Once again I am delving into the psychological issues of the Real Housewives of Bravo television. Again I must preface my post with a disclaimer that while I have a legitimate psychology degree, I am not a mental health professional. My conclusions can only be based on what I see and reliable sources, such as direct interview, so take the information with a grain of salt. These posts are intended for entertainment purposes only, if you are not entertained I apologize.
Today I am examining the behavior of Caroline Manzo, one of the stars of The Real Housewives of New Jersey on Bravo. It is easy to see that Caroline is devoted to her family, extremely devoted. It is also easy to see she has some serious control issues. She also seems to be judgmental, rigid and moralistic. Bear with me here but I see that she is a mother, the head of her family, that is her job and that is her obsession. I think she has Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder that centers on that, her utter devotion to and control of her family.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a pervasive character disturbance involving one’s generalized style and beliefs in the way one relates to themselves and the world. Persons with OCPD are typically deeply entrenched in their dysfunctional beliefs and genuinely see their way of functioning as the correct way. They tend to be deeply committed to their own beliefs and patterns, resistant to accepting anyone or anything that does not adhere to this rigidly held belief system. Most often, people with OCPD place blame for their unhappiness on external circumstances. people or their environment but with OCPD it is one’s dysfunctional philosophy which produces anxiety, anguish and frustration.
With Caroline, we see her with her family, always being the authority. Her way is the only way. Her children must pursue goals in her manner. Lauren must take certain beauty classes, Albie must continue with the law regardless of struggle, Christopher will be in the family business, somehow Caroline will make sure these events occur. Supportive? Yes. Also a bit controlling and overly involved in my opinion. These *children* are all in their twenties and still living at home, throwing ham and living their lives with their parents supervision and guidance. Whenever one of the *kids* deviates from the path that has been set out for them we see Caroline swoop in and play fixer. They are not allowed to fail or learn from their own mistakes, they are lectured and supported to smooth and bolster them to continue on the given path.
Although rarely observed by others, the experience of inner turmoil within this syndrome is immense. As much as others are often victimized by OCPD’s oppressive and demanding style, the high standards often apply two-fold within the OCPD sufferers’ expectations directed toward themselves. It is not uncommon for a person with OCPD to feel deeply entrenched in the belief that they are a *good person*. This belief can paradoxically often lead to feelings of depression and disappointment. The high standards which their idealized self is expected to live up to are often far beyond the capacity for any human being to consistently fulfill. Since ones humanness prevents an OCPD sufferer from living according his own high standards, a tremendous amount of self-hatred is imposed.
Within the OCPD population is a cognitive style characterized by dichotomous thinking. Dichotomous thinking is the tendency to categorize all aspects of life into one of two perspectives, all good or all bad. The world is viewed predominantly through clearly defined black and white realms. All that is pure and wholesome is valued. It can take only one stain or blemish to have the person completely find justification in discarding anything which evidences a flaw.
I think that is really the way Caroline is. She barely knew Danielle yet finding out she had a tainted past sent Caroline into a tizzy. Immediately she did not want anything to do with Danielle or for Danielle to have anything to do with her family, friends or intimate social circle. She did not give Danielle a chance to explain, judging her without hesitation. When Jacqueline continued to be friends with her, she railed that Danielle was causing a split in her family and that Jac was allowing Danielle to influence everything. To be frank, Caroline’s focus on Danielle is every bit as much to blame for that as Jac’s friendship with Danielle was. It is really out of line to tell other adults who they may or may not associate with. Caroline hammered and hammered away at the situation until she got her way.
For persons with OCPD, facts and confidence are all too often turned into I’m RIGHT and your WRONG. The way I see it represents the way it is, end of story. For others, refusing to yield to the correct perspective often entails encountering tension and discord. This manifestation of OCPD entails one’s adamantly guarding his dogmatic beliefs to such a degree that casual conversation often converts minor disagreements into heated debates. The relative importance of any topic rarely is of consequence in determining the degree of the intensity expressed in the midst of the debate. For the person who experiences OCPD, abstract ideals and moral standards become rigidly held truths.
Caroline is very rigid indeed. She never admits to any mistake in judgement or apologizes for any turmoil she causes those around her. I realize many of you may agree with Caroline and her assessments but whether she is right in her judgements or not is beside the point. The fact remains that she judges people harshly, they are either good or bad and nothing will change that view, she then bullies those in her circle to think exactly as she does.
