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.
When the Guards Come Down
Though most obsessives have trouble trusting, depending upon, and revealing themselves to other people, no one ever completely avoids any of those things. No matter how capable we are, modern life forces us to depend upon one another for such necessities as food, education, medical care, and much more. Some dependencies are so inescapable and routine (e.g., having to get water from the city water supply or bottled water vendors) that most people, obsessives included, don't think much about them. However, when circumstances arise that persuade one to acknowledge dependency in a new area - to consult a doctor, for example, or seek help from an accountant - anxieties may arise. Discomfort also results when some normally suppressed feeling, such as anger, suddenly surfaces. <snip>
Guarded obsessives commonly view any betrayal of their trust as conclusive "proof" that their original guardedness was justified. "If I have a friend, and he tells even a small white lie or is even slightly dishonest, I say 'Aha! He lied! That proves I can't trust him.' I subject him to unreasonable standards. He has to be one-hundred-percent trustworthy of I don't feel I can trust him at all."
Becoming Less Guarded
Becoming less guarded is not something that can be "worked on" all alone, in the privacy of one's study. For all the pain it can cause, a pattern of interpersonal guardedness is extremely difficult to change, and such change must take place within living, breathing relationships.
- Remind yourself that no one and nothing can be one-hundred-percent dependable. Other people - less obsessive people - understand this and still manage to trust and depend upon one another. Do you tell yourself that's because they just aren't as smart as you, that they simply don't see the risks or appreciate the dangers? Do you think they'll all be sorry someday? It's not that these people don't don't see the risks of opening themselves to others. Instead they know that many of the best things in life - such as a send of connection and closeness with other people - are worth the risks.
- Don't be tripped up by your tendency to think in extremes. No one is suggesting you should share intimate confidences with every stranger that you meet. A reasonable amount of discretion will provide you with some protection from hurt, rejection, and exploitation. But when it comes to guardedness, there is a middle ground, and people who find it are less lonely and isolated than those whose protective shells are too thick and hard.
- Try to be conscious of the fact that your guarded behavior is likely to cause the very rejection, isolation, and unloved feeling that you fear. Realize that other people are very apt to misinterpret your guardedness, taking it as a hurtful indication that something in them is causing you to hold yourself at a distance.
- It takes determination and patience to become less guarded. Prepare yourself to see changes occur slowly. In individual and group therapy, guarded patients will sometimes begin this process unwittingly by revealing emotions in a "weak" moment. At such times they often feel humiliated and frightened. Sometimes they weep. But then they usually realize that nobody has rejected them. The world goes on. In fact, the others, sensing how difficult it is for them to open up, often respond with special empathy and warmth. Over time, the guarded person gradually is able to reveal more and more of the real self beneath the facade - the spontaneously experienced feelings and thoughts. And often, for the first time, he or she begins to experience what it's like to feel truly understood and still cared for - something that never before seemed possible. <snip>
Some of us chatted about this online one night, about how unless you live in a cave or shack, Unabomber style, you're dependent on all kinds of people. I think I'm safe in saying no one is reading these words on a computer they built by hand of components they personally mined from the earth, with electricity likewise generated by a system they devised themselves. (And even if they did, who's providing the Internet connection, hmmm?)***
On the rare occasions my ex revealed a fear, a hurt, or weakness, I felt so much closer to him, while his guardedness made him feel distant. His anger and disappointment at my failure to be perfect, which he used to justify why he couldn't trust me, I found
If you are looking for reasons not to trust someone, and you look long enough and hard enough with a virtual magnifying glass, you will find imperfections. With OCPD, there's a very appropriate verse from the Bible about removing the beam/log from one's own eye, before trying to locate the speck/mote in another's.
I've blogged about this before, but because my ex wouldn't open up, because he was afraid I would hurt him, and he'd end up alone, he pushed me away. And... ended up alone.
If he had been willing to put in the very long, hard, scary work of letting down his guard, would thing have been different? Maybe not, if he didn't address all the other OCPDnesses that killed our relationship. Or maybe, if he'd let his guard down, he would have been able to see them.