder for future stories and jokes.  A WIN-WIN.  An experience that drew two people together, instead of driving them apart.

If you have a partner with commitment problems, it's important to not feed into this loop.  Once a reasonable offer has been made to accommodate your partner's preferences, it's okay to say, "Okay, I am going out to PP place for dinner tonight at QQ time.  I'd love it if you'd join me.  I am leaving at RR time, with or without you."

If you are the commitment-phobic person, what is the worst thing likely to happen, if you say, "I want to go to MM restaurant"?  You say that and, after negotiation or a coin toss, you end up going elsewhere?  Not a tragedy.  You go there and end up having a bad meal?  Haven't we survived bad meals and gone on to lead normal lives despite the agony of it all?

Outside of some unusual scenarios: a plane falls on the restaurant, aliens abduct you in the parking lot, one or both of you end up with food poisoning - picking a "bad" restaurant or getting a bad meal isn't going to kill anybody.  (Obviously, if you do have food allergies or the restaurant displays a skull & crossbones and it's not pirate-themed decor, or even the rats are seen running away from it, we need to be careful.)

Mallinger is absolutely right that holding back from commitment in order to preserve the illusion of perfection doesn't work, if the goal is to impress others, or make them feel closer to you.  It doesn't even make you feel good about yourself, does it?

Do you waffle and refuse to commit?  What purpose does it serve?
Do you have to deal with waffles that are not
delicious when covered with syrup?
Share your story in the comments, below.  :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 4 - Avoiding Decisions &
Living in One's Head

This post continues with Avoiding Decisions and Living in One's Head from Chapter Four.

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.

Avoiding Decisions
<snip> Waffling is typical of the behavior of many obsessives faced with a decision.  They see all the pros and cons of any choice, all the while hoping that enough facts will file up on one side to tip the balance and spare them the responsibility for deciding.  They weigh and think, think and weigh.
Just as they start to lean one way, they notice an unreckoned drawback.  Then an overlooked option appears and pulls them toward that direction.  But they soon discover a new shortcoming of that plan and start back towards the original scheme.

After agonizing for a while, they may resort to an "objective" method, such as making exhaustive lists of the pros and cons.  If it's a draw, they may weight each item according to importance, and even apply a complex tie-breaking formula - anything to avoid having to take personal responsibility for the outcome.  Alas, the balance never seems to tip, and their torment continues.

Postponing decision-making until they get enough facts to guarantee the "right" decision is another way obsessives avoid action and its attendant risk of error.  <snip>  When she realized she needed to buy a new car, she spent months gathering brochures, test-driving possible alternatives, reading Consumer Reports, getting advice from friends, and contrasting features and prices.  She contended that all of this activity was simply reasonable preparation for an intelligent decision, and of course there is truth to this position.  But Annette remained unaware of the greater truth: that her main goal was to avoid error, even at the cost of making no decision at all.

Cars Available from Orlando Cars Online

She finally narrowed her options to a few final items - the financing terms, the color, the model - but she somehow couldn't choose.  Each answer evoked a new set of doubts.  One dealer was closer to her home but didn't have the car in blue.  One had it in blue but was charging more.  To an outsider, it was clear that any of the alternatives could be lived with, but Annette stubbornly resisted this conclusion.

<snip> Action always carries with it the danger of error.  No sooner is she ready to make a move than she starts doubting and stalling for more time.  Doggedly she resists seeing that her indecisiveness is actually an unconscious decision not to choose.  Her hidden agenda is to avoid the risk of being wrong and contradicting the Credo.

<snip> People who typically make decisions in a healthier, less painful manner... may well seek some facts to supplement this subjective starting ground, but their goal throughout the process is to act, as quickly and as reasonably as possible, and they accept implicitly that there is no way to do so in a fail-safe manner.  Furthermore, they trust that they usually won't make awful blunders.  They know that they occasionally risk mistakes, regrets, and dangers, but they also accept that risk is part of life. So they decide and move on.

<snip> For obsessives like Annette, in contrast, action is the enemy.  <snip> Consciously this sort of person honestly thinks she wants to take action.  In fact, she will often complain, "I just hate this indecisiveness."  But another part of her wants to live mainly in her fantasy.
 The section concludes with how, when Annette's car broke down and she was forced to buy a new car, no dealers had her first choice, so she ended with a model much farther down on her list.


