Monday, January 17, 2011

Demand Resistance

For some reason I keep coming across a concept called 'demand resistance' these days. I don't know quite why I'm seeing it everywhere lately, but I figured I'd take it as a sign or lesson from the Universe. Heaven knows you don't want to ignore those kinds of lessons; after all the Universe has ways of making you pay attention.

I suppose I should explain it first. Demand resistance is when someone asks something of you and your inner two-year old automatically screams NO!! Or, in more sciency terms: demand resistance is an unconscious chronic negative response to obligations or expectations.

I was horrified, absolutely horrified, to read about it. Because when someone asks or expects something of me, yes, it's true, my first thought is always, No, don't! It's a trap! Or something like that. At any rate it's something bad, and means that somebody wants something from me, which is never good. And then I thought, Oh no that makes me a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person!

But then an adult level of reason and common sense kicked in, and some kindness for the self, manifesting, as usual lately, in anger.

So I went and looked it up, via Google, to get the official definition and maybe some of the why of it. And lo and behold when I started typing it into Google look what it prompted me to complete:

Why look at that. Second one down. That's right; it just so happens that demand-resistance is characteristic of OCPD, or obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Further research tells me that the term comes from a book called Too Perfect: When Being In Control Gets Out of Control, by Dr. Allan Mallinger and Jeannette DeWyze, about 'obsessive' personalities.

Gosh, guess who had obsessive compulsive personality disorder? As I've been fond of repeating round these parts, my hoarding father had OCPD in fucking spades. He was severe, and absolutely textbook, by which textbook I mean of course the DSM-IV. Oh not that he was ever officially diagnosed; that would have required him to be in some kind of therapy, and there was nothing wrong with him, oh no of course not. It was everyone else in the world who was wrong.

It's all so circular, you know? Oh I don't suppose it's much better with other personality disorders; part of the problem is that it's all perfectly good and normal to the person with the disorder. But part of OCPD, specifically, is the need for control, and the stubborn pathological insistence that one is absolutely perfectly right all the time.

Although the term 'demand resistance' seems rather inadequate when describing my father. If asked to do something, even something he said he'd do, his 'resistance' was out of all proportion. He'd start yelling pretty much first thing, and go off on how everyone (okay, usually my mom) was always nagging him, or why he couldn't do it right now, or how didn't he have any rights too in this house and it was SO UNFAIR! And then he wouldn't do it. Ever. You could, if you were insanely patient, and, as someone who attempted to practice this approach, let me tell you 'insanely' is the correct word, you could maybe, if you were lucky, if the stars aligned, if he was in an inexplicably and completely unpredictably decent mood, get him talking, a little, about what you wanted, no, usually, to be honest, what you desperately needed him to do and which he adamantly would not let anyone else do, like, say, fix the faucet so it didn't drip so he could turn the water on to it again, or, say, install the water heater that's been sitting there for years, or, fix the car so there was less possibility of it quitting so that Mom could go somewhere in it by herself and didn't have to take him along, which, let's face it, he didn't want to do either, or... well, I'm sure you get the picture. Pretty much anything and everything regarding basic household maintenance. Or, for that matter, getting him to clean up the damned yard with the several score junk cars in it. Ha. Ha, ha. Hoo boy. There was a useless conversation.

So anyway, any request, no matter how politely framed, no matter how much generous lead-up and sympathy with the Hard Job of Being Him you gave him, was refused, resisted, denied, dismissed, said to be absolutely impossible, and spoken of with pretty much contempt. So yes, I think the term 'demand-resistance' doesn't quite cover it, does it.

But anyway there I was recognizing those traits in me.

Now. There is this other idea I've heard floated about when dealing with healing and coming to terms with childhood, well, abuse: fleas.

What 'fleas' are are bad habits picked up from the abuser or dysfunctional family member(s). They are not ingrained traits of the person who has picked them up. I mean it makes sense: if you are brought up within dysfunction, you learn that that is normal. If your mother, for example, is a narcissist, you may find yourself in horror acting like a narcissist sometimes. Of course, the fact that you are horrified should clue you in; a real narcissist can't conceive of being horrified at such behavior. But the important thing to remember is that it's learned. And so it can be unlearned.

So there is probably some of that. I've simply learned that when someone asks you something, the normal and usual response is to say no. Though strictly speaking that's just mimicking my father's behavior. There were also the constant negative reasons he gave, the things he said about the people or things making demands: taxes were always too much and unfair, the probate court always takes your money so never have anything to do with them ever!!! people had taken advantage of him in the past and so no one ever could be trusted, mom was just a nagging unreasonable bitch (though he didn't use that word as swearing was one of the things that set him off, hoo boy he sure didn't like it when Tara, who has a much shorter temper than I, occasionally used the f-word). That gives the reasons, the why behind automatically refusing, which reasons of course I took into myself as simply How The World Works. It's what you're taught, you know?

But then there's this.

What he expected of us, the rules and the conditions that he subjected us to, that he demanded that we abide by, were completely unreasonable. No, not just unreasonable; sometimes harmful, even dangerous, though of course he saw it as nothing, no big deal, nothing to complain about. Stuff like keeping the thermostat low in the winter; sometimes you could see your breath in here. I can't imagine that did my health much good as a kid, and I remember I was prone to colds. Or, come to think of it, the fact that he (and mom, too) didn't think having a horrible raging head cold ever warranted staying home from school, or that there was even such stuff as medicine that could alleviate the symptoms. I remember being howlingly angry when I discovered, in my twenties, that there were such things as cold pills, that, though they couldn't actually cure colds, at least lessened the misery of the things. Or having no hot water for years, really, from the time I was about six to sometime in my thirties, I think, though I'd moved out by then if I'm remembering aright, because he couldn't get around to installing a water heater that someone gave him for free. Somehow I don't think carrying pans of boiling water up a flight of stairs and through several rooms was exactly the safest thing to be doing as a teen, now was it?

So, in other words, I grew up with someone who made unreasonable, even dangerous demands of the rest of us. And when that is the case, resisting those demands is a sign of health and self-preservation. It is a sign of sanity, to say, no, I will not do that. And because those demands are constant, and nearly to a one, flat out crazy, of course the response of NO!! becomes automatic.

That is a good thing.

And now I find that, surprisingly, I am not ashamed of that automatic response: instead, I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


It's January in New England you say? It's freezing out there, you say? The ground is covered with snow? There's no heat in that Bus? Pffft, we say. We're hardy New Englanders, impervious to frigid weather, hearts full of stoic Yankee determination, maple syrup running in our veins.

Or, you know, not. It wasn't as cold as the last time we did a light iron run with the Bus, or at least it wasn't too bad while the sun was out and we were moving around; still, by the time we got back from this run of doors and various lighter stuff I couldn't feel my toes. Tara had me checking the little vent thing in the front every so often to see if there was heat; and, well, I suppose that could have been a vague feeling of warmth around it, but, really, it's just as likely it was pure Freudian wish-fulfillment.

Tara had attempted to plug some holes in the thing, using random bits of foam and, well, duct-tape; here you can see the really quite professional job she did on the front of the thing. She studied at the Red Green School of Auto Body Refinishing for a semester, you know:

And yet, the thing got more than a couple compliments, at the scrapyard, and at our usual celebratory Burger King stop afterwards. I will never understand what is wrong with some people.

Anyhow, here's the thing loaded up with stuff:

And the back view:

All told it was another 760 pounds of stuff out of here, and our twenty-ninth trip to the scrapyard; the total is now at 25,600 pounds of iron removed, or 12.8 tons. And oh yes, of course, there's still more.

Never fear.