Updated: Aug 2
The definition of the insanity quote first appeared in 1981 in a document published by Narcotics anonymous (not by Albert, like everyone thinks) “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Doing relationships over and over the same way, with the same people that are just dressed differently and expecting a different outcome, is similarly insane.
Therapists may often use “corrective emotional experience” as a choice of therapy, and this is a very subjective matter and will work with some people but others not at all, the person is asked to re-enact the event, so that there can be some catharsis, and in the process the person in therapy, with the guidance of a therapist, is able to correct the negative experience from before, "a bit like learning how to ride a new bike". However not everyone does therapy, and not everyone is able to apply this new learnt behaviour when the actual scenario comes up in their lives again, because at the moment of the event, the person is faced with all their previous fears, the attachment from childhood, the societal constructs and a number of other subconscious elements that are working through the brain, and so the person just goes back to exactly the same way as before, because they know what the result will be if they act in accordance to previous ways (patterning), and so they repeat the process, and in there, lies comfort but also no growth.
Without the knowledge or intervention, a person can go for many years and through many dreadful relationships, and repeat the mistakes in relationship over and over again, never quite knowing what the problem is, and falling deeper and deeper into despair and self-esteem problems at the unsuccessful relationship/s, or blaming everyone else around them. If, however, the individual can become conscious of personal thoughts and actions, and they are lucky if it is their fault, then they are able to correct the situation, by catching oneself before they trip up again. That is growth.
Michael is 48 and has recently ended another relationship, he complains that all his previous girlfriends are “crazy” and keep taking from him and using him. Michael also has a very critical mother, and the things little Michael did was never good enough, and over time, he internalised his early experiences, and started believing that he is just not good enough, as he grows up, he spends most of his life unable to see himself as good, worthy and loveable, and constantly seeks out validation and recognition from others, but never feeling as if he actually gets it. Michael unconsciously attracts the same pattern in his adult relationships with friends, professionally, and romantically. Michael chooses women that scold or criticize him, he may even find super strong independent women attractive, they may not criticize him, but their accomplishment, and self-confidence will emasculate him to some extent, and while he will initially have admired this strong women, he will grow to resent her and blame her for not making him feel good enough. Michael may even have a couple of affairs with other women to somehow “take back his power”. Eventually he breaks off his relationship, his view is now that high powered women are high maintenance, and should be avoided altogether, he decides to date women with professions that are less intimidating, but soon they are also asking for more, and he is also not able to meet their needs and so has low feelings of validation again.
So every time Michael starts out a new relationship he thinks it will be different, because the person appears different externally, but he is always attracting the women that make him feel unworthy on a subconscious level, it’s the same person just in a different dress. He has still not seen the pattern and he will go through most of his life feeling unworthy, and not loved. Many people can work through such subconscious misalignment, but a therapeutic environment will help and guide to the answer. If Michael continues doing the same thing and expecting a different result, he will slowly start a self-fulfilling prophecy for himself. and unless he starts to understand his pattern and doing things differently and choosing differently, he will be able to start mastering the problem, else, he will spend his whole life going from one relationship to the other and not looking within and the actual reason why he is attracting the invalidating women, like his mother.
The real solution is therapeutic and assist someone to recognise the pattern and try changing situations as they present themselves, however to even start, Michael will have to realise that he may not be attracted to the opposite type of person, he will always choose to be drawn to the person that is going to challenge the painful wound.
So, if there is no opportunity to seek therapy, the best solution is to go within and ask the following questions, take time over it and reflect, you will get to the answer eventually.
How to heal a pattern, “the magic elixir” or at least start to untie the knot, by becoming aware of the pattern, you are able to accept and then become responsible in your future actions.
1. Take a close look at a set of relationships and what has transpired in the past, look at it objectively, even if this means you have only been in a 20 year marriage, what happened in that marriage?
2. What does the pattern remind you of? Is there some familiarity?
3. Look at it scientifically, a) this is what I am used to b) this is how love is supposed to look like and be? Or, this is how people treat me?
4. How does it trail back to your caretakers, mother, or father? Always remember as a child you have no choice, it was the way the construct was handed down to you, and how are handing it down to your children.
5. Do you fight, flee, or freeze in relationships? How is it a mirror of how you grew up?
6. What does the pattern remind you of in your core family system?
If you can look at it and understand why you are attracting the same people, do it through the lens of someone else, objectively, what was it about this person and how were your needs not met, if you can explain it to someone as a story, it’s not muddled in your mind and you start recognising how insane it actually is.
Once you have done the analysis, the second part may be more difficult;
1. Forgiveness, and it is going to be hard to forgive the person you hate, anger is that strong emotion over the insult or mistreatment that you had to endure, but the freedom from anger will allow you to cultivate new relationships, that relationship can never be “fixed” but it can certainly realign, so you can manage yourself and others going forward.
2. When you establish the path and have gone inside at your pattern, to make it conscious, who are you forgiving and what are you forgiving them for?
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