Relationship Dynamics: Why We Click with Certain People

Have you ever wondered why some relationships just click and others drive us nuts?

A group of friends link arms as they look at the ocean. Significant others, acquaintances, coworkers, friends--our relationship dynamics are different with each person we meet.

 


Does your partner ever get under your skin for reasons you can’t quite understand? Do your friends tick you off without meaning to? Do certain people’s comments leave you feeling hurt (even though you’re sure they didn’t mean it)? You chalk it up to just the way it is or the way different relationship dynamics play out, but in truth, there’s probably more going on under the surface than you realize.

When you find yourself really bothered by something someone says or does, it’s a great opportunity to explore the deeper reasons why. As it turns out, your partner pissing you off by being on the phone, failing to replace the toilet paper roll, or making a joke at your expense isn’t about them being a “jerk.” It’s about the whole history of interactions that came long before they were even in the picture.

This realization may feel scary at first. We all want to believe we’re always in control of our feelings and emotions, no matter the situation, but we’re fooling ourselves. The reality is, a big portion of our personality—our likes, dislikes, beliefs, feelings, and reactions—are set long before we’re even aware of it. Much of this makeup, or what we call our “matrix” is formed when we’re very young.

So how does our matrix affect our relationship dynamics? How does it play into our romantic relationships and friendships? Does it really all come back to our relationship with our parents? Most importantly, can we change relationship dynamics?

How Our Early Experiences Affect Our Relationship Dynamics

Our past experience has a direct and complex effect on our present relationships. When we’re babies, our interactions with our parents shape and “wire” our brains. We depend on our parents for our very survival and to an infant, the mother is their entire world. This shapes us in many profound ways. The foundation of our matrix is laid down early on. This includes our beliefs about ourselves and our place within the world.

If we don’t decide to examine, explore, and change these beliefs, they will dictate our lives and behavior, including our relationship dynamics. If you’ve ever noticed your partners’ behavior ticks you off because it reminds you of your mother or father, this is an example of your matrix influencing your perception.

So, why can’t we just shut this off? None of us likes to believe that our feelings and beliefs might be beyond our control, right? Well, sometimes the memories and pieces of our makeup are unconscious. They’re so deeply buried in our core, we don’t even realize they happen.

Has someone ever just bothered you for seemingly no reason? Maybe you look back at the moment later and think, “what was that all about?” or “I don’t know why, but she just really bugs me.”

Interactions with others may trigger a series of feelings and emotions for reasons we can’t even understand. We may get hurt, angry, or sad because of the behavior of our partner or friends, but not completely understand why these feelings come up. Why do they piss us off so much? This is especially puzzling when little actions of others bother us but don’t seem to bother anyone else.


These early-instilled beliefs conscious and unconscious affect our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and actions. They even affect who we choose to pursue a relationship with.


You may find yourself inexplicably drawn to the “bad boy” or “good girl-next-door” for reasons that aren’t so clear. Or you may find yourself in an echo-chamber of friends with similar beliefs, backgrounds and tastes. Once in a while you meet a stranger that you just hit it off with—you click with certain people for reasons you can’t even explain.

These are all examples of how your matrix plays a part in how you interact with others, how close you allow them to get, how comfortable you are expressing your feelings, and even how you feel about intimacy.

So, does this mean we’re all doomed to feel irritated with our partners for unconscious reasons? Or we’re only going to get along with people who remind us (or don’t remind us) of our parent? No! Of course not.

We can’t do anything to change our past, but we certainly have control over the here and now. Not a single person had a perfect childhood (and if you think you did, you’re fooling yourself!). But how exciting is it that as adults, we can continue to fill in those gaps, grow, and evolve into our fullest potential? By identifying these lessons from our past, we can use it to form better, more dynamic relationships and deeper connections.

Understanding Implicit Memory

If our matrix began forming before we were even aware, how do we change it? How can we even know what it is?

Part of picking up where our childhood development left off is gaining an understanding of implicit memory.


This early matrix encoded in our neural circuitry works almost entirely within our implicit memory, which means it is outside of our conscious awareness. Implicit memories are stored sensations and feelings, which aren’t attached to an explicit event or memory in time. Early memories are formed before we have language, logical thought, or explicit recall (Siegel 2012a). Chances are you don’t remember exact incidents when your parent picked you up in your crib and reassured you as you cried or how often your diapers were changed, what you wore, how your mother smelled, the color of your bedroom, or what lullaby your father sang to you. It is only within the middle of our second year that we start to develop explicit memory where we remember specific incidents and details.

