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 8, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Wants Become Shoulds &
The Price of Demand-Sensitivity

A Fun Summer List from The CraftCave
This post continues with Wants Become Shoulds and The Price of Demand-Sensitivity  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> obsessive people will read demands or expectations into situations, whether or not such demands really exist.  During one of our meetings, a perfectionistic photographer named Liz happened to mention a brief list of things she wanted to do in the upcoming week.  Although I had neither asked to to make the list nor suggested she do the things on it, the following week she sheepishly confessed, "I didn't do all the things I was supposed to do this past week, so I don't feel I have much to talk about."  She spoke as though I had expected her to accomplish the things on the list and as though she had to answer to me, even though I had nothing to do with the plan.
Between the moment when she first conceived of the list and our next meeting, an important change took place in Liz's thinking.  At some point - probably almost immediately after she made the list - her perception became distorted,  Instead of seeing the listed activities as things she wanted to do, she began to view them as tasks imposed upon her, which she had some kind of moral obligation to fulfill.
<snip> Instead of "I want to," they usually experience and say, "I ought to," "I must," or "I should."  Volition is replaced by obligation.  And similarly, rather than saying, "I don't want," they say, "I can't."
<snip> people who want to be above reproach are most often comfortable when they feel their decisions and actions are being dictated by outside forces.   It's harder to criticize someone who's "only following orders," as opposed to one doing something he initiated himself.  Also, thinking and speaking in such terms as "I should" or "I have to" feels and sounds less selfish and somehow more moral and responsible than "I want" or "I'd like."  In the obsessive's worldview, where conscientiousness is king, it's better to be fulfilling one's duty than satisfying one's own needs.

But the costs of unconsciously disowning one's desires are high.  A special joy and fulfillment spring from realizing goals that have been freely chosen.  In contrast, when most of your activities feel like obligations, you can reach a point where nothing gives you pleasure, and life feels meaningless.  You don't feel like an active participant, taking what enjoyment you can in life, but instead experience yourself as a passive recipient, grinding away at the obligations that are laid upon you.  You may feel powerless, as if you lack control over your life - a very uncomfortable state.
Indeed, you may lack a clear, stable sense of self - of who you are.  You may know what you do well, what you've achieved, whom you dislike, what frightens you.  These sorts of things do contribute to our sense of identity, but they aren't enough.  A solid sense of self requires a consistent awareness of your volitional side - what you want.  Without that anchor, you wind up feeling insubstantial and passive, and you may feel more vulnerable to external influences, especially the wishes of others.  <snip>

Making lists can be helpful, but taking a list of fun ideas, things we want to do, and turning them into obligation - it's like the stories of fairy jewelry, turned in the light of day into dry leaves and berries.

Why have fun, when you can suffer
with a heavy burden?
One of the saddest things about OCPD I've noticed is few talk or write about joy.  They sometimes pay lip service to spontaneity, but everything must be planned out, scheduled, and the planning isn't the happy, "I can't want to get to Disneyland!" sort, but the dry, worried, must-plan-for-potential-catastrophe type that sucks most of the joy right out of life.

There is nothing wrong with a strong work ethic - in balance.  All work and no play, we all know this is not a healthy way to live.  I have a notion American Puritans had a lot of OCPD in their ranks, with their aversion to bright colors and celebrating Christmas.

I've had a friend argue with me that he has no control over his life, that everything he does is because he has to do it that way.  I used to try to argue back, that he has choices, that he does what he does because he chooses to live that way, but since he seems determined to clutch his perceived powerlessness to him like a security blanket, I've given up trying to tell him otherwise.

Why would anyone consciously choose to live life that way?

There is a tremendous amount of joy, empowerment and satisfaction in saying, "I want this," and then working out a way to get "this," whether "this" is writing a book, taking a trip, or getting a chocolate mint ice cream cone.

Do you unconsciously turn things you want to do into obligations?
How are you overcoming that?
Enhanced by Zemanta