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 22, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Demands & Work Blocks;
The Ruination of Work

from Ambro at Free Digital Photos
This post continues with Demands and Work Blocks; The Ruination of Work  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.

 Demands and Work Blocks
I saw this in Jane, a fifty-one-year-old grant writer who came to me when she began to have trouble making progress on an assignment.  Jane had a very productive work history, so this development surprised and upset her. <snip>
Although she normally chose her own projects, this one had been assigned by her supervisor.  At first Jane rejected the notion that this one factor could be the cause of her trouble.  She conceded that by all standards, the assignment had been a reasonable one, and while she didn't find the project particularly exciting, neither could she truthfully say it was repugnant.  And it clearly fell within her sphere of responsibility.<snip>
<snip> She was soon able to see how, with her boss and with me, her resentment and balking were not only unreasonable but self-damaging.  That is, they were obstacles to what she wanted to do and were undermining her success (although she was totally unaware of their influence.)
<snip> What begins as an effective means of self-protection becomes overdeveloped, indiscriminate, or automatic.
In the area of work, demand-resistance need not take the form of a full-blown block to be damaging.  Work may simply weight heavily on the obsessive, or she may have trouble concentrating.  She may feel a festering resentment that saps her creativity and enthusiasm.  Eventually she may have trouble motivating herself to do more than the minimum of what is required of her.  And her projects often wind up bearing the subtle mark of her resentment - coming in late, or with some small detail omitted, or in a form slightly different from what was requested.
You might be thinking that every employee sometimes resents being asked to do unpleasant tasks or having to carry out the wishes of superiors.  That's true.  The demand-resistant worker, however, is apt to sense demands that aren't even there, and to dread or drag his feet on tasks that aren't at all unpleasant.  He's also likely to find himself feeling burdened by jobs he initially wanted to do.  Even self-employed obsessives can experience inner demands as somehow coming from the outside.  With no boss or supervisor to blame, they focus their resentment on the work itself, their clients, or their dependents (who are "making" them work).
When demand-resistance sabotages their on-the-job performance, many obsessives start to feel demoralized because normally they take pride in their ability to work effectively.  For many, the "solution" to this dismaying turn of events is to rationalize the resentment of, and alienation from, their work in ways that enhance rather than hurt their self-image. <snip> The obsessive tells himself he's a victim of exploited conscientousness.  <snip>  "...No one appreciates my efforts and, worse, they're wasted, because the system is sloppy and inefficient."  His feelings of victimization explain his negative attitude towards his work, and meanwhile, the real culprit, his demand-resistance, goes undetected.


I think I have normal demand-resistance.  When a supervisor wants me to say, do Task A this morning, when in my mind I am already working out how I'm going to do Task B, it's something of a mental and emotional wrench for me to shift gears.  Sometimes it's easier for me than other times; and sometimes I will negotiate, "I'm working on Task B, and I have to have it by 1:00; can I do Task A  later on?"

My ex, on the other hand, expressed extreme demand-resistance.  Not to a supervisor - he hadn't worked in many years, but when he did talk about his prior employer, there were many stories sprinkled in about how they wanted him to do a project in X way, and he insisted on doing it Y way, or not giving up on something until it was tested to his satisfaction.

As someone who was basically self-employed, he would assign himself tasks - and drag them out.  Avoid others altogether.  And pretty much anything I suggested he do re: home projects was a non-starter, even if he had brought it up himself.  For example, he might say, "I should clean up and sell my ATV" (which hadn't been taken off-road in 20 years, and was taking up a fair amount of space in the garage).  I might agree mildly, and then at a later date, suggest we take a look at the Recycler or Craigslist to get an idea of the going price for said ATV.

Six years later, he still hadn't found the time to even begin determining its fair market value, let alone  think about cleaning it up, taking a farewell ride, or placing an ad.  In the beginning, when I didn't know about OCPD or demand-resistance, I thought perhaps he just needed a little nudging and encouragement.  By the end, I realized that even my agreeing with him about a project made him much less likely to do it (though he managed to resist and postpone plenty of things without my  input).  I felt too emotionally exhausted (and resistant, myself) to play the "reverse psychology" game.

And boy oh boy, was he full of resentment about his heavy workload, and how overworked and unappreciated he was - though he "worked" at home, and I was working 40 hours a week plus doing all the grocery shopping.  I also did the dishes every night, vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the bathroom on the weekends.

Does demand-resistance affect your work, or that of someone you love?
Do you know someone who's lost a job or 
become unemployable due to demand-resistance?
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