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, November 29, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 The Ruination of Leisure &
The Ruination of Relationships

We probably don't want to knit this sweater for the hubs.
Even if he'd look cute in it.
This post continues with The Ruination of Leisure and The Ruination of Relationships from Chapter Five.

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.

Perhaps even sadder than its impact on his work is the damage demand-resistance can inflict on the obsessive's experience of his leisure-time activities.  One painful conversion of "wants" into "shoulds" is that at some point the obsessive comes to regards even potentially joyful activities as burdens.  An obsessive may take up up a project or hobby with a pleasant sense of anticipation.  But somehow "I'd like to knit my husband a sweater" becomes "I really ought to work on that sweater" - something that should be done, exactly like an external demand.  The person begins to slog through the project, rather than relaxing and enjoying the chance to be creative.  Sometimes this unconscious resistance doesn't affect the actual performance of the task, but often it does.  For instance, the person may begin procrastinating.  In extreme case it can lead to the abandonment of one hobby or personal goal after another.  <snip>

Besides work and spare-time activities, relationships can also suffer from the quirky pressures of demand-resistance.  These pressures can interfere with everything from the start of a relationship to the maintenance of an ongoing one.
For instance, Judy happened to mention that she really liked another woman at the hospital where she worked.  Yet she reported feeling "scared" by the other woman's obvious friendliness.  "I don't want to make a commitment of friendship to her right now.  I don't want to set up expectations - I don't want her to come to expect my time or energy.  I don't like to feel that people have claims on my time," Judy said.  Even the thought of such demands made her feel panicky.  "I just want out.  I feel in danger of being smothered.  To be around people, I have to do it on my terms instead of shared terms or their terms."
<snip> Demand-resistance may plague even established relationships.  It can sabotage isolated interpersonal exchanges, as it did for the patient who told me about a trip he had just taken with his wife.  Even though he had liked their hotel, "When my wife raved about our room, I felt her statement as a demand that I agree with with her.  And I couldn't bring myself to say, 'Yes, I like it too.'"

<snip> Sheila felt a lingering hurt and anger when she underwent major surgery and her husband, Gary, acted cool and distant.  Why did he behave that way?  Not because he didn't love her or was insensitive to her need for nurturance, but because he recoiled from the expectation that he give such nurturance.  <snip>

Often they will harbor resentment towards the people, institutions, or rules they feel demand them to behave a certain way.


If you're seeing light bulbs and hearing bells go off - BUY THIS BOOK.  There are lots more good snippets here to illustrate this point that I can't fully type out, but I suspect you will refer to, over and over again.

I tend to convert too many of my own "wants" into "shoulds," when it comes to crafting, or even keeping up this blog.  I am learning to let go and not overwhelm myself with expectations, to enjoy and share when I am in a position to learn and grow with you, my readers.  :-)

However, when I first read this book, this chapter rang bells and flashed lights like a fire truck for me.  My ex found a way to ruin almost all his leisure activities (and assume a martyr attitude about them).  If I indicated I liked something too much, he had to take the opposite position (see the story of the teriyaki chicken in a previous Too Perfect post).  Somehow, he couldn't let me "win," or even share as part of a win-win scenario, as in the example of the hotel room.

I have heard so many stories where the partner of an OCPDr becomes ill or injured, and the person with OCPD is angry and resentful about taking him/her to the emergency room with a broken arm.  Almost an attitude of "How dare you put me through this!" so that the person who has broken a bone, suffered appendicitis, lost a parent, etc., is not only dealing with his/her own pain and fear, but tantrums and attitude from the partner.

It is distorted thinking that does not allow for equality in a relationship, that cannot allow for give-and-take.  For Judy to resist a possible friendship with someone she liked because (horrors!) the other woman was friendly.  For a man to not ask a woman out, even though he likes her, because they've been introduced by mutual friends and he feels the need to resist.

Yes, it does destroy a romantic relationship.  I truly believe that, as much as a partner can work on him or herself in other areas, set good boundaries, learn not to take attacks personally, etc. that unaddressed demand-resistance is one of the poisons that will eventually kill the relationship.  The person who has it must come to be mindful of it and stop the knee jerk reaction of, "If that's what you want, I want something different," every single time.  It's that drip of water, wearing away even the strongest rock over time, as even the most patient, loving person grows weary of always being met with mindless opposition and lack of support.

