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, May 31, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Perfectionism vs. the Will to Excel
The Subjective Experience of Achievement

Plane Crash via Wikimedia Commons
This post continues with Perfectionism Versus the Will to Excel, and The Subjective Experience of Achievement, from Chapter Three.

This series will look 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.

Perfectionism Versus the Will to Excel
It's important to distinguish between perfectionism and a healthy will to excel, which is a reasoned desire to perform competently.  The latter is flexible and reasonable, while perfectionism is self-defeating, rigid, and drive.  While the healthy achiever usually takes intrinsic pleasure in doing a job well, making good decisions, and having his excellence recognized, he keeps a rational perspective.  He realizes that some tasks don't allow much room for error; if he happens to be a surgeon or a pilot, he takes the time to plan and prepare for his professional tasks and then carries them out in an exactly, thorough manner, with total attention to detail.  On the other hand, when he's preparing dinner for company or choosing a shirt, he can be far less exacting.  Unlike the perfectionist, he realizes that in these matters an error won't have major consequences and they don't warrant a lot of worry.  He usually can enjoy himself with even less than a perfect outcome.

from Monster Guide on
How to Measure for a Dress Shirt
Which is the perfect shirt & tie combo?
Even when the perfectionist and his healthier counterpart carry out a given activity flawlessly, they often differ in their subjective experience of that accomplishment.  A healthy will to excel tends to bring one pleasure, while perfectionism quite often is a source of pain. <snip>

The non-perfectionist doesn't need to be right all the time.  His security doesn't depend upon having a spotless record of being viewed as the ideal person.  But when he does achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle, he feels gratification, fulfillment, even joy.

The perfectionist, on the other hand, is apt to experience any given task or interaction as a test that will reflect his adequacy.  So it's always important for him to do things correctly, know the answer, make the "right" decision.  His goal and motives in any endeavor are so complicated that he can hardly avoid being preoccupied and tense.  When he does achieve excellence, he can rarely enjoy it.


This is what I referred to in an earlier post about the idea that those with OCPD lack a filter.  Obviously, we want our pilot, train engineer, and brain surgeon to pay meticulous detail to every checklist and warning light.  But not everything is not brain surgery.

It really doesn't matter if somebody wears a blue shirt with a solid black tie, or a patterned one.  A normal person doesn't obsess all day long about which shirt and tie to wear.  Even for a second date with somebody we really like.

Somebody with OCPD will spend the entire day planning their wardrobe choices.  Every decision is equally life-changing, every detail merits the same level of attention.  They spend vast amounts of time "churning" over some small decision that a normal person wouldn't spend more than ten seconds on.

In a restaurant, ordering a meal?  What if you pick the WRONG THING?  They can't seem to get to the place of, "Okay, if I get something I don't like, now I will have discovered I really don't like X, so next time I will order Y. If I'm still hungry, I can just eat more bread or get a really good dessert."  They may dither over the menu endlessly, and in the end, pick the same thing they always get, because that's the safe choice.

And oh, the not enjoying excellence!  Great tomato crop?  What are we going to do with all these tomatoes?!  Something wonderful gets turned into a tragedy.

It seems there is never a time to kick back and simply enjoy things having gone well.  Every occasion where things have gone well is simply Fate getting ready to kick us in the teeth (which is a flea I'm working to overcome, myself.)

Your thoughts?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

On Rape, Slut-Shaming, and the Illusion of Control

Northern Afghani women
via Wikimedia Commons
Even burqa-wearing women get raped
I thought I'd wandered off-topic a bit with my post on It's Not Really Rape, If... but actually, slut-shaming has a lot to do with OCPD-type thinking.

The Myth of Control goes something like this: If I try hard enough, I can stay in control of myself, of others, and of all the impersonal dangers of life.  By my control, I can be certain of safe passage.

Most men who are not total @sswipes want to care for and protect their wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters.  Yet there is a reluctance, among men and women alike, to deal honestly with the realities of what rape really is.  Nobody wants to believe that they or their loved ones could be sexually assaulted at any time.  That's simply way too scary a thought.

So, we play these little mind games. We pretend that if we do the right things, take the right steps, we will be safe. 

Some (men and women) tell themselves that women who are openly sexual, and dress in a way that invites attention, are "sluts" and are "asking for it."  Certainly, they are asking for it - if "asking for it" means wanting attention.  "It" does not mean they are asking for rape or assault, any more than a merchant who puts effort into building an attractive display window with beautiful merchandise is "asking for" a robber to come into his store with a gun to steal the merchandise and assault him.

And, as previously noted, most convicted rapists don't even remember what the victim was wearing.  But if we can convince ourselves that sexual assault is triggered by the victim's clothing choices, we can reassure ourselves, if I don't dress like that, then I will be safe.  (Corollary for a man being, that his wife/girlfriend/daughter/mother/sister will be safe.)

If I only only date "nice" boys, or go out in groups of friends, I will be safe.

If I always keep my doors and windows locked, I will be safe.

If I don't go out after dark, I will be safe.

We can create a long list of things to do, or not do, to ensure our safety, but the reality is, even for women (and men) who do everything "right," sometimes we are sexually assaulted anyway.

The real answer is that we need to change people's attitudes towards rape, which is a much harder job.  Yet, over time, with enough social pressure, thoughts and attitudes can change.

I have seen them change in my own lifetime.  When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, drunk driving was a joke.  "Man, I was so hammered, I have no clue how I got home the other night," someone would say- at another party.  Most people in the group would laugh and confess similar behaviors.

Since then, there has been a remarkable shift in public opinion.  People are aware of how very many innocent people have been killed or crippled for life by drunk driving.  We don't think it's cute or funny any more.  No one would dream of loudly blurting something like that out in any kind of gathering, s/he would be roundly denounced by just about everyone there.

