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 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.  :-)