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Why Do We Repeat Our Past Relationships?

Each of us has from time to time asked ourselves questions such as why do such people always find me, why do I have similar problems in my relationships, will it always continue like this. In fact, we repeat similar patterns in our relationships, even if it makes us uneasy or challenging. In relationships, we somehow find ourselves in the same roles or put ourselves in situations where we feel similar emotions. So, why do we prefer to maintain these relationships instead of ending relationships that are not good for us? Freud explains this situation with the concept of repetition obsession (repetition compulsion). According to Freud, this is due to the traumatic forms of attachment we have established in the past and our desire to return to these ways of relating again and again. Our unconscious desire to repeat these relationship patterns serves to suppress traumatic experiences and prevents us from remembering.

What Is Repetition Obsession In My Relationships?

To illustrate, let’s imagine that as a child, our relationship with our opposite-sex parent was rejecting and involved emotional neglect. In order to cope with this as a child, we ignore current reality and our emotions and focus more on what we can do to get the love and acceptance we expect from rejecting parents. But this means that we must suppress our true feelings and thoughts in order to have a loving relationship. And unless the expected love is received, we begin to develop certain behaviors to deal with this disappointment. This will show itself in our future relationships. For example, we may find ourselves in a relationship where we are not loved and accepted, believing that we can change the outcome this time. Unconsciously, we think that if I continue the relationship, the situation can change and I can get the love and attention I need. But when we set up and play the same scene, the result does not change and we get hurt emotionally over and over again. At the same time, these relationships, in which we feel worthless and unloved, become a familiar area for us. So much so that we don’t even think about any other form of relationship. Since we also know how to deal with this familiarity, we may tend to continue the relationship.

Coping With Repetition Obsession

The opposite is also possible. Sometimes we reverse roles, we can be the rejecters in the relationship, and we try to deal with these feelings by making our partner feel worthless and unloved. The fact that children exposed to emotional, physical or sexual abuse show these types of violence to others in the future can also be explained by the obsession with repetition. The child who is victimized in his relationship with the parent may similarly repeat his past trauma by choosing the victimizing role in his future relationships. Even if the roles change (victim/victimized, caregiver/caregiver, etc.), a vicious circle is experienced and a new relationship experience cannot be possible.

Similar Relationships

In summary, if you constantly find yourself in similar relational situations, similar behaviors and emotional states, although this situation is challenging you emotionally, if you continue the relationship by thinking that you can get different results this time instead of ending the relationship, we can say that it is a repetition obsession. So much so that regardless of time and people, you can always feel like you are playing the same or the opposite role in the same relational scene.

How to Break the Similar Relationship Cycle?

So how to break this cycle? Specialized psychodynamic psychotherapy is a process that will be beneficial both in terms of recognizing your relational patterns, understanding what they serve, and seeing how a new relational experience is possible. Undoubtedly, a similar relationship will be repeated in the psychotherapy relationship, and thanks to these awarenesses, a new way of experience will be opened as the therapy relationship is studied. Thus, it is possible to establish relationships where there are more spontaneous, more diverse and rich ways of relating, and where your need for attention and love will be met without suppressing your own feelings and thoughts.

By Psk. Çağla APAYDIN

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