My friend Barbara Ligeti asked me about this a couple of months ago. It’s an important question, since such patterns are ubiquitous in human societies. Consciousness came to humans with a price. Our animal drives didn’t stop when we became self-aware—they became enormously more variable and complex. Only we have the instincts to adorn our bodies with garments and jewelry, create art, and think in metaphors. We are social animals, we must relate. We have difficulty being in the presence of another without creating some kind of social contract. Try sitting in a waiting room with another person without making any connection—it’s impossible. At the very least you’ll feel a subtle exchange of acknowledgement and positioning. We also hardwire habits quickly from behaviors. Each time we relate in a certain way—for instance, offering love to anger, or offering anger to love—we are more likely to go there again. Human relating cocreates powerful, demanding relational patterns, driven by evolution and shaped by self-awareness and culture. Most of us automatically offer welcoming smiles when being introduced—an engaging habit of social communion. Some of us instinctively tense and defend when criticized—usually a separating, self-defeating habit. As such patterns are repeated, they constellate into forms which self-reinforce until they become reflexive ways of perceiving, thinking, and responding. The habits that dominate our waking and sleeping lives (yes, we have habitual patterns even in our dreams) are almost all relational patterns with ourselves, others, the world, and to memories, anticipations, and the stories we automatically generate about all experience. Each repetition reinforces itself in our nervous system, making us more likely to relate that way again in similar-feeling situations. The shorter answer to, “What’s the deal with creating the same negative patterns? It happens, but if we keep reaching for deeper love and more self-understanding, we can transcend almost any toxic habit. The longer answer? Most of us try to love well, and it’s easy to feel like a failure if things don’t work out or end badly. We all suffer some romantic shame or regrets. I’ve wished so many times that I’d spent the afternoon at Laurie Garretson’s house when I was 17 and she asked me in on my way to get a neck X-ray. She was my first hot kiss, and there would have been a lot more of them if I’d had the wherewithal to blow off my doctor’s appointment. In such remorseful moments, I try to remind myself: “Lighten up! It’s all about effort and progress. Keep moving towards love.” People hardly ever get intimacy right the first few times. Think about it.
- Are you with the first person you fell in love with?
- Are you blissfully happy with your spouse and have no doubts whatsoever about your marriage?
- Men tend to prefer women three and a half inches shorter, while women prefer men three and a half inches taller.
- On energetic levels, the feminine opens to trustable masculine presence, while the masculine offers resolved claim to magnetize feminine radiance and surrender.
- On defensive levels, we are drawn to complementary wounds (the alcoholic drawn to the codependent helper, or the victim to the persecutor).
- All these perspectives grow through developmental levels beginning with me-first selfishness and then developing towards more kindness and mutuality.