Way too many people still die because of alcohol-related driving accidents.  But in 1982 there were over 26,000 alcohol-related fatalities in the USA, and despite the population (and number of cars on the road) increasing substantially, by 2008 that number had dropped to under 14,000.  That's 14,000 too many, of course, but it proves that real social progress can be made, in a relatively short period of time.

We need to do for rape and sexual assault what we have done for drunk driving.  We need to talk, talk, talk about it.  We need to bust the myths and attack the real cause of rape, which is that of people (primarily men, but women can be rapists too) who try to prove their Power Over another man, woman or child by abusing them sexually.  We need to stop slut-shaming and start rapist-shaming.

Slut-shaming offers only an illusion of control, not the real thing.  If we blame the victim, we can give ourselves a false sense of security that what happened to her/him can't happen to us.  Yet we know, deep inside, that this is not the truth.

"Sluts" don't deserve to be raped.  Nobody deserves to be raped.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Not Really Rape If... Busting the Myths

Britney Spears via Wikimedia Commons
Is Britney a "slut"? Or a healthy young woman,
secure in her own sexuality?
Yep, this is a blog about OCPD and mental illness and setting boundaries, and this post is going to be about rape, which is also a boundary violation, in more ways than one.  So shut up, lay back and enjoy it, as they used to say.

One of the enduring myths about rape is that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.  This myth is so pervasive and widespread that members of the Toronto Police, among others, have voiced it as "truth," because they believe it is the truth.

The facts?  Do rape victims provoke the attack by wearing "provocative clothing" or otherwise "asking for it"?

  • Wanting attention, even wanting consensual sex, is not the same thing as wanting to be forced, coerced, or drugged into unconsenting sex.  As Caitlyn commented on the original article that stirred up the SlutWalks movement (more on that later) "Blaming the woman for wanting to look attractive is like blaming a store owner for having such nice and expensive things in his store, after the store is subject to an armed robbery.  Clearly the owner should cover up and hide all the nice things so no one wants to steal them."
  • A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part of the victim, and most of this consisted of nothing more than dressing or walking in a way that is socially defined as attractive.  In murder cases 22% involved provocative behavior (as simple as a glance.)
  • Assault victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties.  (I never thought of Onesies or flannel nighties as "slutty," did you?)
  • Women who live in countries with conservative dress, or who wear it in Western countries, such as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Mennonite, LDS - also experience rape.
  • Women, children and men who have limited mental capacity are often sexually assaulted.
  • Women in the US Armed Forces are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat.  Men in the US Armed Forces are also experiencing sexual assault in record numbers by "straight" soldiers, often by a group of them.  Both male and female assault victims are typically young, low-ranking and vulnerable.  The dynamics are similar to prison rape.  It's all about exerting Power Over another human being.
  • Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.

There are a lot of people who pay lip service to "Rape is not about sex, rape is about violence," but they don't truly believe it.  Deep down, they believe the myth that men rape because they are desperate for sex, their wives are frigid or they can't get a girlfriend. 
Men rape because they want power and control over someone weaker than themselves. They use their penis as a weapon to control and humiliate their victim. They rape because their own lives are inadequate and unfulfilled. They do not rape for sexual satisfaction. Most rapists do not enjoy the sex, they say things like "I didn't enjoy the sex, just the fear in her eyes."  Rapists often don't ejaculate.
Rapists also may have problems achieving or maintaining an erection.  Many assaults are committed with foreign objects forced into a man or woman's body.

Many women and men in Canada and the United States are getting fed up with victim-blaming, along with the myths and misconceptions that still - still! linger about rape and sexual assault.  Therefore, groups around Canada and the US are holding SlutWalks to help educate the public about the sad realities of what rape is, and what it isn't. 
Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim. 
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

<snip> We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come. Any gender-identification, any age. Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends. Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us. This has become a global movement, with Satellites happening all over the world. See if there’s one in your city.

I'm joining SlutWallks LA on June 4.  There will be some fabulous guest speakers and wonderful volunteers, including co-organizer Hugo Schwyzer of the Good Men Project, who wrote a wonderful editorial on Why Men Should Join SlutWalk, including some very poignant hopes and wishes for his own daughter.

Why does it matter if many men and women believe things about sexual assault which are simply not true?

Rape myths are not just a set of harmless beliefs. Rape and rape myths are destructive forces. They do not fall on deaf ears, nor are they said in a vacuum. Although some people may think they are just “saying words” or holding on to innocuous beliefs, rape myths have profound impacts. They hurt. They hurt individuals, they hurt survivors, they hurt families and they hurt communities. They encourage silence, shame and pain. They shift blame away from the perpetrator, and, ultimately, keep us believing that sexual violence is natural and normal. And, most assuredly, perpetrators count on us believing them in order to continue perpetrating sexual violence.
People who believe rape myths sit on juries.  They serve on police forces, the D.A.'s offices, become judges.  They write our laws.  They make it possible for a culture of victim-blaming - and raping - to continue.

Rape myths lead to otherwise intelligent men like Ben Stein reasoning that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was unlikely to be a rapist because he could not think of any economists who had been convicted of violent sex crimes.  Unfortunately for BS (hey, those are his initials, blame his mama,) The Daily Show has a research team.  They shortly proved that, by the same line of "reasoning," that economists are actually "the rape-iest profession going."

Myth: Rapists are 7 feet tall, and covered with rank hair.  (Or, perhaps not that exactly, but obviously creepy and menacing, like Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear.) 
Rapists look just like anybody else.  They are often married or have a steady girlfriend, even those who assault other men.  They come from all walks of life, all economic levels, all races, and all ages.

Myth: Rapes are spur of the moment. 
Actually, 90% of group rapes and 60% of single assailant rapes are planned.

Myth: If s/he doesn't say no, that means yes. 
Not in the case of minors, people with limited or diminished mental capacity, people who have been drugged or have given alcohol to the point of unconsciousness, or who are otherwise not able to give their consent.  Know what means yes?  Yes means yes.

