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Monday, December 2, 2019

The Adrenaline Rush of Relationship Drama


There never seems to be a short supply of articles telling us about toxic relationships, trauma bonding, or just plain dysfunctional behaviour in our interaction with others. Why are we hooked and beguiled into these situations with such seeming ease and why do they appear to occur with such frequency in most demographics? The young, the old, the rich, the poor, the educated, and the less educated, business people, spiritual people, homemakers, and shift workers – individuals from all of these groups and more and from most global societies may fall into the sticky mire of the adrenaline rush of relationship drama. Clearly, what defines any one particular group does not necessarily ‘save’ you from stepping into that muddy psycho-emotional bog.

So what is it that takes us there? What keeps us there? Why do we go back for more?

Carl Gustav Jung referred to the infinite wisdom of the psyche that causes us to be attracted to those people who – once the initial honeymoon period is over, are precisely the people through whom we could learn, evolve, and transform ourselves. Why? Because the people we are attracted to in that fashion carry something within their psyche that resonates with something in our own, and that connects with as yet unresolved aspects of ourselves – as well as similar aspects in them. Therefore, when that initial honeymoon period is over and when some degree of frustration, strife, and more begins to emerge in the relationship, we have the opportunity – if we stick to the relationship for the time being – to resolve that as yet unresolved issue through our interaction with the other.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? The first problem, however, is that the majority of us don’t have the benefit of the information just presented in the last paragraph. Without that information, we will, in most likelihood, give the relationship a shot, but if things go from bad to worse, we throw in the towel and therefore neglect to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity that a relationship presents to our potential evolution. As so often, knowledge is power but without that knowledge we may simply give up and eventually find ourselves in another, fairly similar relationship. The second issue is that we are most certainly - generally - not self-aware enough, that even if we did have the benefit of this information, to be able to carry on in such a fraught relationship. In other words, our knee-jerk reactions to moments of having our buttons pushed would make things even worse, because we would be incapable of standing back and observing what was happening, and even asking ourselves could this possibly have anything to do with me? Not from a blaming ourselves point of view, but rather, from the point of view of what can I learn about myself here, so that this type of thing no longer has the power to bother me?

There are specific relationship issues that create adrenaline in one or both partners. There is emotional drama, sexual drama, psychological drama – and it is this drama that creates the adrenaline in one or both. It is also this drama that is – even when the relationship is rife with difficult problems – that causes one or both parties to continue seeking the other out, despite having – perhaps more than once – already called an end to things.

So the question that this article is attempting to clarify is why is a person attracted to the adrenaline rush of relationship drama? Part of the answer lies in the infinite wisdom of the psyche to which Jung referred. Something in the self recognizes on subliminal levels that this relationship that may appear to be quite dysfunctional contains the seed to the resolution of an issue that remains unsolved in the psyche. And although you may not be aware of this at all, you feel compelled to seek out that person again. And again. And yet again.

Clearly, at this point I can hear some of my readers insisting that such a person needs to be told to stay away from the ‘nefarious’ partner once and for all, for his or her own sake. And of course I fully agree – except for one thing. If you stay away by forcing yourself to, and still feeling the rush that pulls you to the other person, you may not succeed in the long run. Or – you may be at the beginning of a perpetuation of this particular relationship pattern with other partners. If, however, you go back once or twice, and work on becoming more aware each time you do so with respect to the fact that you are attracted to that adrenaline rush for a reason that goes beyond chemistry or emotions - which is probably connected to your childhood - then you are at the potential beginning of the resolution of the issue and will soon be able to walk away from the drama without having to force yourself to do so.

Imagine, for example, that your childhood issue has to do with poor boundaries. You somehow learned to allow others to step all over you in order to maintain peace. Therefore, when faced with a partner who trespasses your boundaries, you may feel this adrenaline rush and drama even before any boundaries have been crossed because of this ‘infinite wisdom of the psyche’ referred to earlier. The psyche picks up on the fact that this particular person will expose you to situations that may help you resolve your issue through your interaction with this specific partner. Then, when the boundaries start getting crossed, you try to avoid thinking about them, because all you are noticing is the adrenaline rush amid the drama. Eventually you may leave. And then return, and the cycle begins anew.

At this point it is crucial to have some knowledge at hand. Knowledge about what all of this means. And how it ties in to your own issues. And what you can do about it by being more and more aware. By observing – not only the other, but also yourself interacting with the other, as well as your body reacting to the other’s dysfunctional behaviour (do you notice a tightening in your solar plexus, for example, when your boundaries are being crossed?), in your gut, your heart, and your mind. In this observation of all of these factors, you notice yourself saying or thinking: this is not how I wish to be treated. Or: this isn’t the kind of relationship I want.

In this fashion, you slowly bring yourself to the point where you are capable of walking away because you have put the care of yourself on a higher pedestal than the adrenaline rush that attracts you to the mirage of a relationship that doesn’t really exist the way your mind has imagined it, and never truly was the way you had believed it to be. By growing in awareness like this, you realize that this kind of adrenaline rush that is based on drama that ties in to previously unresolved issues on your part, simply no longer attracts you. And now, that infinite wisdom of the psyche I’ve referred to so often in this piece, alerts you as you meet new people in your life, to those who still dwell on that level. And so you walk away.

© Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D.

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