Monthly Archives: August 2012

OCPD and Religion

The “meaning of life” is one of the many questions that a lot of sensitive people think about. This contemplation often leads these people to explore different religions. But among these sensitive thinkers, there is a smaller group whose personality makes them more likely to miss the point of those religions that are centered around a personal God.

People with OCPD are more likely to miss the point of religions that are centered around a personal God.

Having lived all their life using their exceptional logical reasoning skills to figure out the answers to their many questions, many people with OCPD develop the idea that all things can be figured out by the power of their mind, including God. This idea, however, comes from their all-or-nothing tendency to generalize: “I have figured out A and B with logical reasoning. Therefore, I can figure out C with logical reasoning.” As a result of this generalization, many people with OCPD ignore descriptions of God as an entity that is beyond human reasoning. They will then continue their ineffective pursuit of trying to figure out the validity of this God.

People with OCPD like rules and routines. They feel good and in control when they are able to follow them perfectly. When they break them, however, people with OCPD feel guilty and out of control.

This is no different when people with OCPD misuse religion. Much like the previous example, people with OCPD are likely to feel either good or guilty by their ability or inability to follow the rules and routines of religion perfectly. The only difference is, people with OCPD are likely to confuse these feelings as spiritual experiences when they occur in the context of religion.

As discussed in my earlier post titled “Discernment and Judgment,” people with OCPD can be quite judgmental when their gift for discernment is poisoned by all-or-nothing thinking. This can lead people with OCPD to judge themselves and others harshly when anything less than religious perfection is achieved. But rather than recognizing that these judgments are rooted from their own OCPD, many people with OCPD will falsely claim that it is the God of their religion who makes those merciless judgments. In the end, these false claims contribute to the misrepresentation of different religions and their God.

What people with OCPD will eventually find with this kind of empty relationship with religion is that it does not fulfill them. They may then hastily conclude that religion does not work, even though they may have never pursued it properly to begin with.

Some of the world’s religions believe in a personal, all-powerful God who is on the side of humankind. If this is true, it would make sense for all humankind to hand over their control of their lives to this God. However, since letting go of control happens to be the most difficult thing for people with OCPD to do, many of them hardly ever find out whether or not this belief is true.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO PURSUE RELIGION WITHOUT USING IT AS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR OCPD (OCPD):
Assume that your inner voice that makes extreme judgments is wrong. Does God really speak like that? Or is that just you? Familiarize yourself more with who this God is and what kind of relationship He has with humankind so that you will be able to differentiate between your own voice and His. Ask yourself if the purpose of this religion is to gain more control over your life or lose it. If the purpose is to lose it, then you are probably missing the point if you feel in control through your perfect ability to follow all the rules and routines. Does the God in question promise that He will take care of you if you let go of control and place your trust in Him? If so, let go of control. Anxiety and stress will probably follow as you have been using control all your life to protect yourself. That is normal. But be comforted in knowing that, if this God really exists and keeps His promises, He will probably keep this one too.

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Self-Esteem

As mentioned in my previous post titled “Discernment and Judgment,” people with OCPD can be quite judgmental when their gift for discernment is poisoned by all-or-nothing thinking. Their judgments can be so damaging that those who listen to them on a frequent basis are often left with their identity confused and self-esteem lowered.

People who are on the receiving end of frequent OCPD judgments should discount all all-or-nothing attacks made against their identity in order to preserve their own self-esteem.

A common story that I hear again and again is that of people coming out of a relationship with an OCPD partner more broken than they were before. This unfortunate outcome is most likely due to having listened to the all-or-nothing judgments of people with OCPD for far too long.

Those closest to people with OCPD must be vigilant in critically analyzing their judgments. No matter how true they might sound, recipients of their judgments need to recognize that OCPD judgments are in fact inaccurate because of their all-or-nothing thinking. Simply put, do not listen to any negative judgments from a person with OCPD.

When people with OCPD are attacked by their own judgments, most of them defend themselves in a very harmful way. Instead of saying to themselves, “No, I am not a failure! Look at who I am,” most will say, “No, I am not a failure! Look at what I have done!”

Many people with OCPD fall for this trap because they often do have an impressive portfolio of excellent work. Their performance then becomes the foundation on which they build their worth. When they perform excellently, they feel good about themselves; when they perform poorly, they feel bad about themselves. People with OCPD who repeatedly experience these ups and downs can then fall deeply into performance addiction.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Stop judging others. Even when others fail to meet your standards, stop yourself from making judgments about them in your mind. Challenge yourself to think more in the middle.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Stop listening to the judgments of your OCPD friend. Try to understand that his or her anxiety causes him or her to think in extremes. Be patient and encourage your OCPD friend to think more in the middle.

HOW TO SAVE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM (OCPD):
Stop listening to yourself. Until you have eliminated your all-or-nothing thinking, your mind is actually quite unreliable and your judgments are flawed. When you defend yourself from attacks that are made against your identity, do not be tempted to focus on what you have done. Instead, focus on who you are. If there is too much hurt, fear, and lies that are hindering you from getting in touch with who you really are, read “The Gift Unwrapped,” my best attempt at summarizing the true identity of our kind.

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Discernment and Judgment

In her book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” Dr. Elaine N. Aron wrote,

“Like those machines that grade fruit by size – [highly sensitive people] sort into ten sizes while others sort into two or three.”

This ability to sort things into finer distinctions comes from the ability to first recognize those distinctions.

People with OCPD have a gift for discernment.

As a result of being born with a greater appreciation for excellence and order, people with OCPD tend to use their gift for discernment most frequently in these two areas. They strongly believe that not everything is equally excellent and orderly. They are able to recognize “true” and “authentic” excellence and order. When something is praised for its excellence by people with OCPD, you can be damn sure that it is excellent! This recognition then leads people with OCPD to work hard at bringing more of this excellence and order into the world.

Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to this wonderful gift for discernment. If this gift manages to get poisoned by all-or-nothing thinking, what you can end up with is a group of merciless judgmental people. Again, the judgments of people with OCPD usually center around the poor execution of excellence and orderliness. When they themselves fall short of perfection in these areas, all-or-nothing thinking OCPDers can become very self-critical and berate themselves with destructive words like “You are worthless!” “You are so stupid!” “You are such a loser!” Not having been privileged with much allowance for imperfection, these self-critical people tend to give others very little allowance for imperfection as well.

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