In developed nations, people who demonstrate a mild variant of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are more common than any other personality style. Unlike those with the disordered state, these individuals lead a well-disciplined and organized lifestyle that enables them to function efficiently and successfully in most of their endeavors. If things go wrong, they feel discomfort, which leads to a resolution rather than indecisiveness and anxiety.
Oldham and Morris (1990) refer to this normalized variant of the compulsive personality as demonstrating the conscientious style. Conscientious individuals have strong moral principles and a sense of certainty, and they work hard until the job is done correctly. They are loyal to their families, causes, and superiors. Weiss, Millon, and Davis (1994) labeled this variant as exhibiting the conforming style. Individuals with the conforming style are orderly and perfectionistic, respect tradition and authority, follow established rules and standards, and are judgmental of those who do not. They may appear to be overly self-controlled, inflexible, and intolerant of deviance in their relationships.
Individuals with the normal compulsive style demonstrate an unusual degree of integrity, adhering firmly to society’s morals and norms. They are extremely principled in their behavior and tend to follow standards from which they hesitate to deviate. They attempt to act in an objective and rational manner and decide matters based on what they believe is right. They often follow their religion’s beliefs and principles to an extreme degree. Exhibiting virtuous behaviors and voicing moral values give them a deep sense of satisfaction. However, their superrationality often leads to problems as they tend to see complex matters in black and white terms and devalue the role of emotions, which precludes relativistic judgments and subjective preferences.
Compulsives blend with most other personalities, though antisocial and borderline traits generally do not fit them. The RCC personality spectrum includes a range of individuals who are highly other-directed, consistent in social compliance, and respectful in interpersonal relationships. Typically, their personal histories reveal a pattern of having experienced constraint, discipline, and high expectations from their parents. Despite appearing passive on the surface, they often feel a strong urge to rebel and assert their underlying oppositional feelings, driven by a covert self-oriented desire and impulse. However, their ambivalence often traps them, rendering them unable to make decisions or take action (Rothenberg, 1998). (Millon 2011 479)
Ambivalence and internal conflict are inevitable aspects of life. At times, everyone faces these no-win struggles, but for some people, ambivalence is a constant and intrinsic part of their psychological makeup. Although most people are aware of the conflicts they experience, some of the more troubling ones remain unconscious. Certain conflicts can significantly disrupt people’s lives or otherwise have long-lasting effects. An example of such a struggle is that between obedience and defiance, as suggested by Rado (1959). What sets these ambivalent personalities apart from other pathological types is their inability to adequately resolve this conflict. (480)
The conflict within the RCC compulsive personality spectrum can be best understood by looking at the diametrically opposite qualities of two nonconflicted pathological spectrum patterns: the DAD dependent and the ADA antisocial personalities. Like the ADA antisocial, RCC personalities have a strong unconscious desire to assert their independence and defy regulations imposed by others. However, their conscious attitudes and overt behaviors are similar to those of the DAD dependent; they are excessively obedient and incorporate the strictures of others, submerging their own individuality.
RCC compulsives churn with defiance inwardly, like the antisocial, while submitting and complying consciously and behaviorally, like the dependent. They become overly conforming and submissive to bind their rebellious and oppositional urges, ensuring that they do not break through their controls. They adhere to societal rules and customs, and they vigorously espouse and defend them, often coming across as moralistic, legalistic, and self-righteous. Their insistence on systematizing and regulating events and relationships becomes a caricature of the virtues of order and propriety.
RCC compulsives meticulously follow their daily routines, likely getting lost in the minutiae and form rather than the substance of everyday life. These rigid behaviors are necessary to help them control their seething, repressed antagonisms. They cling to society’s rules because doing so helps restrain and protect them from their own rebellious impulses. They dare not risk deviating from these injunctions, lest their anger burst out of control, and they expose their resentments to others and themselves (Pollak, 1979). (481)
Figure 10.1 of Millon 2011
The figure shows the accommodating (passive) and nurturing (other-directed) extremes, with a conflict between the self and other orientations indicated by the arrow between the two boxes. The RCC compulsive personality disorder is an example of an insecurely ambivalent personality pattern, characterized by a struggle between satisfying one’s own desires and complying with the wishes of others. RCC compulsives resolve this conflict by repressing their self-interest and focusing on meeting the needs of others, as indicated by the weak intensity in the self/individuating polarity and strong intensity in the other/nurturing polarity. The figure also highlights the emphasis on preservation over enhancement, suggesting that RCC compulsives prioritize protecting themselves against potential harm and criticism, rather than seeking pleasure or joy. This focus on self-protection contributes to the grim and joyless demeanor associated with these personalities.(489)
Table of Trait Domains of the RCC Spectrum
Figure of Salience of the Trait Domains in the RCC Spectrum
Emotional Expression: Disciplined: RCC individuals are often noted for their serious and austere demeanor. Their posture and movements exhibit an underlying tightness, reflective of their emotions that are kept well in check. Their highly regulated and structured life constrains their emotions, leading to a sense of inner rigidity and control (Rassin & Muris, 2005). They tend to speak with precision, using clear diction and well-phrased sentences, especially if it is consistent with their education. Their clothing style is formal and proper, following current fashion trends, but typically subdued in color and style. However, their perfectionism can limit their options and interfere with their ability to make choices and complete everyday tasks.
