Category Archives: Rules

Composure and Emotional Non-Expression

Highly sensitive people experience very strong emotions. Sometimes these emotions can be so overwhelming that they impair these people’s ability to maintain their composure and function at their best. In attempt to prevent the consequences that come with this loss, many of these people do not express these emotions and hope that others do not as well.

People with OCPD may be closed to the expression of certain emotions because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of losing their composure.

Many people with OCPD have adopted the wrong idea from their past that some of their human emotions are unacceptable. They may have once expressed those emotions freely, but were punished with hurtful consequences. Those consequences, however small, were then magnified by their unmerciful all-or-nothing thinking.

People with OCPD then fall for another one of their tendencies: they make it a rule not to express those emotions. Even though it is a difficult rule to follow, people with OCPD do a good job following it because of their strong work ethic.

But to their frustration, it appears that everyone else seems to be breaking that rule. This can feel so unfair to people with OCPD. They question, “Why am I the only person who makes the effort to keep myself controlled?”

If the answer to this question comes from their all-or-nothing thinking, many of these frustrated people will judge that it is because others are “weak.” This is a very dangerous judgment for people with OCPD to make because they will eventually judge themselves in the same way when they break their own rule. This then leads to perfectionism and guilt.

The emotion that I have so much difficulty handling is anger. My father, like many other traditional Asian men, did not let me express this emotion because his culture taught him that speaking in an angry tone around elders is disrespectful. He would shut me up and I would be left feeling unheard and invalidated. I learned from him that the only way I would be taken seriously is if I suppress this emotion, communicate in a controlled manner, and validate all my points with logical reasoning.

After functioning out of this condition for so long, I have become a very controlled communicator. I carefully manage my choice of words, the tone of my voice, my body language, and the expression on my face as I construct what I want to say. Many times, my service of containing my emotions has saved others from becoming over-stimulated while we discuss sensitive topics. Giving others no reason to get defensive, I have been able to efficiently debate with others and be heard.

But others do not seem to work as hard as I do in controlling this emotion. They use offensive words, raise their voice, position their body as if they about to fight, roll their eyes, flare their nostrils, etc. I then quietly judge them in my mind. “You are so weak. How can you possibly think that your offensive language and tone of voice strengthen your pathetic argument? You are not worth listening to!” But as they keep on expressing this emotion that I never got to express, my anger builds up inside of me until I cannot hold it in any longer. I explode. Extreme guilt then follows as I tell myself how weak and pathetic I am.

Now I am moving towards handling anger in a healthier way through a process of forgiving my father and teaching myself that what I have to say does matter, regardless of the perfection of my communication. Along the way, I am also becoming more compassionate for those who express anger.


Be open to others about your difficulty in handling their expression of certain emotions. Let them know how you feel. Let them know your boundaries. Ask them kindly to be more sensitive to you.

When you catch your OCPD friend breaking one of his or her own emotional non-expression rules, let him or her know that it’s ok. Fight against his or her guilt. Help him or her realize that the consequences of his or her loss of composure are not as bad as his or her all-or-nothing thinking makes them out to be. If your OCPD friend gets upset at you for breaking one of his or her emotional non-expression rules, be strong and do not allow yourself to feel guilt. Let your OCPD friend know that you prefer to give yourself more freedom to express your emotions. Let him or her know that the consequences of your emotional expression are not as bad as he or she thinks.

Think about that time when you adopted the wrong idea that it was unacceptable to express your emotions. What did you tell yourself? Understand that your all-or-nothing judgments were inaccurate. Forgive the person who made you feel that you should have never expressed those emotions. Tell yourself that you deserve to express those emotions just like everybody else. Whenever you feel those emotions come, face your fears and try to express them. If guilt follows, tell yourself that it’s ok.

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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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Theatre Seat Selection

OCPD causes me to be very picky about where I sit in the movie theatre.

That is why I pre-purchased my advance tickets and reserved my seats for the July 20th release of The Dark Knight Rises.

Here are my wonderful seats!

Sitting right in the center of the theatre, where everything is symmetric, is movie-going paradise for me! It is where I can escape my reality and zero-in all my attention on the film. If I were to sit anywhere else, the combination of my sensitivity and orderliness would pick up too many subtleties in my surroundings to distract me from being fully engaged with my movie. If I were to sit off to the side of the theatre, I would get distracted by the uneven distribution of sound as one ear would be picking up more sound than the other. I would also get distracted by my distorted perspective of the image being displayed on the screen.

I have done this for so long that it has become a personal movie-going rule that I follow. If I cannot get seats that are close to the center of the theatre, I rather wait another week to watch the movie.

But with great seats come great responsibilities. I make sure to use the restroom before the start of the movie and avoid drinking liquids during the movie.

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As discussed earlier in my post titled “Human Doing,” people with OCPD are preoccupied with the efficient use of time. To their frustration, however, the combination of their sensitivity and orderliness causes them to inefficiently think too much about what can and cannot be done to maintain order in this world. Since rules maintain order without requiring the follower to inefficiently have to think too much, people with OCPD demonstrate a great liking for them.

People with OCPD like rules because rules save them the time of having to inefficiently think about what can and cannot be done to maintain order.

Behind every good rule, there was a person who thought long and hard. Repeating this long and hard thinking process would only be inefficient and redundant. All that is left to be done is following the rule.

But which rules people with OCPD follow highly depend on how much they trust the original rule maker. If they do not trust the original rule maker, people with OCPD will do much of their own thinking and making up of their own rules. Since their own rules were born out of much of their own trusted thinking, people with OCPD will follow them religiously without much concern to go back and inefficiently question their original thinking process, even if it was all flawed.

The breaking of a rule is a big deal to people with OCPD because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences. People with OCPD find it “unfair” when others break the rules that OCPDers try so hard to follow. They can feel so much anger when they see this kind of injustice. When people with OCPD break their own rules, they can feel so much guilt.


If you really believe so strongly in some of the rules that you follow, follow them yourself without expecting others to do the same. If others have not asked you to share your thoughts on what can and cannot be done, do not go ahead and impose your ideas onto them. If others break a rule that you follow with so much conviction, do not be quick to judge that they are doing that deliberately to hurt you.

If your OCPD friend is upset because you broke a rule, first let him or her know that you did not mean to make him or her upset. In the case that your OCPD friend’s all-or-nothing thinking causes him or her to see you as an enemy, be strong and do not take personally any of the offensive language he or she might use. Assure him or her that the consequence of the broken rule is not as bad as he or she thinks. If he or she claims that the consequence will be something extremely bad, disagree confidently and assist him or her in seeing the “middle-ground.” If your OCPD friend is upset with him or herself for breaking a rule, try to comfort your OCPD friend by telling him or her that it is ok, that the consequence of breaking that rule is not as bad as he or she thinks.

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 rule. 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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