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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Empathy vs. Sympathy vs. File Not Found

When we say we want a partner to demonstrate empathy, is perhaps what we really mean  sympathy?



1.  the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2.  the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself. By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.


1.  harmony of agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
2.  the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion of congenial dispositions.
3. the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
4.  sympathies
    a.  feelings or impulses of compassion.
    b.  feelings of favor, support or loyalty: It's hard to tell where your sympathies lie.
5.  favorable or approving accord; favor or approval: He viewed the plan with sympathy and publicly backed it.

The point has been made by some of my friends battling OCPD is that it's not that they necessarily lack empathy (though sometimes they do). In fact, when someone they love is hurting, they are often all knotted up inside, hurting with and for their partner, but often, none of that shows on the outside.

Spock (Photo credit: Tram Painter)
(Others do state they feel little to nothing for others inside. Mr. Spock is their role model; they take pride in working off a pure logic, no emotions model of behavior.)

It's not really fair to expect another person to be a mind-reader and to know what we need, especially if we know or suspect s/he has trouble "connecting" with emotions, let alone ours.  One spouse shared that when she is sick with a cold or the flu, what she wants is to be periodically checked on, for her partner to offer to bring her water or juice or soup or tissue. Her husband wants to be left the hell alone, just let him go to bed, close the door, and don't bother him.

So, until they actually discussed this, they were each irritating the hell out of one another. The wife felt unloved and neglected, the husband annoyed by her solicitousness.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is an excellent rule of thumb, but sometimes it requires some fine-tuning.

Sometimes the hugs need to be coached.
I became very good at "coaching my hugs," communicating my needs to my (now) ex. After kissing him hello and expressing how glad I was to see him, I might specifically say to him, "I had a really miserable day at work today.  Can I bend your ear for 15 minutes and just vent? I don't need solutions, just to let off steam. And a big hug afterwards, maybe a back rub."  What I would receive might be:
a.  "Sure, can I make you a drink first while you change out of your work clothes?"* Followed by decent listening, and a hug - sometimes good, sometimes Sheldon-style. (But never, ever the back rub. Back rubs are icky.)
b.  "You think you had a hard day? Listen to this..."
c.  Allowed to begin, but interrupted five minutes into my rant by his work horror stories
d.  Interrupted by advice, "I can't believe you put up with that! You should just tell that client to stick it up their ass..."
e.  "Well, my day didn't start off very well, either, because somebody forgot to wash her cereal bowl, like I have time to clean up after other people all day long."
 *the "change out of one's work clothes" issue was a big deal to him - the idea of relaxing and eating dinner before changing clothes was unthinkable.  Now that I'm on my own, sometimes I change, and sometimes I don't, and if I spill food on my work clothes, I... wash them. What a concept!

Empathy (software)
Empathy (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't think the problem, in b-d, above, was that he wasn't feeling empathy - clearly, he was emotionally connecting with my "hard day at work" meme.  But instead of giving me the sympathy and support I had asked for, he often springboarded into his own head and his own needs.

On a side note, what he never, ever initiated was negotiation:
a.  "Honey, I am hungry and grouchy - can we postpone your rant till after dinner when I can listen better?"
b.  "Yes, but can we flip a coin, winner goes first, loser goes second? Because I need to vent about my day, too."

In other posts, I've talked about the all-or-nothing, black-or-white nature of disordered thinking, how the idea that people could meet in the middle and both could get their needs met, was something he could only grasp in theory, not in practice. Either it was my way or his way, rarely our way.

One issue that has repeatedly surfaced is lack of support for partners or children of (many, not all) OCPD'rs in a health crisis emergency situation, and not simply because of differing expectations. When I was ill, or experiencing some health scares, my ex refused to come with me to my doctor's appointment, though I invited him and told him it would be extremely helpful to me.

