Below is an excerpt from the book, In Search of Bill Clinton; A Psychological Biography, by John D. Gartner. Bill Clinton’s life, his choices and behavior, with regard to his complex relationships, happens to make for a wonderful case study. Not always a fan of his, I found myself understanding and liking him much more when I was able to see the whole man – his inner workings and the unconscious needs that drive him. It’s fascinating.
I have yet to meet the person that the theory of, “repetition compulsion” does not apply to. I think it’s the reason so many first marriages fail. -Grippy
“One of Freud’s most enduring insights was his discovery of the “repetition compulsion.” Put simply, there is a powerful unconscious drive to re-create in one’s adult relationships the relationships you experienced as a child. There is no single idea that I have found to be more useful or universal with regard to the study of relationships. Time and again, the origins of the most inexplicable, destructive relational patterns can be found there. It is as if, when we are born, our minds are like wet plaster, and the structure of the relationships we encounter forms an impression that hardens into a mold. We’re just not sexually attracted to potential romantic partners who don’t fit our mold. What feels right to us, powerfully and compellingly so, are the comfortable and familiar relational patterns of the past. We re-create our childhood paradigm using three basic techniques:
We pick partners who are inclined to play their assigned roles; we provoke them to behave in these familiar old ways; and finally, we project our past family figures onto them, distorting our perceptions to convince ourselves that they are behaving like figures from our childhood even when they are not. And, amazingly, we engineer all of this outside our own awareness.
Paradoxically, it is the traumatic relationship patterns from the past that we are most compulsively driven to repeat. The theory has it that re-creating the traumatic situation allows us to feel a sense of mastery over it. It’s not being done to us. We’re doing it, which allows us to feel more in control. The irony is that when we are unconsciously driven to repeat destructive patterns, we are out of control by most objective standards.”