Why A Compulsive Personality Blog?
I love having a project. And ones that suit my nature such as a compulsive personality blog are especially gratifying. The Healthy Compulsive Project, a blog for people with obsessive and perfectionist personality traits, and those that live with them, is just that sort of venture.
I love to write and I love to think about personality, what motivates us and what fulfills us. I love to focus on a challenge and bring it to completion, as perfectly as possible. I love being committed to something that I’m creating or repairing. And I love to work, whether it’s helping clients, crafting a clear and engaging lecture, cutting down invasive vines, or balancing my checkbook.
All of the traits that I’ve just described about myself could be described as compulsive. They all rise from inner urges that are hard to resist. These passions all spring from within me and I feel compelled to act on them.
And that could be a problem if I’m not driving consciously, if I’m not taking the reins.
A Style with Extremes: The Compulsive Personality Spectrum
Anyone who has compulsive tendencies can become a victim of these urges. They can become rigid, judgmental, over-controlling, reactive, rushed, impatient, miserly and workaholic in order to meet their goals. They can become mean and destructive in the name of righteousness. They can also become anxious, burnt-out, and depressed.
The compulsive personality style can lead to extremes: really productive and caring, or really neurotic and callous. The American Psychiatric Association calls the negative end of this spectrum Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). They have no name for the positive end. It takes conscious effort to take the reins of compulsive energy and guide it to the healthy end of the spectrum. That’s The Healthy Compulsive Project.
A healthy compulsive is one whose energy, passion and talents for achievement are used consciously in the service of love and purpose. An unhealthy compulsive is one whose energy, passion and talents for achievement have been hijacked by fear and its henchman, anger. Both are driven: one by meaning, the other by dread.
In this blog I’ll be exploring the inner workings and outer manifestations of the compulsive personality, or, as I prefer to call it, the Driven personality. I’ll be writing about what it takes to be a healthy compulsive, which is neither easy nor simple.
Taking the Reins of Passion and Energy
But just so that you have a rough idea what I mean by this I’ll give you a bare bones preview. My study of research literature, personal experience, and clinical experience have led me to conclude that there are a few basic steps we need to take to take the wheel of this energetic disposition:
- Acknowledge that you have a compulsive personality style and take pride in it. The people who don’t acknowledge it, and so don’t see the dangers in it, are usually the ones who go off the the deep end.
- Slow down enough to look inside and remember what your deepest passions are. Where do they really want to go? Have you been trying to buy peace (I’ll retire someday) or self-regard (I really am a decent person after all) with over-working?
- Discover what part of your has taken over the reins: Insecurities? A need to be respected? A need to prove yourself? A deep need to create something of value?
- Take back the reins by honoring the original intention of your drives, and don’t get caught in a blind and rigid execution of them. Given the realities of your life how can you find peace, self-regard, or a sense of accomplishment?
- Don’t allow your tendencies to work, perfect, control, plan, and judge crowd out your other desires such as enjoying and nurturing relationships, taking time for leisure and play, and savoring what’s good in the present moment.
- Allow a balanced personality to emerge.
I’ll be going into greater depth with these in future posts.
The Larger Project: Individuation
The way I see it, together these constitute a larger Project that everyone has the potential to engage in, compulsive or not: cultivating our unique gifts in a way that benefits us and the world around us. Carl Jung called this Individuation.
Much of the good that’s accomplished in the world is accomplished by people who have compulsive tendencies. They get the job done. And much of the bad is wrought by people whose intense willpower gets hijacked by fear. Even if they do get the job done, they achieve it with lots of collateral damage.
The fate of our world is determined not by the people with the best ideas, but by the people with the most determination. Most of these people are Driven—often to their own detriment and the detriment of others–by judgement, punishment, and unrealistic expectations. Many who end up in leadership positions are compulsive, and many of them are unhappy, unhealthy, unbalanced, and, worst of all, unconscious. We need their energy, but we should also be asking how we can help them drive better.
That’s one reason why I’m taking on this project: to create awareness of a condition which research tells us is not recognized by most people, and too often turns destructive in our culture. And to help people use their Driven nature in a more constructive way.
I’ll be exploring how the Driven personality operates, and how to get it running smoothly. I’ll be looking at it from very diverse perspectives: psychological research, Jungian psychology and spirituality, culture, film and literature reviews, and personal stories.
Please join me in this project. I’d love to hear from folks who are compulsive or Driven. How do you manage your energy? I’d also love to hear from folks who live with people who are compulsive or Driven. What’s it like on the other end?
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