Does demand-resistance affect your play-time
or that of someone you love?
Has demand-resistance damaged a friendship or love relationship?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Demands & Work Blocks;
The Ruination of Work

from Ambro at Free Digital Photos
This post continues with Demands and Work Blocks; The Ruination of Work  from Chapter Five.

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.

 Demands and Work Blocks
I saw this in Jane, a fifty-one-year-old grant writer who came to me when she began to have trouble making progress on an assignment.  Jane had a very productive work history, so this development surprised and upset her. <snip>
Although she normally chose her own projects, this one had been assigned by her supervisor.  At first Jane rejected the notion that this one factor could be the cause of her trouble.  She conceded that by all standards, the assignment had been a reasonable one, and while she didn't find the project particularly exciting, neither could she truthfully say it was repugnant.  And it clearly fell within her sphere of responsibility.<snip>
<snip> She was soon able to see how, with her boss and with me, her resentment and balking were not only unreasonable but self-damaging.  That is, they were obstacles to what she wanted to do and were undermining her success (although she was totally unaware of their influence.)
<snip> What begins as an effective means of self-protection becomes overdeveloped, indiscriminate, or automatic.
In the area of work, demand-resistance need not take the form of a full-blown block to be damaging.  Work may simply weight heavily on the obsessive, or she may have trouble concentrating.  She may feel a festering resentment that saps her creativity and enthusiasm.  Eventually she may have trouble motivating herself to do more than the minimum of what is required of her.  And her projects often wind up bearing the subtle mark of her resentment - coming in late, or with some small detail omitted, or in a form slightly different from what was requested.
You might be thinking that every employee sometimes resents being asked to do unpleasant tasks or having to carry out the wishes of superiors.  That's true.  The demand-resistant worker, however, is apt to sense demands that aren't even there, and to dread or drag his feet on tasks that aren't at all unpleasant.  He's also likely to find himself feeling burdened by jobs he initially wanted to do.  Even self-employed obsessives can experience inner demands as somehow coming from the outside.  With no boss or supervisor to blame, they focus their resentment on the work itself, their clients, or their dependents (who are "making" them work).
When demand-resistance sabotages their on-the-job performance, many obsessives start to feel demoralized because normally they take pride in their ability to work effectively.  For many, the "solution" to this dismaying turn of events is to rationalize the resentment of, and alienation from, their work in ways that enhance rather than hurt their self-image. <snip> The obsessive tells himself he's a victim of exploited conscientousness.  <snip>  "...No one appreciates my efforts and, worse, they're wasted, because the system is sloppy and inefficient."  His feelings of victimization explain his negative attitude towards his work, and meanwhile, the real culprit, his demand-resistance, goes undetected.


I think I have normal demand-resistance.  When a supervisor wants me to say, do Task A this morning, when in my mind I am already working out how I'm going to do Task B, it's something of a mental and emotional wrench for me to shift gears.  Sometimes it's easier for me than other times; and sometimes I will negotiate, "I'm working on Task B, and I have to have it by 1:00; can I do Task A  later on?"

My ex, on the other hand, expressed extreme demand-resistance.  Not to a supervisor - he hadn't worked in many years, but when he did talk about his prior employer, there were many stories sprinkled in about how they wanted him to do a project in X way, and he insisted on doing it Y way, or not giving up on something until it was tested to his satisfaction.

As someone who was basically self-employed, he would assign himself tasks - and drag them out.  Avoid others altogether.  And pretty much anything I suggested he do re: home projects was a non-starter, even if he had brought it up himself.  For example, he might say, "I should clean up and sell my ATV" (which hadn't been taken off-road in 20 years, and was taking up a fair amount of space in the garage).  I might agree mildly, and then at a later date, suggest we take a look at the Recycler or Craigslist to get an idea of the going price for said ATV.

Six years later, he still hadn't found the time to even begin determining its fair market value, let alone  think about cleaning it up, taking a farewell ride, or placing an ad.  In the beginning, when I didn't know about OCPD or demand-resistance, I thought perhaps he just needed a little nudging and encouragement.  By the end, I realized that even my agreeing with him about a project made him much less likely to do it (though he managed to resist and postpone plenty of things without my  input).  I felt too emotionally exhausted (and resistant, myself) to play the "reverse psychology" game.