Why does all this matter? Because while implicit memories from the past are stored outside of our awareness, they arise in the present moment, and are masked by what we think we are experiencing in the current moment. Our matrix shapes our present experiences from the implicit foundation. When we are angry, panicking, or feeling deeply hurt, our present feelings often stem from our implicit memories, and we assume the present situation is causing our reaction.

When strong implicit memories are triggered, unbeknownst to us, childhood pain and fear comes raging to the surface. This may happen when you sense your partner isn’t there for you, for instance, and you don’t have a clue that you just activated a pain pocket from your matrix through an implicit memory. You think your charged emotional reaction is all due to your partner’s insensitivity, and while that is a trigger, the bulk of the charge is coming from the past.
The Heart of the Fight


To identify and examine the root of our feelings, in this case, our frustration or anger, we must look closer to figure out what’s triggered our reaction. Our partner may have done something insensitive or just plain crummy. Our feelings are validly hurt by their actions, but it’s important to recognize the hurt is often stemming from several places (not one insensitive misstep).

Express What You REALLY Want

We all know we want certain qualities in a relationship, but we may not understand why we want our partner or friends to act a certain way (and why it frustrates us so much when they don’t). For example, many of us feel frustrated when we can’t seem to get our partner’s attention, when they “phub” us in favor of their smart phones. Now, granted, there’s a lot to be said for putting down your phone and truly engaging, but do you ever ponder why it bothers you so much when someone brings out their phone at the dinner table?


When we’re interacting with someone else, we’re asking for their attention. We’re basically saying, “hey see me!” We want them to see us honestly, in the here and now. It’s a universal yearning many people share—to be seen, to connect, and to engage.


When our partner instead opts for their phone screen, our yearning isn’t being met. Consequently, we feel hurt. Now, it’s not up to them to meet all our yearnings. We are responsible for our own emotions and feelings. But we can certainly explore where our frustration and hurt is coming from so we can speak up and say, “Hey, I feel ignored and it’s hurting me. Put the phone down!”

As infants, we have a powerful desire to see and be seen. From those early moments, our very survival depended on getting attention (in this case from our mothers). When we didn’t get attention, we were triggered to cry and make our presence known. After all, we relied on our mother for food, safety, and our very existence.

Studies show that babies read emotion by looking at their mothers’ faces. When a mother is non-reactive, the baby cries even if the mother is there. We want acknowledgment, not simply a presence on the other side of the dinner table. We want to be seen! We want our existence known! We want our partner to look up from the screen and look into our eyes!

No wonder it gets under our skin when our partner scrolls through social media instead of engaging with us over the dinner table. By examining how these feelings started, we can better express our likes and dislikes. We can express our frustrations and ask that our partner acknowledge us and tell us they’re seeing us. We can ask that they listen to us and meet our yearning to be seen and heard. Often, a simple realization and request is all it takes.

When we examine the origin of our feelings, beliefs, and makeup—our matrix—we start to understand ourselves more completely. We can engage with others more clearly and improve our relationship dynamics with all those we interact with.

For more on improving your relationship dynamics, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming Foundations weekend, where we’ll explore these topics in-depth and help you build connections with others who are seeking to strengthen their relationships and maximize their potential. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright smiling in a black jacket.

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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Looking Beyond the Midterm Elections In Quest for Humanity’s Master Code

The following is a Guest Blog by Dr. Don Beck, author of Spiral Dynamics. For more information, visit his website at: www.spiraldynamics.org

I want you to stand 30 years in the future and tell me if the America you see is the one you envisioned in November 2018.

Politics today feel like a tug-of-war. We need to look beyond the Midterm Elections in our quest for humanity’s Master Code.


Has the “us vs. them” polarization disappeared? Have we become a stronger union because of it, or did one side of the political spectrum overpower the other and forever silence it? If it’s the latter, then look closer and see what has become of the other side. Has it transformed ideologically or has its repressed voice become even a greater vehicle for division sowing seeds for another civil war?

The question posed here might have caught you by surprise, but it is the type of exercise that triggers a mass learning experience. I have used it in academic settings as a professor of social psychology to address the unrest we experienced in the 1960s. In later years it became a conversation started for large-scale systems change that take years if not decades to fully manifest as the next cultural expression of values.

