People with OCPD like routines for two reasons: (1) routines save them the time of having to inefficiently think about what to do; (2) routines protect them from being overwhelmed by unanticipated surprises.
Because of their sensitivity, people with OCPD are thinkaholics who inefficiently think too much about what to do. This inefficiency conflicts with their need for efficiency. For the sake of being more efficient, people with OCPD then try to cut out the thinking part altogether. They do this by getting all the thinking over and done with in the beginning and figuring out the “best” fail-proof course of action. Once they figure that out, people with OCPD repeat the same action over and over again for every situation. Their fear of mistakes can also contribute to their resistance in trying out new things.
The 1997 movie “As Good as it Gets” demonstrates this kind of preoccupation with routines.
In the movie, Jack Nicholson’s character responds to his hunger in the same way at the same hour of everyday: he goes to the same restaurant; he sits in the same seat; he orders the same meal in the same way from the same server; he eats his meal in the same manner; he pays the bill in the same amount. During my workaholic years living in Seoul, I had been very much like Jack Nicholson’s character. The thought of trying out something new for lunch seemed so troublesome when I already had a place and meal that I could expect to be satisfied with. Trying out something new would have required me to inefficiently think again about which place to eat at, what menu item to order, and so many other things that take me a much longer time to think about than most other people.
Some of the world’s most successful people follow routines. One of Korea’s most successful people in the entertainment industry, Jin-Young Park (workaholic singer/songwriter, dancer, record producer and former CEO and founder of major entertainment company “JYP Entertainment”), told “Healing Camp” on an interview that he had been following the same morning routine everyday for the last seventeen years.
[ wake up (8:00am), take vitamins/supplements, eat the same healthy breakfast (15 minutes), stretch (58 different stretches in 30 minutes), do vocal exercises (30 minutes), work out (2 hours), get dressed (5 minutes) ]
The breaking of a routine is a big deal to people with OCPD because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences.
SO WHAT NOW?
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Remember that your all-or-nothing thinking wrongfully hyperbolizes the consequences of a broken routine. If others cause you to break a routine, go along with it and tell yourself that you are going to be ok. If you catch yourself hesitating to do an activity that is not a part of your routine (helping out a friend, going to party, etc.), examine yourself carefully and see if your hesitation is caused from your attachment to your routines. If it is, regardless of how inefficient it might be, push yourself to think about whether it is more important to follow your routine or try out the new activity.
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
If your OCPD friend is upset by a broken routine, try your best to show empathy for the intensified pain that your friend’s all-or-nothing thinking causes him or her to feel. If you can see that your OCPD friend is enjoying his or her time after having broken a routine, help him or her break out of his or her attachment to routines even more by mentioning in a friendly way, “Don’t you think this is a much more wonderful way to spend your time than just redoing your routine?”
HOW TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE WITH ROUTINES (OCPD):
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 routine. When a rule is broken, fight against your all-or-nothing thinking by telling yourself that the consequence will not be so bad.