“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” — Carl Jung
While the soul’s first experience in this lifetime is coming into the body, its second experience is forming its first relationships.
This happens when we’re very young, infants in fact, and we meet our primary caregivers for the first time.
We’re too young to comprehend it as it’s happening, but our interactions with these caregivers shape our lives and set the template for the way we develop and participate in relationships throughout our life.
Research by Dr. John Bowlby in psychiatry and Dr. Mary Ainsworth in psychology suggests that the dynamics of our future relationships depend on the attachments we form with our primary caregivers.
There are several ways we learn to react in relationships and each is influenced by how attuned our caregivers were to our needs. Our initial interpersonal interactions caused us to develop certain traits.
For instance, if a mother responds appropriately, promptly, and consistently to her child’s needs, the child is likely to form a secure attachment.
The less secure the relationship attachments in our first two years, the harder it is to have good relationships throughout our lives.
Little or no response to a distressed child from a caregiver may result in the child developing an avoidant behavior pattern, and low self-esteem.
When a caregiver is inconsistent in response to the child’s needs, the child will likely form ambivalent relationship patterns, anxiously uncertain about whether they can trust people.
Finally, frightening behavior, intrusiveness, withdrawal, negativity, role confusion, and maltreatment lead to a disorganized attachment, and cause a child to feel dazed and confused. This child dissociates and compartmentalizes the traumatic experiences as a coping mechanism.
We can still achieve great heights in the face of challenges; this theory simply helps us to understand our patterns of behavior.
Awareness is the first step to empowerment.
When it boils down to it, relationships are the basis of everything. We have relationships with ourselves, with others, and with a higher power. All of these relationships comprise what we know as life.
For many people, relationships can be the biggest challenges encountered. Just think, all kinds of things happen in relationships like healing, heartbreak, and disease. These and other things happen, not just in relationships with other people, but sometimes within the relationship we have with ourselves.
In my work and in life, I’ve observed certain relationship patterns. The biggest affliction I’ve seen has been people dealing with low self-esteem, which manifests in their lives and in their relationships.
Often, when we have low self-esteem, we reach for love outside of ourselves instead of being a vessel for love.
And, more often than not, the person to whom we grasp does not have much to offer. Two people with low self-esteem, or unmet needs, can come together through chemistry. But they might mistake this connection for love, which can play out dramatically as a mutual attempt to resolve unmet childhood needs.
A response pattern and negative association (which is often deeply ingrained in our psyche) might be triggered and bring to the surface old pain and wounds. Then, the climax occurs. There’s a grand explosion, hearts are broken, and the show is over, only to be re-enacted in a new relationship.
People sometimes mistakenly associate love with drama and broken hearts, and so we shut down our hearts and hide our love, as if love needs protecting. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Love does not need protection; love is the protector!
Love is the most powerful force of all, my friend.
What have been hurt are our pride, our faith, our trust, our egos, and our dreams, all of which are within our minds. Our thoughts, then, stir up emotions, and before we know it, we’ve constructed an entire tragic story, ourselves as the lead character, around love.
If you open your heart, you will find that love is precisely what heals. Love equals God almighty. There’s no comparison between love and emotional baggage.
Emotional baggage is a teaching tool in the human experience designed to bring you closer to love, if you allow it.
Believe it or not, emotional baggage is the fuel for greater love. As you unravel your story and see it for what it is, you become less attached and more closely connected to your essence of love.
There are many other relationship patterns and adaptive behaviors that we can fall into.
Some people join forces to survive a crisis (without much discrimination in choosing a partner), while some unite to heal and learn a new way of being treated.
Meanwhile, some people get in relationships seeking approval from their mate, and some chose partners because they want familial and societal approval.
Others are avoiding deep intimacy and so they get in relationships where they can avoid truth and vulnerability, and instead participate superficially.
There’s also a phenomenon where people, commonly women, get into relationships with partners who are incapable of intimacy.
When the love interest is finally ready to engage in the relationship, the woman is no longer interested. She’s replaying the pattern of chasing someone unavailable with the deep belief that she is unworthy.
Maggie Scarf’s classic book, Intimate Partners, Patterns in Love and Marriage, describes the inner workings of intimate attachments.
She describes the patterns that couples follow when choosing partners and moving through the cycles of their relationships.
She also illuminates the games of power and control, intimacy, and autonomy that each partner will bring into the relationship. Most people go through a series of relationships that meet different needs, at different times.
Author, teacher, and family therapist, Dr. Bruce Fisher, who is known for his book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, describes the common adaptive behaviors. While these behaviors may have helped us as children, they often no longer serve us as adults.
Fisher sheds light on the fact that when we are unhealed and not fully healthy, we choose partners who embody the opposite of our adaptive behavior.
Subconsciously, we deny that opposite behavior in ourselves and seek balance through another person.
For example, I once dated a head-banging, cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking, foul-mouthed, crusty scrooge. My friends and family could not understand what I saw in this person. Even his own mother didn’t know why I was attracted to him! He couldn’t have been any more my opposite.
