Tag Archives: stoic

OCD vs OCPD: Restoring Our Imagination and Heart

One of the most frustrating things about having extremely high standards is feeling like nothing is ever done as well as it could be. It is exactly this frustration that I experienced when I first looked for information on OCPD after I was diagnosed with it. No matter how much I researched, I found nothing that could fully satisfy my longing to understand and better myself. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

For an entire year now, I have been filling in the missing pieces of this highly misunderstood and overpathologized personality type. In a year’s time, my unconventional way of looking at this condition has attracted many loyal readers, encouraged people to give their marriage another chance, and saved people from committing suicide. This blog is now the #1 online self-help resource for OCPD and it appears as one of the first search results for “OCPD” on Google (this was before my “Pop Danthology” went viral and messed up my SEO – google now thinks that my blog is about mashup making haha).

As a lover of psychology who studies this subject for fun, I also happen to come across other “disorders” and “illnesses.” Like the information out there on OCPD, I cannot help but think that so much is missing. My mind then begins to question and wrestle with conflicting theories until I find the one that makes the most sense. After much questioning and wrestling, I now feel ready to share my own personal (and very different) theory about the real difference between OCD and OCPD.

People with OCD are gifted with a huge imagination. People with OCPD are gifted with a huge heart.

OCD vs OCPD
First things first – there is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing missing in your brain!

SHARED CAUSE

Anxiety
Most of the information out there will emphasize that OCD is an anxiety disorder while OCPD is a personality disorder. I do not think such distinction really matters. I believe it is quite simple: both OCD and OCPD are caused by the anxiety that comes with being highly sensitive.

DIFFERENTIATING FACTOR

Dominant Overexcitability
Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of “overexcitabilities:” psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. OCD happens as a result of a dominant imaginational overexcitability while OCPD happens as a result of a dominant emotional overexcitability. In other words, people with OCD have a HUGE imagination and people with OCPD have a HUGE heart.

GIFT VS CURSE

Possessing extreme sensitivity in one area can be both a gift and a curse. When a person with OCD is not overwhelmed, his or her imagination can greatly enrich his or her own life, the lives of others, and assist in problem-solving. The same goes for people with OCPD and their emotions. Unfortunately, it is exactly these areas of extreme sensitivity that also betray them the most. People with OCD can imagine extremely disturbing events and consequences that most people cannot imagine with the same intensity. People with OCPD can feel extremely disturbing emotions that most people cannot feel with the same intensity. I am in no way suggesting that OCDers and OCPDers “make up” what they imagine and feel. They do not conveniently choose the thoughts/emotions that enter their imagination/heart.

WRONG LESSON LEARNED

The very first thought that enters the mind of people with OCD and OCPD upon feeling overwhelmed by their dominant overexcitability is “I feel very uncomfortable. This thought/feeling cannot be right. How do I get rid of this immediately?” Without the right kind of parenting and counselling from childhood, people with OCD and OCPD teach themselves from a very early age the wrong lesson that they must get rid of their imagination/emotions altogether. After seeing the positive results of their self-taught strategies, they repeat those strategies over and over again until those strategies become compulsions and addictions.

OCD COPING STRATEGIES

Fear of the unknown can come with having such a huge imagination. One way people with OCD attempt to eliminate this fear is by turning the unknown into the known through checking. Another way people with OCD attempt to eliminate this fear is by working hard at doing everything possible to prevent the unknown from ever happening. Lastly, many people with OCD distract themselves from their fear of the unknown through hyper-focusing on an activity (quite often one that requires extreme attention to detail) that takes their mind off of their imagination.

OCPD COPING STRATEGIES

Anxiety of emotions can come with being so emotionally sensitive. Most of the coping strategies of people with OCPD are aimed at removing emotions altogether. Whenever negative emotions are present, people with OCPD do whatever they can to avoid feeling them. They often think their way out of their emotions and exercise all kinds of psychological strategies in their head to comfort themselves. A great deal of energy is also invested into the prevention of future negative emotions. Lastly, many people with OCPD participate in distracting activities that drown their difficult emotions.

WHEN THE CURSE WINS…

When the curse wins, both groups live with a high level of anxiety for the majority of their existence. Both groups never experience a minute of peace in their respective areas of sensitivity. When their anxiety gets really bad, neither group can get through the day, no matter how much time and energy they spend on their coping strategies. Even if both groups find a way to get through the day, most of them are left with their dominant overexcitability so dulled that they never reach their potential in creativity or empathy. The inability to imagine also affects relationships differently than the inability to feel. While relationships can get by without imagination, not many relationships can function without emotions. Consequently, many people with OCPD still have extreme difficulty in their interpersonal relationships.

WHEN THE GIFT WINS…

You most definitely can turn both OCD and OCPD into gifts! When you do, life becomes so exciting. You no longer are pushed to do things out of fear, but you are pulled to do things out of joy. Your sensitivity adds to your life. Your dreams, imagination, and emotions inspire you. People with OCPD who have their gift for empathy restored can experience intimacy in relationships like no one else can. People with OCPD can experience compassion for entire nations of the world and be selfless enough to give up their life for the benefit of others.

You are going to be just fine! Now go ahead and experience your imagination and emotions. 🙂

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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.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
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.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
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.

HOW TO FIND FREEDOM IN EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION (OCPD):
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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