Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Breaking Out of Old Relationship Patterns
Category:
Healing

By Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Our earliest attachment experiences serve as models for relationships throughout our lives. Without realizing it, our attachment patterns influence our attractions, how we relate to partners, and even whether or not a relationship lasts. This helps explain why we keep winding up in the same relationships. Believe it or not, our brains are actually wired to recreate conditions from our past. Childhood experiences help lay down neural networks that can lead us to later simulate a familiar environment. Even when our attachments were strained, we are likely to elicit these same patterns from future relationships.

The good news is we can learn new ways of relating by understanding how our history informs our behavior.

As adults, we often act in ways that may have been adaptive as kids but that hurt us today. We may repeat negative patterns we witnessed or act in ways that recreate familiar scenarios: arguing, whining, lashing out, or shutting down in the same way we did as kids. We may choose partners who remind us of our past, we may project characteristics onto our partner, or we may even provoke our partner to play out the other half of a destructive dynamic. These three patterns are referred to as selection, distortion, and provocation. By learning how they apply to our behavior, we can start to understand why we wind up with the same problems in our relationships.

Selection
There are many unseen elements that attract us to people who remind us of the past. Unfortunately, we can be magnetically drawn to partners who help us relive old, negative patterns. These patterns are often unpleasant, even painful, but they also somehow feel comfortable and familiar. For example, if we felt ignored as kids, we may subconsciously seek out people who aren’t available (i.e. “I love how he seems so cool and mysterious.”) If we felt intruded on, we may wind up with partners who take charge (i.e. “She’s so outgoing and confident.”) Eventually, these initially alluring traits become problematic (i.e. “He’s so distant and rejecting.” She’s so loud and controlling.”) Very often, we choose people who lead us to feel the same ways we did in our original attachment relationships.

Distortion
Even when we enter a relationship with someone who treats us in positive ways, we may start to see that person in ways that fit our past. We may project that our partner is being critical or intrusive or assume they’re being distant or rejecting based on our childhood environment. Unfortunately, in our close relationships, we tend to distort the ones we love to fit familiar ways we felt in our original family. To challenge this, we must be aware of ways we read into our partner’s actions, words, and expressions, projecting the old ways of seeing ourselves onto them.

Provocation
In addition to selecting and distorting partners, we may provoke our partner to act in ways that remind us of our past. We don’t do this consciously, but our drive to recreate the emotional climate of our childhood can influence our behavior. If we were ignored as kids, we may have had to pester our parents to get our needs met. As a result, we grew up feeling like a bother. In an adult relationship, we may still feel like we need to nag to get attention. An old insecurity can lead us to act in ways that provoke our partner to retreat, leading us, once again, to feel like a bother. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we engage in behaviors that trigger the same response from others, so we can feel the same bad way we felt as kids. These qualities don’t represent who we really are but projections that were put on us in early life.

It’s possible to rid ourselves of hurtful overlays of our past. When we illuminate our early experiences and the models they provided for relating, we can separate our past from the present and make more conscious decisions about who we want to be with and who we want to be in our relationships. We can break out of deep-rooted patterns and forge a new romantic destiny.

Join Lisa and Joyce Catlett for Adult Attachment in Romantic Relationships beginning April 20, 2018. Learn more.

Photo by Addison Olian

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Breaking Out of Old Relationship Patterns

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Healing

By Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.

Our earliest attachment experiences serve as models for relationships throughout our lives. Without realizing it, our attachment patterns influence our attractions, how we relate to partners, and even whether or not a relationship lasts. This helps explain why we keep winding up in the same relationships. Believe it or not, our brains are actually wired to recreate conditions from our past. Childhood experiences help lay down neural networks that can lead us to later simulate a familiar environment. Even when our attachments were strained, we are likely to elicit these same patterns from future relationships.

The good news is we can learn new ways of relating by understanding how our history informs our behavior.

As adults, we often act in ways that may have been adaptive as kids but that hurt us today. We may repeat negative patterns we witnessed or act in ways that recreate familiar scenarios: arguing, whining, lashing out, or shutting down in the same way we did as kids. We may choose partners who remind us of our past, we may project characteristics onto our partner, or we may even provoke our partner to play out the other half of a destructive dynamic. These three patterns are referred to as selection, distortion, and provocation. By learning how they apply to our behavior, we can start to understand why we wind up with the same problems in our relationships.

Selection
There are many unseen elements that attract us to people who remind us of the past. Unfortunately, we can be magnetically drawn to partners who help us relive old, negative patterns. These patterns are often unpleasant, even painful, but they also somehow feel comfortable and familiar. For example, if we felt ignored as kids, we may subconsciously seek out people who aren’t available (i.e. “I love how he seems so cool and mysterious.”) If we felt intruded on, we may wind up with partners who take charge (i.e. “She’s so outgoing and confident.”) Eventually, these initially alluring traits become problematic (i.e. “He’s so distant and rejecting.” She’s so loud and controlling.”) Very often, we choose people who lead us to feel the same ways we did in our original attachment relationships.

Distortion
Even when we enter a relationship with someone who treats us in positive ways, we may start to see that person in ways that fit our past. We may project that our partner is being critical or intrusive or assume they’re being distant or rejecting based on our childhood environment. Unfortunately, in our close relationships, we tend to distort the ones we love to fit familiar ways we felt in our original family. To challenge this, we must be aware of ways we read into our partner’s actions, words, and expressions, projecting the old ways of seeing ourselves onto them.

Provocation
In addition to selecting and distorting partners, we may provoke our partner to act in ways that remind us of our past. We don’t do this consciously, but our drive to recreate the emotional climate of our childhood can influence our behavior. If we were ignored as kids, we may have had to pester our parents to get our needs met. As a result, we grew up feeling like a bother. In an adult relationship, we may still feel like we need to nag to get attention. An old insecurity can lead us to act in ways that provoke our partner to retreat, leading us, once again, to feel like a bother. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we engage in behaviors that trigger the same response from others, so we can feel the same bad way we felt as kids. These qualities don’t represent who we really are but projections that were put on us in early life.

It’s possible to rid ourselves of hurtful overlays of our past. When we illuminate our early experiences and the models they provided for relating, we can separate our past from the present and make more conscious decisions about who we want to be with and who we want to be in our relationships. We can break out of deep-rooted patterns and forge a new romantic destiny.

Join Lisa and Joyce Catlett for Adult Attachment in Romantic Relationships beginning April 20, 2018. Learn more.

Photo by Addison Olian

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Breaking Out of Old Relationship Patterns
Category:
Healing

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About

Esalen Team

Breaking Out of Old Relationship Patterns

About

Esalen Team

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