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 29, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 8 - A Slave to "The Rules"

This post continues with A Slave to "The Rules" from Chapter Eight.

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.

A second important way in which obsessives can become too rigid about their orderliness is by deferring excessively to outside authorities or strictures. Rules and regulations, written procedures, all help to organize and smooth out complex human interactions. But when such guidelines take on a life of their own and become more important than the reasons for instituting them, they can be more destructive than helpful.
<snip> Seven-year-old Adam's underlying respect for most rules is so intense that his parents often have to urge him not to dwell upon them so singlemindedly. They recently gave me this account of a Sunday afternoon outing with him.
"First he insisted that we leave early so we wouldn't be late for the play we were going to see. While waiting for it to start, we spotted some friends and the moved up to empty seats behind us in order to chat. In fact, they stayed there when the show started, and Adam was so worried that the assigned seatholders would arrive and 'catch' our friends where they weren't supposed to be. We had to keep reassuring him that nothing catastrophic would happen.

After the show, we all strolled to the merry-go-round, and the moment he was on a horse, Adam began scanning for the ticket-taker. He was visibly tense when the ride started and he hadn't yet handed over his ticket. Again, we had to tell him to relax - that even if the man somehow overlooked the ticket, the world wouldn't end."
Adam may someday have to fight the urge to join the ranks of the overzealous rule-enforcers. We've all encountered such people: the bureaucrat who insists that "procedures" be followed even when they're clearly ludicrous, or the hospital admissions clerk who demands answers to dozens of trivial questions before allowing the suffering patient access to medical aid. <snip>
Even with parents encouraging him to "loosen up," poor little Adam seems to be unhealthily attached to "the rules." I have heard stories from some with OCPD that they remember, loving, relaxed households; one father told how his young daughter was almost hysterical because she had colored outside the lines, even though he told her it was okay.

Adam's and other stories are what make me believe that OCPD and most mental illness are born, not made. Of course, if the tendency/root of the illness is already there, a dysfunctional household is likely to make it worse. And yes, there is PTSD and C-PTSD, but we know that bad parenting can't create schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or autism; nor can excellent parenting cure those conditions. We know that many obsessives also had an obsessive parent - is obsession born of genetics, chemical imbalance (since in some cases it can be helped by medication), parenting modeling/training, or all of the above?

Rules are a system we humans use to get along with one another - they are not, in and of themselves, sacred. Take traffic rules. As a pedestrian, I usually wait for the walk signal, but what if there's no traffic, I have pushed the button and waited, ten minutes have gone by, and the light still hasn't changed? Should I give up on crossing the street there, or <gasp!> break the law? What if the speed limit is XX, but in the passenger seat is your bee-stung child, in anaphylactic shock and you're only blocks from the emergency room?

Speaking of emergency rooms... the fact is that many women suffer a complicated miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy,  and need an emergency abortion to save their lives. The bills that have been drafted recently in the USA that would allow hospitals to refuse that care to women "on moral grounds," are a clear example of the Rules Gone Wrong. In this case, the rule/belief that any kind of surgical abortion, ever, in any circumstances, is wrong because it would take the life of a fetus, could result in death to both the fetus and the mother. How is this "protecting life"?

Rules or guidelines, in and of themselves, aren't terrible. Tying oneself up in knot to follow The Rules or The Law, with no perception that sometimes judgment and flexibility is required, is a terrible way to live.

Do you have a story about an obsessive person following 
The Rules even when it made little to no sense?
Your thoughts?