Myth: It's not really rape, if you've had sex together before. 
Yes, it is. Even if this person is your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend.  No means no.

Myth: If they enjoy other sex acts with you, even though they've always said they don't want to participate in anal sex, it's okay to insert a penis or other object into their anus when they're deeply asleep.  
No, that's still rape.  And an excuse of "Gee, I missed, I didn't realize I was in the wrong place" is especially lame if you are a prominent gynecologist.

Myth: women don't need abortion coverage for rape, because they should always be prepared.  Like keeping a spare tire in the trunk. 
However you feel about abortion rights, that has to go down as one of the most brain-dead things anyone has ever said.

What other myths have you heard about rape?  
It's not really rape if...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Perfection and Control Overlap

This post continues with Perfection and Control Overlap, from Chapter Three.

This series will look 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>  The child destined to become a perfectionist views perfection as the only fail-safe way to ensure that he won't be vulnerable to such dangers as criticism, embarrassment, anger, or the withdrawal of love by his parents and others.

Being perfect and leaving no room for criticism is also one of the ways in which the obsessive wields control in his relationships.  And control and perfection can go hand in hand in other ways.  Being morally perfect, for example, is one way to keep the Cosmic Scorekeeper in one's debt. 
Just as with the control myth, protecting and confirming the Perfectionist's Credo is essential to the obsessive's mental equilibrium.  To the strongly perfectionistic obsessive, being wrong is not just the everyday occurrence that most of us shrug off - it's a psychic disaster.  <snip>
Failures are devastating because they jeopardize the Credo and thus trigger anxiety.  Also, the perfectionist comes to base a lot of his self-esteem and pride on being able to do things flawlessly, so errors make him feel stupid or inadequate.  He's also likely to become quite angry with himself - proof that he believes he should have been able to avoid the error.  <snip> 

Why do we view someone who "only" gets a silver medal as some kind of loser, instead of an incredible athlete?  Why are there Tiger Moms and Dads driving their daughters so hard to be perfect, when Asian-American women have the highest suicide rates across all racial groups?

There is definitely a cultural model that winning is expected; but somewhere, both as a society and as individuals, we have to say, wait a minute here. It is not acceptable that young men and women are destroying their bodies with excessive exercise, drugs, and eating disorders, to attain a perfect appearing (if unhealthy) size and shape. Our future success in life does not hinge upon whether we scored an A+ or an A- in the fifth biology pop quiz in the 3rd quarter of our sophmore year in high school.

Let's face it, if somebody won't love us - unless we are "perfect" - they're pretty screwed up. Even if, somehow, magically, we attained perfection in some manner - as an Olympic athlete, say - we are bound to be less than perfect in some other area. Therefore, the deal is off??  How crazy is that?

Sadly, the drive to be perfect can shift from an external pressure, to an internal one. As suggested in Too Perfect, my ex would get angry at himself when he would miss "perfectly" recording a movie or preparing a meal. And angry at me when I'd make similar mistakes and refuse to stress about them - a telltale sign I didn't care about anything, from his point of view.

Do you beat up on yourself for not being perfect in areas that truly,
are not that important?
Or do you know someone who does?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Largest Hoard Begins With
But A Single Piece of Crap

from My Mother-in-Law is Still Sitting Between Us.
used by permission
Please go visit for more insights (& pics) on hoarding

I didn't live in a Hoarding House, capital letters. 

I did live in a hoarding house, in progress.  I refused to live in a Hoarding House, but I could see the writing on the wall =  the boxes stacked in the garage.  Creeping into the computer room.  The non-functional TV on the floor of the bedroom.

When people (who've never dealt with hoarders) see news stories or hear about it, their reactions are usually, "I would never let it get so bad," they say.  "I would put my foot down."  They're not  meaning to be self-righteous, but they don't "get" how tightly those with a hoarding problem cling to their crap.  The few experts in the field have a very, very hard time trying to therapize hoarders to break the habit.

It's a very real mental disorder, although many hoarders live seemingly normal lives outside their homes or hoarding areas (some actually hoard in their cars, too.)

The Wheelchair
photo by Medical Products Direct
My OCPD ex devoted his life to caring for his elderly parents' lives in their last few years.  He bathed his mother and changed her diapers.  He spoonfed both parents as necessary.  When his father developed circulation problems, my ex did physical therapy with him, rubbed his legs, not giving up until the man regained partial mobility.  Ex's aunt loaned a wheelchair during this time, which had been used by her late husband.  Later, when ex's parents began their final decline, it was in constant use, especially for his father.  Shortly after his father died (at 96), ex b-f put the wheelchair in the garage.

This occurred in the first few months of our dating, when I was unaware of his OCPD.  Mostly, he seemed "normal" (honeymoon/courting stage) and I chalked up any quirky behavior as due to his loss and grief.  I truly thought him a hero, and in many ways, he was.

About two months after the father's funeral (the mother predeceased the father by about 4 months,) the elderly aunt came by while I was present.  The idea was to have the aunt sort through her deceased sister's clothing, prior to them being donated/sold, to see if she wanted anything. 

During the visit, she requested the return of her wheelchair.  Ex explained that it had been in the garage, and was currently all dusty and cobwebby, to please let him clean it up and return it to her at a future date.  Although it did occur to me that perhaps ex associated the wheelchair with his father, and had some trouble letting ago, I thought the clean-up excuse was not wholly unreasonable.

When he and I moved in together, over a year later... the wheelchair went from sitting in the garage of the parents' home, to sitting in the carport of our home.  Okay.  He'd had a lot on his plate, so it wasn't a priority, but surely within a few months, after we were settled in, we could clean it up, and make the trip (about 30 miles) to have a visit with the aunt and return the wheelchair.  No biggie.  So I assumed.

Shortly, as his OCPD behaviors flared out of control, the wheelchair became the least of my worries.  Still, I would make periodic attempts to get it returned, as it continued to sit in the carport, taking up valuable space, gathering more cobwebs, becoming more and more pitted with rust.

