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 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.  :-)