If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

This is one of the manifestations of OCPD that drive partners barking mad, as my Brit friends might say.  Because life doesn't stand still.  Cars and refrigerators and couches do need to be replaced, periodically, and the search for said item with an OCPD partner can turn into The Quest for the Holy Fuckin' Grail.  And it doesn't have to be that way.

About a year after OCPD ex and I were living together, we decided to take a small table and chairs out of storage and place it in a nook in the living room for our meals, instead of eating at the coffee table.  (No room in the actual kitchen for said table & chairs, because of the masses of stereo equipment he hoarded stacked against the wall.)  Then he began freaking out, because food bits and beverages  occasionally splattered on the surface of the table, as happens to any surface people use to eat from.

I didn't know about OCPD then.  Three weekends, eight stores later, we finally found placemats he didn't absolutely hate.  Though I thought several choices we found in the very first store would have worked just fine, until we found others we liked better.  "Good enough for now" doesn't seem to be an acceptable phrase for those with severe untreated OCPD.

from Salvatore Vuono at Free Digital Photos
The Search for a New Couch made the placemat saga seem like a walk in the park.  Three years, uncountable stores visited, many more than once, and in meantime, the current couch grew more miserably uncomfortable every day.  You could actually get bruised if you sat in the wrong spot - and we did.

I am grateful for the blessing that we were not married, because I was able to make my own new car decision fairly painlessly.  In 2006 I decided I wanted a hybrid.  Read the reports on and drove several models.  Decided I liked the Civic best, and white, because they are most reflective and so require the least use of air conditioning.  In fall 2007, as the dealerships were getting the 2008 models in, I drove one of those, then a 2007 model again.  With no discernible difference in handling, I went with the sweet deal they were able to offer me on the older model they were trying to get rid of.  Not a hasty decision, but not an agonizing one, either.

I could second guess it a thousand times - possibly the new models get even better gas mileage.  Maybe if I'd waited I could have gotten a Ford hybrid.  Or, or, or.  But I don't need to play that game - I needed a new car, I got one, we've been very happy together so far.  Some day, this car will no longer meet my needs for whatever reason, and I will get another car.  Making a mistake, even one that's potentially thousands of dollars "wasted," is not a tragedy.

Just making a decision and letting it go, like a soap bubble, allows me to turn my mind to more important things, to things I enjoy more, to life.

Did you make endless pro & con lists to avoid making an actual decision?
How did you get past that - or are you still stuck?
Prove that you can at least make a decision on which Reactions button to click, below.  :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Does Batman have OCPD?

via Wikimedia

In chat the other night, one of my online friends proposed that Batman might have OCPD.  (We'll leave the debate as to whether or not he's also gay for another time.)

Mind you, there are many, many variations of Batman: The original comic books character by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, dates back to 1939.  Many animated series have featured or been focused on Batman.  The modern movies starring everyone from Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney.  The latest Batman movies feature Christian Bale.

Some of the interpretations have been extremely dark; the 1960's television series, my personal fav, was called camp by some, a deliberate mix of farce and lampoon by others.

There's even a Batman Wiki.

But while all explanations for the motivation of the transformation of Bruce Wayne, millionaire philanthropist, to Batman focus on the trauma of him having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child (PTSD), could there be more to it?

That obsessively strong urge to personally mete out Justice... One OCPD'r reported patrolling his  neighborhood for hours every evening, looking in all the parked car windows to make sure no one inside was doing something 'bad'.  (Making out?  Smoking a doobie?  Eating a Twinkie?)  And if he'd found someone, he was going to...? He never disclosed that part.

One woman, divorced now from her OCPD husband, reported that once he was walking the dog (a smaller breed), and a teenager leaned out the car window and shouted, "Nice dog, asshole!"  The man raced up to the car, yanked open the door, hauling the mouthy kid out, and punched him in the face.

So, the idea of an OCPD vigilante is not so farfetched.

