The television series The Good Place has lots of wisdom to offer compulsives and perfectionists. By highlighting certain character traits in both compulsives and non-compulsives, The Good Place uses humor and drama to help us see more clearly the pitfalls and potentials of both perfectionists and non-perfectionists.

While you’ll get more out of my comments if you’ve seen at least some of the series, hopefully this post will be helpful even if you haven’t seen it. In either case, my comments shouldn’t spoil the series for you if you haven’t seen or finished it yet.

The first four characters I’ll…


Norman was taking his family out to dinner for a special occasion and he had a need to control it. They had reservations for six o’clock and no-one was moving or listening. Norman was the only one that seemed aware that time was ticking away. No one else seemed to care that they’d probably be late. Everyone else was simply primed for a good time. Not on-time.

During this episode, and other episodes almost daily, Norman’s need for control sent the stress hormone cortisol crashing through his system.

His blood pressure went up. His patience went down. His frustration went…


Norman was taking his family out to dinner for a special occasion and he had a need to control it. They had reservations for six o’clock and no-one was moving or listening. Norman was the only one that seemed aware that time was ticking away. No one else seemed to care that they’d probably be late. Everyone else was simply primed for a good time. Not on-time.

During this episode, and other episodes almost daily, Norman’s need for control sent the stress hormone cortisol crashing through his system.

His blood pressure went up. His patience went down. His frustration went…


A longstanding source of sanity and serenity for me has been Jane English’s beautiful edition of the Tao Te Ching. Her exquisite photos illustrate the foundational Taoist text attributed to Lao Tzu and written 2500 years ago.

While I find parts of the Tao Te Ching baffling, exasperating and mystifying, Lao Tzu’s encouragement to accept things as they are still conveys an attitude toward life that I find to be a good counterpoint to my driven nature.

Since Taoist wisdom can be especially useful to people who are compulsive, perfectionist, and obsessive, I thought it might be helpful for me…


Our North American culture has become obsessed with happiness and has made itself miserable in the process. Trying too hard to be happy is doomed to failure: happiness is the by-product of a life well-lived, not a goal that you can reach by targeting it. But compulsive perfectionists have the opposite problem.

They actually don’t appear to be very interested in happiness. To the degree that they’re interested in it, they tend to believe that perfection, completion, and control will make them happy-or at least their own version of happy.

Compulsives are very good at delaying gratification. They do it with the assumption that someday in the future they will allow themselves to be happy-when they’ve completed everything they’re supposed to do.

Which we all know never happens.

And until “never” comes, happiness is forbidden.

So I wanted to share some thoughts about how to create conditions in which happiness can evolve…


I often write about how essential it is for perfectionists and compulsives to of unimportant details and stubborn clinging. Too often we get caught up in rules, schedules, unrealistic goals of perfection, and rigid ideas, and lose track of what’s really satisfying.

A related danger is that instead of letting go in a healthy, positive way, we end up giving up. Giving up has a negative edge and can lead to a pretty miserable existence. Rather than really letting go, giving up holds a grudge.

But when things get really bad, it can be hard to distinguish giving up from…


As I’ve gotten to know more people with obsessive-compulsive personality through my clinical work, writing, and online groups, I’ve come to recognize that there is a great deal of variation among them. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits all description of the obsessive-compulsive personality. And it’s not completely fixed either; personality can shift with age and circumstance.

So I’ve tried to develop a more detailed model of the compulsive personality that takes into account its different facets. …


Should you tell your partner how to be a better person? I mean, doesn’t it make sense if you love them?

Theoretically, yes. But practically, no. It usually backfires. But there are ways other than telling them how to be a better person that can help them achieve their potential-and maybe make your life easier in the process.

Compulsive and Perfectionistic Versus Easy-Going

A very typical conflict occurs in couples when one person is driven, rule-bound, perfectionistic, compulsive, and Type-A, and the other is easy-going. The driven person wants to make their partner a better person by telling them to be neater, more reliable, more reasonable, more efficient, more productive and more thorough.

And the easy-going partner wants to make the driven person a better person…


The Healthy Compulsive Project

The pandemic presents particular psychological challenges for people who are compulsive, Type A, and driven. Not being able to plan, control, and perfect makes it especially difficult to stay calm.

So I’m going to share some information that has been helpful to me in situations like this, because, even accounting for the seriousness of the situation, it doesn’t have to be so nerve-wracking.

Here’s why.

We’re Bad at Predicting How We Will Feel In The Future

We’re really bad at predicting how we’re going to feel about problems once we encounter them in the future. …


I just came across an inspiring story by Sylvia Baer, a literature professor at Rowand University in New Jersey. That’s her living very fully in the bee costume above.

In her story she describes how her family is now facing a deadly infectious disease for the third time in three generations. Her mother had dealt with polio and her grandmother had dealt with typhus. And now, the 3 rdgeneration, Sylvia’s, is dealing with COVID-19. They had all experienced similar situations- quarantine, shortages and widespread death.

Sylvia asked her mother and grandmother how they had faced the fear, stress and isolation.

Gary Trosclair, DMA, LCSW

Psychotherapist, Jungian analyst, and author of "I'm Working On It In Therapy: How To Get The Most Out Of Psychotherapy," & the Healthy Compulsive Project Blog

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