Freud will tell you that OCPD developed from the way you were potty trained. Other sources will tell you that OCPD is simply passed down genetically from your parents. I have a different theory.
Obsessive personalities begin with hypersensitivity.
Being born with a sensitive nervous system is quite normal. According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, it occurs in about 15-20 percent of the population. Although it can be quite advantageous to be a member of this minority group and have the natural ability to be more aware of subtleties in your surroundings, it can also be quite overwhelming at times.
It is during childhood when the majority of people, extra sensitive or not, often lose their sense of security as a result of being overwhelmed by the world. After all, it is during this time when everything is new and unfamiliar. Unfortunately, this loss of security occurs even more frequently for sensitive children.
When children lose their sense of security, their immediate reaction is to go to their parents. Those children who are able to find adequate security in their parents move on and learn that the object that originally caused their insecurity poses no threat to their survival. However, the other children who are unable to find adequate security in their parents develop fear and learn that the object is a threatening one. For one of my closest friends who is a big Jiu Jitsu fighter, that object happened to be a spider. To this day, he still is afraid of spiders. But unlike my friend whose fear is isolated to one easily avoidable object, the object that gets feared by unattended sensitive children is pretty much the entire world. Having been raised mostly by my anxious stay-at-home mother who has a tendency to catastrophize everything, I became one of those children who adopted the idea that the world is a dangerous, threatening place.
That is the beginning of every obsessive person’s life of survival.
STRENGTHS OF HYPERSENSITIVITY
- You are detail-oriented
- You have a greater awareness of stimuli, like sounds, smells, temperature, and textures
- You have a vivid imagination
- You are quick to see patterns and connections
- You are able to understand and appreciate more complex levels of people’s nonverbal expressions, such as art.
- You are able to read people and their motives well (emotional intelligence)
- You can sort things into finer distinctions – “Like those machines that grade fruit by size – we sort into ten sizes while others sort into two or three.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)
- You can communicate in such great detail – You are a thorough storyteller who can tell dynamic and exciting stories that are full of detail and emotion.
- You are smart – You reflect more on everything. All that thinking and strategizing has developed you into a very smart person.
- You have strong intuition – “Your intuition is right often enough that HSPs tend to be visionaries, highly intuitive artists, or inventors, as well as more conscientious, cautious, and wise people.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)
- You consider the past and future more
SO NOW WHAT?
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
When you get overwhelmed, try your best to react in a manner that is not offensive to others – it will lessen their defensiveness, allowing you to have more of a chance to feel like you are being heard. If others appear to be losing patience with you because you do not possess a “normal” level of sensitivity, forgive them for their ignorance and nicely ask them to extend more patience to you.
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Even though you cannot fully understand how your OCPD friend feels because what he or she feels is outside of your emotional range, try your best to show empathy. Telling your OCPD friend, verbally or non-verbally, that he or she is overreacting, exaggerating, or being a drama queen will only make him or her feel more frustrated, alone, and unheard.
HOW TO ELIMINATE YOUR FEAR (OCPD):
Forgive the people in your past who failed to give you adequate security when you needed it. How were they supposed to know that you required special attention? Not only are you a minority, but you are also probably your parents’ first experience with raising a child. They did not know any better. Try to revisit those times in your past and give yourself that security. Pretend that the now-adult-you is comforting the past-infant-you with words like, “Don’t worry, child. You’re going to be just fine.” If you are rejecting those words because your lack of experience keeps you in disbelief, force yourself to have those experiences so that you undoubtedly know that you are going to be just fine. Once you are able to overcome your mentality of survival, you can begin using your sensitivity, not as a tool to sense danger and consequences, but as a tool to catch the beautiful details of this world.