  • Batman is incredibly intelligent, like many with OCPD.
  • He loves his science and technology.  Just look at how many gizmo's he's got going in the bat-cave.
  • He's always prepared for any potential disaster, and always has the proper tools stocked in his utility belt, from bat-hooks to bat-shark repellent.
  • He's obsessive about justice/rules, yet willing to break laws himself in pursuit of his objective.
  • In his non-Batman persona, he seems shy, almost meek.

  • The costume.  With so many OCPD'rs sensitive to odors and textures, wouldn't it drive him crazy? Especially the cowl.
  • His relationship with Robin - he's a kind, encouraging mentor, not someone who constantly picks at the Boy Wonder's flaws.
  • As Bruce Wayne, he's a generous philanthropist, while those with OCPD tend to be on the stingy frugal side.
  • Flexibility - he adapts very quickly to changing circumstances.

  • Supreme physical fitness & martial arts abilities.
  • Playboy - attraction to but inability to commit to the many gorgeous women who surround him.
  • The Batmobile - he sticks with one vehicle, but it's constantly modified.
  • Teetotaller (many OCPDr's abstain from alcohol; others drink to excess.)

Of course, I'm not a shrink and can't diagnose anyone, and even if I was, it would be totally unethical to do so long-distance, as it were.  However, this is for fun - what do you think?  Does Batman show signs of being OCPD?  Or is he just another weirdo?  Leave a comment with your opinion, please.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 4 - Decision and Commitment &
The Risk of Error

from KRO-Media at Flickr
This post continues with Decision and Commitment from Chapter Four.

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.

Decision and Commitment
You may think you're simply indicating a willingness to go out again, but as far as he's concerned you're endorsing a lifetime commitment that he is quite frankly not ready to make after only one date... From that day forward, if he spots you on the street, he'll spring in the opposite direction to avoid the grave risk that the two of you might meet, which would mean he'd have to ask you if you wanted to get a cup of coffee, and you might say yes, and pretty soon you'd be enjoying each other's company again, and suddenly a clergyman would appear at your table and YOU'D HAVE TO GET MARRIED.  AIEEEEEEE.   -DAVE BARRY
Next time you're in a restaurant, glance at some of the people studying their menus at other tables.  Most of them are probably enjoying the pleasure of surveying all the choices and knowing they can order what most appeals to them.  Others give no more attention to it than they would to tying their shoes; it's a mundane act that they perform without much thought.  For some obsessives, however, this simple task can be surprisingly difficult.
Alex, a thirty-seven-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep, one day described for me the turmoils he undergoes routinely in this situation.  "I look at the menu and immediately tense up," he said.  "I don't know whether I want an omelette, or eggs and bacon, or something different.  <snip>  I think if I choose this, then I'll miss an opportunity to try something new, something I could add to my repetoire of breakfasts.  But then on the other hand, it might not be good.  And then I will have wasted a choice.  I'll feel angry.  I'll feel like I got ripped off by my own choice.  I will have made a mistake."

from little.toolshed on Flickr 
Seriously, it's just breakfast
 <snip>"I even obsess over picking out a shampoo!" he exclaimed again, laughing.  "They don't make my usual brand anymore.  I spent ten minutes at the drugstore trying to decide what to buy.  When I walked out of there, I was saying, 'Alex, here you go again!  Why don't you just pick one of each and throw away the ones you don't like?  You can afford it.'  But I don't want to throw one away.  I'm obsessed with making the right decision beforehand and not having to deal with making a mistake."

The Risk of Error

Alex, as you can plainly see, harbors the Perfectionist's Credo: I can and must avoid making any mistakes.  Decisions and commitments often are the perfectionist's nemesis because each decision or commitment carries the risk of being wrong.

Some individuals have trouble only with certain types of decisions.  Alex, for example, reports that he rarely has trouble making decisions related to his work.

<snip> Gina reported having the most trouble deciding how her family should spend its vacations.

"I feel I have to plan this time in the best possible way.  Each time we sketch out a possibility, all the but-ifs and what-ifs come up.  <snip>  This has happened before; I can't make a decision in time and I wind up doing nothing, which is worse than any of the potential problems that held me back."