I tried reasoning, arguing, guilt, anger.  I tried mentioning it once a month; I tried not mentioning it for an entire year.  I tried bringing it up one year, early in May, as a suggestion for something we could do over the Memorial Day weekend; we could clean up the wheelchair, visit his aunt, and still have plenty of time for all the "normal" weekend activities that kept him so worried/busy (read, churning).

He wouldn't budge.  He didn't have time to clean it up; it had been used when his aunt bought it so it wasn't worth much anyway, and he was the one who'd put all the work into fixing it, so it wasn't like he was depriving her of something with much monetary value; it wasn't any of my business; what if he needed a wheelchair, didn't I know that he wasn't feeling very well?  However many times I brought it up, he had an excuse answer for why it simply wasn't possible at that time.

In retrospect, it's a classic example of how OCPD can become deeply conflicted when two imperatives collide.  On the one hand, the moral side - he verbally agreed with me that when somebody loans you something, you return it in as good or better shape as when you borrowed it.  And you always return what you've borrowed, even if it's a dog-chewed pencil with the lead missing.

Especially when the lender has asked for it back.  Returning something that belongs to someone else is the Right Thing To Do - and OCPD is all about always doing the Right Thing.

But then, there's Demand Resistance plus the OCPD hoarding compulsion.  (Note: It appears that in the upcoming DSM-V, hoarding will not be included as part of the diagnostic criteria for OCPD, but as its own illness.  While it's true that not all hoarders have OCPD, and not all of those with OCPD hoard, many do.  Of those with OCPD who don't hoard, many are the mirror opposite - they have a compulsive need to throw everything away.)

Hoarding, for some, seems to be tied to procrastination  (better not to do something at all, unless 100% convinced it can be done Right.)  To fear of catastrophe/future need. (What if I throw this away and need it later?)

Photo via The Concert T-shirt Etiquette Guide
Then there's the attachment most people have, to some degree, to inanimate objects.  Most of us have an old teddy bear or a favorite T-shirt, that has no practical use but we can't bear to throw away.  It's not the scrap of fabric, itself, but the memories that we don't want to let go.  When we look at that T-shirt, we are once again 18 years old, in a pack of friends screaming our lungs out for Dio or Black Sabbath or New Kids on the Block.

I can totally sympathize that perhaps in some subconscious way, ex b-f felt that the wheelchair = his father.  That it was really, really hard to let it go.  I did have a problem that, after nearly six years living together, seven years after his father's death, he still could not bring himself to return his elderly aunt's property.

Or, to get rid of a lot of other old things that were making our lives together worse, not better, and which, like the wheelchair, continued to gather cobwebs and were slowly rusting into the ground.

I wish I could tell you what the answer is.  In the end, I was not willing to live in a growing hoard.  Faced with the choice - get help, so he could understand why it was so difficult for him to let go of these things, or watch me walk out the door - he choose the hoard over me.  Despite the verbal and emotional abuse, despite so much that was terrible in our relationship, I would have been willing to stay and help him work on it, if only he had been willing to see a therapist and work on his issues.

He wasn't.

Now he has lost me, and his aunt passed away earlier this month, so he won't have to return the wheelchair. 

Somehow, I don't think he is any happier.

Do you have a hoarding story?
Do you keep, perhaps, too many items with sentimental value?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Can I Deny Thee, OCPD?
Let Me Count The Ways

Catherine Zeta-Jones
via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most pernicious aspects of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is the fact that those who have it are usually convinced there is nothing wrong with them. With those around them, sure.  They are surrounded by fools and incompetents!  

It's hard for any of us to admit that we might be mentally ill.  There's a big stigma (perhaps it should be called a Stinkma) about having any kind of mental disorder - except for perhaps the "cool" ones, like bi-polar disorder or anorexia.

Note: I am NOT saying it is "cool" to be bi-polar or have an eating disorder.  I know full well, the very deep pain and intense suffering that those with those diseases experience.  Still, the perception in the general public is that there are glamorous models, actors and actresses who have eating disorders, or who are receiving treatment for bi-polar disorder, or substance abuse.  So if these talented, beautiful people have a problem just like ours, it becomes a little easier to admit we suffer from it, too.

There are no "beautiful people" stepping forward and saying, "I have OCPD."  Many people have never even heard of OCPD.  Often, it's confused with OCD, or Asperger's, or autism, and what is true is that some people with OCPD also have some OCD or Asperger characteristics.  They may share a sensory overload with light, sounds, or odors, for example.  They may exhibit similar emotional "meltdowns" when something occurs they did not expect.

Many of the qualities of OCPD are extremely admirable, in small doses.  When cooking, we might not realize that we've added too much salt, but we sure know it when we taste it.  Way too much salt can make food not only unpleasant but inedible.

Here's an example: many women (and some men) with OCPD obsess over a clean house.  They are constantly cleaning, disinfecting, and bleaching things.  This might not seem so bad, until you hear stories about a woman who put so much bleach into her husband's laundry that he had to be medically treated for chemical burns in his crotch.  Twice.  Sometimes an OCPD woman (or man) is so wrapped up in obsessive cleaning 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, that there is no time to socialize with friends, play with the children, or go out to dinner with the spouse.

When partners, co-workers or children first hear about OCPD, there is a thrill of recognition, relief and hope.  This is what the problem is, I'm not going crazy after all, and now my partner/father/co-worker can get treated and things will be better.

Sometimes it works that way, but more often, the person with OCPD will deeply resent getting an amateur diagnosis from his loved one.  S/he will insist the partner is the one with the problem; will look up the condition online and point out triumphantly that s/he doesn't hoard, or obsess about being on time, so you see, s/he couldn't possibly have OCPD.  (Disregarding the other items that are spot-on.)