One of my sweet friend Sid's last blog posts included this:
I had a medical procedure, and my doctor scheduled a follow-up appointment on a Thursday. A Thursday where my sister and her family would be visiting my parents' one hour south of where I live.

As I'm often wont to do, I decided to shove "all of my crap into one bag" and go into work that day, go to my follow-up appointment, take Friday off, and hop on the train to visit with my family for the weekend.

First, I look at train schedules. I have two options: Amtrak which goes straight through but the train station is a slight drive south of my folks' home, or Metrolink which is closer to their home but I'd have to change trains.

No decision: Amtrak.

Greg felt differently, however.

G:  You are SO selfish! Now your parents have to go out of their way to get you!

S:  They won't mind.

G: And Metrolink is a few dollars cheaper!

S:  Yes it is.  Could you give me a ride to the station after my doctor's appointment?

G:  Absolutely not. Not if you're taking Amtrak. So selfish, Sid.

This went on for several hours, for a train ride he wasn't taking.

In preparation for the appointment, Greg often reminds me to ask such-and-such of the doctor. I usually ask the questions and share the answers with him, but I never seem to ask it right, or enough, etc. Big point of contention for him almost every time.

S:  If you do take me to the train, you could first GO to the doctor's appointment with me and ask your questions in person. That way you'll know what was asked and exactly what the doctor said without my watering anything down.

G:  No way. NO ONE goes to their partner's doctors appointment. That's crazy.

S:  I don't know. I've seen it happen quite often, but if you're not comfortable... Just trying to get you the information first hand, Dear.

G:  I'll make a list of questions for you to ask the doctor.

S:   No thank you. If you want to control the questions you can do it in person, Sweetheart.

When I refused his question list, Greg refused to assist.  I just planned on taking a cab instead.  Must less agita.
Condensing, a bit: Another friend drove her to the train station. The porters assisted her onto and off of the train (and she ended up vomiting green bile while on the train).
But when I got off the train my mom saw a skeleton, my sister thought I was dead, and apparently I talked in circles that entire first night.

After eating that first meal, my family could see my face fill out a bit within an hour or two.

That weekend with my family, I ate, I slept, and just hung out with loved ones, feeling very safe and accepted.

Unbeknownst to me, my doctor had seen a chemical imbalance between my sodium and potassium in my bloodwork.  Sis talked to a nurse friend of hers who said that my circular discussions were consistent with that condition.

Monday, I returned to Burbank, but instead of beginning a battery of tests at appointments all week, I would admit myself to the hospital for the tests, have a sodium IV round-the-clock, and go through a diet modification and education.
When she got out of the hospital after the tests, Sid was still so weak she could barely walk even short distances. She looked like a Somalian famine victim, except for the red hair and freckles. The "support" she received from Greg while in the hospital was so draining, physically and emotionally, that she asked him to not to come back for the rest of her time there. Two months later, she was dead.  While Sidney was an adult woman, who could and should have taken better care of herself, I also believe that with a more sympathetic and supportive partner, she might still be alive.

I believe that in Sid's situation, in my similar experiences, in those of other people who have shared stories of a denial/refusal to help a loved one during a health crisis - it's not that the OCPD'r doesn't have empathy, doesn't care. So if we think we could have a better result, if only they had more empathy - maybe we're going in the wrong direction. Maybe they already have gobs of empathy, crippling amounts of empathy, but they need training/help in sympathy.

I posed this question on the free forums site: We all know (I hope) that if your spouse tells you, "Honey, I think I broke a bone; will you please drive me to the emergency room?" that The Right Thing to do is get the car keys and not argue - am I right?

Here was one reply, from someone with an OCPD spouse and mother, who suspects perhaps a bit of OCPDness in herself:
I see it as denial or deliberate self-delusion based on caring too much, rather than caring too little. My mental model of it (Note the term mental model - I'm not saying that it's an accurate reflection of anyone's thinking) is:

- It's the OCPDer's job to discover, implement, and enforce all of the rules that keep the universe spinning and keep anything bad from ever, ever happening.