I adore Dave Barry.  Sadly, I've heard from some with OCPD that they may avoid dating for this reason - they feel too much pressure, at the end of a first good date, to commit to a second, because think of where that could lead!!  No, a second good date, or even a 17th, does not mean you are obligated to marry the other person.

I can relate somewhat to the concept of looking at a menu and tensing up.  If I am with a friend who doesn't already know I'm a supertaster, my food pickiness can be a source of embarrassment, as s/he may make suggestions on things I might like to try that include an ingredient I loathe.  I might not always want to go into the full explanation with a casual or business acquaintance.

But I do know that even if I order a meal and it's the worst one I have ever had in my entire life (and really, there can be Only One) - so what? I've had many wonderful meals in the past, and unless I am on my way to the electric chair or a plane falls on me, I will get to enjoy many more meals in the future.  Not a tragedy if I pick something and don't enjoy it; I will simply know better than to order that dish in this restaurant in the future.

This is a prime example of "missing the forest for the trees" which is an integral part of OCPD-think - assigning a life-or-death importance to a choice that truly ain't that big a deal.  (Unless it truly is a life-or-death situation involving food allergies.)

Enduring a bad meal, or picking a less-than-perfect type of shampoo, or even a vacation that turns out to be terrible... Learning experiences.  Fodder for future funny stories.

The more that decisions like this are assigned too much weight, postponed until it's too late, etc., the harder they are to make in the future.  While the more you make decisions - even if they aren't "perfect," the easier it gets to make decisions.

Bad decisions can almost always be changed.  Let's say you decide to have the monthly company newsletter printed on goldenrod, or turquoise paper. (I know, nobody prints out hardcopy newsletters anymore, just work with me here.)  After the first month's run, you get complaints that the richness of the color makes 'em hard to read.  So, you switch to a lighter color.

You can agonize over a decision like that for weeks, and if you'd decided to go with a lighter color, perhaps second-guess yourself (for many more weeks) that you should have tried a darker color.

It's an important part of growth and clarity as a human being to learn to prioritize the people and the decisions in our lives.  Decisions such as bacon & eggs vs. a sausage omelette, or even deciding when/where to vacation, should not command the same brain-time and emotional angst as accepting a job offer or deciding to have a child.

Image from SheKnows Health & Wellness
Imagine, making decisions can make you healthy AND beautiful!

Making lots of little decisions successfully does open up the path to making bigger decisions successfully, just as lifting lighter weights, over time and with enough reps, positions us to lift heavier ones.

Have you gotten stuck agonizing over unimportant decisions?
How did you get past that - or are you still stuck?
Prove that you can at least make a decision on which Reactions button to click, below.  :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's Just A Flesh Wound (Or Is It?)

One of the things that happened to me, after I found out about OCPD, is I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion for my poor, unaware OCPD boyfriend.

He couldn't help himself.  He had a disorder.

Therefore, I "shouldn't" feel hurt when he said something or did something cruel or controlling.  Just get on with business, like this guy.

Except that telling ourselves it doesn't hurt, pretending "it's just a flesh wound" doesn't actually help make it feel better.  When somebody cuts off one of our arms, it's gonna bleed.

We need to recognize that living with somebody who calls us names, takes over our space via hoarding or going through our pockets, tries to micromanage everything right down to where and how we eliminate our bowels (see Crazy Rules for how some with OCPD have attempted to control this down to bathrooms used and toilet paper consumption)... it's not going to leave us unscathed.

When we tell ourselves, "I know s/he has a disorder, I shouldn't feel bad," it's like we're kicking ourselves when we're down.  First we feel badly because a train in the form of our disordered loved one has just run us over.  Likely, unintentionally, and if they are aware and actively battling their OCPD, they may even feel sorry about it, but we have just been run over by a train. It is crazythink on our part to say, "it's just a flesh wound" and to pile guilt on ourselves because it hurts.

It's okay to feel the pain.  It's okay to let the disordered person in your life know that s/he has hurt you, just like you'd yell, "Ow!" in the theater if some clumsy person tramped on your toes.  It's okay to take a break - go for a walk, see a movie, spend the night in a hotel, or even take a longer separation, if the pain is too intense to cope for a little while.  

