Category Archives: All-or-Nothing Thinking

Amy’s Baking Company: Sensitivity to Criticism Goes Viral

Last Friday on Fox’s reality TV series “Kitchen Nightmares,” chef Gordon Ramsay paid a visit to “Amy’s Baking Company,” a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Just like he does in every episode, Gordon Ramsay offered his constructive criticism with the intention of improving the restaurant’s success. The restoration process, however, was cut short for the first time in the show’s history because the owners of the restaurant, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, showed excessive resistance and defensiveness to Ramsay’s signature not-so-sensitive criticism. The two restaurant owners then became a viral hit over the internet because of their continued over-the-top display of oversensitivity to criticism even after the show.

Sensitivity to criticism comes from not feeling good enough as a person.

Amy's Baking Company[ Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, owners of "Amy's Baking Company" ]

Although the feeling of inadequacy is shared by many people, those who struggle with it the most are obsessives (highly anxious highly sensitive people) who had been starved of healthy affirmation during their childhood. This does not necessarily mean that their parents all have directed much of their criticism toward their children while they were growing up. No. Their parents could have very well been good-hearted, loving people who provided frequent words of affirmation. The question is “when?”

Although it makes sense to give positive affirmation at the onset of good results, affirmation linked only to performance is very unhealthy, especially for obsessive children who think in extremes. This kind of affirmation sets up children to define themselves by how well they perform. In the video, it seems pretty clear to me that Amy defines her self-worth by how well she performs as a chef. When anything less than perfection is delivered, performance-oriented obsessive people hear a voice in their head saying “you are fatally flawed!” When others say, “This could have been better,” they hear, “You are a disgusting human being! On the show, one of the servers asked, “Are you sure?” to Amy. Amy took this simple question as a hostile challenge and equated the experience to someone holding a gun to her head. People who have lived the majority of their life listening to this kind of verbal abuse inside their head are very broken inside.

The choice of words that Amy and Samy use to attack their opposers and “haters” is a reflection of what they constantly hear inside their head. In their mind, Amy and Samy are simply mirroring everyone else’s insensitive communication. It feels to them like the entire world is out to attack them.

It is devastating when one’s identity gets crushed. I can see Amy and Samy desperately trying so hard to fight against the idea that they are not good enough as people. It appears that pride has made its way into their lives to help them cope better with their pain. They have convinced themselves that everyone else is wrong and they alone are the only ones who know how good food tastes.

My heart breaks for Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. I hope they get to discover soon that they are good enough just the way they are, regardless of how well they cook or run a restaurant. I am bothered by the online world’s insensitivity towards them. Rather than leaving these two poor broken people alone, so many people are attacking them for fun, just to get a kick out of their reaction.

Welcome to the new world of online bullying :(

Watch the entire TV episode here:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Resentment and Forgiveness

In my last post titled “OCPD Depression,” I wrote about how people with OCPD can easily become addicted to thinking negatively about life. In much of the same way that this happens, people with OCPD can also become addicted to thinking negatively about other people.

Resentment is another one of the more common addictions that people with OCPD are likely to struggle with.

Resentment

Getting upset by other people is a normal part of life. For people with OCPD, this just happens more frequently and intensely than it does for others because of OCPD high standards and sensitivity. Those who are upset by others can then choose to let their upset mood take its course and move on without making any negative judgments or choose to condemn the people who caused them to get upset. Although many people do end up choosing the latter option, people with OCPD must be very disciplined to not do such a thing because of the way that their mind works.

Judging others is very dangerous for people with OCPD because their obsessive mind runs so extremely fast. In a span of an hour, a thought that arises twice in the mind of a “regular” person might loop 2000 times in the mind of a person with OCPD (the same thing happens with the OCD mind). This repetition creates pathways in the brain that turn passing thoughts into deep-rooted truths.

This would not be such a serious problem if people with OCPD judged accurately. But anyone who thinks in black-and-white is far from judging accurately. All-or-nothing thinking causes people with OCPD to judge others as being all good or all bad (mostly all bad because the majority of the world falls below their high standards). When these all bad judgments become deep-rooted truths, people with OCPD fall into resentment.

Many people with OCPD carry resentment against the people that they spend the majority of their time with. Sadly, these people are also usually the ones who care for them the most. This is tragically unfair. People with OCPD need to be more wary of their thoughts and not let the addiction to resentment destroy their most important relationships. I personally believe the marriage vows of people with OCPD and OCD should include the additional lines, “I promise to protect and honour our relationship through my thoughts. I will be vigilant in guarding my mind from making any negative judgments against you.”

