There is a curious aspect to romantic relationships that I am sure you will have seen, experienced or even dare I say it, been guilty of yourself. This is the drive to get partners to change, often we are asking that person to change the very thing that we were most attracted to in the beginning of the relationship.
For example, the woman who is attracted to the strong, powerful side of her partner now wants him to be vulnerable and share his feelings. Maybe he liked her ability to chat to anyone and now he wants her to shut up!
These are stereo typical examples and there are many, many more that are far more specific. I use these examples because most people can relate to them.
In this weeks blog I am going to explore one possible reason for this behaviour, this weeks blog is about self awareness and identifying your personal “map of the world”. In later blogs I will talk about how we can challenge our own patterns.
Last week I wrote about how we model ourselves on our same sex parent (usually) and are attracted to people who in some way represent our opposite sex parent. This is just the beginning of the journey. Once in relationship we begin to look at things differently.
We are attracted to a person who fits our internal pattern or map of what an appropriate partner looks, sounds and feels like. Just because we are attracted to this pattern does not mean that we are happy and satisfied with that model.
Once in relationship we set about trying to change aspects of the relationship that are unsatisfying. We think we are in the here and now but we are deluding ourselves. What we are really trying to do is fix what was wrong with the relationship we had with our parent during our childhood.
We had no control over the dynamic of the relationship we had with our parents. As children we lack power and are in survival mode. In order to survive children have to develop strategies that will encourage our caregivers to keep us safe. We could not effectively challenge things we didn’t like.
This is not about good or bad parenting, all children have to do this and it is normal. Of course it is worth noting here that some children grow up in environments that are very dangerous physically, psychologically or emotionally. Children in this environment may have to develop more extreme strategies to survive.
In Transactional Analysis, we talk about “family of origin”. This is the idea that we develop a series of templates about people not just those we will want to have romantic relationships with. In adulthood we unconsciously seek people to fit all the roles from our family of origin. Once identified we then attempt to re-enact the patterns we had with the original family members.
We often see this in work teams, unconsciously we have people in our workplace who represent mum, dad, siblings etc. I often work with “dysfunctional” teams and observe this first hand. Often we have people who are re-enacting sibling rivalry and trying to get mum or dads approval.
Of course none of the people in the team are aware of this dynamic at the time, some may even doubt it. However when intervening with such teams there is often a point where the penny drops!
In NLP, we talk about maps of the world and internal models. These are the patterns we use to represent our experience of reality. Self awareness helps us to recognise what we need to address within ourselves rather than turning to others and trying to change them.
Bringing this back to our romantic relationships, the place to start in increasing your self awareness is to become aware of the patterns you are recreating with your choice of partner. If you have had a number of partners look for patterns and similarities. Even if you have only ever had one partner you can look for the similarities with your parent figure.
What specifically have you wanted to change about your partner or partners? What is the need within you that has not been met? How can you meet that need for yourself?
Sometimes we need to go back to the relationship we have with our parents and look at how we are interacting with them as adults. We may still be playing out these old patterns even now. I wonder how many of you experience a sense of regression when you spend time with your parents?
Addressing our original pattern is one of the most powerful ways to release yourself from repetitive and unsatisfying experiences. This is not about necessarily going to our parents and confronting them, in many cases that would be inappropriate. Our parents are not the same people they were when we were children.
So what do we need to do? There are many different approaches we can take. You could explore your family dynamics from a Transactional Analysis perspective. You could identify your life script and the patterns you are recreating. You could use TA approaches to change how you interact with others. This is a very conscious approach and can be very effective.
Alternatively you could take an NLP approach. There are many interventions within NLP that are specifically designed to help you change limiting beliefs, automatic emotional responses and to edit your map of the world. This more unconscious approach can often bring relatively fast results, allowing us to make changes easily and effortlessly.
For instance, there is an NLP intervention called “change personal history” that allows us to reduce the power of old, negative automatic responses. We literally change how we think about life and the past. Old memories remain and anything we learnt from those experiences is preserved but the emotional impact is reduced. This frees us to make new choices and get new results.
There are also many other approaches out there that will work for you. Do share your experiences with me too.
It may not surprise you to realise that in order to have better relationships we need to start by looking at ourselves. As we move toward self actualisation we will naturally enjoy more fulfilling relationships!
Next week I will look at an NLP perspective on the “honeymoon phase” of relationships and why this phase so often seems to fade.
For those of you wanting to seek support in your own journeys please know that I would love to help and support you as you move forward. We have a one day workshop on 28th January in Bedfordshire, UK called Your Brilliant You! It is designed to help you reconnect with you own true nature and magnificence.
The workshop is based on my dissertation research into how NLP improves self-esteem. Self esteem is the first step toward a healthy relationship. Click on the link below for more information about the workshop and to download a free two hour MP3 of a previous workshop.
For those of you ready to go even further consider joining us in March for a 9 day intensive NLP Practitioner programme. You will be amazed at how much you transform if you give yourself the opportunity! Click on the link below for more information.
March 17th to 25th 2012
Our NLP Practitioner programme uses a humanistic and person centred approach. You will learn new skills and have the opportunity to let go of limiting beliefs and experience your own magnificence. We teach ethics and provided ongoing supervision and support to all our students.