Are you known amongst your friends for loving to “enterpain” with amusing “love stories,” full of woes, conflict, miffed-ness? If so, you could be suffering from a universal self-sabotage syndrome that psychologists call “emotional masochism.”
It’s like this: As children, we learn about joy from our parents. If children learn joy in a, well, joyless home, then as adults, too much joy can inspire anxiety. And it can also trigger a person to sabotage happiness in order to maintain the masochistic equilibrium learned in childhood.
Basically: It’s as if each of us grew up feeling comfy with a certain level of happiness. Some of us are used to 90%, others only 75%, others only 17%. The point is, when this concentration shifts — even if it's upwards — then a lot of us start to feel twitchy, because this new zone feels sooo unfamiliar. The solution? We instinctively do what we must do to muck up our love life so we can shift our happiness concentration back down, down, down to our familiar zone.
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So how do you break free from the shackles of emotional masochism?
- You must 100 percent accept that you do a lot of the goofier things you do because of negative childhood brainwashing — or what I call “braindirtying” — because your lens to the world gets dirtied with negative beliefs that you must wipe clean. Then, and only then, can you clearly see new paths to getting the life you want and deserve.
- One of the best ways to wipe your braindirtied lens clean is to seek alternate positive lessons in past pain. I call this possessing “pain-a-ramic” vision: You see the problems of your past with a full 360-degree positive perspective.
How? A) Relax your mind. Breathe deeply. Enter a meditative state. B) Dare to think about your most painful incidents. C) Force yourself to answer the following: What is a positive and/or lucky way to learn from the past and find gain in my pain? List five positive lessons.
- After you get done blaming your past for pain, you must accept some responsibility. After all, you’ve been an adult or adult-ish (and maybe even just plain ol’ doltish) for a while now. Although your troublemaking subconscious has gotten you into some painful relationships, the time has come for you to show your cerebrum who’s boss and stop allowing those painful misadventures.
How? Next time you’re tempted to settle for a pattern of pain, repeat the following mantra: I am not my past behavior. I am not my past failures. I am not how others have at one time treated me. I am only who I think I am right now in this moment. I am only what I do right now in this moment!
- Find examples of consistently happy, healthy, loving couples — and spend as much time as possible with them — further shifting your belief system to the highly positive.
- Talk with any family members you feel that you can be open with about this concept of emotional masochism. Did dinner-table conversation usually revolve around tales of woe? You’ll find that the more you can be honest about repressed feelings and share them, the less troublemaking your subconscious will need to be.
- Recognize that you have triggers that remind you of past pain and might thereby create a downward spiral of negative thinking and behavior. Clear your life of these evil triggers! Instead, get “trigger-happy” and focus on positive triggers that remind you of all your happy relationships.
- Finally, there’s an added sneaky reason why painful patterns form: A theory à la Carl Jung, a great psychological thinker. He believed that our lives need meaning and purpose. If we don’t have meaning and purpose, we acquire a bad habit in order to create drama and excitement. Carl Jung called these patterns of pain "low-level spiritual quests." The good news: You can more readily dump negative patterns by developing a high-level quest... a driving positive force that drives you forward. Meaning? Often, it’s easier to dump negative patterns in love if you develop an exciting hobby. Consider taking up cycling, skydiving, scuba diving, exotic cooking, ceramics, tennis. And who knows... maybe in the process you’ll find someone wonderful who'll share your stimulating new hobby!
) is a best-selling author of 27 books, including
The 7 Lively Sins: How to Enjoy Your Life Dammit!, which contains more on the topic of love self-sabotage.