It is also not so uncommon for people with OCPD to carry resentment against entire people groups, countries, and God. This usually happens as a result of continued use of generalizations in their reasoning.

Like all other addictions, resentment is very difficult to break. Neither distance nor death frees people from this addiction. Even though I had cut off all of our ties, even though I had traveled all over the world and lived in different countries, even though I had met other women who treated me so much better than she ever did, even after seven years had passed since our break-up, I had so much difficulty letting go of my resentment against one of my ex-girlfriends who hurt me so deeply. Justification (“it is understandable you did what you did to me because insert reason here“) also does not break the addiction of resentment. It is, however, a favourite psychological strategy used by people with OCPD to temporarily alleviate their negativity and kid themselves that they have forgiven those who have wronged them. Justification is like putting a bandage over a spreading wound.

Forgiveness is what breaks the addiction to resentment. Unlike justification, forgiveness does not try to make excuses for the wrongdoer. Forgiveness says, “You wronged me so bad. I did not deserve it. But I will choose to let go of my urge to condemn you for it.” In order to prevent relapse, resentment addicts must then work very hard at not letting a single resentful thought (against people) to grow in their mind. This is similar to how recovered alcoholics refrain from even having a sip of beer. Many people with OCPD struggle so much with forgiveness because they keep on taking “sips” of resentful thoughts.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

OCPD Depression

All people are guilty of thinking negatively at some point in their life. It is only human. But when this seemingly harmless act is repeated over and over again, negative thinking can become a dangerous addiction that leaves its victims feeling hopeless. This addiction is called depression.

Depression is one of the more common addictions that people with OCPD are likely to struggle with.

Depression

First things first – I must address the chemical imbalance theory of depression. The chemical imbalance hypothesis is an unproven, convenient theory that oversimplifies the cause of depression to the depleted serotonin levels of the brain. In his book, “The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Anti-Depressant Myth,” Dr. Irving Kirsch goes into detail about how “the idea of depression as a chemical imbalance of the brain is a myth.” People with OCPD do not fall into depression because of any chemical imbalance in their brain. They fall into depression because of compulsive negative thinking.

So what causes OCPD negative thinking?

One of the main ingredients of OCPD negative thinking is “all-or-nothing thinking.” This type of thinking splits life events as being either “completely disastrous” or “absolutely wonderful.” But why does the pessimistic view repeatedly win over the optimistic one when people with OCPD judge their experiences? The pessimistic view wins because the majority of life’s experiences fall below the high standards of people with OCPD.

So we have established that people with OCPD tend to think negatively when they do think. But how frequently do they think? Do people with OCPD think frequently enough to develop an addiction for it?

Yes, people with OCPD are thinkaholics. The intellectual overexcitability of these highly sensitive people causes them to spend much more time thinking than most other people do. Anxiety turns this natural inclination into more of an obsession. People with OCPD think so much that they may be heavily burdened with issues of existence and loneliness. This can lead to existential depression when it is combined with “all-or-nothing” negative thinking. A lot of people with OCPD who are fearful of their overwhelming emotions are also used to thinking their way out of their feelings. This “flight into reason” not only reinforces the brain pathway associated with excessive thinking, but it also creates a whole new problem associated with depression.

In her book, “The Drama of the Gifted Child,” Dr. Alice Miller wrote,

“The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality – the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief.”

It is exactly this vitality which is missing in the lives of so many people with OCPD (read more about OCPD “Composure and Emotional Non-expression“).

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR DEPRESSION (OCPD):
See your depression for what it is. It is an addiction. You do have the choice to put an end to it. But like all other addictions, you need to go “all-in” in your effort to stop doing the things that feed into your addiction. There is no easy way out of it, no “quick fix” pill you can take to end this addiction. You must force yourself to develop a habit of thinking positively.

Stop thinking in “black and white.” When difficult feelings come, do not think your way out of it. Feel your emotions without judging whether they are good or bad. Be calm as you say to yourself, “Ah, so this is what betrayal feels like.” Throughout your day, force yourself to smile even if it feels unnatural – your brain will follow and supply you with the emotions that have been linked with that behaviour. During the day, force yourself to go out and spend time with people even if all you feel like doing is lying down in bed.

If you are currently on antidepressants, do not suddenly stop taking them. Talk to your physician about gradually discontinuing your use of antidepressants.

If you relapse on your depression, just try again. Relapse does not mean you must go back on antidepressants. It just means you might need clearer boundaries. Some recovered alcoholics do not even have a sip of beer. Like them, you may need to keep yourself from having even a “sip” of negativity.

