THE REPETITION COMPULSION
Granted, some of these cases may represent sheer coincidence. Others may reflect the fact that living within a particular society, we are likely to run into patterns in the types of people and situations that are prevalent. However, in many cases, there may be something more profound going on.
Many psychologists and thinkers have recognized a tendency for humans to be drawn to situations that trigger unresolved traumas from earlier in their lives. A child who has an abusive parent may later be repeatedly drawn to abusive partners. A person who grew up in a controlling environment may end up continuously taking jobs in which they feel stifled. Someone who was often abandoned may be drawn, unconsciously, to people who will become close to them and then suddenly detach and leave.
This tendency was called the "repetition compulsion" by Sigmund Freud and has gone on to be recognized by others. Its mechanism is partially explained by and/or plays a central role in many of the behaviors and models that fascinate me most, including:
Others believe that we revisit these earlier traumas in unconscious search of mastery and healing. In other words, we hope that we can replay the trauma and, this time, triumph and grow through the process. They may view the repetition compulsion as an integral part of healing and advise us not to avoid it, but rather to learn how to better handle those repetetive situations so that we can master them and break the cycle.
Given the repetetive nature of many of the most daunting challenges that face us on the individual, family, social and global levels, I believe that a deeper understanding of the nature and resolution of the repetition compulsion would prove invaluable.