The reason for the attraction, which was unconscious at the time, of course, is that I did not feel justified in expressing my own anger and my desire to kick back, not always being productive. I chose someone who could express this side of me. He was always kicking back and had no ambition.
Once I began allowing myself the space to express anger and to include more leisure time in my schedule, I was no longer attracted to him. People hook up with each other unconsciously for reasons like these all the time.
Some other adaptive behaviors are exhibited in caregivers who attract the wounded, aggressors who attract the passive, blamers who attract self-blamers, straight-laced who attract artists, and enablers who attract addicts.
The list goes on and on.
The more that you can allow yourself to be whole and complete, without denying different aspects of your humanity, the more likely you will attract someone who is also whole and balanced.
When you meet your own unmet needs, you don’t need to get them met from someone else. I recommend reading the late and great Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, which can help you to embrace all parts of yourself.
It’s important for you to know that, regardless of your history and life story, you deserve a loving relationship.
Everyone has their own story, and often by the time we get to adulthood, our experiences have created behavior patterns depicting what we think is normal in relationships.
Here’s how my own early relationship pattern was formed.
I was raised an only child by a single mother. My father was a minor figure whose own issues prevented him from being a present, healthy, and loyal person in my life. A sequel to this book will be written once his soul leaves the earth.
When I was five, I witnessed my mother being beaten by a live-in partner, screaming and crying for help.
As a child, this was horrifying. I remember hiding under the covers, crying and shaking, feeling scared and confused, and wondering who could protect me if even my mother wasn’t safe. This incident occurred not long after I had been molested by an older boy who was the son of a family acquaintance.
Once I began having romantic relationships, I became involved with people who were sexist, self-centered, and often substance abusers. It took me many years before I realized that I needed to stop feeding my pearls to swine.
It’s important for girls to have positive male influences in their lives who cherish them and respect women, and because I didn’t have one, I believed that poor treatment was normal.
These experiences created a pattern in which I felt unworthy of having my own needs met.
Instead, I felt obligated to meet the needs of others. I felt that these people who were harming or neglecting me were using me for their own personal gain, rather than seeing me as a precious being, deserving of love.
Because I was young, and because my brain and body were still developing, my experiences set me up to become involved with people who were incapable of showing up as strong, respectful, and loving figures in my life.
I spent a great deal of time in therapy and immersed in the healing arts to break free from my pattern.
Healing can take time. But we become good at what we practice, and as we practice self-love, our confidence grows.
More recently, I have learned that healing can actually happen quite quickly, even in an instant.
Become aware that, in your mind, you are replaying your old story, and stop yourself.
Think about something new and wonderful. Let go of your story. Create a new story. You have this power within yourself.
When you change your thoughts, you change your life.
It does not need to be a long, drawn-out process. Remember that our souls become even more radiant and powerful through the healing process than they were before the trauma occurred. Everything in this life happens for us and not to us.
Most of the problems I have observed in relationships in my work stem from unresolved internal issues, which is not hard to imagine when two people come together who don’t yet know their own worth.
Their problems multiply when they come together.
By the same token, there’s no better way to learn about ourselves, our patterns, and how we can grow than the spectacularly messy and real world of relationships.
Go for it like a child goes for finger paints. It’s messy, it’s unpredictable, it’s creative, and it’s real.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, summed up the learning that happens in relationships perfectly when he said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Relationships tend to hold an intimate mirror in front of us that shows us our own strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes when we’re single, we find it’s easier to take care of ourselves, to do things our own way. It’s easier to nurture ourselves.
While some people stay single to establish their independence, or simply because they feel fulfilled and do not desire a partner, others do it to distance themselves from fear or insecurities that come with relationships. In this case, they are not afforded the opportunity to grow.
When we do enter relationships, we embark on a journey fueled by the living, breathing emotional system that is formed when two people come together. These entities, though sometimes challenging, create meaning and purpose in our lives.
It is quite easy to blame the other party for the issues that arise, or to avoid relationships all together. But are these the solutions?
In truth, participating in relationships is how we learn about ourselves and grow by understanding our issues and the true nature of love.
It’s a powerful force to behold when two vessels of love come together to share with one another. It may take some challenges to get there, but if you are committed to love and truth, love and truth you shall have. Our souls yearn to move forward and to continue living, which is the essence of God and love.
The partners and relationships we seek are always our way to new life and growth, no matter the outcome.
We are resourceful creatures. As we mature, we become the source of love, able to radiate our own love as we also bask in another’s love for us.
As the author Walsch says, “The purpose of a relationship is not to have another who might complete you, but to have another with whom you might share your completeness.”
Excerpt from The Heart of Self-Love: How to Radiate with Confidence by Heather Hans and printed with permission.
About the author
Heather Hans is an internationally renowned healer of loving energy for the heart, mind, body, and soul. She is a video host and producer, speaker, author, and artist, who makes frequent media appearances.
She is a Licensed Social Worker and Psychotherapist, Certified Professional Intuitive Coach, Certified Law of Attraction Advanced Practitioner, and holds a certificate in holistic health. In addition, Heather is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work, and has over 20 years of experience in holistic healing, diverse spiritual studies, and goal achievement.
To know more about Heather, visit her website www.heatherhans.com.