If, as children, we grew up with parents who we perceived as not reciprocating our love we may, as adults, come to equate love with the feeling of a desperate longing for what we believe we ‘know’ (at least on an unconscious level) we will never receive (i.e. unconditional love for who we fundamentally are).
In this situation, the opposite also often holds true: we are not interested in a relationship with someone who will love, want and need us – we may even feel repelled by such an individual. Woody Allen summed up this attitude when he said, in terms of his perspective on relationships, ‘I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member’.
To us, a simple relationship in which we are loved back lacks colour and drama; it seems dull and devoid of any real passion, even. Such a relationship signally fails to recreate the intense inner pain and drama generated by our childhood relationships with our rejecting parents and therefore also fails to fulfil a deep-seated need to play out, and attempt to repair (on a symbolic level) our dysfunctional early life relationships.
When, as children, we are rejected, neglected and abused we create an erroneous, yet psychologically sustaining, hope that our relationship with our parents is within our power to rectify; we achieve this by misattributing the source of the relationship’s dysfunction to ourselves; and, by so doing, we can falsely convince ourselves that our parents will love us if only we were a ‘better’ person in some (stubbornly elusive) way. The alternative – i.e. accepting the reality that our parents can’t love us due to their own deficits – is a ‘truth too far’ that we simply cannot permit to permeate our conscious awareness.
Attraction To Those Who Will Inevitably Reject Us And The Repetition Compulsion :
As adults, in the unconscious drive to repeat and repair our painful childhood relationship with our parents that I referred to above (what Freud called the repetition compulsion), we find ourselves perpetually, inexplicably and futilely drawn to attempting to form relationships with unsuitable, inappropriate, emotionally unavailable partners who tend to match our own level of arrested/stunted emotional development and carry their own deep, psychological wounds.
Our desperation, perhaps leading to frantic, and, even, hysterical attempts to avoid rejection from such unsuitable individuals, of course, only serves, paradoxically, to ensure the inevitability of the very rejection we fear (as, in fact, our unconscious mind demands) and, in so doing, satisfies our unconscious need to re-experience our early life feelings of desolation, despair and abandonment. If we repeat this process enough times, our unconscious mind reasons, we will eventually master it and finally free ourselves from our emotional pain.
Insight into the historic causes of our repetition compulsion must form the primary foundation of our recovery.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.