As a starting point, any self-work which examines our relationships with others should always place the focus on the self. This article, therefore, is not written to cast your partner in the role of demon or villain – their stuff is their stuff. This is only about you, recognising your addictions and what you’re going to do about them. That said here is the scenario:
One moment your partner is romantic and loving and the next distant, sometimes abusive and withdrawn. It can seem like you’re living with Jeckyll and Hyde. The gesture you make one day receives a loving response and the next day an emotional outburst or cold-shoulder. If this type of behaviour was continuously happening to a friend we’d have the presence of mind to advise them to walk away but when we’re the one on the receiving end, something goes wrong. Our emotions seem to have hijacked out brain; our inner strength and intelligence are nowhere to be found. We probably don’t even recognise ourselves as we watch almost from afar as we descend into a pool of craving and neediness.
If these patterns sound like a drug addict’s relationship with heroin or a gambler’s compulsion to try his luck one more time at the roulette wheel, then that is because the driving force is the same, addiction. What make this type of especially pernicious, however, is that we often don’t realise that it is there. It is fairly easy for a heroin addict to identify the cause of his craving but this type of behaviour between partners can be just as addictive yet can leave the addict completely confused about what is wrong with them. So let’s look at what lies behind this.
What is at play in Push-Pull behaviour is a phenomenon know as variable reinforcement and it is extremely addictive. In normal, healthy relationships the transactions or exchanges between partners will normally give a predictable response (Y) to an action (X). In Push-Pull behaviour this is not the case. For whatever reason (remember it won’t help you spending time trying to identify faults or causes with our partner), when one partner does (X), the response with variable; it may be (Y) but it may also be (Z). It is these random rewards (sometimes you win and sometimes you lose) which give rise to the addictive force which keep a gambler returning to the table and leave the receiving partner in a similar state.
If a romantic partner acts loving at times and at other times is withdrawn and distant, the other partner will begin to lust after them and not necessarily sexually. More often, psychological and emotional lust for attention and validation are stronger drivers for toxic relationship dependency than sexual lust. To make matters worse, in the same way that a drug addict attempts to play-down or justify his dependency, the addict to this type of partner behaviour will attempt to justify their partner’s abusive actions by internally placing more emphasis on the good things they do; some kind words; a romantic walk etc.
What lies behind this is the body’s own chemistry and the brain’s hard-wiring. In the brain, dopamine (the brain’s happy-dance drug) responds to lust. Dopamine encodes on the anticipation of reward. The toxic relationship addict is waiting for the jackpot of love and affection from the other person. Not knowing whether that is going to happen or not, causes adrenaline release. Adrenaline is a stimulant. Stimulants are also strongly addictive. In the presence of Dopamine and adrenaline, access to cortex or intelligent part of the brain is staved and instead the subcortical or primitive brain is activated where we are prey to our emotions. Coupled with this is the allure of the scarcity factor. The rarer something is the more we crave it which is what makes one rock just a pretty stone and the other rarer type a jewel.
So, if this is where you find yourself at any point, what can you do about it. With all addiction, the pathway to detoxification, is firstly knowing that you have a problem and this article provides that starting point. The next step is down to you. This is where you draw on your inner strength and resolve and, as with all addictive habits, you need to exclude the source from your life. This is not a persecution or vilification of your partner, only a necessary step for your own mental well being.
Love is a Drug, it is said, and reality supports this aphorism. Our body’s chemistry can often hijack the rational part of our brain and reduce us to a state of emotional chaos. At some point everyone acts in a way outside their normal, intelligent behaviour, the reason why needs some explaining. Various external triggers can take us into the subcortical or more primitive brain resulting in conduct which bares strong similarities to drug or gambling addicts.
This short series of posts illustrates the pernicious effects of two aspects of relating which can trigger such states and offers concise explanations why. As with many damaging behavioural patterns the first step towards healing is awareness and knowledge allowing us to generate the resolve to draw on our inner strength to reclaim our authentic self and fight the demons which strive to take us down.
The mother wound exists in both men and women but in men it is far more insidious. Firstly, because it mainly goes undetected and secondly because of the wider impact it has on others in that it is most often expressed in some form of misogyny even if it is only on a level of expecting their partner to serve and meet their needs as a pseudo-mother under the guise of love.
Where societies of old provided boys with the initiatory experience of graduating into manhood through a time of physical trials, to help cross a psychological bridge from the relative comforts of childhood into the rigours of adulthood; in modern society there are few official rites, few wise elders and a dearth of male role models outside the toxic status quo. Boys are lured into an artificial manhood by a patriarchy which socialises the boy into the world of men by devaluing women and femininity and thereby, cutting a man off from his emotions, vulnerability and expressing affection.
Men are left longing to remain a mother’s son, to possess a woman purely for himself and society has sentimentalised and romanticised these infantile needs as “love”. As a result, both men and women remain blind to the man’s attachments and needs as the symptoms of childhood trauma. Furthermore, many men fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother them, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother.
The attached video offers words to both men and women on how to deal with the mother wound in men and forms part of the workshops I offer in healing this important, damaging, legacy of modern society.
Sometimes it seems that Tantra means as many things as the number of people prepared to comment on it. There are, however, some common elements that makes up most people’s understanding of this spiritual path, starting with the statement that it is a “spiritual path” as opposed to a “religious path”. Read More