- Something bad happened.

These two things are incompatible. They lead to a choice between two equally intolerable conclusions:

- Bad stuff just happens sometimes, with no way to prevent it, or

- The OCPDer committed an error in performing his job to ensure that nothing bad ever happens.

We know that the first is true. The OCPDer may logically know the same thing. But emotionally, no. To accept that is, I think, to undermine the whole underpinning for OCPD. It would be an instantaneous cure. That's not going to happen.

And the second is equally intolerable. If the OCPDer can make mistakes re: things that are desperately important, like their spouse, then the whole protective structure that they've built around themselves is utterly worthless.

So it's necessary to go on to less logical but more palatable explanations. Some possible explanations that I can see are:

- Nothing bad has actually happened; the event is just an ordinary everyday thing.

- The bad thing is not the OCPDer's fault, it's the fault of the person that it happened to.

- The OCPDer doesn't actually care about the person. Look at them, after all, how imperfect and annoying they are.
Another interesting reply to the question: We all know (I hope) that if your spouse tells you, "Honey, I think I broke a bone; will you please drive me to the emergency room?" that The Right Thing to do is get the car keys and not argue - am I right? came from someone diagnosed with and struggling with this disorder:
Yes, you're right. :) But you're right in a language the OCPDr, at least in my experience, doesn't grasp in practice. Intellectually, in theory, in fantasy, sure. But in taking action? That alien, otherness that I often speak of - this is the heart of it.

What happens in these situations is a system breakdown, "file not found," from what I can tell. The rest - any action the OCPD'r does actually take - is fallout, dysfunctional, nonfunctional, whatever. Shame, frustration, fear, become defensiveness, anger, blame.

Empathy & compassion flow on impulse, a word more often associated with things like fun and spontaneity. But when you think about situations calling for empathy, some being illnesses, accidents, emergencies, these are unmapped territories that a person acts on with impulse, to caretake, to help, to allow the other to heal and feel better, without concern for doing it right. I'm not talking morally here, I'm talking protocol, even where and when protocol simply doesn't apply. We impose the word moral here sometimes in regard to the OCPDr but as I have before, I disagree with that. OCPD'rs work with plans and maps and protocol, those sorts of sanctioned "right" ways. But no two situations like these are alike, even if an illness repeats, or some detail may be similar, there are so many x factors that each one is completely unknown and uncharted. There's literally no conduit for the empathy to flow from.

Now, if a situation does repeat closely enough, or I've observed someone else taking the exact same action that's called for - I may do fine. If my brain detects a match, inside what happens is "aha, I know this one. I can do this one." Break a second bone a week later and I'll drive you to the ER without hesitation, so long as there's a clean & clear view of action to be taken.

sympathy doll
sympathy doll (Photo credit: brendaj)
So, IMO, it's not that those with this disorder lack empathy - but they lack sympathy. They can't express what they feel in a way that is helpful to you. Much like a computer given a command it doesn't recognize, you'll get: File Not Found.  Maybe the average person doesn't need a script, doesn't need to be coached in the appropriate length of a hug, or not to argue with a partner who needs a ride to the hospital or a train station, but those with this and similar disorders do.

To expect them to "exceed their programming limitations" in times of crisis is akin to expecting your bird to start catching mice.

The problem is that when you as the partner are experiencing the heart attack, broken bone, or life-threatening illness, you may not have the time or patience to clearly and calmly help your partner or parent through their meltdown over your health crisis.

Your thoughts?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Hoover Has Lost Its Suction

Early electric vacuum cleaner by Electric Suct...
Early electric vacuum cleaner by Electric Suction Sweeper Company, circa 1908, predecessor of Hoover vacuum cleaner (1922). Exhibit in National Museum of American History, Washington, DC, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I started this blog, I had recently moved out from a home I shared with my (undiagnosed) OCPD boyfriend, though at the time we were continuing to "date."  As things progressed, I realized I was not and never could be happy with him, and decided to make an official split after the New Year, about three years ago.

