Category Archives: Control

Loneliness (Part 2)

One of the most common traps many of us get into is looking for external solutions to fix our internal problems. So what’s the most common external solution people use to remove their inner loneliness? PEOPLE. People use people all the time to control their loneliness.

But like so many other external solutions, the fix is only temporary. Loneliness will come back. And if all you know is to latch onto people to take away your difficult feelings, that can turn into dependence on people. And you just cannot have healthy synergic social connections when your relationships are all based on dependence.

Some people choose to depend on a community of people. Dependence on this option could look like someone who just can’t stand being by himself and he just has to be out with friends all the time. Some people choose to depend on a romantic partner. Dependence on this option could look like someone who jumps from one relationship to another with hardly any break in between.

If you are desperate for people to be in your life in order to cover up your loneliness, that can cause even more problems. Here are some of the common problems that arise from desperation in this area. Just to get people, you are more likely to:

  • Overprioritize approval from others that you
  • Lie, make up stories, and pretend to be someone you are not, overexaggerate your successes
  • You are more likely to be perfectionistic about how pleasant you are around others
  • You are more likely to get very disappointed at others for their failure to readily be there for you
  • You are more likely to take advantage of very giving and caring people by unloading your sob stories with absolutely no intention to move forward from them
  • You are more likely to lack healthy boundaries with people and, because of that
  • You are more likely to overextend yourself for others while neglecting your own needs
  • You are more likely to look for community in all the wrong places
  • And hold onto unhealthy relationships

One of my favourite movies that depicts a lot of these problems with loneliness is “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

But not everyone uses people to remove their loneliness. Some people use substances to numb themselves, some people use work or entertainment to distract themselves, some people go to sleep and hope they wake up not feeling it anymore, and some people use unhealthy psychological strategies in their head to help them cope with their loneliness. Even though you’re not using people in these examples, I still would not recommend responding in these ways because they all have to do with running away from your difficult feelings.

If you’ve already developed a habit of running away from your loneliness, I know it’s going to be very hard to all of a sudden not do these things, but for your own mental health and emotional freedom, you have to let go of these temporary quick-fix solutions.

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Psychology of Utopia

All of us have a different vision of utopia. Why are they different? Well, I like the story of the blind men examining an elephant. Our understanding may be limited to the parts of the “elephant” that we’ve touched.

Let’s say one of those blind men is Ned flanders. Ned Flanders is a Christian. His utopia is called “heaven.” Heaven is all about abundance and freedom from missing the bulls-eye. Let’s bring Lisa Simpson in. She’s a feminist and a vegan. Her utopia is one of gender equality and the ethical treatment of animals. Let’s bring Brian Griffin in. He’s an atheist whose utopian world has no religion or unscientific thinking. And finally, Stewie Griffin. His utopia is one of world domination, where he is the ruler over all people.

When these characters look at the world that they live in, they notice that the actual state of the world falls pretty far below their vision of utopia. They see all the laws, systems, and all kinds of obstacles that hinder the world from reaching their own vision of utopia. No matter who you are, this gap causes an unpleasant feeling. It can even bring up emotions of anger.

So let’s say all these characters are a bit disgruntled because of the gap that they sense. Naturally, you want to get rid of this bad feeling as soon as you can, right? So what many people do, which is actually not the healthiest thing for you to do in the long-run, is to try to immediately close this gap. As I have already explained in my post on perfectionism, this is a mechanism of escape. And the more you escape again and again from this emotion that is a normal part of life, you will forego the opportunity to build up your tolerance for this difficult feeling.

Another thing that you might be doing in attempt to close your own gap is mocking, shaming, and criticizing others who are going against your vision of utopia. While this might work, I assure you that this strategy is not very effective. As a professional motivational speaker, I can say that positivity motivates people much more effectively. Mocking, shaming, and criticizing others only isolates you and hurts others.

So what do you do instead?

Think positively and defer your gratification. Believe that everything will be ok. Let go of control and stop thinking that it’s all on you to make the world a better place.

I do have something to say to some Christians, though. Don’t think so negatively about our values being opposed and redefined. It was never these values on their own that made the biggest change in people’s hearts anyway. It was Jesus’ extravagant love. So give more of that extravagant love instead. And right now is not the time for you to give your input. Ask yourself, “where was I when the gay community felt rejected?” “Was I there to show them love?” If not, and if the gay community is not asking for your input, it’s definitely not the time to share your values in their time of celebration.

