Awareness can be incredibly liberating; if you’ve found yourself participating in an unhealthy relationship with someone — your partner, your close friend, your boss, your landlord — and you feel “hooked”, try to figure out what’s happening. Chances are, something deep is being tapped, some very old wound, something from your early history. Don’t think in terms of gender, think in terms of the quality of the interaction, especially if you notice a pattern of interactions that cause you pain when you look back on your life.
Anything within you that is unhealed wants your attention. Anything that is unresolved in your heart is looking for relief. People write to me frequently about toxic relationships they feel unable or unwilling to end, and sometimes it’s so far underneath the surface, they just can’t figure out what it is that has them so imprisoned. It could be that your boyfriend’s inability to commit is echoing your mother’s elusiveness, or that your colleague taps an insecurity within you about your ability to succeed that reminds you of your inability to gain approval from your dad. We’re so close to this stuff, sometimes we really can’t see it, so we just spin; we obsess and feel desperate, and think it really is this other person or situation that’s got us so turned around. Anyone who elicits a strong reaction from you, pleasant or unpleasant, is someone to consider. These interactions are like markers on the path that offer us an opportunity to sit up and take notice. There aren’t too many things in life that make us feel disgusted with ourselves more than the feeling of being out of control, unable to stand up for ourselves, unable to act on our own behalf. Self-loathing is debilitating at best.
When you’re hooked in and you go back for more even though you know it won’t end well, that part of you that’s aching to be healed cries out all over again. You might mistakenly think if you could just resolve the current situation, you’d satisfy that old longing, but it isn’t the case. First of all, you’re probably caught up with someone who is incapable of giving you anything other than what they’ve been giving you; all you’ll do is compound your pain. When I look back on the big heartbreaks of my life, they always resulted from an attempt on my part to rewrite history. Freud called this the “repetition compulsion”. Jung said, “Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event.” Einstein on this, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The thing is, if we don’t know what it is we’re doing, what it is we’re trying to solve, we’ll just be acting out, we’ll be following this ancient map that keeps leading us back to pain. Sometimes people tell me they don’t want to sit with their pain all the time. Who would? Why would anyone choose to do that? You don’t have to do it “all the time.” You just have to do it once, but that “once” might take awhile. You need to be able to sit with it long enough to truly understand yourself, to find compassion for yourself, and to grieve or mourn, or be enraged if that’s what you need to do to release the heat of those old wounds. Then your pain doesn’t own you anymore. When it shows up in your life in the form of another person, or situation or opportunity, you recognize it, and since you know all too well where it leads, you take a pass. This unhealthy stuff loses its pull over you. You may go through times when you’re feeling vulnerable or tested, and those old unhealthy desires might resurface for a minute, but they’ll just tug on you, they won’t pull you off your feet anymore. If you do the work to heal (that “work” is personal, but I highly recommend the combination of yoga and therapy, so you flood your system with new information from both the “top-down” and the “bottom-up”), you just won’t want to go down that road anymore. You won’t choose to participate in interactions that cause you pain or drag you back down, because you will have worked too hard to lift yourself up.
Aristotle gets the credit for this last quote: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Sending you love,
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