Interpersonal Conduct: Courteous: RCCs exhibit a strong adherence to social norms and rules, often valuing formal and polite personal relationships. They typically maintain high moral standards and require subordinates to adhere to their established rules of conduct. In their interactions, they tend to relate to others in terms of rank or status, displaying authoritarian rather than egalitarian attitudes. RCCs often seek reassurance and approval from authority figures, feeling anxious when uncertain of their position.
When interacting with superiors, RCCs may display ingratiating and even obsequious behaviors, going out of their way to impress with their efficiency and seriousness. In contrast, their attitudes toward subordinates are often autocratic and condemnatory, cloaked behind regulations and legalities. RCCs justify their aggressive intentions by recourse to higher authorities or rules.
RCC compulsive personalities place great importance on paying proper respect to those in authority, with behaviors that are beyond reproach, punctual, and meticulous. This behavior serves multiple functions, including gaining strength and authority by aligning themselves with a “greater power,” as well as relieving themselves of blame should their actions meet with disfavor. However, this often leads to a loss of personal identity and satisfaction.
RCCs are typically demanding and uncompromising in their relationships with subordinates, which can reinforce their feelings of inadequacy because the consequent disrespect and disloyalty from subordinates that remind them of their own inner urges and weaknesses. Their power over others provides them with a sanctioned outlet to vent hostile impulses, so they are quick and brutal when punishing subordinates for failing to meet their high standards. (489-492)
Cognitive Style: Constricted: RCC personalities are highly structured in their thinking, relying on established rules, schedules, and social hierarchies. They can become rigid and inflexible when it comes to adhering to formal schemas for constructing their lives (Mudrack, 2004). Novel ideas and unfamiliar customs make them feel unsure of the proper course of action, leading them to become immobilized and indecisive.
These individuals are especially concerned with propriety and efficiency and are unbending when it comes to regulations and procedures. This often causes others to view them as perfectionistic, officious, and legalistic. RCCs are contemptuous of anyone who behaves frivolously or impulsively, as they see emotional behavior as immature and irresponsible. They believe that people must be judged based on objective standards and established values and customs, rather than personal judgments.
However, what RCCs fail to recognize is that they themselves detest the rules they seek to impose on others. By restraining the rebellious impulses of others, they hope to convince themselves that these rules can be adhered to. RCCs are considered industrious and efficient, but lacking in flexibility and spontaneity. Others may view them as stubborn, stingy, possessive, uncreative, unimaginative, small-minded, and picayune (Jovev & Jackson, 2004).
In their work, RCCs are diligent and patient, preferring activities that require tidiness and meticulousness. While some see these behaviors as orderly and methodical, others may view them as reflecting a limited perspective.
Self-Image: Conscientious: RCC personalities are known for their devotion to work, prudence, and discipline. They view themselves as reliable, meticulous, and efficient individuals who prioritize productive efforts over leisure activities. The fear of being seen as irresponsible or making errors drives their perfectionism and discipline. They identify with institutional authorities and readily accept their beliefs and demands, which they believe are correct. RCCs have a self-image of being conscientious, selfless, loyal, dependable, and responsible individuals.
RCCs are hard on themselves and others, and they feel a strong sense of duty towards others. They strive to avoid behaviors that may provoke displeasure and are often indecisive, rationalizing their delay in action with philosophical clichés. They aim for high standards and delay action until they are sure it’s correct. However, these clichés often mask an unconscious desire to break out of the rigid mold they have created for themselves. RCCs fail to recognize that their own ambivalence towards achieving their goals, and their unconscious desire to defy authority, is what prevents them from reaching their public aspirations.
Intrapsychic Content: Concealed: RCCs are very selective in what they allow into their conscious awareness or express behaviorally from their internalized representations of the past. They tightly control and regulate inner impulses, attitudes, residual images, and memories, with forbidden impulses kept hidden in the unconscious. Even current personal difficulties and social conflicts related to past experiences are defensively denied and kept out of conscious awareness.