And boy oh boy, was he full of resentment about his heavy workload, and how overworked and unappreciated he was - though he "worked" at home, and I was working 40 hours a week plus doing all the grocery shopping.  I also did the dishes every night, vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the bathroom on the weekends.

Does demand-resistance affect your work, or that of someone you love?
Do you know someone who's lost a job or 
become unemployable due to demand-resistance?
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

We Could Try Again...
That Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady

Do you ever have days when anything and everything makes you cry, or is it just me?

Sometimes I get very sad and nostalgic about how things didn't work out with my ex(es). I get extremely  tempted to just go back and give it another try.

Surely if I go into it with the knowledge I have now, with me all refreshed from the time apart, with the experience and patience and techniques I've learned...

Surely, this time I can make it work.

And then a song like this comes on the radio, or my iPod, and I realize,  it's outside my power to make it work. 

A man who didn't treat me with love, respect, and caring, prior to the time we split, when our relationship was on the line, won't magically "get it" and behave so much better if I go crawling back to him, begging him to give me another chance...

It's tempting.  I miss him (okay, several hims.)  When you've slept with somebody over a course of years, more than a physical bond forms.  (I'm taking the Fifth Amendment on exactly how many bonds I've formed, over the course of my life, m'kay?  More than three, less than 33, like they asked in Kramer vs. Kramer, m'kay?  Yes, I've had some overlap.)

I've been dreaming a lot recently, of the guy I was head over snatch in love with, before I entered into my relationship with OCPD ex -bf.  Which was going nowhere.  Part of the reason I was so vulnerable to OCPD ex, was because of the sadness/desperation/rebound factor of said dead-end relationship.

Death is not actually a bad card. 
It's about transformation, change, & new beginnings.
Like a seed "dies" and is reborn as a plant.
In my dreams, the ex and I get together, and it's different this time.  But the Tarot cards tell a different story.  They tell me, when I ask about the future of said relationship, DEATH.  RUIN. DESPAIR.

As has his lack of any attempt at contact, in the 8+ years since I broke it off with him.

I'm thinking, it's time and beyond I took the hint.

He might not have been as overtly cruel as OCPD ex, but he was still cruel, in his own subtle, passive way.  He did not treat me like a lady, when all was said and done.

I need to stop looking for the easy fix, and continue on my quest to be more loving to myself.  Take care of the girlfriend, remember her?

Not look for salvation in retreads.

[Btw, this Zemanta thing is suggesting photos of iPods and Serbian churches to accompany this post.  I'm all for thinking outside the box, but really?]

Old loves are very tempting.  I know what they like, they know what I like, there's an instant comfort level there.

There's also a short cut to dysfunction behaviors, all over again.  For every woman (or man) I know who's gone back to an ex and made it work, there's a hundred or more who've regretted it.  And when I really think with my head - instead of parts further south - I know this.

So, even though I am occasionally going through pangs of - we'll call it loneliness - I can get through.  I still have a little emotional purging to get through, before I am ready to try dating again - and I am determined to hold out for something new and fresh.

I deserve to be treated like a lady, a beloved, a precious and valuable partner.  We all do.

Have you ever had to fend off the urge to return to a relationship 
that you knew was damaging to you?
How did you resist (or did you give in, and regret it later?)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesday - Chap 5 - Demand Resistance

This post continues with Demand-Resistance  from Chapter Five.

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.