S/he may agree to go for counseling, and then:
  • Storm out because s/he doesn't like the things the counselor says.
  • Refuse to listen because s/he doesn't think the credentials of the counselor are impressive enough.
  • Listen but only hear part of what the counselor has to say.
  • Out and out reject a professional diagnosis of OCPD and a recommended course of behavior therapy.
The counselor, in turn, may not even use the term OCPD.  Because so many who have it react negatively to "labels," s/he may pussyfoot around, refer to "obsessive-compulsive tendencies" or "overwhelming anxiety."  So in some cases, denial may occur in part because the term OCPD was never officially used in the first place.  We can understand why a counselor might make that choice, because if a patient is willing to accept some therapy, sans label, it would seem better for their well-being than forcing a diagnosis on someone who will then abandon therapy altogether.

Here's some true stories (some details have been changed): 
I finally got my wife to read the book Too Perfect, and when she did she said wow and agreed that OCPD was her all the way. So much so that she actually made an appointment and has been going to a therapist. However,..... when I mention OCPD she gets upset and says not to label her. This coming from a woman who openly admitted that she could identify with the entire book.

My boyfriend knows he's OCPD but hates "labels" and denies having OCPD. When our therapist first brought it up and read the symptoms, I had my mouth hanging open and he had the BIGGEST smile on his face. He was proud!!   Now, he denies it (it's like talking to a crazy person!) and he gets upset whenever i bring it up.

My OCPD wife went to joint counseling last year on threat of separation. When she was diagnosed with OCPD, she didn't accept it and we came to an impasse.

My husband actually found out about OCPD on his own 2 years ago, then made an appointment with a psychiatrist who officially diagnosed him. At the time I thought it was encouraging that he could admit and realize he had OCPD, but now he is in absolute denial and says he has it under control. That the problems all come from our "bad communication" skills.

My wife was diagnosed first by a neuro-psychiatrist after extensive testing with OCD. It was only after I did extensive research that I could bring OCPD to their attention, and now she is being treated for OCPD with medication and therapy.

Recently, the counselor brought up the concept of OCPD.  I later found out from the counselor that my husband wouldn't accept the diagnosis of OCPD, so the counselor took the "symptom approach," i.e. explaining to him how he was obsessive and compulsive. These he accepted. However, now that my husband has convinced himself that he doesn't have OCPD, he is very angry at me for having "imprisoned" him with this diagnosis of my own making for years. Not to mention, as far as I can tell, he's not working very hard on his "symptoms."

My girlfriend had a brain scan done and it was opposite of normal. The guy looked at her and said "how do you sleep at night?" She didn't. She knew something was up but she had no real interest in seeking a fix, something that might even help her feel better. Even her mom suggested getting help. Eventually she did go to therapy and it was about blaming everyone else. As soon as the therapist started scratching the surface she became too busy with work to go any more!!

Five years into the marriage, my husband was diagnosed with OCPD.  Constant conflict between wanting special concessions because "that is the way I am" and the continual denial that anything was wrong with him. This went on for another ten years, until I just could not stay in a war state of mind, all of the time.

Now after all this gloom and doom, is there any hope?  Yes, there is.  This is also a true story: 
I was formally diagnosed 10 years ago, and managed to completely dismiss and ignore it for many years.  My symptoms started to really get worse, to the point where I was making lists to organize my lists! I hated how I felt, was interested in feeling better, and came to learn techniques that addressed the OCPD without ever acknowledging the OCPD. It all comes down to acknowledging and taking responsibility for the chaos in your life, regardless of what the origin of that chaos is.
Having the official label of OCPD can help the partner to understand this is a mental disorder - that it is not us.  It may or may not be helpful to the person who has it.  If they would prefer to call themselves excessively perfectionistic, or "a little bit obsessive about some things," what matters is not whether they accept the label, but if they are willing to do the very hard work of battling the disorder.  

Photo via OIPA

As their loved ones, we need to understand our own boundaries, our own co-dependent tendencies to save the wounded birds.  It is entirely possible, once we stop enabling that they will feel the pain enough to take action about it.

One thing's for sure, nagging, reminding, and "helping," doesn't.

Got an experience with diagnosis and counseling you'd be willing to share? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Too Perfect

From A1 Diamonds
This post continues with Too Perfect, from Chapter Three.

This series will look 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.

Let's say that doing a good job is important to you.  You try to avoid making mistakes.  You pay attention to detail and strive to be thorough.  You value competence, both in yourself and in others.

Does this mean you're a perfectionist?

Not necessarily.  The aspects I described are all aspects of a normal, healthy, will to excel, a personality trait that can help one achieve personal satisfaction, material success, and professional recognition.  But in some people, the will to excel takes on exaggerated proportions.  Some people harbor the unconscious convection that any mistake at all is completely unacceptable.  They are driven to seek not just excellence but perfection.  At an unconscious level, perfectionists believe that mistake-free living is both possible and urgently necessary.

The Perfectionist's Credo says: 
  1. If I always try my best and if I'm alert and sharp enough, I can avoid error.  Not only can I perform flawlessly in everything important and be the ideal person in every situation, but I can avoid everyday blunders, oversights, and poor decisions or choices.
  2. It's crucial to avoid making mistakes because they would show that I'm not as competent as I should be.
  3. By being perfect, I can ensure my own security with others.  They will admire me and will have no reason to criticize or reject me.  They could not prefer anyone else to me.
  4. My worth depends on how "good" I am, how smart I am, and how well I perform.


#1 - Has anyone ever accomplished this?   Seriously?  Can any living, breathing, changing organism be "flawless" as a diamond?

We make blunders for a variety of reasons: we were tired; didn't pay close enough attention to the directions given, perhaps paid full attention but the instructions themselves were unclear; we were sick, we were distracted.  No matter how hard we try, a variety of outside factors beyond any human being's control will ensure that we will make blunders.

And, in the case of someone who is OCPD, by trying to control too much, in too many directions, that in itself will ensure that blunders are made.  Even the best jugglers can only keep so many objects in the air at one time for so long, before something drops.