To avoid recognizing the contradictions between their unconscious impulses and conscious behaviors, RCCs devalue self-exploration and exhibit little or no insight into their motives and feelings. They believe that introspection only intrudes on rational thinking and self-control, claiming that it’s antithetical to efficient behavior. RCCs avoid looking into themselves, claiming that self-analysis is immature self-indulgence, which they view as anathema to civilized life. (493)
Intrapsychic Dynamics: Reaction-Formation/Identification: RCCs use their defense mechanisms to regulate their forbidden feelings and dispositions. They are more active in displaying regulatory actions than any other personality type. One of their most distinctive defense mechanisms is reaction-formation. This is evident in their repeated efforts to present a positive image of themselves, to engage in socially commendable actions that contradict their deeper forbidden and contrary feelings. RCCs tend to publicly display a mature and reasonable demeanor when faced with situations that would normally provoke dismay or irritability in others. Their obsequious behavior in frustrating circumstances may be traced to a reversal of their hidden and oppositional urges. RCC compulsives use identification and sublimation to transform negative impulses into socially acceptable outlets. By identifying with a punitive authority figure, they can justify venting their hostile impulses towards others and receive commendation as well. The RCC’s self-righteous morality reflects the same process. Mechanisms of sublimation serve similar functions by providing socially acceptable outlets for hostility, such as occupations like judge, dean, soldier, or cop.
RCCs also use isolation and undoing to keep their rebellious impulses in check. They compartmentalize or isolate their emotional response to a situation and block or neutralize their feelings, ensuring against the possibility of reacting in ways that may cause embarrassment or disapproval. If they inadvertently trespass the injunctions of authority figures or fail to live up to their expectations, they may engage in certain ritualistic acts to “undo” the evil or wrong they feel they have done, seeking expiation for their sins and regaining the goodwill they fear may be lost.
Intrapsychic Architecture: Compartmentalized: The RCC personality type is distinct in its mental structure. To prevent conflicting emotions and impulses from affecting one another and to keep contradictory attitudes and memories from reaching conscious awareness, their inner world must be compartmentalized in a rigid manner. The compartments must be tightly sealed to prevent any communication between them.
Despite appearing composed and deliberate on the surface, RCCs are constantly battling deep ambivalence and inner conflict that threaten to disrupt the careful balance they have constructed in their lives. They must protect themselves from their opposing impulses and feelings, avoiding any events that could trigger them and cause them to lose the favor of those in authority. Their strategy involves seeking rewards and security from those in power, and they go to great lengths to ensure that they do not lose their respect and protection. RCCs avoid taking any risks and operate with the certainty that their equilibrium will not be upset.
Controlling their emotions is a challenging task for RCCs, as they must restrain the impulses that surge from within them. To deal with these intrusive and frightening urges, they either transmute them or seal them off. RCCs employ a variety of defensive mechanisms to control their ambivalence more than any other pathological pattern.
The tightly structured world of RCCs is driven by their fear of disapproval and the belief that their actions will be severely punished. This fear can be traced back to their likely history of exposure to demanding, perfectionistic, and condemnatory parents. Although RCCs may appear relaxed and untroubled by toeing the line and behaving properly, their conformity and propriety are merely a public façade. Their true feelings of defiance and self-assertion are deeply repressed and always threatening to break through the surface.
RCCs are acutely aware of the pretentiousness and insincerity of their public behavior and the constant disparity that exists between their public and private selves. They fear being detected and condemned for their true feelings. To cope with their fears and impulses, RCCs engage in control mechanisms and formal interpersonal behaviors, as discussed in previous sections.
Mood/Temperament: Solemn: RCCs are typically characterized by their tense, unrelaxed, joyless, and grim demeanor. They often restrain warm and affectionate feelings, keeping their emotions under strict control. Some exhibit decreased levels of activity and energy, which is likely due to their lifelong habit of constraint and inhibition. Most RCCs do not exhibit a lively or ebullient manner, but rather are rigidly controlled and emotionally tight. Unfortunately, their inability to release pent-up energies may lead to psychophysiological disorders.
It is presumptuous to speculate that the ambivalence of RCCs might reflect some intrinsic antagonism between opposing temperamental dispositions. However, there is an opposition between intense fear and intense anger among these individuals. Both tendencies may account in part for their frequent indecisiveness and immobility.
Millon speculates that given the grim and joyless quality of RCCs, it is possible that many possess a constitutionally-based anhedonic temperament. Translating these notions into tangible substrates, one might hypothesize that regions of the limbic system associated with both fear and anger may be unusually dense or well-branched. Conflicting signals from these areas might underlie the hesitancy, doubting, and indecisive behaviors seen in these patients. Similarly, the substrate for experiencing pleasure may be poorly developed, leading to the typical stern countenance of RCCs.
