Why We Repeat Painful Patterns in Relationships

Why We Repeat Painful Patterns in Relationships


The “repetition compulsion” is a fundamental idea in all psychotherapies. The compulsion to repeat is especially attention-grabbing as a result of what’s repeated isn’t pleasurable. Quite the opposite, it’s normally a painful and damaging sample of feeling and behaving.

How various kinds of therapists interpret repetition

Completely different “manufacturers” of psychotherapy clarify the causes in a wide range of methods. For instance, behavioral therapists deal with the repetitions as dangerous habits that may be modified by conditioning. Cognitive therapists view the repetitions as irrational methods of considering that may be modified by rational considering. Psychoanalytic therapists hint the repetitions to childhood experiences that get replayed in maturity. For instance, kids who’re abused usually develop as much as be abused or abusers as adults.

Andrey Zvyagintsev/Unsplash

Supply: Andrey Zvyagintsev/Unsplash

Freud believed the repetition compulsion was a mirrored image of the loss of life intuition—an unconscious drive towards self-destruction. Most psychoanalysts have rejected the idea of the loss of life intuition and imagine these repetitive feeling states and behaviors have been initially adaptive and obligatory for a kid’s psychic survival, however in maturity they’re self-destructive. Many up to date psychoanalysts perceive the repetition as an try at mastery—the hope that this time the mom or father or grandfather (or their stand-ins) will behave in a different way. From this attitude, the girl who tries to seduce her male analyst by dressing seductively and making seductive remarks unconsciously needs the male analyst (father) is not going to act out his sexual emotions towards her as her father did.

Displacement, projection, and transference

The repetition compulsion is acted out by means of processes similar to displacement and projection. Displacement includes experiencing and treating one individual as if he have been one other. Thus, the affected person might expertise the analyst as if she have been his mom. Projection includes experiencing one other individual as having emotions that you’ve. For instance, the affected person is feeling responsible and experiences the analyst as considering she is dangerous. In psychoanalysis, the sentiments and experiences that the affected person has towards the analyst are known as “transference” and the evaluation of the transference is on the coronary heart of the psychoanalytic course of.

Working by means of repetition and transference

The repetition compulsion and transference don’t solely happen in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis—they seem in our lives on an on a regular basis foundation. The one distinction is that in psychoanalysis, the repetitions and transference are recognized by means of perception and “labored by means of.”

By “working by means of,” I’m referring to the method of having the ability to distinguish the analyst from the individual with whom you developed this sample in childhood and internalizing a brand new manner of relating and feeling. For instance, I’ve a affected person who experiences me as bored with her the best way she skilled her mom. It makes her alternatively determined to have interaction me and indignant at me for not being engaged. She experiences this along with her husband, mates, and colleagues in addition to with me. However it’s with me that she has come to see that it is a lens by means of which she experiences the world.

In {our relationships} with our lovers, mates, husbands, wives, kids, mates, and colleagues, the repetitions (based mostly on the lens by means of which we coloration the world) don’t usually get recognized or labored by means of. In my work with sufferers, I describe it as just like Bugs Bunny’s carrot machine. No matter he put into it, it got here out within the form of a carrot.

The “working by means of” course of takes a very long time. We don’t merely cease doing or feeling the best way we expertise as “pure” and what we’ve been doing our entire life. As well as, stopping a repetitive sample normally includes giving up one thing. That is the idea for what psychoanalysts name “resistance.” If individuals have a lot hassle stopping a habits sample that causes them ache, the sample should have some operate. Essentially the most concrete and acutely aware instance is addictions. The ecstasy of a heroin excessive or of successful a horse race is so intense that the addict can’t give it up, even though it destroys their household, profession, friendships, and many others.


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