It’s true that we inevitably incur emotional wounds growing up that still exist in our unconscious. And it’s true that we go about seeking — even without conscious effort — somebody to make it OK again.
What we actually find in a lover is often a band-aid that wears off at about the time the infatuation does. Thus, we move from one lover to another. Or, we stay in a relationship for “love,” while our issues continue indefinitely to clash with our partner’s. Or, we recognize what’s going on and learn how to heal the wounds.
In his bestselling book “Getting the Love You Want,” Harville Hendrix suggests, “You fell in love because your old brain [being the primitive, unconscious] had your partner confused with your parents!” He suggests that you only thought it was beauty, an impressive job, a “point value” equal to yours or a kind disposition.
His suggestion assumes that you had not yet healed the childhood wounds at the time you “fell in love.” And while that’s not an entirely safe assumption, if you’ve plumbed your unconscious, you’ve also been amazed at the persistence of the wounds! Even after we think we have moved beyond them — finally all grown up — we can get a pang of self-doubt that stems from childhood.
Hendrix uses the following example:
“Suddenly your loving thoughts vanish, and you feel a surge of anxiety: Where is he? Your rational mind knows that he’s probably calling on a client or enjoying a late lunch, but another part of you feels — let’s be honest — abandoned. There you are, a sophisticated, capable woman, and just because your husband isn’t available you feel as vulnerable as you did when your mother left you all day with an unfamiliar babysitter.”
Still, the occasional “aha” that we are dealing with our parents all over again can be jolting. And there’s nothing like a good jolt to wake us up.
Unfortunately, we may immediately dismiss the notion that we sought out and married our parents (or somebody who also has too little time for us) and see it as a cruel coincidence! We may even run from it (you remember your ex?). But we can’t run from the wounds; we are stuck with them until we rub salt in them and heal them.
So, the next time you catch yourself overreacting to what’s on the surface, don’t be too quick to dismiss it or blame it on somebody else. If he nonchalantly presents your birthday gift in a paper bag and you feel a pang, don’t assume it’s because he’s thoughtless or doesn’t love you. It may have more to do with your wounds than with him.
Sit with the pain for a minute, and let it guide you to the great underworld of the unconscious. Remember the time when … (you fill in the blank).
Our conscious minds tend to be logical. Really. But you can react without censorship from your unconscious mind, where there is no sense of when Uncle Eddie forgot your birthday. You don’t even know why he forgot it. You just have this feeling of being slighted or unloved. And you won’t go there again — without putting up a fight!
You can feel the pang without defensiveness, though. You can recognize it as an opportunity to heal rather than fight.
Yes, you may unconsciously select a partner based on unfinished business with your parents. The good news is that your unconscious is trying to help. Listen up! And you can consciously heal the wounds!