A lot of people have asked me what a PCS person is. It is an acronym I use in my book, Fear of the Abyss: Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism, and it stands for Perfectionism, Control issues, and Shame. It represents a type of personality, not an illness, and many people with PCS traits are very high-functioning. However, the PCS person does not have just one trait but many, including the PCS traits, that form constellations, and a PCS person bears a heavy load, one that can lead to anxiety, panic, depression, eating disorders, and other problems.
People with this kind of personality have difficulty making decisions and feel that they are never adequate. If other people stay until eight at work, they will stay until ten. If they have to give a presentation, they will go over and over it, too many times, to try to make it perfect, but they never feel it is good enough. They have difficulty making decisions, because every path has pros and cons, and they are afraid of the terrible self-judgment that would result from the cons. Subjectively, they believe they just fear others judging them--and they do--but the real problem is that the criticism of others resonates with them. Those who like themselves more do not feel so hurt by the criticism or disagreement of others.
I cannot say this enough. Knowing your underlying dynamics will bring you more happiness, peace, and control over your life. You can't really live in the present when unconscious issues from your past determine your choices. People ask a lot about relationships, and I think we need to distinguish between what is done consciously and cognitively, and what is driven by underlying feelings, in which case we then use our rationale to justify it.
One complaint that I hear often is people choosing the wrong partner, over and over. I have seen many successful women, for example, in relationships with men with severe addictions, and they try time and time again to induce the person to stop using the drug of choice. I have known many men who choose women who are emotionally abusive and unstable, and they complain of the loneliness and anxiety of this choice. I have seen women with abusive men, who erroneously think that if they only think of the “magical” thing to say or do, that man will change, as if they have that control over other people. A person can make a mistake. A person can think someone is nice and then see a whole different side and leave right away. I am not talking about that. I am saying that when there is a pattern of behavior that leads to a bad choice, over and over, there is something else going on. To address it on a conscious level will not help and I believe that doing this also prevents people from getting the kind of help that will enable them to understand why they do this.
Labels are very popular now. Some people will say, I’m a rescuer.” Labels do not explain anything and do not help. Having compassion for others is not the same thing as selecting badly over and over. It is well known to therapists that many people leave one relationship only to start a new one with the exact same kind of person. It is very sad, heartbreaking, when people tell you the number of years they have spent learning that there is a pattern and that this has something to do with them. I feel that we owe our clients at least that.
Aleta Edwards, Psy.D.
I am a psychotherapist in private practice, with a strong interest in shame and perfectionism. I will periodically post my thoughts about these topics and other observations relating to emotional health.