For many of my patients, this sense of vulnerability appears to have begun early in childhood.  One patient, a thirty-year-old computer programmer named Gerald, could remember and describe explicitly the sensation of being overwhelmed by his mother at a very young age. <snip>
"One major source pf confrontation was food.  Even when I was hungry, I resented how my mother controlled my meals.  She gave me more than I wanted; she made me eat foods I didn't like without giving me the chance to say 'No!'  It was like I was an extension of her needs, as if she were saying, 'If you eat, I'll be happy'  <snip>
<snip> Eventually, Gerald cound a weapon.  "The weapon was holding back," he told me.  "If I didn't eat, it drove my mother crazy.  If I withheld affection, it caused my parents pain.  It made me feel powerful, in control"
<snip> "When I know somebody wants something from me, I don't do it.  It's so automatic, it ends up being more important to me to hold back than to decide what I want.
I would describe Gerald as intensely "demand-resistant" - that is, inclined to back at various expectations simply because they are perceived as demands.  <snip>
<snip> A small percentage of people, like Gerald, consciously recognize that they feel resentful, not only when someone tells them what to do, but when they feel even a subtle expectation or pressure.  Some may have a reputation for being stubborn or oppositional.  But it's far more common for demand-resistance to be nearly undetectable.  Inwardly, the obsessive may sense some hesitancy when confronted by certain demands.  "I get a tightness, inside, a tightness in my gut," is how one patient described it.  "I feel a suppressed anger."  But often there are no internal signs of this private turmoil.  In other cases there are outward signs - procrastination or inability to stay with a task, for example - but the foot-dragger himself is bewildered and often dismayed by his inability to do what he consciously thinks he wants to do.
Boy oh boy - how many of us grew up in an era of  "You'll eat everything I put on your plate, and you'll like it!" In my case - no demand-resistance, simply outright rebellion.  Many a night I sat at the table, assigned to sit there till I was done, and ended up sitting there until my parents gave up. 

I think it's normal to rebel against people who are telling you how much you should or shouldn't want to eat, or should enjoy eating.  Patricia Evans in her Controlling People book tells the story of observing a mother and daughter in an ice cream shop, where the mother was telling the little girl what flavor of ice cream was her (the daughter's) favorite, and the little girl firmly clung to her own choice.

The resistance is normal, even healthy.  Toddlers go through a stage of saying No! to everything, usually around "the terrible twos."  They are testing the boundaries of their world, and it's a healthy stage to go through - not to be stuck in.

It's when it becomes a non-thinking, automatic reaction to everything, that it's a problem.   When inside, we are saying, "No I won't and you can't make me!" even to ourselves, to things we want and need to do, and worse, when we don't recognize this.

I think I have some demand-resistance. For my ex, it was horrible; pretty much anything I asked him to do, he would: refuse outright; claim he didn't have time; promise to do it and then not...

I eventually realized that, except on rare occasions when the moon and the stars were properly aligned and he was in the perfect receptive mood (which events I could never predict) that my simply asking him to do anything = he would make sure what I wanted didn't happen.

F'rinstance - back on food again.  He insisted on cooking all our dinners.  One meal I particularly enjoyed was chicken that he baked in the oven with teriyaki sauce and brown rice.  In the first year we lived together, he made this 1-2 times per month.

When my birthday was approaching, he asked what I would like for my birthday dinner.  I asked for that meal, and apparently waxed too enthusiastic about how much I enjoyed the way he made it.  (I wanted him to feel properly appreciated, silly me!)  Not only did he make excuses about why he couldn't make it for my birthday, but in the following five years we lived together, he never made it again.  I did ask for it, once or twice more over the years, then gave up.

He won!  Only, what did he win?  This was "Another Brick in the Wall," I-don't-want-to-live-this-way moment for me.

Do you recognize demand-resistance in yourself, a partner or co-worker?
Are there any specific areas where it seems worse?
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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Victim Is Always to Blame...
Or Overlooked

The Lion Shrine at Penn State.Image via WikipediaHave you been following the Penn State Uni child rape saga?

One thing I find encouraging is at least more people are talking about the rape culture.  That includes the presumption that somehow the victim "deserves" to be assaulted, based on what s/he wears, or behaves, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Like the Congo, or Latin America, or being a boy on the grounds of Penn State in the company of a pedophile.

In a nutshell: Jerry Sandusky, who was the Defensive Coordinator for the Penn State football program for many years, was investigated in 1998 for inappropriate sexual conduct with young boys.  He was not formally charged, but he did retire in 1999.  (See timeline on Huffington Post.) As an alumni, he continued to have access to the grounds, an office on site, and other perks.

He had regular contact with young boys via a charitable organization he created in the 1970's called The Second Mile.  This program targeted children with absent or dysfunctional families (which made them particularly ripe for being victimized by someone with ill intent).  These children were taken by Sandusky to football games, guested for overnight visits in his home, given lavish presents, and brought onto the grounds on Penn State University on a regular basis.