And then, I couldn't wait. I couldn't, absolutely could NOT, be "with him" to ring in the New Year as part of a couple, when I was all but chewing my own leg off to be completely free. So, I made an official break with him, in between Christmas and before New Year's, though we have "stayed friends," and I have seen him from time to time.

And he is... not, miraculously, cured. He is always on his best behavior when we meet or speak, and hoovers as best he can. He tells me he loves me, he thinks of me every day, misses me, blah blah, and yet
  • He has not made a move to get of  any of the items that cluttered our home and garage. In fact, the hoard has increased in the room that had been our shared office.
  • He has not "had time" to set up the computer I gave him over two years ago when his old one was failing. (He has no real day job, and he used to work on computers for a living, so it's not beyond his skillset.)
  • He is very proud of his anorectic "discipline" in losing weight and fitting into his older jeans. (He was 160 lbs on a 6'1" frame - he looks to have lost at least 10-15 lbs. And he's critical of me because I have gone in the opposite direction.)
  • He continues in monologue "loops" repeating the same thing 3-5 times in the course of several minutes. Much of what I say to him doesn't "stick" in his memory till the next time we talk, and his "conversation" is more a kind of verbal diarrhea/loosing the floodgates. There is no interrupting, changing the subject, or squeezing a word in edgewise until he's talked himself out.
  • I don't know if he is drinking to excess all the time, but he seems to do it quite a bit before he calls me, or on the rare occasions we've visited together. Doesn't help the monologuing.

He's made various attempts to control me, to no avail. For instance, there was a family event to which we were both invited, in September. (One of the reasons I can't entirely cut him out of my life, he has a decades-long friendship with several members of my family.) He called to ask if I could give him a ride to/from the event (in theory, so he could save on gas, but actually, so he could drink). I said I would, but as part of the event included a religious ceremony beforehand, I would need to pick him up at XX time.

Well, he didn't want to go to the religious ceremony. It would be too hot, he whined. (This was three weeks before the event.) I said, yep, it's hot right now, it could very well still be hot then, or it might not, but I was going to the religious ceremony, so if he wanted to ride with me, he'd have to deal with it.  Or we could see if another family member could give him a ride, and I could give him a ride home afterwards. Then he got all snippy about how he was perfectly capable of getting there by himself and didn't need a ride from me. I think he thought I'd apologize for offending him, as I would've done, back in the day, but I just said, "Okay, whatever."

At the event, he fastened himself to my side like a barnacle.  Which was fine; it was a very noisy venue, and it wasn't like I was planning to pick up a date or engage in serious conversation there anyway.  Then he left in somewhat of a tiff because he got offended at something or I wasn't paying him enough attention, who knows?! I think he was simply overwhelmed - by the crowd, by the noise - and because he was driving, he wasn't able to drink enough to quell his anxiety.

I had him over for drinks on Thanksgiving - but did not ask him to stay for dinner, and declined his invitation to come to his place (our old place) for dinner, but did go see him last weekend, though NOT on Christmas itself nor Christmas Eve.

 Oh, hilarious, I showed him a recent picture of one of my sisters, who he knows, and he thought she looked "scary" because she was wearing "too much makeup." (Trust me, she wasn't, and even if she was, he thought saying that would endear him to me?)

On TV, because he always has the TV on, he had on some surfing documentary (he surfed as a teen, before he decided he hated the beach because it has icky sand and salt water). Primed by that, he engaged in his lecture mode which I remember so well. Obviously, he'd seen the program before - perhaps several times. He would parrot the points the narrator had either just made or was about to make, seemingly unaware that he wasn't bringing anything new to the table. He used to do this several times a week when I was living with him, and it drove me crazy. Now I find it pitiful and only slightly annoying, though I also know I could NEVER stand a steady diet of it again.

