People are drawn to each other for many reasons. Some social science research suggests that, like our animal relatives, we are attracted by smell. A more psychological attractor is how the potential partner helps us re-enact our (usually unconscious) relational patterns. One of the amazing things about “falling in love” is how we find new experiences of ourselves that get enlivened by the attraction. On the other hand, when we experience the phase known as the “honeymoon is over”, we run into what is known as our “baggage”. Our baggage is the habitual emotional reactions and expectations that we bring into the relationship.
How Early relationships impact Current Ones
Our relationships are partly structured, for each person, by how well the other person fits into the roles and scripts of our unconscious relational expectations, both positive and negative ones. One of the hardest things to get a handle on when we are immersed in a relationship is the impact of what we are bringing to the current experience. Seldom are we doing anything new, although we do not realize this. We are mostly behaving in the same ways that we have learned in our early interactions. Becoming aware of what we are not aware of is a first step.
How Relational Patterns Form
Just as the use of our muscles develops our strengths and weaknesses, our daily and continual use of our relational capacities develop into relational patterns. Because experience is our teacher and because we internalize our experience into memories and associative patterns, we have already formed a template for our current relationships, long before we enter them.
Unconscious Influences on Relationships
It is profoundly difficult to realize the influence of the unconscious. Our egos are so busy trying to survive in our current relationship with ourselves, within our intimate relationships and with all of our social connections, that the idea that we are not aware of everything that is determining our thoughts and feelings never occurs to us. This understandable lack of perspective only allows us small glimpses into the impact of the unconscious patterns on our relationships.
Getting a Handle on the Unconscious
When we become curious about what might be going on in our relationships that we are not totally aware of, it becomes easier to recognize that many of our behaviors are simply re-enactments or habits of earlier times. Sometimes a clue will come in saying something that you realize is similar to the voice or words of your mother or father or you may sense a familiar bodily gesture of a parent or caretaker or another insight may come from a character in one of your dreams that embodies ways that you feel in a real life relationship. Accumulating these bits of evidence for the hypothesis of the unconscious influence, begins the process of revealing how these patterns impact us.
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