It is more than okay, it is vital to take good physical and emotional care of ourselves (whether we're in an OCPD relationship or not.)  See a good therapist who can help nudge us back on track when we are becoming unbalanced and crawling with fleas.

Even now, over a year since I moved out, many months since I ended the romantic relationship that continued afterwards, I am still only beginning to understand how deeply damaging it was to my spirit to live with Debbie Downer.  (It's funny as a SNL skit, horrible to live with.)  I have my life and my joy back, and yes, I have pain, too, as I allow myself to feel all the things I stuffed down inside.

I'm not suggesting - if you live with such a person - that you leave.  Only you can decide if you should leave, or stay, and if you do decide to leave, when the right time would be.

But you need to take care of you.  Be as kind and loving and patient to yourself as you would be to a friend going through what you are.  Don't beat up on yourself for not feeling "the right way."

Let yourself be in the moment.  Feel what you need to feel, without trying to talk yourself out of it, smother it, swallow it down with food (unless it's Haagen Daz, that doesn't count), or otherwise rush the uncomfortable or painful emotion out of the room.  Let it pull up a chair and stay for a while, let yourself learn the lesson it is there to share with you.

Do you have an experience of letting yourself be with emotional pain?
Please share any tips, below.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Critiquing the Critic & Better Than Perfect

This post continues with CRITIQUING THE CRITIC and Better Than Perfect 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.

<snip>  As with any habit, the key to change lies in increasing your awareness.  A habit survives by being sneaky - an automatic part of you that you don't even notice.  Don't let it continue being automatic.  <snip> Change it!
First, catch yourself as often as possible thinking judgmental thoughts about your spouse, child, or employee.  Notice how unpleasant the feeling is - the disappointment, resentment, or disgust you are experiencing.  Even the momentary self-righteous boost to your own self-esteem is hollow and painful.  Acknowledge that your assessment might be accurate: that your child, for instance, really does bite his nails, or have a slight lisp.  Then notice that having made the observation is doing you no good whatsoever; that this habit hurts and it has few redeeming qualities compared with the devastation it causes.
<snip>  [Various techniques to snap out of it detailed here]
One thing that perpetuates the bad habit is the fact that you have erroneously come to equate intelligence with your ability to find fault, so the fault-finding is hard to give up.  <snip>  ironically, one of your biggest faults - your pickiness - is painfully obvious to everyone, and it pushes people away.
Keep asking yourself what good your hypocritical nature is doing you versus what it costs.  Your child or spouse may be imperfect, but that doesn't mean you have to do anything about it, nor will your being upset change anything.  You are making yourself unhappy unnecessarily.  If you have a legitimate and constructive gripe, fine.  Express it.  But don't cripple your relationships out of a need to be preoccupied with what's wrong; with effort, it becomes just as easy to focus on what's right.  <snip>
Better Than Perfect
<snip>  You don't have to know everything or perform according to some mythical specification in order to be worthwhile, loved, or happy.
Who ever taught you otherwise?  What genius convinced you that you should never make mistakes?  Or that making mistakes proves something is wrong with you?  <snip> And who is doing that to you now?

In some cases, if someone has have asked for your help, it may be okay to help them.  "Sally, please look at this grocery list and see if I've forgotten anything," or "Can you read this short story and see if if makes sense to you?"

When you are always ripping people a new one, or jumping in to "help" when they have not asked for your assistance, it doesn't result in making them emotionally closer to you.  How do you feel about the people who find fault with you?

If you want people to feel close to you, to respect and perhaps, even love you, being critical is not the way to go.  It's like gargling with garlic to freshen your breath.

Unless you are The Critic, who is sort of adorable, but even he'd be hard to take 24/7.

As Too Perfect points out, who is telling you that if you're not perfect you won't be loved? Is it someone outside yourself (who, perhaps has distorted thinking)?  Or is it your very own critic you've fed, raised, and cared for inside your head?
Time to tell the inner critic to STFU, or give him/her an eviction notice.

Have you ever gotten in the bad habit of criticizing others 
to distract from your own faults?

Thoughts on this post?  (Feel free to click a Reactions button.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stuck in the Amber with You, Babe

Insects in Amber via Wikimedia

Have you ever had a moment that you wished could last forever?