It is not so out of the ordinary for people with OCPD to experience sudden drops in their mood even after they have made all the right changes to their pattern of thinking and the way in which they experience their emotions. Do not be discouraged. Your emotional sensitivity may be causing you to unconsciously empathize with the pain and suffering of others.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Composure and Emotional Non-Expression

Highly sensitive people experience very strong emotions. Sometimes these emotions can be so overwhelming that they impair these people’s ability to maintain their composure and function at their best. In attempt to prevent the consequences that come with this loss, many of these people do not express these emotions and hope that others do not as well.

People with OCPD may be closed to the expression of certain emotions because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of losing their composure.

Many people with OCPD have adopted the wrong idea from their past that some of their human emotions are unacceptable. They may have once expressed those emotions freely, but were punished with hurtful consequences. Those consequences, however small, were then magnified by their unmerciful all-or-nothing thinking.

People with OCPD then fall for another one of their tendencies: they make it a rule not to express those emotions. Even though it is a difficult rule to follow, people with OCPD do a good job following it because of their strong work ethic.

But to their frustration, it appears that everyone else seems to be breaking that rule. This can feel so unfair to people with OCPD. They question, “Why am I the only person who makes the effort to keep myself controlled?”

If the answer to this question comes from their all-or-nothing thinking, many of these frustrated people will judge that it is because others are “weak.” This is a very dangerous judgment for people with OCPD to make because they will eventually judge themselves in the same way when they break their own rule. This then leads to perfectionism and guilt.

The emotion that I have so much difficulty handling is anger. My father, like many other traditional Asian men, did not let me express this emotion because his culture taught him that speaking in an angry tone around elders is disrespectful. He would shut me up and I would be left feeling unheard and invalidated. I learned from him that the only way I would be taken seriously is if I suppress this emotion, communicate in a controlled manner, and validate all my points with logical reasoning.

After functioning out of this condition for so long, I have become a very controlled communicator. I carefully manage my choice of words, the tone of my voice, my body language, and the expression on my face as I construct what I want to say. Many times, my service of containing my emotions has saved others from becoming over-stimulated while we discuss sensitive topics. Giving others no reason to get defensive, I have been able to efficiently debate with others and be heard.

But others do not seem to work as hard as I do in controlling this emotion. They use offensive words, raise their voice, position their body as if they about to fight, roll their eyes, flare their nostrils, etc. I then quietly judge them in my mind. “You are so weak. How can you possibly think that your offensive language and tone of voice strengthen your pathetic argument? You are not worth listening to!” But as they keep on expressing this emotion that I never got to express, my anger builds up inside of me until I cannot hold it in any longer. I explode. Extreme guilt then follows as I tell myself how weak and pathetic I am.

Now I am moving towards handling anger in a healthier way through a process of forgiving my father and teaching myself that what I have to say does matter, regardless of the perfection of my communication. Along the way, I am also becoming more compassionate for those who express anger.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Be open to others about your difficulty in handling their expression of certain emotions. Let them know how you feel. Let them know your boundaries. Ask them kindly to be more sensitive to you.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
When you catch your OCPD friend breaking one of his or her own emotional non-expression rules, let him or her know that it’s ok. Fight against his or her guilt. Help him or her realize that the consequences of his or her loss of composure are not as bad as his or her all-or-nothing thinking makes them out to be. If your OCPD friend gets upset at you for breaking one of his or her emotional non-expression rules, be strong and do not allow yourself to feel guilt. Let your OCPD friend know that you prefer to give yourself more freedom to express your emotions. Let him or her know that the consequences of your emotional expression are not as bad as he or she thinks.

HOW TO FIND FREEDOM IN EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION (OCPD):
Think about that time when you adopted the wrong idea that it was unacceptable to express your emotions. What did you tell yourself? Understand that your all-or-nothing judgments were inaccurate. Forgive the person who made you feel that you should have never expressed those emotions. Tell yourself that you deserve to express those emotions just like everybody else. Whenever you feel those emotions come, face your fears and try to express them. If guilt follows, tell yourself that it’s ok.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Working Alone

Imagine you are living in a different world that is much simpler than ours, where humans live only off of slabs of bread. Most of the inhabitants of this imaginary world are content with their plain food because they have never tasted anything better. But among them, there is one visionary who knows that the experience of eating can be greatly enhanced with the invention of “peanut butter and strawberry jam.” He looks for a team to help him find his ingredients. “No. I’m pretty content with my plain bread and I’m sure everyone else is too,” says one of his prospective business partners. “That sounds like too much work,” another complains. When the entrepreneur finally manages to find a few people that are on board with his mission, he soon discovers that they cannot even differentiate between good and bad strawberries. He tries to teach them but they are unable to pick things up as fast as he can. Out of frustration, he reviews his options: (1) give up, (2) spend more time and money on training the wrong people, (3) do everything himself until he finds the right people to work with. Since it is neither within his nature to give up nor compromise his standards for excellence, he decides on the third option and creates the best peanut butter and strawberry jam the world has ever tasted.

