“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” —Carl Jung
This continues my meditation of the idea that coupling is caused by various, and mysterious causes. Still, as at age 65, I bid adieu to sexual relationships and “all that,” I look back at the world of young (and sometimes old) people forming relationships…I go back to the question, “Is it due to mysterious, romantic causes we mortals cannot be privy to?” as many say. Or are there reasons based on the realities we constructed that we become intimate with some people and not others?
I hope to help my readers perhaps lessen the pain in relationships by seeing how they choose who to partner with. Now, if you had a wonderful childhood with little pain inflicted by family or society, you probably don’t need to read this. You probably chose someone with a happy “schema,” and though, in the Buddhist sense you still believe you are a false self, yours is a happier round on this mortal coil. Or if childhood was not easy, but somebody loved you enough that you picked another who would love you well, see you later. However….if not….
This is not to say at all that you should look for Ms. or Mr. Perfect, since they don’t exist anyway! Please do not misunderstand. I am simply offering an antidote to illusions about why you are motivated, attracted, “mysteriously” drawn to someone. You will still probably end up with that one person who can drive you crazy or pushes your buttons, because that is how the ego has it set up: First you do things unconsciously based on your upbringing/culture/sex/education, then hopefully you do the same things but mindfully with compassion for yourself. In this case compassion for the other comes secondary because you cannot have real compassion for another if you do not see your motivations clearly. Indeed, focusing on the other may often simply be a way to avoid focusing on who you are and why you do what you do. Many of us, in fact, hide behind “loving the other, understanding the other” so we look good, but at the same time can be blind to our false and real selves.
So, I offer descriptions of the most common “schemas” we build our identities upon, as described in Bennett-Goleman’s book, I suggest you imagine with each what kind of partner would someone with that schema pick. It’s no mystery. In fact is is so clear that we turn a blind eye and prefer the mystery. However, that will not keep pain or confusion away, my dear friends. By looking fearlessly we see. By seeing we heal.
My theory is that our false selves (egos) are in charge of our “love” choices. This doesn’t mean we are stupid or bad people; it simply means that, if means that the ego is running things as usual. By ego, I mean our usual societal illusions about who we are and what love is. Ego construction of a false self begins in infancy and is either reinforced through mindless habit or challenged by mindful examination. For example, “I must be perfect to be loved, or I will be abandoned if I am vulnerable etc.” We form what is called “schemas” by Tara Bennet-Goleman in her book Emotional Alchemy, How the MInd can Heal the Heart.
It’s not a far jump from a world view that says “My needs won’t be met and I don’t trust people” to landing in a relationship with someone who will not meet your needs, will control you and likely betray you. If you grew up with a father who was passive, controlled by his wife, and unable to assert himself, you will probably choose a man who can be easily seduced and manipulated. The problem is when you wonder why you are with that man. The answer is as simple as your schema and his.
Subjugation: This schema typically originates in a childhood dominated by parents who give the child no say. The assertion of absolute authority runs a continuum from outright violence and threats to a more subtle control via disapproving looks, frown, tone of voice. These children can become adults who are so used to having the other dictate to them that they are no longer in touch with what they actually want or need. Strategies these adults use are not committing to things, surrendering in any disagreement. Their anger and resentment at being controlled can come out as missing deadlines, being chronically late, putting things off.
Perfectionism: This distorting lens…focuses on what’s wrong with what you’ve done.
The failure schema leads us to expect too much or too little of
ourselves. This critical lens can alight on any situation always
seeking out flaws. People with this schema often blur the fine line
between a valid discernment and a judgmental opinion; they see their
criticism as correct and appropriate. One sign…is that you feel you
have to keep pushing and pushing yourself to do more…The emotional root of this is a sense of failing no matter how hard you try.
To blunt the likelihood of criticism, these people drive themselves to
work much harder than they have to, or give up dong things for fear
they won’t be perfect.
Vulnerability: …can lead people to be overly conscientious
in order to ensure a feeling of safety–extra thrifty to the point of
denying themselves pleasure, or embracing extreme diet or health fads in
the hope of warding off some dreaded disease. Loss of control lies at the core of the vulnerability pattern.
The distinctive emotional signature of vulnerability is an exaggerated
fear that some catastrophe is about to strike. The roots of
vulnerability can usually be traced back to a parent who had the same
tendency to catastrophize or to a time a person felt as if something bad
was about to happen. The child learns to worry too much, either by
following the parent’s model or because there are real problems in the family to worry about.
Unlovabiity: Shame and humiliation are the most prominent emotions in this schema.The
sense of being somehow flawed and unworthy of being loved is often
instilled by parents who were hypercritical, insulting or demeaning.
The message need not have be articulated in words; children pick up
nonverbal expressions of disgust or contempt. One way of coping with
such demeaning messages can be seen in the child who is so beaten down
that he accepts them. Such a child capitulates, building a definition of
himself that has a deeply felt inadequacy at its core. Another child
might erect a facade of bravado. The adults with this schema tend to
hide themselves, revealing little of their feelings, making themselves
hard to get to know. Others hide their sense of defectiveness behind an
arrogant bravado.They feel a deep sadness when they are alone with
thoughts that no one would want to be with you.
Deprivation: “My needs won’t be met” is the sentence that sums up the core belief of this schema.
One or both parents are so self-absorbed–whether in their work, in
their own misery, or an addiction like alcoholism, or in constant
preoccupation–that they simply did not notice or seem to care much
about their child’s emotional needs. People with this schema may become demanding of attention, or
conversely do too much for everyone else, or feel others should know
their needs without being told. They may become self-indulgent,
spending too much or overeating. Others become “parents” for other
adults and feel they are never doing enough for another.
Abandonment: The ongoing fear that people will leave us is at the core of this schema. Someone with this schema can become a worrywart about a relationship, fearing if she rocks the boat in the smallest way, her lover will abandon her for someone else. Alternatively, she may adapt running away from a relationship before her partner can leave her.
Mistrust: Core belief is people can’t be trusted. Along with this belief comes its emotional hallmark: quickness not just to anger but to rage. People with this schema are constantly vigilant in relationships. They tend to assume the worst of others. This schema derives from abuse–emotional, sexual or physical. This person may shy away from relationships or at first idealize a partner, then blow up at a seeming betrayal. Another variation is to be in a string of abusive relationships.
It’s important to understand that most people have some combination of these, but certain ones dominate more than others. For example, having been raised by two alchoholics, I win the dubious prize of identifying with nearly all of the schemas. If you had abusive or addicted parents, I’m afraid that may be true for you as well. Still, probably a couple will fit the role you took in the family more than others. People in the same family often experience different types and different levels of abuse. In some families one child is abused and another lavished with “love”
If we can see the story we carry, even when we inevitably gravitate to the “familiar” person who seems “somehow right” for us, we can use our knowledge of our schemas to temper our passions. When we can see ourselves more clearly, we see the other more clearly and can build a less “mysterious” relationship.” This is my hope for you.
May we be free from illusions that cause us to suffer.