She is blind to flaws within her family or friends, their bad behavior is always excused or justified. Ashley can assault Danielle and she is merely defending the family. Christopher can do a stripper car wash and he is an over eager go-getter, wink wink. Teresa can flip a table and pot stir fights and she is only a passionate woman or just being *Teresa*, giggle. Those bad behaviors are merely silly or justified. Point this out to her and if you push her, she will continue to defend their bad behavior. Even if she has to scream, cry and rage at you to do it, her friends and family are never wrong.
It would not be unusual for an OCPD sufferer to literally take delight in being wronged, since it affords them, what they perceive, as the justified opportunity to deliver a steep punishment. The term righteous indignation was probably conceived with this perspective in mind. Crossing a person with OCPD provides her the license to hold a grudge and forever hold your mistake over your head.
I feel with Danielle, Caroline takes joy in the conflict. She loves blaming everything on her. It gives her someone to make her look better in life. She is clearly superior to this *garbage* in her mind. I fail to see how anyone can see this play of righteousness as being healthy. She likes to play victim, to see her family as innocent and good and Danielle or any of her supporters as all bad.
In a conflict with someone who has OCPD, the non-OCPD person might be motivated to desperately seek closure. In the process of attempting conflict resolution, the non-OCPD might discover that every minute the quagmire becomes deeper and deeper. It is almost as if the mere effort to find resolution is a punishable offense. In a close relationship, encountering this zone of contempt is bewildering and frightening. All one wants to do is to bring this controversy to an end, and then, you are punished for not being willing to deal with the issue at hand. Within this zone, the person with OCPD feels a great need to bring about absolute clarity for the issue to be resolved. Once again this need for the perfect resolution creates a seemingly never ending tweaking of the issues. Agreeing to disagree is rarely a reasonable solution and often not in the scope of the OCPD’s world.
This really is Caroline. She will not let the Danielle thing go. As obsessed as Danielle is with the Manzos, Caroline and her crew are always talking about her. The healthy person would simply move on, refuse to engage. Caroline takes the more passive aggressive approach, pretending to be trying to move on but not really. She stews about it and she also contributes to other’s obsessions such as Teresa and Jacqueline. You can see the smirky glee at every report of Danielle, the I told you so attitude. She then of course says she did not want to talk about her but we all know if Caroline did not want Danielle discussed she would not be, Caroline always controls things.
OCPD sufferer feels that a lack of genuineness is wrong and being totally open, no matter what the consequence, is the only option. If others are offended by what I say, too bad for them. Moral righteousness and preaching morality as a dogmatic necessity is not an uncommon expression of OCPD. Both of these realms are steeped in the potential for the OCPD sufferer’s truth to override consideration and respect.
Caroline has no issues being blunt to the point of being hurtful. I think she broke Jacqueline down with this method. I also saw this in action by Caroline taking Danielle’s book around New Jersey, informing everyone that she knew about Danielle’s transgressions. Not necessary, she had no call to smear anyone whether it was true or not. What kind of person delights in trying to ruin another person’s reputation, particularly one with children who will be hurt by it? Regardless of Danielle’s past it was uncalled for and it was not Caroline’s business to broadcast Danielle’s issues to the world.
Overall I feel that Caroline is ruled by this moral indignation of her form of OCPD. I feel she is blind to the flaws of who she has already deemed as good and worthy individuals. I feel no matter what someone she has deemed as bad or outside of her circle does that they will remain bad and therefore, the enemy. I feel she controls her family and friends and that she always needs to get her way. I also feel she is unforgiving and inflexible to anyone who she feels is not one of *hers*. I feel that she systematically will try to get rid of anyone who might try to *contaminate* her perfect group, her family. The maintenance of this group’s goodness is her job and keeping them on the right path is her only responsibility.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control. This comes at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. It is present in a variety of contexts as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
- Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
- Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion
- Is excessively devoted to work (in Caroline’s case, family) to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships
- Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values
- Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
- Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
- Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
- Shows rigidity and stubbornness
For anyone having navigational issues here are the links to the other discussions on the housewives of New Jersey: