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, January 8, 2013

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 10 - Foster Your Own Self-Esteem & Independence

Be a dragon - fiercely guarding your independence.
This post continues with Living With the Obsessive: 6 - Foster Your Own Self-Esteem and Independence 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.

6 - Foster Your Own Self-Esteem and Independence

Many obsessives hate to be dependent upon anything or anyone; they equate dependency with vulnerability. Unconsciously they feel that allowing their lives to revolve around another person would leave them open to utter devastation - should the other person turn against them, for example, or stop loving them, or even die. As a result, most don't let themselves depend too heavily even upon their closest friends and lovers.

<snip> For one thing, if you've made yourself completely dependent upon him, the obsessive may feel that you've imposed on him the frightening or burdensome responsibility of being absolutely indispensable to your emotional well-being. Given his need for a sense of options and freedom, this may both frighten and anger him.

<snip>Another aspect of being emotionally dependent on a relationship is that your sense of worth comes to rely upon feedback from the other person. Even minor variations in that feedback may cause your self-esteem and sense of security to plunge or soar. You're really setting yourself up for emotional turbulence if you rely too heavily upon approval or praise from some obsessives, because they aren't particularly good at expressing these things. Remember: their style of perception is to notice and be bothered by what's not right with things. And their need to guard their emotions may make it hard for them to show positive feelings or appreciation.

Cross the bridge, if you dare!

<snip> Start by trying to rediscover who you are - who you were before you met the other person. Work on developing separate interests and then pursue them vigorously, just as you would have if you had not become involved at this time. Strive to become a whole person, independent of any relationship.

As you struggle to establish your separate self, feelings of anxiety and insecurity may assail you. You may feel empty or isolated at first. You may worry that you are jeopardizing the relationship by not paying it enough attention. Fight these feelings!  Try to act as if you felt strong and safe. Don't let the other person get the idea that your happiness or security depends entirely upon reassurance from him or her. More important, don't you accept that notion as unalterable true, because it isn't.

What is true is that at some point your friend or lover could decide to end the relationship, and you have no control over that. Throughout this book, I've discussed self-defeating aspects of the obsessive's need for complete control. The same dynamic applies to you. The more you attempt to mold your relationship, the more vigilantly you watch over it, the more likely you are to poison it. In some respects, the commitment-fearing obsessive is like a cat: most likely to remain close to you when you're absorbed in your own interests and to scoot away when you embrace it too vigorously.

Learn to accept the fact that any relationship could end. Find a way to resign yourself to that possibility. It's true that it would be extremely painful, but in the vast majority of cases, that pain is temporary. Don't think for a moment that you couldn't get through it. You could. And just as you have before, you would eventually find happiness with someone else.
The reflection enhances the bridge,
but the bridge exists, even if there was no reflection.

You are the bridge, not the reflection.

Strive to become a whole person, independent of any relationship.  To me, this is the key sentence of the entire book, for partners, children, siblings, and co-workers of a Perfectionist Personality.  (Though you need to read the entire book to "get" the full picture of why obsessives behave as they do, and why hoovering and being enmeshed doesn't make things better, but instead is gasoline on the fire.)

No matter how much time, energy, and effort you pour into a relationship, you yourself can't fix it. What you can do is make things better for yourself, rediscover who you are.

Maybe you liked to paint, or bake bread, or carve wood, and were dissuaded, over time, because your partner was dismayed by the mess. Reclaim that hobby.  Maybe you used to meet once a week with friends to discuss reading or writing, and gave it up because you were tired of coming home to World War Three. (I know I did.)  Put it back on your schedule. Maybe you love exploring local museums and gardens - get a friend, or go on your own, if your partner hates that kind of thing.

 It will be hard.  You will get blowback, Your partner may pout, throw tantrums, or try to sabotage your efforts to reclaim your soul. Do it anyway. 

look at the variety of color in these roses!
 Eventually they may see that no matter what they say or do, you're going to go for coffee with your girlfriends on Thursday nights, or spend Saturday mornings working on your classic car - whatever YOUR "thing" is, as long as you still leave time for family activities (don't go overboard and spend all your time on you), they have no grounds to complain.  They will probably complain anyway, and it will be hard, and you will feel exhausted at first, but over time, you will feel the abandoned garden of your life sprouting roses again.

Remember not to JADE: Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain. It is enough to tell your partner, "Honey, I've decided to rejoin my Sunday night writers' group, starting this weekend. I'll be leaving at 6:30 on those nights and home around 10:30."
"Why? "
"Because I want to."
"But we usually spend Sunday nights watching TV. I guess you don't love me anymore, if you don't want to spend any time together.  And how will you ever be ready for work on Monday morning when you're out partying with your friends till late Sunday night?"
"Hon? Love you, done talking about this."
"Done. Talking."

A real Wisteria Lane.
Did I mention it will be hard? The enmeshment probably happened slowly, gradually, and now it is as deep-rooted as ivy that has choked off every inch of the garden.  You might not feel like you know who "you" are, anymore, but whatever roles you fill: daughter, sister, aunt, mother, wife, friend, co-worker - you are MORE than that. You need to tap down to the root of you, water and fertilize it.

As mentioned in Too Perfect, if you depend upon a person who's hard-wired to notice flaws, to notice and compliment all your good qualities, you are doomed to disappointment. You must find a way to fill yourself up, separate and apart from your interactions with that person, no matter who s/he is or how long your relationship has lasted (if it's a parent, it's been your whole life).

If you reclaim you, your relationship may survive; it may improve, or it may end. But if your relationship is built upon you killing and sacrificing everything you love to do, everything that feeds your soul and makes you feel good about yourself, then are "you" really in that relationship, anyway?

Your thoughts?All photos, except for the Too Perfect book link, were taken by the author
at Pasadena's Huntington Gardens.