When you really unpack that idea, of course, that's ridiculous.

A moment that always stayed the same - never better, never worse - would be life as a big blank sheet of paper.

The whole reason anything feels wonderful is because we have other moments to compare it to which are less wonderful.  Some of them feel downright awful - because we compare those to the good or great moments.

The insects here were trapped in resin that hardened into amber over many many years.  I don't know what a bug thinks or feels when it's immobilized, before it actually dies.  But I'll go out on a limb here (checking carefully for resin ahead of time) and guess that being unable to fly, crawl, slither or what-have-you, is probably not a comfortable, fun, or happy experience.  Even if the end result is becoming virtually indestructible.

 I found some of the most interesting musings on stasis, growth, and change, in this article by Dara Marks for the Writers Store: The Fatal Flaw - The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life, and which seemed especially apt to those with OCPD - and those who try to live with them.

First, it's important to highlight the fundamental - organic - premise on which the fatal flaw is based:
* Because change is essential for growth, it is a mandatory requirement for life.
* If something isn't growing and developing, it can only be headed toward decay and death.
There is no condition of stasis in nature. Nothing reaches a permanent position where neither growth nor diminishment is in play.

Is there ONE "Right Way" for a rose to be?
Bud, barely open, full bloom, turning to rose hip...
All have beauty and value.
We human beings, are also always growing and changing.

Much about that process I'm not 100% enamored with.  I don't like it when I get sick.  I don't like it when I leap get out of bed in the morning experiencing various aches and pains.  Though I'm not going to have poison injected into my face to erase my wrinkles, the truth is, if I could simply choose to have fewer of them, I probably would.  I'm not thrilled with the effect that aging and gravity have had on various body parts, not to mention a changing metabolism.

Sometimes I've gotten injured, and I will undoubtedly be injured again in the future.  Sprains, bruises, even broken bones.  Sometimes I'm forgetful about where I put something, or perhaps only thought I paid a bill.  I have a harder time remembering names now, than I did a few years ago.  This, too, is part of how aging works.  Sucks, but that's how she rolls.

One of the saddest things to me about OCPD was the panic (often expressed as anger) felt when a loved one did become ill or injured.  One woman's husband was furious with her when she broke her arm.  Another went off the rails when a set of house keys was temporarily misplaced.  To OCPD, accidents/the unforeseen = immediate death.

Actually, they mean we are still alive.

The only way we, as human beings, could be safe from the process of getting hurt, injured, sick, and growing old, is if we too were trapped in amber.  Because the inevitable outcome is death for everyone, which is way too frightening to face, OCPD tries to fend it off by his/her obsession with cleanliness, safety precautions, and other worries.  They seem to be trying to wrap their loved ones - or themselves - in virtual bubble wrap.  To freeze a "perfect" moment in time forever.

And it doesn't work.  They can't do it, we can't do it... the only way a living creature can be held in stasis is if it's no longer a living creature.

Continued from The Fatal Flaw:
As essential as change is to renew life, most of us resist it and cling rigidly to old survival systems because they are familiar and "seem" safer. In reality, even if an old, obsolete survival system makes us feel alone, isolated, fearful, uninspired, unappreciated, and unloved, we will reason that it's easier to cope with what we know than with what we haven't yet experienced. As a result, most of us will fight to sustain destructive relationships, unchallenging jobs, unproductive work, harmful addictions, unhealthy environments, and immature behavior long after there is any sign of life or value in them.
Change is always scary, especially if we're not sure what it's going to look like on the other side, but NOT-change means death.
The FATAL FLAW is a struggle within a character to maintain a survival system long after it has outlived its usefulness.
In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey has committed himself to a survival system that operates under the assumption that if he takes care of everyone else, somehow, magically, his own needs will be met as well. There was a time in George's life when developing his ability to care about the needs of others helped George grow into a more loving and less self-serving human being. Powerful feelings of self-worth accompanied these actions. He felt good about himself because he was getting as much as he was giving. His life had a balance to it. But there came a point of diminishing returns when the value of what was coming in was no longer equal to the value of what was going out. As more and more demands were made on George to put the needs of family and community above his own, his identity as a caretaker became fixed. Other aspects of George's nature were suppressed or ignored and the only things that grew in their place were anger and resentment. The system of putting everyone else's needs before his own was breaking down and George felt unhappy and unfulfilled, but he continued to heave all his energy outward until the day when there was absolutely nothing left. That was the day he decided to jump off a bridge.
The flaw in George's limited perception of his own identity was about to prove fatal. Therefore, the real drama of the story centered on his ability to expand this self-perception by reclaiming his greater value before it was too late.
I found the passage above very interesting, both in terms of writing (fiction) and what sometimes happens to the co-dependent (like me).  I had never really considered that George had a character arc - I always thought it was the town that had to come to appreciate him, not the other way around.