Conscientiously Reliable Personality: The conscientiously reliable personality is characterized by a strong sense of duty and conforming dependability. They tend to adhere to rules and authority, and willingly submit to the wishes and values of others. These individuals have a tendency to be self-effacing, hesitating to express independent self-assertion, and yielding to the expectations and demands of others. They strive to meet the expectations of others, feeling that their duty is not to disappoint them.
The conscientiously reliable personality sees themselves as considerate, thoughtful, and cooperative individuals who act in an unambitious and modest way. However, they often harbor deep feelings of personal inadequacy and tend to downplay their accomplishments, abilities, and attributes. They grade their abilities based on their relevance to fulfilling the expectations of others.
These individuals are accommodating, duty-bound, prudent, hardworking, yielding, circumspect, and acquiescent. They dread the consequences of making social indiscretions or a public faux pas and, as a result, may act indecisively and inflexibly in unclear or ambiguous situations, displaying marked self-doubts and hesitations about taking any course of action.
Despite their deference to authority, conscientiously reliable personalities may have hidden rebellious feelings. They may exhibit intense contrary feelings that occasionally break through their controlled facade. They typically lack spontaneity and flexibility, often procrastinating and becoming easily upset by deviations from routine. They deny discordant emotions and tend to neutralize feelings normally aroused by distressful events.
Conscientiously reliable individuals often have a marked deflated sense of self-esteem and marked self-doubts. They seek support through attachment to institutional or religious organizations, identifying their actions with those in authority. They strive to maintain a consistent, unvarying behavioral pattern, restrain independent actions, and rigidly comply with approved rules. They preoccupy themselves with minor irrelevancies, distracting themselves from deeper sources of anxiety and inadequacy.
Conscientiously reliable individuals avoid taking risks and keep within a narrow rut, unwilling to gamble with the possibility that they may choose wrong. They lack a risk-taking spirit and are unwilling to place their destiny in unpredictable events. They seek to convey a front of equanimity and social agreeableness to avoid misguided transgressions and obviate the unknown and potentially dangerous. They maintain a rigorous internal conscience, counterbalancing their overt expression of their oppositional urges and unacceptable thoughts. (496-497)
Perfectionistically Reliable Personality: The Perfectionistically Reliable are individuals who have a persistent fear of making mistakes and taking risks. They often feel inadequate and fear being unprepared for new tasks. Their attention to perfectionism reflects their anxiety about potential failure and inner deficiencies. They are meticulous and fastidious because they anticipate criticism and fear derogation.
Perfectionists prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves and deal with events that are practical or tangible. They tend to be industrious, pragmatic, systematic, and objective, seeking to arrange their concerns logically and precisely. They are diligent and serious and concentrate on everyday facts and details. The reliable perfectionist is particularly careful to concentrate on and keep track of everyday facts and details.
The reliable perfectionist may react negatively if tasks prove too easy or enjoyable, as work is work and not play. They are more likely to commit themselves single-mindedly to any endeavor, overlearning its particulars, perhaps to the point of inflexibility. They will press themselves to complete tasks on a timely basis and feel most satisfied when fulfilling their own ambitions, seeing tangible or productive results, or meeting the expectations of significant others.
Although the perfectionist exhibits many constructive virtues, there are potentially problematic consequences. They may become lost in minor details, exhibit rigidity about personally preferred procedures and regulations, and lose sight of alternatives of potentially greater value. They may have difficulty appreciating viewpoints that differ significantly from their own and appear insensitive when dealing with others who have less need than they do of being factual and logical.
The perfectionist sees themselves as a reliable, efficient, and industrious person who follows a highly regulated and organized daily pattern. They adhere to formal social conventions and proprieties as a guidebook to the just and good life. They are unfailing in their devotion to doing what is judged to be proper and correct, setting high standards for themselves and others.
Under the perfectionist’s overtly controlled and cooperative facade lies a marked concern about their own adequacy. To the keen observer, there are subtle expressions of self-doubt, much as seen in the habit of emotional denial. They rarely act out or be provocative or contentious, as they have a strong, albeit hidden, fear of disapproval and failure, especially if so judged by persons in authority. (498)
Bureaucratically Constricted Personality: The bureaucratically constricted personality is a type of RCC compulsive personality that values traditional values, established authorities, and formal organizations. Rather than feeling oppressed by authoritarian and organizational rules, these individuals feel empowered and comforted by their associations. They feel that being part of a group or bureaucracy provides them with a powerful identification, a framework for action, and a sense of direction in life. By following the rules of their organization, they believe that they can avoid fault and punishment.
