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.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Standing The Critic in a Corner
Reserving Safe Space for The Creator

Stand-Up Comedy
Follow the link to get your own copy
Is there anything better to do on a long road trip than tune in to some comedy?

I had this audiobook I've been trying to find the time to listen to.  I had 700 miles of Interstate 5 to burn, so I had the time.

So what does stand-up comedy possibly have to do with perfectionism gone wild?

In Chapter 6, one of the areas is how a joke can be expanded and vastly improved by using other points of view.  For somebody who is battling OCPD, these exercises in how to really imagine oneself into the skin of another person could be a great tool for developing empathy.

But it's Chapter 7 that I found most fascinating, for those with OCPD and those who love them.  It's about the rehearsal process.

Yes, boys and girls, comedians don't just leap onto the stage and start telling a bunch of jokes they've memorized.  They rehearse.  Jokes are performed, not simply regurgitated - and the way they are performed determined whether people laugh, or sit there, unamused.

Okay - so what does this have to do with Perfectionism?

Greg goes into wonderful detail breaking apart The Creator and The Critic. 
For example, while practicing his material, a comic may allow The Critic to interject a constant stream of negative comments through internal self-talk.  It usually goes like this:

Creator: This guys goes into a confessional.  He says to the minister...
Critic: That was terrible, it's not a minister, it's a priest.  What's wrong with you?  You're so stupid.  It's a priest.  Now, try it again.
Creator: This guy grows...
Critic: What the hell are you doing?  Take it from the top.
Creator: This guy goes into a confessional.
Critic: You didn't pay your bills today.  You're going to get late charges added on to them.  Why did you stop?  You idiot.  Do it again.
Sound familiar yet?

Greg has many wonderful suggestions on how to encourage The Creator, which is the lively, fun spirit that the audience wants to hear, and still save a place for The Critic, who will sharpen the performance and make it better.

Yes, The Critic is not simply a mean a$$hole, but somebody who is vital to the process for any creative person.

Part of the process is to rehearse with our body in two physically separate locations.  When it's The Creator's turn to let fly and rehearse, it happens in THIS room or spot - and The Critic isn't even permitted within eyesight of The Creator.

Then when it's time to fine-tune, we walk to a different room, or at least a different location in the room,  and then The Critic can offer suggestions, point out weaknesses, etc.  It sounds a little nutty, but by creating two different physical locations for two different mental activities, over time the brain truly does recognize what to do in spot A, and what to do in spot B.

The Critic is only allowed to talk/interrupt when s/he is in The Critic Space.  And that's where I think these concepts could be very helpful to those dealing with OCPD, who have a constant stream of negative comments running either inside their heads, or coming out of their mouths.

Again, The Critic is only allowed to say his piece when our body is physically is in his corner.  (Or whoever else we want to put him.)

The thing is, The Critic is a necessary part of the psyche.  The Critic is not the enemy (though sometimes she feels like it).  In The Creative Fire audio series, Clarissa Pinkola Estes also talks about visualizing The Critic, allowing him a space to be.  To even interview him and ask him what he is thinking.

We can't bury important parts of ourselves, like The Critic.  Some people will set as a goal, "I'm not going to be critical, ever again."  Really?

How's that working out for ya?  

It doesn't work, and often leads to The Critic breaking free and running amok.  What works is finding a role for him, and allowing him his rightful place, listening to him, but not letting him take over everything.

When with my OCPD ex, I tried to enforce a rule (to which he'd agreed) of no arguing allowed in the bedroom.  All arguments and nit-picking, like the cats, were to be left outside the threshold.  Mostly, I was successful, but occasionally he would break the rule.

Not having a safe refuge from The Critic in my old household was a big factor in me getting a new one.  Now I just have to learn to give my own, inner Critic the space to say what she needs me to hear, without letting her rule the roost.

What do you think about The Creator and The Critic?
Have you tried reserving a space for The Critic - and a safe place where she is banned?