#2 - When I was in school, I was very competitive.  I agonized over every test, every quiz that didn't achieve a perfect score.  Seems to me, now that I've gotten over it, this was a mark of immaturity.  I accept my errors - in business, I actually call them to the attention of my clients and supervisors.  "I've dropped the ball on X; here's how I suggest repairing the damage caused by my mistake."  Because I don't try to hide the fact that I make mistakes, because I openly acknowledge when I've blown it in some way, I actually enjoy greater trust and respect from the people I work with, because they appreciate I'm not playing Cover My A$$ with them.

#3 - People who "appear" perfect annoy the crap out of me.  Ever get one of those holiday letters:  "Looks like Abner will be top of his law school class again.  Brenda still volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club despite her being captain of the cheerleading squad for the third year in a row, plus all the AP classes she's taking.  Chuck and I just celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary with a romantic trip to Niagra Falls, and this summer we'll be re-landscaping the back yard and adding our own waterfall to the pool area with his huge bonus that we totally were not expecting."

Does your BullShit detector go off, too?  Don't you feel like a) this can't possibly be all true, they have to be hiding something, and b) if it is all true, you hate these obnoxious people?

Since we can't stand "perfect" people, why do we think that by being perfect, we'll win friends and admiration?  They'll just think of us the way we think of Chuck and Doris.

#4  In a way, this is true.  Outsiders judge our worth based on what we offer them.  If we're a "good" employee who consistently performs well, or a student who applies him/herself, we will be valued as "worth more" by our employer or teacher.  If we don't have an internal sense of self, if our sense of self-value is totally based on what others seem to think of us, then we do need to be "good."

Outside sources can be dead wrong.  In high school, I had a creepy teacher in one of my AP classes who was always putting his hand on my arm, my shoulder, leaning a little too close to see my homework...  When I began loudly calling him on it, saying in class, "Mr. Creep, please don't touch me," my grades dropped.  (Pretty much all essay-based, therefore subjective.)

At least in that area, I was strong enough/smart enough to realize that I hadn't suddenly become stupid, and that I shouldn't let Mr. Creep determine how I felt about myself.   If you have a "friend" who's been taking advantage of you for X many years, and you begin using boundaries and refusing to let her take advantage of you any longer; she might tell you you're not a good friend anymore.

We need to learn to get past judging our value based on what outsiders think of us.  Even those outsiders who are our partners - the only person who's inside my head is ME.  We need to develop an internal sense of self based on knowing ourselves, loving ourselves, accepting that we are not perfect, and never will be.

It's a lifelong work, and not easy, but much more attainable than trying to be perfect.

How about you - have you ever confused a will to excel 
with a compulsion to be perfect?

Have you found that admitting flaws actually 
brings about better relations with others?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

JADE: Good for Jewelry,
Bad for Relationships

The Jade Buddha for Peace

Nephrite, or Jadeite, the two minerals we think of as Jade, can make stunning jewelry and beautiful objets d'arts.

JADEing, as a technique for dealing with someone with OCPD or other personality disorders, sucks rocks.

We have the right, as adults, to decide what we want to eat, drink, wear.  If we want to go to a movie or a party, or not.  Just because we want to - or don't want to.  We are responsible for our choices and their consequences.

With a normal person, we might explain, "No thanks, I'm just not in the mood to see a movie tonight.  Perhaps tomorrow night?"  Or, "I'm up for a comedy, or something light, but not in the mood for anything deep or dramatic."

With a disordered person, they have boundary issues.  They don't really "get" that they could be in the mood for TV, and we could be in the mood for reading, because we are supposed to think like they think, want what they want.

When we JADE, we are agreeing with the presumption that they are entitled to an explanation, as if we can only read, go to the movies, or perform some household task by their standards or with their permission.  Unless they are actually our work supervisor, that’s simply not true.

JADE stands for Justify, Argue, Defend and Explain, and it's something we all tend to do, but it feeds into never-ending, circular arguments and the Land of Frustration.

"Don't JADE” doesn't mean “don't disagree,” or giving them the silent treatment.  It means that we don't follow them down the rabbit hole of disagreements and explanations and their arguments against our explanations and our arguments against their arguments.
An example:
Him: “Did you eat that whole bag of cookies?”
You not JADEing: “I am in charge of what I eat.”
Him: “But you're supposed to be on a diet! You never stick to anything!”
You JADEing: “I missed lunch, and I'm not supposed to get too hungry on the diet, or I'll binge later.
The book says...”
Him: “If you keep eating this way, you're going to have a heart attack and die. And you'll deserve it!”
You JADEing: “I haven't eaten any junk food in two weeks! And what about that bushel of cheese fries you had last Thursday?”
not JADEing: “I am, once again, in charge of what I eat. And I'm done talking about this.”
Him: “And what if I wanted a cookie? Did you think of that? You never think of anyone but yourself!”
not JADEing: “I'm done talking. You seem to be having trouble letting this go, so I'm headed out to the movies. See you in a couple of hours.”
How about someone partner whose is "concerned" when her husband goes out for lunch; both because of the money he's "wasting," and because she feels it is her job to be the Food Police.

"Did you go for lunch with anyone?"
"Yep, Joe and I went to Chili's."
"How can you waste money that way? Don't you know how unhealthy Chili's food is?"
"We can afford the occasional lunch out, and I'll manage my own food choices."
"We still have a mortgage! You have no business spending extra money while we still have debt!"
"Hon, I love you very much, but even married adults make their own food choices and their own decisions about small expenditures. I'm not going to discuss this any further."
"Most adults make sensible choices! I know you had fajitas, didn't you? Don't you know that cheese will kill you? You'll have a heart attack and the kids and I will be left homeless!"
"Hon? I love you, but I'm done talking about this."
"You don't care about us! You never communicate."
"Love you. Done talking."
"How would the kids feel if they knew their father hated them?"
"The talking? Is done."
"Why did you even get married if you were planning to have a heart attack before age fifty?"
"I'm going to watch Grey's Anatomy now. I'd be happy for you to stay and watch it with me, because I love you, but I'm not going to talk any more."