As a doctoral student of Muzafer Sherif, one of the founding fathers of social psychology, I learned early in my career about the psychosocial characteristics of conflict resolution. Oftentimes, competition for political leadership can lead to negative prejudices, frozen stereotypes, and fractious interparty conflicts. These are the early signs of trouble. As competition increases, each side moves towards an-all-or-nothing endpoint making it difficult to find common ground. Under this type of political division, one side enjoys the spoils of victory, while the other waits in the wings for its turn ignoring the real damage the discord is causing to the very fabric of a country.

I have been a witness to these political dynamics several times in my life in many hot spots around the world. They were present in South Africa where, over a 10-year period, I helped the country’s leaders design conflict-minimizing measures to ensure a smooth transition from Apartheid. If you’ve seen the movie Invictus then you’ve seen the work I’ve done on nation-building through sports after years of helping Mandela and de Klerk create a future vision for South Africa. Similar efforts were undertaken in the West Bank and Israel.

In both of these initiatives, what gave people hope is the idea that a peaceful, conflict-free future is possible. This type of optimism and long-term thinking is exactly what is absent from today’s political debate in America. Just as the right vilified President Obama, the left is doing the same with President Trump. Both sides of the political spectrum have become closed-minded, set on demonizing the other side and rejecting any and all ideas on compromise regardless of their merit. Things can’t possibly get any worse.

But here’s where solutions begin: the creation of super-ordinate goals. This concept comes from one of Sherif’s research efforts called the Robber’s Cave Experiment. At the heart of this model is the idea that groups in conflict, who don’t see a compromise with the other side as a possibility, must be made aware of the bigger picture and the resulting consequences should division worsen.

The definition of a super-ordinate goal is one that both sides to a conflicting desire to achieve but cannot do so on their own and must enroll the help of the other. It is working together to avert disastrous outcomes that neither side desires. This is what responsible leadership at the highest level must undertake, but unfortunately, the world has not seen it happen too many times.

Historically when countries fail to properly formulate superordinate goals the results, at best have been further division and at worse devastating wars. Unfortunately, the belief systems of both political parties in America today have become so rigid that ideas, like saving the planet or stopping climate change as superordinate goals, don’t speak to all sides equally. These values are generally associated with the progressive liberal side of the political spectrum that has been demonized and thrown into the enemy camp. Similarly, ideas on merit, self-reliance, limited government, and jobs for all Americans receive the same level of vitriol as they become rigidly demonized into the conservative side of the political spectrum.

When there’s clarity on a nation’s superordinate goal, it is the middle that’s made up of pragmatists and conciliators on both sides that kept the system moving smoothly. Seniority and political craftsmanship was its hallmark. Unfortunately today, that middle has disappeared and those who hold seniority on both sides are choosing not to run for reelection leaving the nation more polarized.

The solution to our predicament does not lie in whom we elect in the midterms. It has more to do with a political system that needs to be informed by a new superordinate goal that speaks to the future. Our current political parties are beholden to values of a bygone era informed by the standards of the Industrial Age. This is the narrative that suppresses the emergence of new paradigms. The voices of our politically ambitious youth are muffled. The minute they declare their desire to change the system, they’re thrown into the dark rigid confines of the two political parties. The result is more of the same gridlock.

I can’t claim to have all the answer for, or to know the finer details of a superordinate goal that has a future pull for all of America. But I do know this: the future of American politics is not a fight between the left and the right. It is a fight between the future and the past and we have to make room for young leadership to emerge. Solutions in the future will be based on leadership that deploys the talents of the “best fit” that champion the values of “thrive and let thrive” not on rigid ideologies of the left or the right which today only produce “win-lose” outcomes and create further division.

Historically, we have called on the youth in the military to defend us against enemies. Today, we must help our youth create a positive superordinate goal and empower them to pursue it so when we stand 30 years in the future, we can look back and be proud of our actions today. That’s leadership at the highest level that’s sorely missing from politics today.

By Dr. Don Beck
drbeck@spiraldynamics.net
Nov. 4, 2018


About the Author

Dr. Don Edward Beck

Dr. Don Edward Beck is a teacher, geopolitical advisor, and theorist focusing on applications of large scale psychology, including social psychology, evolutionary psychology, organizational psychology and their effect on human sociocultural systems. He is the co-author of the “Spiral Dynamics” theory, an evolutionary human development model. He spent many years adapting the work of his mentor and colleague, developmental psychologist Clare W. Graves, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Union College in New York.