According to the report of the Grand Jury, in 2002 a then graduate assistant (28 years old, 200 lb former quarterback) testified he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year old boy in the showers of the football building.  Said GA did not rescue the child, or call the police, but did call his daddy for advice, and then reported what he saw to Joe Paterno the following morning.  Who did not call the police, either, but kicked it upstairs, to his superiors.  Somewhere along the way, the anal-raping was minimized to "a little fondling." (After all, everyone knows it's perfectly normal and socially acceptable for a grown man to take a boy into the showers and fondle him, right?) PSU took Sandusky's keys away, and sternly told him - no more bringing boys onto the grounds!

Nobody called the police.  Nobody tried to track down the victim to find out if he was okay.  Nobody contacted The Second Mile, where Sandusky continued to "mentor" more young "friends," to suggest that maybe somebody should keep an eye on him.  Nobody said word one when for years afterwards, Sandusky squired other young boys from The Second Mile on outings, sat with them in the stands, brought them to the dinner table for meals with all his Penn State U buddies, including Paterno.  Somehow, nobody expressed the slightest squicky feeling about this whatsoever.

When arrests were being made and the stink about this got too big, the Penn State trustees fired President Graham Spanier and JoePa, and while there hasn't been much of a backlash about Spanier, a number of students are very upset - about Paterno.  How could they fire him - and so ignominiously?  After all, he wasn't a molester - he's just one of several people who didn't call the police.  He didn't see it himself, he was simply told by someone (trustworthy, who also relied on his judgment).  JoePa was a decent, honorable guy, who continued a relationship with the alleged molester and his young "friends" in the following eight years or so.

Can you imagine?  Somebody has come to you and said, "I saw this guy raping a ten year old in the showers," and being able to turn off that visual?  To share a meal with this guy, even as he's got another ten year old sitting right beside him?  "Pass the salt, please, Jerry."  But this is what happens in families where there is incest, there's this weird doublethink going on where everyone pretends it's not really happening, la-la, I can't hear you.

Something like this happened in several families I know, where many family members were more upset about the incest or domestic violence being made public by the victims, than by the actual incest or violence itself.

This is typical of rape culture - an acknowledgment of the victim(s), almost in passing - yes, wasn't that dreadful? and then a quick mental shift to salvage and protect the reputation of the accused - or the institution they represent.

In an (even more) appalling note, right now at Penn State some of the students are making jokes about "being Sanduskied."  In front of, though they don't know it, the sister of one of the victims.

This is why it is so hard for rape victims to come forward.  Rather than the blame being cast upon the rapist, quite shortly the victim's life gets put under a magnifying glass.  If s/he has not led a spotless life, then somehow s/he was "asking for it."  Or, there's evidence, perhaps, but not enough evidence.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn ring any bells?

People who are assaulted are almost always in a position of much less power than their rapist.  They may be children, smaller, drugged, or under extreme economic pressure; they may be on the losing end of a war or weapon. Those who do come forward, against the odds, are incredibly brave souls.

Nobody wants to imagine himself being assaulted in a shower, or anywhere else.  It makes sense that we want to find reasons/excuses to put the victim at blame.  Because, if in some way, the victim made it happen - then we can simply not do what they did, and we will be safe.

The ugly truth is, no matter how careful we are, no matter how we dress or what we drink or how carefully we choose our dates, we, or those we love, could still be raped or assaulted at any time.  So how do we deal with that without freaking out?

Partly, by fighting back.  By saying, this may be how it is, now, but it isn't the way it has to be.  This is part of what SlutWalk is about, to start bringing about a change in the social consciousness: Rapists, not victims, cause rape.  If we want to end rape, instead of trying to teach women and children 120 ways to Tuesday to protect themselves and not "cause" a rape, we need to end rape culture.  We need to end a culture that says it is acceptable, even rewarded, when we take from or bully those who are weaker than ourselves.  Whether it is a 50-something man raping a 10 year old boy, or corporations that take government subsidies to move American jobs overseas (and to pay their top execs huge bonuses), it must become socially unacceptable for the strong to victimize the weak.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Penn State st...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
PSU Students gather to express
solidarity & support for the rape victims

And on bystanders... We need to make bystanders more interested in doing what's right, than doing the minimum amount required by law to cover their own a$$ (if they even do that).  We need to stop demonizing and punishing those who "squeal," "snitch", or "rat out" people who are behaving badly.

