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.
Abolishing Worry - A Practical Method
If you rationalize your worrying and ruminating by blaming them on external events - this or that professional problem, financial crisis, or potential social mishap - realize that you're deluding yourself. As soon as one problem is resolved or hurdle passed, you will find something new to worry or ruminate about. No matter how much money you earn, how good your health is, how satisfying your marriage is, or what other good fortune you enjoy, you'll always be unhappy. It is not external events that are causing your chronic unhappiness, the problem is internal and self-created. And this will never change unless you take active steps to change it.
<snip> But this is one area in which I can offer direct, clear-cut advice that - followed conscientiously - is very likely to help.
It is a behavior therapy technique called thought-stopping. Before trying it, you must first be able to acknowledge that your worrying and ruminating are voluntary actions. External events don't "make" you worry; you've shaped yourself into a chronic worrier. Fortunately, with concerted attention and effort, you can moderate this destructive thought pattern.
The first step is to become more aware of your tendency to worry or ruminate each time it occurs. Negative thoughts at first may come so automatically that it will take you several minute even to notice them. But with time you'll "catch" such thoughts closer and closer to their onset. The moment you do notice, say to yourself, "I'm doing it now. I'm worrying [or ruminating]." At the same time, try to examine how these thoughts make you feel - note yours stomach tightening or your jaw beginning to tense up. Recognize that your emotional state is one of pain and discomfort, not relief or satisfaction. And notice how the worry or rumination is distracting your from more pleasant thoughts or something enjoyable in your immediate environment, or how it's sapping your attention and energy.
Once you can catch yourself worrying or ruminating, you're ready for the next step. Find a rubber band that fits comfortably around your wrist, and put it on. (For most people, newspaper rubber bands are ideal.) Wear it all day, every day.
Each time you find yourself worrying or ruminating, instead of paying attention to how painful it feels or what it's costing you, quickly pull the rubber band out an inch or two, let it snap back, and simultaneously say "Stop!" aloud. If you're afraid of being overheard, just say it to yourself, but give yourself a stern command. Inhale deeply, then relax, and let the breath out slowly, telling yourself, "Worrying [or ruminating] won't help." Then refocus all your attention and energy onto whatever is at hand. Some people do their best worrying in the middle of the night, when there is no more pleasant or useful activity at hand. If this is the case, after you say, "Worrying won't help," focus all your attention on relaxing every muscle in your body, while imagining yourself in some peaceful, idyllic setting.
The entire thought-stopping process should take only about fifteen seconds. You may think it's too simple, too pat, or too superficial to have any effect on such a deeply ingrained behavior. It isn't. It has helped many people make significant changes.
Perhaps you are afraid that the rubber band will look silly or draw attention. Remember that the whole purpose of this exercise is to help you put things in perspective so that you can enjoy life more. Try to approach your self-consciousness, another self-defeating trait, in the same spirit.
Test the exercise for a month. You'll find that it won't jeopardize your job or ruin your relationships; it will improve them. Do the exercise as long as necessary for new habits to form. This usually takes months. However, several patients have told me that after the first month they rarely snap the rubber band anymore because just looking at it stops the worrying immediately.
Whether it takes several months or just one, you'll find the rewards well worth the effort. You'll be happier, more relaxed, and more able to enjoy the moment. You'll also find yourself relating better to others. If you're not mired in negative thoughts, you'll have more unfettered mental energy and attention available for family and friends, and they will notice and respond. They'll experience you as being more present and more connected with them. They will enjoy your company more, feel closer to you, and treat your accordingly.
As soon as one problem is resolved or hurdle passed, you will find something new to worry or ruminate about. Yep. My ex did that - and I do that, sometimes.***
I normally wear a scrunchie around my wrist, too, but don't snap it as often as I probably should.
Most of this is about being mindful - recognizing when we're drifting into needless worry/ruminating territory, so we can literally snap ourselves out of it. Recognizing how crappy it makes us feel.
I wanted to write a big long post and expand on this at length, but recently, life has been busy, so I got nothin' else, right now. And this, too, is okay. Letting myself have what I need - in this case, some extra rest and down time, is good, too.
Have you tried thought-stopping?