Or was it?  He poured himself out for other people, inwardly resentful, expecting they would psychically know when he needed, instead of asking for it, or even requiring it.

Back to the main point - living things grow and change.  If we want to be full human beings, we must accept that stasis is neither healthy nor desirable.

People, plants, animals, relationships - it grows, it moves, it changes - or it's dead.  Freeze tag is a children's game, not a sustainable lifestyle.

Do you have a stasis story?  Have you tried to freeze or turn back time?
How's that workin' for ya?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 3 - Rising Above Perfectionism
Aim for Average, Overcoming Work or Study Blocks

photo by tanakawho at Flickr 
Call on the power of the duck to help you work
This post continues with AIM FOR AVERAGE & OVERCOMING WORK OR STUDY BLOCKS 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.


If certain tasks daunt you because you dread having to meet your own standards of perfection, it may help to imagine what a B-minus student, writer, attorney or radiologist would accomplish.  Force yourself to perform only that well, in the interests of accomplishing the task.  You'll be amazed not only by the amount of work you'll produce, but also by its quality; it won't suffer as much as you think.  You're not a B-minus worker, and that will show through, no mater what you do.  And with fewer trivial details to obscure them, your main points will carry more force and be clearer.

You may find it useful to give yourself as many little exercises as you can in being B-minus.  Take letter writing.  Instead of watching your unanswered correspondence pile up while you wait for the time and inspiration to produce missives to rival Lord Chesterfield's, give yourself fifteen minutes to produce a brief, very average letter.  You'll receive two immediate benefits; you'll have one less letter to write, and your correspondent will be glad to know you're alive and thinking of him or her, however briefly and ineloquently.  <snip>

In similar fashion, try being a faster, B-minus Christmas shopper, housekeeper, painter, cook, landscaper.  And before you insist that you don't want to be a B-minus anything, try it a few times.  <snip>


If perfectionism is inhibiting your progress on certain tasks that require concentration, besides working to change your attitude ("They must be done perfectly!"), you might also try changing the way in which you organize your work time.

Prepare to tackle the troublesome work in short, very structured periods, instead of long, open-ended sessions which create the illusion that you have unlimited time, and thus can dawdle and focus endlessly on details.

Plan a two-hour work session,  If you feel you'll need some breaks, schedule them; for example, allow yourself five minutes off between the twenty-fifth and thirtieth minutes of each half hour.  <snip>

As you fine-tune this method, you'll find that even though you're spending less time working, you'll be much more productive than you were when faced with dreaded, interminable sessions.  <snip>

I, too, hate to think of myself as B-minus anything.

Sign available via PopArt UK
Except perhaps a B-minus housekeeper.  That would prolly be a step up.

And yet, when I think about the hugundous time and energy investment required to be an A+ everything, that little voice inside me screams, HELL, no!  Doesn't yours?

I'm choosing to strive for A+ in the things that really, really matter to me, and allow myself to be a B-minus in those that don't.  I can certainly testify that while I enjoy receiving long chatty letters and e-mails, I'd rather get 1-2 short ones every year than one volume of War & Peace every ten.  Really, how do you answer one of those?

And speaking of two-hour sessions... Been blogging much too long, today, time for a break.

I do tend to work in marathon session, then get so burned out I dread the next one.  So, breaks for me today, the better to work into the night!

Do you too think you must be A+ rather than B-minus at everything?
Have you gotten over it?
How about working in increments, and taking regular breaks?