Then there was an interesting take on this by "Marna Nightingale," one of the commenters on the thread below (Omelas State University) on why the grad student didn't intervene when he saw the child being raped, or do more to speak up afterwards, when his father and everybody else was telling him, hey, no big deal:
I DO feel genuinely badly for that grad student, and I absolutely could have been one of those adults and I am grateful to God that I am not.
I hope to Hell I never am, but I have to say that looking over my past life, the times I’ve most obviously failed to act on a moral imperative have been those times when I’ve seen – something that I knew was wrong, and I was sure of my facts, but I was also up in a situation where this had been going on for awhile and so everyone around me was Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine. And I am sure anyone looking at me would have said that I was obviously Utterly Sure That Everything Was Normal and Fine, too, while my brain was slowly turning Oh My God That Is Horrible What Do I Do into Everyone Is Calm and Cheerful so That Can’t Have Been What Happened, Right? Right? Please Let That Be Right, I Don’t Know What To Do Or How To Start Doing It.
And after a few hours or days or weeks, somehow… Everything WAS Normal and Fine. Except… not.
I’m not terribly brave. All I can do is to try to remember that I do that, and admit that if I do that and fail to act I deserve to pay the price of that.
This is a mindset I think we all need to be conscious of.  That horrible things, done over time, and with the agreement and apparent social pressure to act like everything is fine, just fine, can innure us to terrible injustice.

Just because it's been like this for a long time, doesn't mean it has to stay like this.  We can all think, we can all act responsibly.  We can all speak out against injustice, even if it means people won't like us.  Even if it costs me my job, I hope I've got enough moral fiber to not see a child being raped, and just close the door - literally or figuratively.

I can't get out of my head the testimony that the GA opened the door to the showers, saw the child and his rapist, and then left the room.  Maybe he was in shock, okay, he still could have dialed 911.  According to his testimony, he thought they both saw him.  That poor boy must have thought/hoped he was going to be rescued.  What must he have gone through, when that door closed again?  And all the poor kids that received "personal attention" from Sandusky, afterwards.  How can we possibly make it up to them?

What's your take on this?
Do you have a rape victim or bystander horror story?
Have you had to share meals with an abuser?
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Wants Become Shoulds &
The Price of Demand-Sensitivity

A Fun Summer List from The CraftCave
This post continues with Wants Become Shoulds and The Price of Demand-Sensitivity  from Chapter Five.

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.

<snip> obsessive people will read demands or expectations into situations, whether or not such demands really exist.  During one of our meetings, a perfectionistic photographer named Liz happened to mention a brief list of things she wanted to do in the upcoming week.  Although I had neither asked to to make the list nor suggested she do the things on it, the following week she sheepishly confessed, "I didn't do all the things I was supposed to do this past week, so I don't feel I have much to talk about."  She spoke as though I had expected her to accomplish the things on the list and as though she had to answer to me, even though I had nothing to do with the plan.
Between the moment when she first conceived of the list and our next meeting, an important change took place in Liz's thinking.  At some point - probably almost immediately after she made the list - her perception became distorted,  Instead of seeing the listed activities as things she wanted to do, she began to view them as tasks imposed upon her, which she had some kind of moral obligation to fulfill.
<snip> Instead of "I want to," they usually experience and say, "I ought to," "I must," or "I should."  Volition is replaced by obligation.  And similarly, rather than saying, "I don't want," they say, "I can't."
<snip> people who want to be above reproach are most often comfortable when they feel their decisions and actions are being dictated by outside forces.   It's harder to criticize someone who's "only following orders," as opposed to one doing something he initiated himself.  Also, thinking and speaking in such terms as "I should" or "I have to" feels and sounds less selfish and somehow more moral and responsible than "I want" or "I'd like."  In the obsessive's worldview, where conscientiousness is king, it's better to be fulfilling one's duty than satisfying one's own needs.

