Like it or not, we’re pulled by our unconscious to re-create pain from the past in present relationships.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Of all the people she could have married she picked him — I don’t get it?” Or, “Boy she treats him just like his mother did, and he could have had anyone he wanted.”
Sounds like masochism right? Wrong!
We actually re-create the pain from our past for many reasons, including:
- We attract what is familiar, even though it often can be harmful.
- We’re attracting what is familiar and harmful in an attempt to heal things this time around.
One difficulty in dealing with this cycle is we’re typically unaware of what we’re doing.
Here’s an example of old pain in a new relationship:
John the boyfriend has an eerie and familiar way of criticizing Jane. She doesn’t like it, it hurts her, but the behavior does remind her of how her mother used to criticize her when she was small.
John also has a kind heart and cares for Jane, but he has a nasty short fuse, which reminds Jane of her explosive, bad-tempered mother. Jane has been hooked.
If Jane is unconscious of the harmful patterns of behavior and communication styles that were laid down in her childhood, she will simply re-experience these patterns of abuse; endure a difficult and painful relationship; and deny the pain. Growing resentment may very well break up the relationship.
Jane must become conscious and recognize that these familiar and painful behaviors coming from John affect her sense of well-being and self-worth. They cause her to doubt her ability to be lovable.
Jane has an opportunity to confront John is a way that she could not in childhood. Now she is able to risk sharing with him how his behavior impacts her, and she has the chance to alter the course of their relationship for the better.
Facing old familiar tunes with courage, consciousness and insight can save what might otherwise be a painful re-creation of past pain.
By expressing her feelings of hurt and frustration — and by setting a boundary that includes asking John to speak about himself, his feelings, his wants and needs — Jane can steer this relationship into the good parts for both herself and her partner, thus preserving and strengthening their love.