People with OCPD tend to work alone when their passion for excellence is combined with their preoccupation with the efficient use of time and money.

The third option in the above story is the option taken by most employers. There really is not much disagreement against that decision. It is a widely accepted labour practice to replace those who cannot deliver the expected results with those who can. It just so happens that it takes a much longer time for people with OCPD to find the right people to work with because their standards are so high.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of time can also greatly delay the process of finding the right people to work with. There may be plenty of people who just need a little bit more training to eventually be able to deliver the results required by those with OCPD. However, people with OCPD who are preoccupied with the efficient use of time often lack the patience to wait for others to become good enough for the job.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of money can delay the process of finding the right people to work with as well. There may be plenty of professionals who can deliver the results required by those with OCPD at a cost. But people with OCPD often feel guilty about paying for services that they can easily do themselves.

Finally, people with OCPD who are very critical of the efforts of others are more likely to avoid group work with people who can outperform them. After habitually judging “My gosh! You are terrible at your job!” every time others perform poorly, people with OCPD become convinced that others are thinking the same thing about them when they do not measure up to the level of excellence of the group. These people rather work alone than to put themselves in a position where they might disappoint others.

Does this mean that all people with OCPD are not team players in the workplace? No. Not all jobs give people the freedom to materialize their uncompromisable love for excellence. People with OCPD can definitely be team players.

This OCPD tendency to work alone does not just occur in the workplace. I tended to work alone when I used to make music. Although I am best at the songwriting (melody and lyrics) portion of the music making process, I was unable to focus all my attention on it because I could not find a composer to work with who could compose the accompanying instrumental better than I could. There were professionals, of course, but I felt like I did not have the proven track record of profitability to spark their interest in working with me. I settled with doing everything myself. You can hear some of my original compositions on the “About Me” page.

This OCPD tendency to work alone can be hurtful in a group setting when others are in a position to share their input. In the story that I mentioned above, the strawberry pickers are not in any position to say “No. I will just continue to pick bad strawberries because I want to.” But in other group settings, like the family setting, people want to feel that their input matters. No matter how much of a good job she does, an OCPD mother who rejects the input of every other member of the family in the “management” of the children will likely cause a lot of hurt and resentment. In these group settings, people with OCPD must show that they actually value the input of others.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Know which group you are in and conduct yourself accordingly. If you have been placed into a group with members that would like to feel that their input matters, give them that benefit so that they would not develop resentment towards you. When they share their input, respond to them with “Hmmmm, that is great idea!” Even if you feel that your way is better than theirs, be diplomatic and show your openness to their way of doing things. If you want others to adopt your way of doing things, help them decide for themselves by evaluating the pros and cons of all the proposed options together as a group and asking them to decide on the best option. This will only work, however, if excellence is the goal of every member of the group. You need to recognize that, in many cases, excellence is not everyone’s goal. Some people just want to do whatever requires the least effort.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Say something like this to an OCPDer whose pursuit for excellence forces you out of the picture: “I applaud you for your way of doing things. I can really see its effectiveness in producing great outcomes. However, I feel very excluded in the way that you are going about reaching those outcomes. I feel like you do not respect what I have to say. Even if my way of doing things happens to be less effective than yours, I would still appreciate having my input considered. Is this something we can work out?” If the OCPDer cares more about people than outcomes, he or she will try to change. If the OCPDer has no plans to change because he or she is the type to care more about outcomes than people, you have three options: (1) break the partnership (not recommended for family setting), (2) follow his or her way of doing things, (3) do your own thing in your own way. If you choose to go through with either of the last two options, prepare yourself for OCPD all-or-nothing criticism. Be confident in your performance and do not take any of their judgments personally.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF PROMOTION AT WORK (OCPD):
If you are the type of OCPDer who cares more about outcomes than people, everyone you work with will sense it because your tunnel vision probably causes you to focus so much on the outcomes that you completely neglect the people altogether. This will greatly decrease your chances of getting promoted at work. You will become frustrated as you watch others who work less than you do get promoted instead. So if you want to improve your chances of promotion at work, be consistently excellent in how you deal with the people around you as well.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 628 other followers