These individuals seek firm boundaries to guide them in making proper decisions and fear that they cannot constrain their inner impulses. The hierarchy of authority and subordination enables them to clearly define their place and responsibilities in the system, which makes them loyal and dependable members. They feel secure within the organization, and their identification with it gives them a sense of purpose and identity.
Bureaucratic types are committed adherents to the structure of the organization and are sticklers for following the details and aspirations of the system. They keep to precise time schedules and adhere to the so-called Protestant work ethic. They put aside personal inclinations, which may come to override the goals and values of the system. The bureaucratic person denies individuality and submits to the impersonal values of the system.
These individuals are often seen as officious, high-handed, unimaginative, closed-minded, intrusive, nosy, and meddlesome due to their narrow and rigid adherence to bureaucratic policies and rules. However, they exhibit a public sense of pride and self-importance owing to the status and security they gain by their alliance with institutional standing and perquisites. Their air of superiority and status is but skin-deep and is not as pronounced as it is in prototypal narcissists. (499)
Parsimoniously Constricted Personality: Fromm’s discussion of the hoarding orientation provides insight into the parsimoniously constricted personality. These individuals are characterized by their extreme miserliness, their reluctance to share or give, and their protective stance against the outside world. They are tightfisted, penny-pinching, and highly protective of their possessions and property. This behavior reflects a deep-seated fear of loss and a need for self-protection.
Furthermore, these personalities maintain a strict separation between what is theirs and what belongs to others, and they are highly defensive of their limited sphere of possessions and rights. They have learned to gather and hold onto what they have achieved, in part due to a sense of deprivation in childhood. They act as if their fortune could never be replenished, and they distance themselves from external intrusions in order to protect themselves from exposure.
At a deeper level, the constricted personality fears that others will uncover their true emptiness, and that their inner rebellious urges and angry feelings will be exposed. They maintain a façade of respectability and propriety as a means of hiding their true selves from others and even from themselves. Respect is a way of maintaining distance and avoiding exposure. Overall, the parsimoniously constricted personality is characterized by a deep-seated fear of loss, a need for self-protection, and a reluctance to expose their true selves to others. (503)
Puritanical Compulsive Personality: The Puritanical Compulsive personality is characterized by a rigid adherence to conventions of propriety and authority, accompanied by deep conflict and intense anger. These individuals are self-righteous and exhibit periodic displays of suspiciousness, irritability, and severe judgmental attitudes. They tend towards denial and defensiveness about emotional difficulties and psychosocial problems. Despite efforts to maintain control, they are unusually tense and high-strung.
Puritanical Compulsives are vigilant about avoiding social transgressions that may provoke humiliation and embarrassment, resulting in a defensive maneuver to restrict activities, operate within narrow boundaries, and conform to rules and regulations. They seek to minimize criticism and punitive reactions, particularly from persons in authority.
Beneath the façade of propriety is a growing bitterness and disillusionment, and they exhibit strong desires to discharge hostility while simultaneously fearing such expressions will prompt derision and rejection. These individuals often have a history of persistent tensions and may exhibit psychosomatic symptoms. They resist and suppress their own irrational impulses, including what they judge to be repugnant impulses and sexual desires, through an ascetic and austere lifestyle.
Puritanical Compulsives are judgmental about the lack of perfection in others, which often leads to abrasive and irritating behaviors that provoke acts of defiance and disobedience. They quickly lose their temper over trivial matters and become harsh disciplinarians, constantly criticizing others’ actions as inadequate or improper. (503)
Bedeviled Compulsive Personality: The Bedeviled Compulsive personality is a combination of the DRN negativistic and RCC compulsive ambivalent personality types. These individuals struggle with the need to comply with others’ wishes while also wanting to assert their own interests. This struggle undermines their personality and causes confusion and uncertainty. Sometimes they can suppress their oppositional desires, but for others, this strategy fails. They become indecisive, tormented, and befuddled when expected to act decisively. They may procrastinate, become cautious and timid, and use complex rationales to keep their inner confusion under control. This leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed and confused, with thoughts and impulses that can no longer be contained and directed. The persistence of these oscillating directions may lead to self-punitive resolutions, obsessions, and compulsions. They may feel possessed by demons, unable to acknowledge that their inner life is causing their distress. The eruption of untoward thoughts and distressing impulses makes these individuals feel as if they are caught in an unresolvable state, possibly controlled by the devil himself. This causes them to feel constrained and deformed by their contradictory tendencies, and they may feel as if they are on the edge of psychic dissolution. (504-508)
Leave a Reply