I noticed the sofa and chair are now entirely covered by towels and blankets, so as to keep the material from getting soiled.  He kept offering me food and drinks, trying to press me to drink something more, something more even though I declined.

War Horse (film)
War Horse (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We also watched a movie he wanted to share with me. (I brought one down with me I thought he'd like, but he couldn't deal with a change of plans.) So we saw War Horse, which I did enjoy very much, though I found I had to slip into old habits to block out his babbling during the movie. At a few dramatic scenes, he held my hand, and I let him, but I felt... nothing for this alcoholic old man, almost 60 now, but pity and revulsion.

It's so sad, all in all. I know he is bitterly lonely. All these things are his efforts to connect; he just doesn't have in him a way to connect that is real and honest and interesting.  At the risk of being rude, I will say it - he BORES me now. His old man crochets and his whining fussiness and his monologuing and his nervous chain smoking...

Yuck, I came home and couldn't get my clothes off fast enough, as despite the many smokeless ashtrays and air cleaners my clothes smelled like an ashtray.

The single, part-time job he has - being property manager of his little house, and one up front - has now thrown him for a tizzy because he may have to find new renters for the front house.  Which means he might have to go online (he's kept subscriptions to all the movie channels, but not for internet access, because I paid for that, and he can't afford the expense. *snort*)  I suggested that he get internet access, or go online through his best buddy, or at the library. (In other words, don't look at me, dude.)

He tried all the rehearsed moves he had made decades before, the husky whispers, the "I'm still so in love with you," and they left me cold. His lips have apologized many times for hurting me - but he never really understood how and why he hurt me, and he still doesn't.  The last time I tried to discuss one of the more egregious instances, he insisted that "in an emergency situation" ( a hot water pipe had burst) he was entitled to scream obscenities at me (for not mopping the floor fast enough). While I held to the bizarre notion that even in a true, life-threatening emergency - which that was not - neither of us had the right to scream obscenities at one another, but were still obligated to treat each other with dignity and respect, even if we got excited and raised our voices.

Of course, he has no intention of getting professional help for body or mind.  Doesn't need it; can't afford it.

Although he is showing few signs of the explosive anger that used to frighten me back in the day, I'm not convinced it's gone. He cried over the Sandy Hook massacre, but I'm not entirely sure he won't "suicide by cop" someday, or decide to punish me for humiliating him via this blog, or when I begin dating again.  I don't expect it, I have no grounds to report him as an imminent threat to me or himself, but it wouldn't surprise me. Like the guy who just ambushed the firefighters in Webster, New York, my ex is not in his right mind, AND he has a cache of several weapons and plenty of ammo.  So, I will be careful, and continue to keep contact between us to the minimum, with no false promises or hints of reconciliation on my end.

I can and do pity the man, but the Hoover has lost all suction for me.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hugs for the Holidays - In Memory of...

Holidays aren't always happy, especially if we're mourning the loss of someone we love. The people we love are supposed to stay with us forever, dammit!

This year, I am mourning my beautiful, talented and very dear friend  Sidney Patrick. I'm also mourning someone I worked with, who was murdered on November 30. And the children of Sandy Hook, the tragedy and horror of which makes my heart physically ache. On a lesser scale, I'm remembering others I've loved and lost over the years.

It can be so complicated. Is it a betrayal of our deceased loved ones if we have happy moments? Is it a betrayal of them if we don't have those happy moments?

This beautiful handmade blanket was given to me
as a keepsake by Sid's mother.
I've decided to just BE in the moment, to let myself laugh and cry and smile and be pensive, as the spirit moves me. To be grateful that I have so many wonderful friends and family who support me. To clutch my blankie as needed.

