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, November 1, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Demand Sensitivity:
Phantom Obligations

Casper the Friendly Ghost via Wikimedia
This post continues with Demand-Sensitivity and Phantom Obligations from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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> One aspect of demand-sensitivity is the tendency to "hear" demands or expectations in an exaggerated way.  When the boss says he'd like to have something on his desk by Wednesday, the obsessive person often feels the expectation more acutely than others.  In fact, he often hears more of an imperative than the boss intended.
The obsessive person also exaggerates more subtle or inferred demand.  Suppose, for instance, I've drafted a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and have given it to you, saying, "If you have a chance, let me know what you think of it."  If you're a demand-sensitive obsessive, you'll feel a pressure not only to look over the piece, but to offer helpful suggestions and return the material to me as soon as possible.  While you may not actually do those things, you'll probably perceive my request as much more of a demand than it was, and even resent me for placing such a burden on you!
Many different factors could explain their behavior.  But in these particular cases, the two powerful factors were a special sensitivity to perceived demands of expectations, and a negative inner response to these demands.


Everyday living presents thousands of situations in which we are expected to conform to certain unstated expectations or conventions.  For instance:
  • In most cultures, men are expected to make the first move in dating.
  • We are supposed to show deference to our elders, or to our superiors at work.
  • Marriage carries with it a tacit imperative to have sex with or show affections to one's spouse.
  • We are supposed to be polite.

Whether or not the obsessive person complies with them, he is exquisitely attuned to these and other unstated obligations.  In fact, he hears them as if they were shouted through a bullhorn.  Placed in a new situation, his first concern is getting the lay of the land, discovering what the rules are.  <snip>

Nothing wrong with the boss setting a light timeframe on when s/he'd like a report turned in, but yes, I've seen perfectionists driven bonkers by such a "demand."

I think the sex demand-sensitivity is pretty huge, for a lot of people (including me.)  If you are married, or live with a partner, you are supposed to want to have sex with your partner.  Like, all the time, right?  Or, if you've gotten into a routine, you may dread Saturday night (or whenever The Night is).

Reality is, sometimes you don't want to make love.  You truly have a headache, or maybe you're irritated by one thing or another, or you watched a sad/scary movie just a few minutes again and you're not in the mood.  I think those with OCPD may be more sensitive to the implied demand, and thus, more rebellious about this than the average bear, but I could be mistaken.

Do you have a story about of demand-sensitivity?
Or is me asking for a comment like shouting through a bullhorn?