 

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How to Get Out Your Feelings & Stop Holding Back

Do you ever feel like you’re holding it all in?

Do you wonder how to get out your feelings? If you’re holding back your emotions, it’s time to look at where your feelings come from and why they’re important!


Your jaw clenches, your stomach gets butterflies, you feel tears well up in your eyes…but you try to check yourself. After all, feelings are unprofessional, right? Adults shouldn’t cry or get upset.

Many of us have grown up with the idea that certain feelings are “bad” or “wrong.” If you aren’t sure how to get out your feelings, you may be holding them inside. These feelings can later come out at inopportune times or directed toward the wrong person. It’s important we learn how to responsibly express our feelings. Feelings can be a surprisingly powerful tool when we wield them correctly.

Where Our Feelings Come From

Where does this idea that certain feelings aren’t okay, originate?

In our society, we don’t have a great relationship with emotions. Many of us have learned from a young age that expressing emotions wasn’t really okay. In fact, we may believe it indicated we were “out of control,” “weak,” or “too emotional”?

Perhaps you were made fun of when you were younger for crying. Or you may have grown up in a household where you were taught to suppress your emotions—that you weren’t supposed to upset people.


Between our family and society, we’re taught a lot of “rules” about expressing our emotions.


As we grow up, we can realize that it’s actually our job as adults to look at our emotions and realize the truth: there are not bad feelings. There are no wrong feelings. Even though we were perhaps trained in some way with our family or socially, that anger was bad, or fear was a weakness.

If we look at anger, for example, we realize that anger is really a very powerful emotion, but it’s not necessarily bad. Of course, it’s not to be misused or built up. It’s not meant to turn into rage or to be misdirected. Anger is a powerful emotion, but it’s not a mistake. In fact, none of our emotions are a mistake—there is wisdom in each of them. Each emotion has encoded within it exactly what we need to draw on to deal with a situation. So, in many ways anger is helpful.

All of our feelings are meant to push us away from pain and drive us toward pleasure. When we examine our feelings, we see that our emotions are powerful tools. Yes, you need to be adept. You need emotional intelligence and sensitivity toward others, but anger, for example, can be channeled to move you away from unnecessary pain. If we look at the purpose behind our feelings, we can recalibrate our emotions.

One of our students related to us all the ways she was constantly trying to please those around her, especially at work. She wanted everyone to like her. She would hide her anger and frustration because growing up her dad was often angry. He didn’t deal with it in a healthy way and she was fearful of becoming like him. So instead she avoided her anger, hid, and suppressed it.

When she brought up these feelings, she realized that when she avoided her anger and held it in, she ended up taking on extra work. Rather than telling her team she didn’t want to take on an unfair share of the workload, she would simply shoulder it and tell herself that she shouldn’t be angry. Once she got in touch with her anger, she was able to let the employees on her team know it wasn’t okay. She told them she wasn’t satisfied with the situation, it wasn’t making her happy, and it wasn’t working. And once her feelings were expressed, she started getting must better results. Everyone on her team improved because she harnessed her anger toward a result.

Our Early Programming and Emotions

These beliefs about emotions are part of our early programming, but just because it’s what we were taught doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what’s best for us. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that it’s true.

When we talk about our early programming, we’re often discussing the network of experiences, feelings, thoughts, and perceptions encoded in our unconscious. We refer to this makeup as our “matrix.”

Our matrix is a constellation of belief system. This belief system is set during our early programming as young children. In our first six years of our life, we’re particularly malleable. Our brains are set for imagination, discovery, and possibility. This is why young children see every item as a toy. We’re in what’s called a hypnogogic state during those years, we’re easily formed and impressionable. During that time, we’re learning what’s okay and what’s not okay.

During our early childhood, within our brains, our neural pathways are being laid down. Think of it as a computer’s operating system. Life filters through and our matrix, shaping the way we see and experience different things. This matrix defines how we view the world, how we view ourselves, and what beliefs we adhere to.

As we become aware this matrix exists, we may realize there are certain aspects of our matrix that don’t serve us. Some pieces hold us back. (Like that voice telling you, “You’re too much,” or, “you’re too emotional.”) There are pieces of our matrix that protected us from hurt as a child. Maybe we were taught to fear certain situations or to believe the world was unsafe. While these beliefs kept us safe when we were younger, they no longer apply to us as adults and we can let them go.