And I've decided to join in a small blogfest, Hugs for the Holidays, a way to support those for whom the holidays this year are not so Happy.
Here's the deets:
We have multiple link-ups on the sites below, where you can comment and/or link up according to the type of loss with which you are dealing. We have also created a Pinterest board called Hugs for the Holidays and will be pinning many of your posts there as well, if you would like to follow it.
You can link up anything you would like to share about your lost loved one: a link to a Facebook photo/post, a blog post about a particular memory, a Pinterest pin sharing how you cope, whatever you would like others to read or see. The link ups will be displayed as follows:
If you have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of an infant link here:
If you have lost your mom link here:
Your dad link here:
Your sibling link here:
Loss of an older child link here:
A spouse here:

Please visit the host sites, and leave your own comments and feelings, if you too are experiencing mixed feelings this holiday season.  Join in with your own post and link, if you blog. Or your tips for resisting the urge to punch some well-meaning person in the face when they became too merry with holiday spirit(s) to take a hint and back off.

Feel free to leave a comment here, too, of course.

Peace, healing, and yes, joy to you, in spite of everything.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 10 - Don't Be Pressured Into
Disavowing Your Own Feelings and Preferences

This post continues with Living With the Obsessive: 4 - Don't Be Pressured into Disavowing Your Own Feelings and Preferences from Chapter Ten.

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.

4 - Don't Be Pressured into Disavowing Your Own Feelings and Preferences

Even if you can't win a debate demonstrating the superiority of your position, you are still entitled to your own view. You should feel free to assert that right.

Unless you're equally obsessive, you're probably no match for an obsessive in an argument. Obsessives spend their lives analyzing things; they're experts at it. But just because a course of action seems to be more efficient, practical, or logical to him or her, you still don't have to choose it. Don't be shamed or bullied into doing so. <snip>

<snip> If something truly conflicts with your values (e.g., a disagreement about how to handle your children, or some other important matter), listen to his arguments and think it over when you're alone. Then figure out what your position is, and reopen the discussion. Don't give in just to silence him or her. Don't be afraid to ask for time to think it over.
One of the biggest issues I had with my ex was him not being able to accept that we were different people, in different skins. When, in his opinion, there was no REASON for me to feel cold, he became highly offended when I felt cold, anyway.  Obviously I was just doing it to piss him off. I tried for two years to think myself warm, before deciding, "Screw this, I'm putting another blanket on my side of the bed."  After that I probably got an extra hour's sleep each night, which I badly needed, instead of lying in bed, too cold to fall asleep.

Chick Corea & Return to Forever
Chick Corea & Return to Forever via
We had many common interests and beliefs, but sometimes we diverged. We went to a Return to Forever concert. For him, it was like Jesus and the Beatles rolled into one concert. And I was delighted - for him, that he enjoyed it so. For me, meh. Parts of it I enjoyed, and I could appreciate the level of artistry and musicianship, but it wasn't my kind of music.  Again, he tried very hard to talk me into liking it more on the drive home.  He couldn't let it be that we could have different thoughts, feelings and tastes. He frequently claimed he could tell exactly what I thought and felt - and he was almost always wrong.

One of my friends related a story that once with her partner, they were discussing a favorite restaurant, and he was recalling how much she liked some particular dish. She gently corrected him, "It wasn't terrible, but actually, honey, I didn't care for it that much, and I wouldn't order it again for myself." This turned into a twenty-five minute harangue where he tried to convince her she really loved that dish, after all.

Is it worth fighting about for twenty-five minutes whether or not you loved the veal (or whatever it was)? Of course not. The best thing is to end the conversation, "Guess we'll have to agree to differ," and walk away if you have to.

If you simply cave in to avoid a fight, you're enabling the distorted thinking and boundary violation, plus you may be shivering in your bed, cold and resentful.  If you love someone with this condition, it is vital that s/he come to accept that you ARE different people, that you can have different tastes and preferences, and still the world will go on spinning.

Your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 10 - Be Consistent and Trustworthy

Consistency (Photo credit: Matt Hampel)

This post continues with Living With the Obsessive: 3 - Be Consistent and Trustworthy from Chapter Ten.

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.

