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.
Are You Demand-Resistant?
Many people are consciously aware of and frustrated by the results of their demand-resistance - their chronic lateness, for example, or the trouble they have with expressing emotion. <snip>
Demand-resistance is a chronic and automatic negative inner response to the perception of pressure, expections, or demands (from within or without). <snip>
<snip> Observe your uneasy feeling when somebody asks you to have something by a given date. Notice your reluctance when it's time to begin the work. Watch yourself procrastinate. And ask yourself, What's making this so hard? Why am I hesitating?
Ask yourself why you feel annoyed about having to carry out a legitimate request, why it's so difficult to do the things on your list, why going to Spanish class feels a little more burdensome each night. If you don't have a plausible answer to such questions, demand-resistance may be a problem for you. Even if you can come up with plausible reasons for balking, they don't necessarily rule out demand-resistance as the true culprit. Remember that this phenomenon is deeply unconscious, and you might well be rationalizing your behavior, so scrutinize your reasons carefully. I can't tell you how many times people have told me they avoid sex because they're just too tired in the evening, or they postpone projects because it isn't a good time to start them, or they are having trouble getting through tasks because the head of the department is obnoxious - only to discover later that even when the same conditions persist, they are able to change their attitudes and behavior.
The most important step in overcoming demand-resistance is recognizing the demand-resistance consciously as it is happening. Oddly, I find that many people are able to make changes as soon as they are able to recognize what's occurring. One patient, for example, told me, "It's just too much trouble, too overwhelming, to write the thank you notes for my wedding gifts. It feels impossible!" But as soon as she said this, she laughed and said, "But it's not impossible! It's not all that terrible. It's crazy to tell myself that." She then went home and wrote the notes.
I wish it were always that easy to spot and discard a demand-resistant behavior. It isn't. (that particular patient just happened to be "ready.") But something else that should help you is to start paying attention to the number of times you think, feel, or say "I should" or "I have to" rather than "I want." If you are demand-resistant, this way of thinking is a self-protective habit that has grown out of proportion, causing you needless pain and undermining your sense of autonomy.<snip>
To change the pattern, you'll need to reconnect with the "I want" aspect of everything you do. Catch yourself thinking "I should" or "I have to," and challenge those thoughts. Stop telling yourself "I have to" unless you're certain that's the case. Don't let the ownership of your life slip away. Realize that even when you are pressured to do something, the decision to comply or not is entirely yours.
<snip> Little by little, an increased awareness of the "I want" part of the things you do - neglected for so long - will help you too feel a more solid sense of who you are. Work won't feel as burdensome. You'll no longer feel like an unwilling victim. You'll bring more energy and creativity to your activities. Keep asking yourself, "What do I want?" about even the simplest things. I don't guarantee a clear answer every time, but it's amazing how often one will materialize if you practice.
One of the things my ex had a real problem with was saying, "I want." We had many fights because I would use that language, and then he would scold me for being selfish, etc. Finally I explained to him, "Look, this is what grown-ups do. We both put it all out there on the table. I say, I want A. You say, well I want B. Then we work together to see that each of us gets what we want, but we can't even get there if we both don't start with 'I want.'"
What I understand better now, is he was so wrapped up in demand-resistance and being a martyr, he often didn't know what he 'wanted.' And why should my selfish 'wants' trump what was The Right Thing To Do?
I'm not sure if a partner is able to help someone who is unaware battle demand-resistance. Boundaries and other tools can help with things like the Crazy Rules, but the person who is constantly converting desires and urges into work - because Work is Good, Fun is Selfish has to find a way to battle that him or herself.
Since I've learned about this, I've become more aware of my own demand-resistance.
Realizing that all work and no play is a sign of MENTAL DISORDER
has helped me make room for play with less, if not no, guilt.Can you catch yourself in the moment reverting to demand-resistance?