Whether you’re a theist or an atheist, whether you’re a feminist or vegan or whatever, don’t be a jerk. Think positively and be nice to others.

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Turning The Other Cheek

On the side of all my unpredictable, unstable, and inconsistent creative work that I do, I work part-time in retail, selling luxury goods. I am the newest addition to our sales team. Out of everyone there, I probably make the most mistakes.

For a lot of my co-workers, their job is their life. For them, there are no other options. Many of them carry out their job in a very aggressive manner. I, on the other hand, am so relaxed as I work and it really is apparent. I work there because I enjoy it. If this part-time job does not work out, I know I can just move onto another one that I enjoy.

Few weeks ago, our store had our annual holiday party. Everyone was in a good mood and looking beautiful in their fancy clothes. But as the night progressed and more alcohol was being consumed, some of my co-workers loosened up a bit too much. One of them felt it was the opportune time to say to me, “Daniel, you are a real fuck up to the team!… You just don’t care enough… If you even dare to tell our manager about this conversation, I’m gonna kill you…”

Heart in Eye

Of course it hurt to hear all of this, especially when I have only had good intentions for others at my workplace. I felt misunderstood. My emotional sensitivity also intensified the hurt that I was feeling.

The old-me would have resorted to the use of my psychological strategies to escape my present difficult emotions. Having learned from my past the ineffectiveness of this response, I did something drastically different. I allowed myself to just feel the pain without judging whether the feeling was “good” or “bad,” whether my co-worker’s behaviour was “good” or “bad,” or whether my co-worker was a “good” or “bad” person. I resisted my impulse to investigate why such words were spoken and what had to be done to “fix” the problem. I lived in the present moment, even though that moment was not so pleasant. I also meditated on positive truths about who I am as a person. By doing all of this, I was able to keep myself calm and allow my difficult emotions to fully make its way in and out of my system while centering my identity. After giving myself all the time that I needed to grieve over the experience, I forgave her. In no time, I was feeling much better.

Then came the time to think about what to do next. The old-me would have immediately, without hesitation, confronted my co-worker. I have so much confidence in my communication skills and my mind’s ability to rapidly organize the thoughts and ideas in my head that there are not too many types of people, social situations, or sensitive topics that I feel threatened by when words must be used. In the past, I would tactfully expose the crimes of my wrongdoers and draw out their emotions of guilt to get them to stop doing the things that bother me. This practice worked out for me very nicely for many years.

For the first time, however, I realized that this kind of confrontation was actually my mechanism of control. Underneath it all, I simply feared getting hurt again. Rather than going back to my old ways, I took a chance and resisted this form of control. I kept my heart and mind open to be inspired with a better course of action. In prayer, I asked my God that I believe in, “I am pretty sure my way will achieve the outcome that I want, but is there something else You would rather have me do instead?”

Shortly after, I had a “vision” of my co-worker’s life growing up (religious or not, “psychic”-like experiences are not so abnormal in the lives of a lot of highly sensitive people). I saw (with my spiritual eyes, of course) her growing up, making mistakes, and people being very hard on her. I saw a whole string of hurtful words being spoken onto her and crushing her. I saw her desperately trying to build her self-worth through perfectionism. Her lack of grace on others when they made mistakes stemmed from the lack of grace she received growing up. I sensed the many areas of brokenness within her and just knew what she needed to hear for emotional healing to take place.

On my next day at work, I wrote her a Christmas card that included a Starbucks gift card. I wrote something along these lines (the original was much longer, of course – I just don’t remember all the things that I wrote, word for word):

“I didn’t know the extent of all the frustration and damage you experienced as a result of all my mistakes. I’m sorry. I did not mean to make you feel that I did not care. The truth is, I do care about you and appreciate you as a person very much. You are an amazing, delightful, beautiful woman with a good heart… [specific examples…] I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. ~ Daniel”

After reading my card, she came to me, thanked me, and gave me a big hug.

I am not sharing all of this to boast to the rest of the world “Hey, look at me, I’m such a saint!” No. I share all of this to inspire others to try it out when people behave in nasty, hurtful ways.

One of the questions I get asked very frequently from my blog readers is, “Hey, I’m pretty sure my husband/wife has OCPD and it’s driving me insane. How should I break the news to him/her?” This entire blogpost is my answer: I do not think that it is so necessary to “break the news” to anyone. Rather than pointing out people’s faults, weaknesses, and crimes, I think it is much better to love one another and see people’s attacks as clues to their inner brokenness.

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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.

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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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