3. Be Consistent and Trustworthy
It's tempting to feign agreement with some obsessives just to get them to stop badgering you.  But this can backfire! Obsessives need to be able to feel they can trust you, either to say openly you're not going to comply (giving your reasons), or actually to follow through on your word. Even in the smallest things, most obsessives respond dramatically to any evidence they can't trust you.  They immediately wonder what other things you've been dishonest about. Can they believe you when you say you love them? Can they ever believe you or trust that you'll do what you agree to do?

<snip> One man stated, "I need consistency in my life - to the extent that that's possible. I feel it would be nice if I came home at night and found consistency there. If I'm told dinner will be at six-thirty and I get home to find it's not even started - "

"That only happened once!" his wife protested, <snip>
Here's where it gets tricky. I do agree with the author that we should never BS an obsessive partner or friend, "Yes, yes, of course I'll do it your way," when we have no intention of doing it his way.

But, as in the example above, no matter how hard we try, there will almost certainly be one night after 752 nights where he comes home and dinner isn't even started yet.  And that's what he  latched onto, not appreciating or recognizing the 751 nights where dinner was served at six-thirty on the dot.

Because of their own distorted thinking, OCPD'rs may say they want "consistency," but what they truly expect is inhuman perfection.  

And we can drive ourselves crazy trying to deliver it to them.

Being consistent and trustworthy is a great goal, but it is important not to beat up on ourselves when we turn out to be human and fallible from time to time.  (This is not to say that we use that as an excuse, either.)

I would also argue that "giving your reasons" why you're not going to deliver something s/he wants can too easily turn into JADEing (Justifying, Arguing, Defending, and Explaining).  Better to stand your ground, "Yes, I understand you have a preference as to how you like the towels folded, but when I fold them, I'm going to do them my way. Nope, I don't need you to show me 'how to do it right.' When you fold them, you can do them your way; when I fold them, I'll do them my way."

via Suat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos

I wish I had a dollar for every time my ex patiently explained to me that he couldn't believe I really loved him because... and then listed some tiny fault or task I'd overlooked, often from some years back. I've come to believe that a "non" can never be "consistent and trustworthy" enough to earn the trust of someone who is focused on finding a reason NOT to trust.

Somehow, he or she must come to a position of realizing that even when we do our best in some area, we're going to fail sometimes. That we still love them, and can be trusted, even if we insist on folding the towels the wrong way, or prepare dinner late once in a while.

Somehow, they have to learn that occasionally putting the toilet paper on the roll in the wrong direction is not the same level of betrayal as having an affair.

Your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 10 - Recognize
That They May Be Taking Your Quirks Personally

via imagerymajestic
from FreeDisitalPhotos
This post continues with Chapter 10 - Living With the Obsessive: 2 - Recognize That They May Be Taking Your Quirks Personally from Chapter Ten.

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.

2. Recognize That They May Be Taking Your Quirks Personally
When you resist dong things their way, some obsessives may interpret your lack of compliance as evidence that you don't care about them. <snip>

Hank, a forty-five-year-old engineer, and his wife, Sharon, both told me that one of their biggest problems sprang from Hank's terrible temper.  "He doesn't seem to realize when he's being unreasonable," Sharon said. "When he comes home from work, he looks around for things that haven't been done. Then he explodes at the kids [two teenage boys] and me. We're on the defensive so much of the time."<snip>

...all he asked in return was that they do "a few very easy things": attend to certain gardening tasks, for instance, or keep the contents of the silverware drawer straight. Hank saw these and a multitude of similar tasks as being self-evidently important, and he went to some lengths to get the others to agree that they needed to be done; that if one of the knives was pointing the wrong way, for example, someone could get hurt. <snip>

I challenged Hank to reexamine some of his premises. Would the world really end if the yard wasn't free of weeds, or the silverware didn't all point in the same direction? I urged him to acknowledge that he was requesting certain things because they were important to him, and not because it was objectively imperative that they be done. And even if his demands were reasonable, I asked, was being right worth alienating his family?

