|from Salvatore Vuono via FreeDigitalPhotos|
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.
Doing Everything "In Order"
Besides organizing their physical surroundings, obsessives also tend to be orderly about their activities - doing them in a methodical manner rather than haphazardly. <snip> Another might have a well-fixed morning work routine - say, insisting on first returning all phone messages before doing anything else, rather than every day trying to decide anew what activity is most urgent.
Being organized usually enhances effectiveness, allowing one to use time more efficiently.<snip>
But the obsessive's orderliness stems partly from his need for perfection, thoroughness, and control. When this is the case, one's need for order will go beyond its adaptive value to reach self-defeating proportions.
There's a scene in Anne Tyler's novel The Accidental Tourist that nicely illustrates this. The protagonist, Macon Leary, who "above all else... was an orderly man," recalls taking his young son, Ethan, to the movies.
"I got the tickets," he hear Ethan say, "And they're opening the doors in five minutes."
"All right," Macon told him, "let's plan our strategy."
"Where we're going to sit."
"Why would we need strategy for that?"
"It's you who asked to see this movie, Ethan. I would think you'd take an interest in where you're sitting. Now, here's my plan. You go around to that line on the left. Count the little kids. I'll count the line on the right."
"Do you want to sit next to some noisy little kid?"
"And which do you prefer: an aisle seat?"
"I don't care."
"Aisle, Ethan? Or middle of the row? You must have some opinion."
"Middle of the row?"
"It doesn't make any difference."
"Ethan. It makes a great deal of difference. Aisle, you can get out quicker. So if you plan to buy a snack or go to the restroom, you'll want to sit on the aisle. On the other hand, everyone'll be squeezing past you there. So if you don't think you'll be leaving your seat, then I suggest-"
"Aw, Dad, for Christ's sake!" Ethan said.
Macon's urge to "organize" his moviegoing experience, his imperative to plan every facet, transforms it into something serious - something very like work.
The teacher or writer who feels compelled to present material in neat, perfectly logical fashion may do so at the cost of boring his or her audience; the excessive orderliness is apt to exclude any humor, spontaneity, or creativity. <snip>
The greatest danger of the obsessive's passion for order, however, results when it combines with another typical trait: the tendency to resist change, to be rigid. This marriage of orderliness with rigidity was illustrated by a patient of mine named Tim. An enthusiastic jogger who ran at least four times a week, Tim always ran for the same length of time along the exact same route. At one point he told me how bored he was by his unvarying routine, but because he was comfortable with it, he really didn't consider an alternate route. "I know exactly where I'm going. And it fits the time allotment exactly," he said.
Tim offered other rationalizations, but when I suggested good solutions to each of these problems, it became clear that maintaining the order itself had become some sort of imperative. Something about his running routine had taken on a life of its own. Somehow it had come to be the "right" way, and any deviation simply felt uncomfortable, as if he were breaking some rule.
Sometimes a routine makes sense, and sometimes a routine needs to be changed. For instance, I work on the West Coast; some of my clients are on the East Coast. It makes sense to check my phone messages and return calls first thing in the morning, because it is already noon (or close to it) where many of them are.***
If it was reversed - if I were to move to the East Coast, at the same time most of my clients moved to the West Coast - to cling to that phone routine because it was my routine, would be crazy (not to mention tick a fair number of people off).
My ex seemed married to routines. When I got home from work, I was to change out of my work clothes, have a drink, and only then could be begin preparing dinner. If I didn't feel like having a drink, or changing my clothes that night, it completely flummoxed him. He had a very precise order of The Way Things Should Happen in his head. Unlike some other b-f's I had, we NEVER had a quickie before dinner.
When interrupted in any project or monologue, my ex would almost always have to start over from the beginning. He could not "pick up the thread" partway in.
|via jessica mullen at Flickr|
And like the example from The Accidental Tourist, my ex would often plan the fun right out of an activity. Planning isn't a bad thing; routines aren't a bad thing; they are good, helpful, useful tools. But they should be employed on behalf of a goal; they should not become the goal.
Have you ever had the fun planned out of an activity?
Been unable to deviate from The Plan or The List?
Been unable to deviate from The Plan or The List?