One of the effects of fear on all people, OCPD or not, is that it creates a need for something to be done in order to keep oneself safe.
People with OCPD are preoccupied with control because doing something rather than nothing gives them a sense of security from their fear.
In my first post, I wrote about my non-OCPD friend who has a fear of spiders. When he finds a spider in my bathroom, his mind alerts him, “Danger!” He feels compelled to do something in order to protect himself. He kills the spider right away and flushes it down the toilet to control his fear.
For all of us without arachnophobia, it is easy to say to him that the spider poses no real threat to the survival of humankind. We have the freedom to continue on our business in the bathroom without feeling the need to do anything about that spider. For my friend, however, it is a totally different story.
In the same way that my friend feels the need to do something about that spider, people with OCPD feel the need to do something about the world around them that they fear. Because of their inborn affinity to excellence and orderliness, people with OCPD feel most anxious when the world around them shows a lack of excellence and order. In order to give themselves a sense of security from that anxiety/fear, people with OCPD go about attempting to create an orderly environment of excellence. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try, everyone else around them, especially the people that they live with, seem to make it such an impossible task. In the end, both parties are driven crazy.
SO WHAT NOW?
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
You need to know your boundaries. If you are going to try to temporarily alleviate your anxiety through controlling or fixing your environment, do that where it does not affect others. Some of these private spaces include your own separate room, your own closet, your own mind, etc. Kindly request others to respect your private spaces. When your mind tells you that something must be controlled or fixed in an area that is shared with other people, like a shared room or a relationship, shut your mind up. You do NOT have to control these things. The consequences of not controlling or fixing these things are not as bad as your all-or-nothing thinking makes it out to be. Trust that everything will be just fine, even without your control.
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Try to understand that your OCPD friend’s need for control comes from his or her anxiety and fear. Try your best to be the source of comfort and security that he or she never had. Submitting to the control of your OCPD friend may temporarily alleviate his or her anxiety, but doing so will actually prevent him or her from ever facing his or her fears. Instead, help your OCPD friend identify the root of his or her need for control, invite him or her to let go of control, and comfort him or her every step of the way by telling him or her “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be just fine.”
HOW TO ELIMINATE YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL (OCPD):
Your need for control comes from your fear. If you remove your fear, there would be no need for control. But the reason you are not able to remove your fear is because your control prevents you from ever having to face your fear. Deny yourself the temporary sense of security that you get from your inflexible control. Let go of control and face your fear once and for all.