<snip> Hank finally began to understand that no matter how "right" he was about keeping things in order, all his arguments, lectures, rages, and logical "proofs" of the correctness of his positions were actually counterproductive. He acknowledged that not only were his demands not being met, but his family literally dreaded his presence. It finally struck home that no amount of logical argument could make Sharon experience the world exactly as he did, and that even when she and the boys yielded to his demands, they did so resentfully, and felt more alienated from him.

<snip> She also learned to avoid agreeing to do a task unless she was certain she really could and would do it, <snip>

To a certain extent, we all assume that other people see the world much the same way we do. That's why it can be a shock when somebody we love and respect espouses a really bizarre (to us) religious or political viewpoint.

Hank, above, was really bothered by the weeds, and he didn't see the task of weeding as any big deal. He didn't "get" that his wife Sharon, absolutely loathed weeding with a passion, considering it backbreaking drudgery, and secondly, she didn't see all the weeds the same way he did.

Weed Show Display
Via Flickr Creative Commons
Some see weeds and trash, others see art

Recently on one board the topic of "testing" arose - an OCPD'r putting something out of place - a leaf om the floor, a few pennies on the counter, etc., to "test" to see what other family members would do - and then blasting them if they didn't do "the right thing."  Something that came up with my ex, when he was sharing a kitchen with his sister, was a small spot on the counter from some dish she'd prepared.  I'm not sure whether the spot was grease, or gravy, or something else, but it was smaller than a dime.  He was damn well going to leave it there and test how long it took that slovenly sister of his to clean it up, though it bothered him for almost a week, until he couldn't stand it any longer.

via Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos
I remember reading in one piece of material (if I could remember where it was, I'd link it here) that for one obsessive person, you could go into his closet, and move the tail of ONE shoelace exactly one quarter inch, and not touch anything else in his closet, and he could go in there and immediately tell what was "wrong."  This is one of the ways, for many perfectionists, that this disorder is akin to (or perhaps part of) the autism spectrum; things "out of place" can totally rock their worlds, and not in a good way.

Channeled properly, this kind of superfocus on detail can, in fact, be a great gift. There are professional fields where the tiniest flaw or error can result in huge loss of human life - aeronautics is one field that comes to mind; surgery is another - there are many. The problem is that people with this gift/curse 1) don't realize they see things differently than the average bear, and 2) they don't leave their "gift" at work.

Since they would never leave a leaf on the floor, a grease spot on the counter, or tiny weeds in the flowerbed, they are certain that if someone has left these things out of place, it must be deliberate.  Clearly, we are toying with them, trying to upset them.  If we understand this point of view, it is easier to see how they might take these things personally (though not any easier to be on the receiving end of "arguments, lectures, rages, and logical 'proofs'").

The answer is not to try to follow the "Crazy Rules," because trust me, even if Hank's wife Sharon had done an exemplary job with the weeding, there would've been something else - the gravel bordering the driveway needed to be hosed down more often, something.  This disorder is ego syntonic- when something feels amiss to an OCPD'r, they rarely look internally and ask, "Is this me?" but seek outside themselves for the thing that is out of place/dangerous.  When they find something that is not perfect (and you can always find something, if you're looking hard enough), they have this moment of "Aha, that's what it is/was!"  Often followed by rage or lectures directed at the slob/inconsiderate person who "made" them feel that way.

Unless we actually are toying with them (it's not unheard of for office mates of a "persnickety" co-worker to move things on her desk, for example), we have to take a step back from that, and not accept harsh judgment on ourselves. We may not be able to convince them that their world view is wrong (the assumption that everyone shares the same ability to see detail, for example), and probably shouldn't try, but we can know for ourselves, that just because our disordered partner or friend SAYS we are: selfish, lazy, sloppy, careless, [fill in the blank], t'aint necessarily so.

Your thoughts?