Another example - the Perfectionist wife has been getting very upset over the "wrong way" in which the grocery bags are packed at the store, and the order in which they are carried into the house from the car. It’s not like people can stop eating, after all, and the Perfectionist wife has back problems so the husband can’t just leave all the grocery shopping and loading up to her, much as he'd like to. Now he's tense and dreading the weekly drama.

OCPD Wife: “What are you doing?  You’re doing it all wrong, I can’t believe you <hissy hissy, fit fit>
JADEing: “Look, it doesn't matter what order I carry the bags in. If the ice cream goes into the freezer a minute and a half later than it could have, it's not going to be ruined. No, it's not. No, ice crystals are not going to form in a minute and a half. Look, I'm not going to evaluate every cold item in the groceries and make a plan like the Battle of Normandy to get them in the freezer in the right order. No, I don't want you to get salmonella, but chicken doesn't go bad in a minute and a half either! What do the crackers have to do with it; we were talking about cold stuff? No, the crackers aren't going to go stale if they're in the bag for half a minute with the apples. No, and they're not going to make the apples go bad. I don't care what they say about ripening apples with a piece of bread, that has nothing to do with...”

Not JADEing: “Hon, if you don't like the way I'm carrying in the bags, maybe you shouldn't watch.”

You see why JADEing is a bad idea? The argument will never, ever end. You will never, ever be anything but wrong in her eyes. All you can do is refuse to cater to her demands, and let her accept, over time, that you are determined to be wrong. Over time she may come to see that you're being “wrong” will not result in horrible doom for both of you, and she may be able to relax her fears for a couple of minutes before the next threat comes along.

When you JADE, you are feeding the dynamic that you have to get their permission/approval to carry out your personal actions.  This creates more anxiety for them.  Remember, the OCPD person is convinced that if s/he doesn't take charge of as much as possible, catastrophe is around the corner. 

Will the disordered person be upset if you don't JADE?  Yes. 
Will they be upset if you DO JADE?  Yes, and so will you. 

Key to making not JADEing work is

a) the 4 C's: Staying Calm, Cool, Collected, and Confident.
b)  Practice!  Run some of the most frequent arguments through a script process, above, and see if you can't take what you usually do, whether it is justifying, arguing, defending, or explaining your point of view, and try not JADEing.  

It takes being prepared and balanced to practice not JADEing.  If we start off-balance, it is that much easier for OCPD to knock us off our feet and into the drink.

Just pretend you're Crush, Queen of Joust. Do a little mental booty dance.

Have you had experiences with not JADEing vs. JADEing?
Tell us how it worked out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

10 Rules For Being Human
from No Busy Signal

I've been fighting bronchitis this past month, and something about coughing and gasping for breath has made it tough on my brain to come up with new ideas. It keeps whining at me, "More oxygen needed" or some other lame excuse.

Luckily, there are plenty of other good ideas out there I can steal borrow. Here's a fabulous post from No Busy Signal which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago in my delirium.

Ten Rules for Being Human

by Cherie Carter-Scott
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for
the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called,
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the
process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to
you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it,
you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain
its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become
a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better
than “here.”
7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something
about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate
about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources
you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you.
All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.
I'm not sure I agree with all of these, but many of them rang true true TRUE to me.

 #1 - Yep, I got the body I got, and though I might be body-envious of a dainty little ballerina-type, even if I could starve myself thin, there's no way I can starve myself dainty.  So, might as well learn to love & take care of the body I've got.

#4 - I do see that there are patterns, or lessons that keep getting presented to me.  I might as well suck it up and learn 'em, because the avoidance thing did not work out for me.

from LOLCats

#7 - I'm not sure that other people are always mirrors.  However, I have noticed that others are most impatient with the flaws of others that they themselves possess.  (I've noticed it myself doing this sometimes - which means either I don't do it as often, or, more likely, that I don't catch myself doing it as often as I do.)

#10 - What was that again?

Did these life rules ring any bells for you?
What struck you the most - or least - true?
Please share in the comments, below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays -Chap. 2 Retroactive Control

Aaah, what we could fix, if only we had a Time Machine!
Or, could we?

This post continues with Retroactive Control, from Chapter Two.

This series will look 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.
When the obsessive's control fails in one of these ways, a flood of anxiety will surface, unless she can ignore or distort what has happened.  One common "fudge factor" is what I call Retroactive Control.  The words "should've," "could've," or "would've" are essential for this.  She should've done this instead of that.  If only she had, she would've been better off.  She could've struck it rich, avoided the flu, or performed better.

Using this trick enables the obsessive to recast the frightening events after they happen.  It offers him a possible escape route from the truth - that one's control of life is frequently imperfect at best.  Should he catch a cold, he immediately searches for and usually finds, a good reason: a draft he "should've" avoided, too little sleep, forgetting to take his normal dose of vitamins.

[The chapter goes in to cite a man whose girlfriend broke up with him primarily because of a large age difference and differences in religious faiths - things that were totally out of his control -  though he clung to a belief that if only he had behaved differently, she would not have broken up with him.]


[Another example is given of a commuter plane crash, and how this upset many of his patients, since this was something that could have happened to them, and which, again, they could not possibly have controlled by any actions of their own.]

The anxiety they felt was an inevitable consequence of having seen their control mythology shaken.  The whole reason obsessives construct and embrace the Myth of Control is to fend off anxiety; and when an experience contradicts the myth, if they can't ignore or reinterpret the experience, that anxiety returns with a vengeance.  They may even develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, sleeplessness, or dizzy spells.

