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 he 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.
Rumination: A Bitter Aftertaste
A slightly different - but equally painful - thought pattern is known as rumination: chronic or repetitive unproductive thinking about some past event or experience. You can ruminate about your own or someone else's errors or transgressions.
<snip> Kenneth, a forty-year old research physicist, became so upset about a used car he had uncharacteristically bought on impulse that he grew depressed, ultimately becoming convinced he would never sleep well as long as he owned it. Though it worked perfectly, Kenneth went over every inch of the car looking for flaws and worrying about what he would do if it malfunctioned. He suffered most, however, from his racking regret over having made the purchase at all. He had always sneered at buyers of used cars; whatever could have prompted him to buy one himself? Kenneth dwelt on his "bad decision" so intensely he felt exhausted and unable to concentrate on his work.
<snip> As with pathological worry, pathological rumination goes beyond the normal, expectable regrets or anger over unfortunate occurrences. And just as worry is an hypertrophy of some normal level of alertness and concern, rumination is a much-exaggerated variant of the healthy ability to remember damaging or unpleasant experiences well enough to avoid repeating them.
My ex used to do this, frequently - revisit the bad memories or incidents. Re-enact them out loud, even. The weird thing (to me) is that each and every time, the hurt/pain/anger level tended to increase with each replay. He would relive the time his sister said XYZ to him and how terrible it was and how terrible she was. He also played our fights on "repeat" and those would become distorted as well; he would get upset about what he remembered (wrongly) that I had said or done.***
I think the key, above, is the word unproductive. Of course we need to revisit what's happened, until we find some peace and/or humor in a situation. I tend to avoid seafood, but several years back, I ate several crab cakes at ABC Restaurant, at the company party. I subsequently spent the night puking my guts out in front of my bosses and co-workers.
Did I just get a bad one or two? Am I allergic to them? Who knows.
- Don't ever eat crab cakes at ABC restaurant again.
- Don't ever eat crab cakes at a work function again.
- The people I work with, several years later, have forgotten all about it (unless reminded). Even by the very next week, I'm pretty sure they had moved on to other things. *I* am rarely thinking, for the most part, about them and their personal issues; I've got my own stuff to deal with. Why would they obsess about mine?
I could also beat myself up about my hybrid car - the newer models have better batteries, get better gas mileage, etc. If I had waited another year or two, I could have bought a much better car.
On the other hand, if I'd waited, the wheels probably would have fallen off my old car; it was getting pretty tired. And I might have hit one of those periods where everyone wants to buy a hybrid and the prices went sky high.
There's truth that sometimes we do have to visit or revisit some ugly experiences - being raped or molested, for instance. It can be like lancing a boil: painful, ugly, messy, but in the end, a great relief.
But if you keep going over and over and over something from the past, and it's only making you feel worse - please consider getting some help.
Do you get stuck revisiting painful thoughts or memories?