Category Archives: Routines

OCPD and Religion

The “meaning of life” is one of the many questions that a lot of sensitive people think about. This contemplation often leads these people to explore different religions. But among these sensitive thinkers, there is a smaller group whose personality makes them more likely to miss the point of those religions that are centered around a personal God.

People with OCPD are more likely to miss the point of religions that are centered around a personal God.

Having lived all their life using their exceptional logical reasoning skills to figure out the answers to their many questions, many people with OCPD develop the idea that all things can be figured out by the power of their mind, including God. This idea, however, comes from their all-or-nothing tendency to generalize: “I have figured out A and B with logical reasoning. Therefore, I can figure out C with logical reasoning.” As a result of this generalization, many people with OCPD ignore descriptions of God as an entity that is beyond human reasoning. They will then continue their ineffective pursuit of trying to figure out the validity of this God.

People with OCPD like rules and routines. They feel good and in control when they are able to follow them perfectly. When they break them, however, people with OCPD feel guilty and out of control.

This is no different when people with OCPD misuse religion. Much like the previous example, people with OCPD are likely to feel either good or guilty by their ability or inability to follow the rules and routines of religion perfectly. The only difference is, people with OCPD are likely to confuse these feelings as spiritual experiences when they occur in the context of religion.

As discussed in my earlier post titled “Discernment and Judgment,” people with OCPD can be quite judgmental when their gift for discernment is poisoned by all-or-nothing thinking. This can lead people with OCPD to judge themselves and others harshly when anything less than religious perfection is achieved. But rather than recognizing that these judgments are rooted from their own OCPD, many people with OCPD will falsely claim that it is the God of their religion who makes those merciless judgments. In the end, these false claims contribute to the misrepresentation of different religions and their God.

What people with OCPD will eventually find with this kind of empty relationship with religion is that it does not fulfill them. They may then hastily conclude that religion does not work, even though they may have never pursued it properly to begin with.

Some of the world’s religions believe in a personal, all-powerful God who is on the side of humankind. If this is true, it would make sense for all humankind to hand over their control of their lives to this God. However, since letting go of control happens to be the most difficult thing for people with OCPD to do, many of them hardly ever find out whether or not this belief is true.


Assume that your inner voice that makes extreme judgments is wrong. Does God really speak like that? Or is that just you? Familiarize yourself more with who this God is and what kind of relationship He has with humankind so that you will be able to differentiate between your own voice and His. Ask yourself if the purpose of this religion is to gain more control over your life or lose it. If the purpose is to lose it, then you are probably missing the point if you feel in control through your perfect ability to follow all the rules and routines. Does the God in question promise that He will take care of you if you let go of control and place your trust in Him? If so, let go of control. Anxiety and stress will probably follow as you have been using control all your life to protect yourself. That is normal. But be comforted in knowing that, if this God really exists and keeps His promises, He will probably keep this one too.

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People with OCPD like routines for two reasons: (1) routines save them the time of having to inefficiently think about what to do; (2) routines protect them from being overwhelmed by unanticipated surprises.  

Because of their sensitivity, people with OCPD are thinkaholics who inefficiently think too much about what to do. This inefficiency conflicts with their need for efficiency. For the sake of being more efficient, people with OCPD then try to cut out the thinking part altogether. They do this by getting all the thinking over and done with in the beginning and figuring out the “best” fail-proof course of action. Once they figure that out, people with OCPD repeat the same action over and over again for every situation. Their fear of mistakes can also contribute to their resistance in trying out new things.

The 1997 movie “As Good as it Gets” demonstrates this kind of preoccupation with routines.

In the movie, Jack Nicholson’s character responds to his hunger in the same way at the same hour of everyday: he goes to the same restaurant; he sits in the same seat; he orders the same meal in the same way from the same server; he eats his meal in the same manner; he pays the bill in the same amount. During my workaholic years living in Seoul, I had been very much like Jack Nicholson’s character. The thought of trying out something new for lunch seemed so troublesome when I already had a place and meal that I could expect to be satisfied with. Trying out something new would have required me to inefficiently think again about which place to eat at, what menu item to order, and so many other things that take me a much longer time to think about than most other people. 

Some of the world’s most successful people follow routines. One of Korea’s most successful people in the entertainment industry, Jin-Young Park (workaholic singer/songwriter, dancer, record producer and former CEO and founder of major entertainment company “JYP Entertainment”), told “Healing Camp” on an interview that he had been following the same morning routine everyday for the last seventeen years.

[ wake up (8:00am), take vitamins/supplements, eat the same healthy breakfast (15 minutes), stretch (58 different stretches in 30 minutes), do vocal exercises (30 minutes), work out (2 hours), get dressed (5 minutes) ]

The breaking of a routine is a big deal to people with OCPD because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences.


Remember that your all-or-nothing thinking wrongfully hyperbolizes the consequences of a broken routine. If others cause you to break a routine, go along with it and tell yourself that you are going to be ok. If you catch yourself hesitating to do an activity that is not a part of your routine (helping out a friend, going to party, etc.), examine yourself carefully and see if your hesitation is caused from your attachment to your routines. If it is, regardless of how inefficient it might be, push yourself to think about whether it is more important to follow your routine or try out the new activity.

If your OCPD friend is upset by a broken routine, try your best to show empathy for the intensified pain that your friend’s all-or-nothing thinking causes him or her to feel. If you can see that your OCPD friend is enjoying his or her time after having broken a routine, help him or her break out of his or her attachment to routines even more by mentioning in a friendly way, “Don’t you think this is a much more wonderful way to spend your time than just redoing your routine?”

Understand that, in some cases, it is better to take the time to think about what should and should not be done. After all the thinking, what you decide to do in the end may be quite different from what you would have done had you blindly followed a pre-established routine. When a rule is broken, fight against your all-or-nothing thinking by telling yourself that the consequence will not be so bad.

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