We repeat what we don’t repair
Psychology explains why we repeat mistakes. Over and over again being in a toxic relationship is a lot like walking on a tightrope 6 feet high up the ground. Any second, you can slip and fall. Getting out of an abusive relationship is like walking backward on the same tightrope. It won’t not easy, and the healing won’t be linear. But you are on the way to finding yourself back.
The psychological part, we have come to understand, maybe a desire to master difficult situations. If we do it again and again, our psyche thinks, one time we’ll figure out how to make a painful or unpleasant occurrence go differently.
But our neurology explains why discovering a new pattern requires more conscious effort on our part. According to current research, our behavior is often dictated by neurons that our brains fire off. And those neurons like familiar pathways as much as our psyches and emotions do!
A repetitive argument with a spouse or a family member, it may mean simply stopping the action before you get into the fire. Daniel Goleman, in his classic book Emotional Intelligence, tells us that an argument cannot be won after 20 minutes of discussion. Both participants fall into old neuron-firing patterns and neither can change their own opinions – or the other person’s – after that. I would suggest that to alter a repeated pattern, familiar arguments should be stopped after five minutes. Raise your hand, say something like “I don’t want to go down this path again,” and ask for a cooling-off period.