But the costs of unconsciously disowning one's desires are high.  A special joy and fulfillment spring from realizing goals that have been freely chosen.  In contrast, when most of your activities feel like obligations, you can reach a point where nothing gives you pleasure, and life feels meaningless.  You don't feel like an active participant, taking what enjoyment you can in life, but instead experience yourself as a passive recipient, grinding away at the obligations that are laid upon you.  You may feel powerless, as if you lack control over your life - a very uncomfortable state.
Indeed, you may lack a clear, stable sense of self - of who you are.  You may know what you do well, what you've achieved, whom you dislike, what frightens you.  These sorts of things do contribute to our sense of identity, but they aren't enough.  A solid sense of self requires a consistent awareness of your volitional side - what you want.  Without that anchor, you wind up feeling insubstantial and passive, and you may feel more vulnerable to external influences, especially the wishes of others.  <snip>

Making lists can be helpful, but taking a list of fun ideas, things we want to do, and turning them into obligation - it's like the stories of fairy jewelry, turned in the light of day into dry leaves and berries.

Why have fun, when you can suffer
with a heavy burden?
One of the saddest things about OCPD I've noticed is few talk or write about joy.  They sometimes pay lip service to spontaneity, but everything must be planned out, scheduled, and the planning isn't the happy, "I can't want to get to Disneyland!" sort, but the dry, worried, must-plan-for-potential-catastrophe type that sucks most of the joy right out of life.

There is nothing wrong with a strong work ethic - in balance.  All work and no play, we all know this is not a healthy way to live.  I have a notion American Puritans had a lot of OCPD in their ranks, with their aversion to bright colors and celebrating Christmas.

I've had a friend argue with me that he has no control over his life, that everything he does is because he has to do it that way.  I used to try to argue back, that he has choices, that he does what he does because he chooses to live that way, but since he seems determined to clutch his perceived powerlessness to him like a security blanket, I've given up trying to tell him otherwise.

Why would anyone consciously choose to live life that way?

There is a tremendous amount of joy, empowerment and satisfaction in saying, "I want this," and then working out a way to get "this," whether "this" is writing a book, taking a trip, or getting a chocolate mint ice cream cone.

Do you unconsciously turn things you want to do into obligations?
How are you overcoming that?
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Demand Sensitivity:
Phantom Obligations

Casper the Friendly Ghost via Wikimedia
This post continues with Demand-Sensitivity and Phantom Obligations from Chapter Five.

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.


<snip> One aspect of demand-sensitivity is the tendency to "hear" demands or expectations in an exaggerated way.  When the boss says he'd like to have something on his desk by Wednesday, the obsessive person often feels the expectation more acutely than others.  In fact, he often hears more of an imperative than the boss intended.
The obsessive person also exaggerates more subtle or inferred demand.  Suppose, for instance, I've drafted a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and have given it to you, saying, "If you have a chance, let me know what you think of it."  If you're a demand-sensitive obsessive, you'll feel a pressure not only to look over the piece, but to offer helpful suggestions and return the material to me as soon as possible.  While you may not actually do those things, you'll probably perceive my request as much more of a demand than it was, and even resent me for placing such a burden on you!
Many different factors could explain their behavior.  But in these particular cases, the two powerful factors were a special sensitivity to perceived demands of expectations, and a negative inner response to these demands.


Everyday living presents thousands of situations in which we are expected to conform to certain unstated expectations or conventions.  For instance:
  • In most cultures, men are expected to make the first move in dating.
  • We are supposed to show deference to our elders, or to our superiors at work.
  • Marriage carries with it a tacit imperative to have sex with or show affections to one's spouse.
  • We are supposed to be polite.

Whether or not the obsessive person complies with them, he is exquisitely attuned to these and other unstated obligations.  In fact, he hears them as if they were shouted through a bullhorn.  Placed in a new situation, his first concern is getting the lay of the land, discovering what the rules are.  <snip>

Nothing wrong with the boss setting a light timeframe on when s/he'd like a report turned in, but yes, I've seen perfectionists driven bonkers by such a "demand."

I think the sex demand-sensitivity is pretty huge, for a lot of people (including me.)  If you are married, or live with a partner, you are supposed to want to have sex with your partner.  Like, all the time, right?  Or, if you've gotten into a routine, you may dread Saturday night (or whenever The Night is).

Reality is, sometimes you don't want to make love.  You truly have a headache, or maybe you're irritated by one thing or another, or you watched a sad/scary movie just a few minutes again and you're not in the mood.  I think those with OCPD may be more sensitive to the implied demand, and thus, more rebellious about this than the average bear, but I could be mistaken.

Do you have a story about of demand-sensitivity?
Or is me asking for a comment like shouting through a bullhorn?