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, July 24, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 9 - Work as Protection

This post continues with The Driving Forces: WORK AS PROTECTION from Chapter Nine.

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.

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.

Work can also serve to buffer the obsessive from things he or she would rather avoid. For instance, work makes for an admirable barrier to intimacy.

<snip> Evely was an extremely conscientious teacher who complained bitterly about her loneliness. She blamed her job for the fact that she was single and had virtually no social life; she put in phenomenally long hours both in the classroom and at home in the evenings and on weekends. While Evelyn said she hated this grind, she was passionately devoted to her students and couldn't imagine doing less for them. She felt she was only giving them what they needed and deserved, and she couldn't understand how other teachers could work less in good conscience.

<snip> Being an altruistic, ultra-dedicated teacher was so crucial to her pride and sense of self-worth that she couldn't bear any hint that her motives might be mixed - that is, that her workaholism might be a self-serving defense mechanism as well as arising from a desire to serve others.
photo via MorgueFile
A second way in which his work can protect the workaholic is by providing him with a noble excuse for avoiding various personal demands - demands with which he might otherwise feel duty-bound to comply. "It was much more fun to be a big shot downtown than to go home and change diapers," admitted one banker who reformed his hard-driving ways after suffering a massive heart attack. <snip>

Immersion in work can also protect one from awareness of one's emotions. "I always overworked," Belinda, a research chemist, told me. "But when my husband died a few years ago, then I really became obsessive about it. I had no reason to go home. I see now that I was using work to mask my feelings and to keep myself at bay."

Still one more "protective" quality that the obsessive may find in work is a superstitious one. On some level he may feel that his diligence is racking up countless points with the Cosmic Scorekeeper.  By putting in all those long hours, he denies himself pleasure for the present - but can expect to be rewarded someday, somehow, for his self-sacrifice.

Some people can't spend money on themselves without going through eleaborate mental gyrations about whether they've earned the self-indulgence. "I owe it to myself," they'll state when telling me about some personal expenditure, adding pointedly, "I've worked so hard."

I totally believe that many people with OCPD, major or minor (and people without OCPD, as well), use work as an excuse/armor to hide from social situations, obligations, and feelings they just don't want to deal with. It's easier to say, "Gee, I'd love to, but I have to work," than it is to say, "No, I'd rather not."

I could explore this subject at great depth (and probably will, sometime soon) but right now, uh, I have to work. 

Do you use work as a way to hide from feelings 
or unpleasant  activities?
Or know someone who does?
Your thoughts?