But even when they aren't acutely suffering, obsessives' rigid need for control is causing them irreparable damage.  Their much-vaunted self-control, for example, is like some impervious suit of armor that has rusted shut and can no longer be shed.  Fashioned in childhood as protection, it has become life-constricting.  Their rigidly controlled posture has in itself become a source of pride that they're terrified of jeopardizing.  And though they long to be more easygoing, flexible, and spontaneous, fear inhibits them.

This was OCPD ex b-f all right, full of retroactive control, and it used to be me, too, but twenty years ago or so I figured out that when we play the game of "if only," we always imagined it could have gone better.  We rarely imagined that the outcome could have been the same, or even worse.

This was then hammered in to my consciousness by the marvelous 1998 movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow.  Writer/director Peter Howitt tells this story in a unique way, in parallel from the moment Helen (played by GP) misses - or doesn't miss - her train.

In one version, after she's been rudely sacked (fired, for my fellow Americans), Helen barely catches the sliding doors of the train, arriving back at her flat to find her cheating boyfriend in bed with another woman.

In the other version, the child on the stairwell delays her just enough so that she misses it.  Then the next train is delayed, and she gets mugged, and arrives home well after sleazeball boyfriend has cleaned up all evidence of his ongoing affair.

When she catches the cheater, in the first scenario, she throws the bum out on his ear, and takes a whole new path in her life.  When she doesn't... she doesn't.  Which one works out better for her in the long run?  I won't be a spoiler; if you haven't seen it, put it on your Netflix list.

All we can do, at any point in time, is the best we can, given our health, knowledge, state of restedness, anxiety level, number of distractions...  One of my friends would use this Maya Angelou quote as her signature line,"You did then what you knew how to do, And when you knew better, You did better.”

Comparing the ways things actually did work out, in Real Life, to the way they might have worked out, in FantasyLand - and beating ourselves up because the reality doesn't measure up to some fantasy of The Perfect Outcome...   Why would we want to do that again?

How big a factor is Retroactive Control in your life?
How much do those you love use Retroactive Control?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Use and Misuse of Anger

from BarbaraWilliams2010 at Flickr

Sometimes we trick ourselves into believing a lot of bullshit.

For example, the idea that anger is a "bad" emotion.  That "nice" people (especially nice girls) don't get good and angry sometimes.  That we should always forgive people, even when they continue to do or say hurtful things to us, over and over again.

How's that workin' out for you? 

It sure didn't work for me.

Jules over at Big Girl Bombshell is hosting his month's Self-Discovery series, and her word is ANGER.

At first, I thought, anger?  Not something light and fluffy, kittens and rainbows and lemony-fresh thoughts?  Then I realized I was once again buying into the myth that anger is a bad thing. 

Can anger be abused?  Absolutely.  I know people for whom anger is their go-to emotion.  Seems like they always keep a pot o' rage simmering on the stove, and the smallest slight, misunderstanding, or disagreement gets hoarded and tossed in the pot, a scalding weapon ready to throw in the face of their Significant Others in future arguments.  "Yes, but remember in 1998 when you said I looked stupid in my Leprechaun costume and striped stockings?"

For those AngryMen and AngryWomen, anger may have become addictive.  Anger is certainly a "safer" emotion than acknowledging fear, doubt, uncertainty.  It can be used as a weapon to control loved ones, whether it's the bitter cold, ice queen treatment (my ex was a pro at the Silent but Stomping manner), or the typical volcanic eruption that everyone in the family tiptoes around, fearful lest anything set it off.

from Wikimedia Commons

People also stuff anger down, with food (this would be me), sex, shopping, exercise, work...  I don't know how many times I would not allow myself to feel angry at something, and then later... Many days, weeks, months, pounds later - someone would do something that made me legitimately angry - say, took a parking spot, and smiled and flipped me the bird while doing so, and I would inwardly boil for hours about it.

Well.  The reason something as minor as a pilfered parking spot could make me furious for hours is all that bottled up anger.  I've come to realize that sooner of later, I'm going to have to experience all my deferred emotions: anger, sorrow, loneliness, fear...  Like a credit card, eventually everything that hasn't been paid or felt will come due.  With interest.

When it came to my OCPD ex, I had to finally get good and angry about the way he treated me.  Yes, maybe he's mentally disordered, maybe he couldn't help it, but dammit, I did not deserve to be treated that way.  By anybody.

Righteous anger is an essential part of motivating ourselves to make changes in ourselves, in our homes, in our world.

I'm learning (oh, so slowly!) to be more mindful, in the moment.  To try to let myself breathe and figure out what I'm feeling.  Am I feeling angry?  Is it real anger, or is it fear-in-drag (like when a child dashes across the street, almost getting hit by a car, and his parent swats his bottom)?

Okay, I'm feeling angry.  Why am I feeling angry?  Am I feeling anger in proportion to the offense, or am I dragging a lot of old baggage into it?

Now, what do I want to do with my anger?  This is where a lot of people blow it, literally.  What we do with our anger is a CHOICE, and there are always many choices.  We can scream at a loved one, or a stranger.  We can punch a hole in a wall, kick the cat, go for a swim, write a nasty letter, eat an entire cheesecake, take a deep breath and explain to the person why their suggestion is unacceptable, and offer an alternative, or try dozens of other things. 

If we scream at a loved one, and try to excuse it, later, "I couldn't help it, you made me so angry," we're into Bullshit Territory again.  It's possible that their actions or speech did, indeed, make us feel angry, but screaming was our choice.  Possibly even the best choice for that particular situation, but we are lying to ourselves if we tell ourselves we couldn't have done anything but scream.

If we feel that someone is continually taking advantage of us in some way, getting angry is fine, but then we have choices.  Always borrowing the car without permission?  We make sure that person no longer has access to the keys.  We may, in fact, have to end a job, a marriage, or a friendship once we begin acknowledging our anger; or our anger may enable truly meaningful changes to take place.

I'm glad I'm learning how to sit with my anger.
How about you?  Got a lesson learned about anger?