As we grow and evolve into the person we hope to become, it becomes necessary to explore our internal makeup. Eventually, we may realize our beliefs aren’t necessarily truths. Our beliefs don’t dictate reality.  What we believe may even limit our reality, preventing us from realizing our full, vast potential.

We may think, “This is simply how it is,” or “this is how I am,” rather than realizing the ways to grow and overcome behaviors and beliefs holding us back.

How many times have you been faced with a situation, like speaking out in a meeting or standing up to someone who upset you and thought, “Oh I could never do that! I’m a nice person!” or “I’m too shy to do that,” or “I shouldn’t feel angry.”

When we hold back our feelings because we believe we should or because it counters who we think we are, we’re limiting ourselves. We may miss opportunities and let successes pass us by.

Recognition Helps Get Out Your Feelings

For many people, even acknowledging the underlying feelings they feel is tough. Admitting them aloud, or even to themselves, is even harder. Yet, sometimes exploring our feelings, uncovering ourselves, and expressing ourselves empowers us helps us get a better sense of what’s really going on.

We may think we’re beyond unconscious thought. Many people think they have full control over what goes through their mind…yet psychologists, neuroscientists, and behaviorists have explored the way our unconscious drives our behaviors, whether we like it or not.


Have you ever eaten food when you weren’t hungry? Put off a task for no reason? Have you ever claimed you couldn’t do a job because you believed it wasn’t in you? Have you turned an opportunity down because the “timing didn’t feel right”? Do you gravitate toward routine?


These are all examples of our matrix overriding our logic. We may know the action we’re taking (or not taking) isn’t serving us or moving us forward, but we rely on our default reaction because it feels safe and familiar.

Once you recognize this, it becomes easier to get out your feelings and work through the beliefs about yourself holding you back. When faced with a situation, ask yourself: what am I really feeling? We often encourage our students to simply “call out” the emotion they’re experiencing. Such as “Fear!” or “Frustration!” It seems a little funny at first, but soon an awareness takes hold. Calling their feelings aloud to their classmates and friends helps this awareness occur even faster.

If you’re trying to identify your emotions, look at your body—butterflies, hands sweaty, jaw clenched-these are all clues to your emotions. Did your behavior change in response to a comment or a situation? Did you go home and eat a giant piece of cake? Did you feel antsy or apprehensive? These indicators clue you into what you’re feeling. Now put the words onto those feelings:

“I’m angry.”

“I’m feeling sad.”

“In this moment I feel joyful.”

When we acknowledge our feelings, almost like magic, it calms our limbic system and brings us back online. By expressing it, we’re able to channel the energy behind the emotions, name them, and express them fully. If we’re sad, we can cry. If we’re angry, we can truly feel that anger. Once we feel the emotions, we’re able to complete them. The experience is integrated, and we can then move onto the next activity. We don’t need to hang onto the emotions forever. Think of a baby—they cry, they express their feeling, and then they move on. We don’t need to hold onto our feelings.

When we acknowledge how we’re feeling, we start to explore the why behind our emotions. For example, when you’re about to talk to a coworker about a comment that upset you. You may explore your thoughts and feelings. Why did the comment upset you? What other feelings does it bring up? Are you feeling hurt? Anger? Fear at the prospect of discussing it with them directly?

Once you get out your feelings, they become less obtuse. We gain clarity. Why are you feeling hurt? Maybe because you felt unseen when your coworker took the credit or diminished your idea. You felt overshadowed. Perhaps you even felt threatened. Your desire (your yearning) to be seen, heard, and respected wasn’t being met.


When our needs (what we often refer to as yearnings) aren’t being met, we often feel fear. We may feel sadness, hurt, even anger over our yearnings that are unfulfilled.


When you realize this is how you feel, you may decide to express this to your coworker. The prospect of expressing your feelings may fill you with another feeling—fear. We may tell ourselves, “I’m not a confrontational person,” or “I prefer to avoid conflict at any cost.” Once you’ve addressed the fear, you can look at these statements about who you think you are: are you really someone who avoids confrontation at any cost? Or is this simply part of your matrix? Is this something you believe about yourself that’s not really true?

Exploring the reasons behind your emotions and reactions is the first step to expressing yourself. If you want to get out your feelings, take a deeper look at where they’re stemming from.

For more ways you can get to know yourself, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. We have many of our courses available for download on our website. Don’t miss out on our special introductory price on these great courses!


 About the Author

Judith Wright receives the Visionary Leader Award from Chicago NAWBO.

Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.


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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.