Another thing that fear does is cause its victims to think in extremes.
People with OCPD have all-or-nothing thinking (also known as “splitting”) as a result of their fear.
This cognitive distortion even occurs in the more isolated situation of my arachnophobic friend who comes across a spider in my bathroom. Whenever he sees a spider, he feels that he must always do something to protect himself. If he does not, he thinks he is being unsafe. According to his thoughts, his recklessness is an invitation to the spider to come to him, bite him, inject its deadly poison into his bloodstream, lay thousands of its baby spider eggs inside his skin, attack him while he’s sleeping, kill him, etc.
In the same way that my friend thinks in extremes about the consequences of not controlling spiders, people with OCPD think in extremes about the consequences of not controlling the world around them. People with OCPD believe that they must always do [insert preventative measure] in order to prevent [insert worst case scenario] from ever happening. After repeatedly using these always and never statements and black and white terms for so much of their life, their brain develops such strong neural pathways of this pattern of thinking that it becomes an automatic way in which their mind operates. People with OCPD then forget that there exists an infinite number of other options in between the two extremes and almost lose the ability to see the middle ground.
- You do not compromise your high standards of excellence, you do not settle for less
- You have an unshakable commitment to your beliefs – While others compromise their beliefs when times get hard or their feelings get in the way, your martyr-like faith in your beliefs helps you to endure all kinds of suffering and opposition.
- You are an agent of change in this world - While others in their hopelessness simply accept “this is just the way things are,” you are the one who believes “there should be change,” “there can be change,” and, despite all suffering and opposition you face, your attitude will be “I will live out that change!”
- You are a person of strong integrity - Regardless of what the crowd says or does, even if no one is watching you, you live out what you believe in and your life on the surface is an accurate representation of the values inside of you.
SO WHAT NOW?
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
When others do something that upsets you, before allowing your mind to think of completely inaccurate poisonous thoughts, ask them non-offensively (so that they do not get defensive) why they did what they did. Listen to them and ignore your thoughts! Believe their words over your what your mind tells you. A more direct but still non-offensive way to find out if your extreme thoughts are false is to say, “I’m sure you don’t mean to offend me, but because I struggle with all-or-nothing thinking, my mind tells me that… that’s not true, right?”
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Understand that your OCPD friend has probably lost the ability to see the middle ground. Unless they think you are smarter than them, which rarely is the case, telling the OCPD person the middle ground will not be effective at all. Instead, you have to lead your OCPD friend to find the middle ground on his or her own through questions. Ask your OCPD friend, “is that really the case? Or could it be that…?”
HOW TO CONTROL YOUR ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING (OCPD):
First, understand that your type of thinking is not accurate. Every time a thought pops into your head, ask yourself, “am I thinking in extremes right now?” Every time you make a decision, ask yourself, “am I being extreme in my decision-making?” Begin to exercise your mind to think in between the extremes. Yes, it already takes enough time for you to evaluate two options, but for your own good, you need to take some extra time to include more options in your evaluation.