In my previous blog I talked about a concept called the Psychological Bingo Board and explained how we in effect programme our personality based on the behaviours and beliefs which enable us to get attention when we are growing up.
The idea behind the Psychological Bingo Board is that we have within us potentially all 78 aspects that are reflected on the board*. But we have effectively programmed ourselves in a binary fashion to choose one quality over another to ‘fit in’ and become acceptable to environment that we are in. Essentially we become the person we are by identifying the qualities that enable us to get attention and then deciding that we are that person.
In an environment where it is very controlled, or very dramatic it is likely that fewer of the options will be selected and these are likely to be the more negative ones for example angry, cruel, obstructive, rebellious and needy.
So what of the children who were loved and cherished by their mothers?
Dennis Friedman a prominent psychiatrist said in an interview with Simon Round in the Jewish Chronicle in April 22 2010
“A child who is not struggling for recognition and who is not struggling to achieve in order to please someone else, will be able to do whatever his inner talents allow him to. He will be a round peg in a round hole. The others will be round pegs in square holes,”
In an environment where we are very much allowed to flourish and be accepted as our true selves, it is likely that many aspects of our bingo board will be completed. In this situation it will be understood that as well as all the positive traits, that the negative traits can also be part of us and will be accepted as part of our personality. These people will have more positive and accepting relationships with themselves. They are also more likely to be drawn to others who are also evolving towards completion of their bingo board.
In his book ‘We, Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love’ Psychologist Robert A. Johnson explains this drive like this:
‘Each man must learn to relate to external people and situations. But it is equally important and even more urgent that he learn to relate to his own self. Until he learns to confront the motives, desires, and unlived possibilities in his own secret heart, he can never be complete within or genuinely fulfilled. That power within which constantly urges us to experience our unlived possibilities and values is the most awesome force in human life’.
It was fascinating to see how the bingo board can be used to explain quirks and inconsistencies in our personality and stimulate discussion. The good news about the idea that we programme ourselves based on what gets us attention (or helps us to avoid pain) is that we can choose to re-programme ourselves
In the process we can realise that all the potentials on the psychological bingo board are inside of us – both positive and negative. The PBB gives us some idea of the areas that we need to work on in order to improve the acceptance of ourselves and in the process the acceptance of others.
We have often been told that opposites attract but I think we have seldom asked why that may be the case and what the implications of this are for relationships.
If you can accept the possibility that we programme our own personality, what relevance does this have to our relationships?
Well the answer is that the psychological bingo board has everything to do with who we decide to select as a partner.
When we have programmed ourselves as a result of what gets us attention, somewhere in our subconscious we are aware that the other aspects of us are missing or unlived. In the absence of looking within to find our own wholeness, we seek to find this in our external world in our romantic relationships.
Since we have this drive towards completion or wholeness we unconsciously look to complete ourselves through another person in a romantic relationship.
This explains why we often fall in love with people who are our opposites.
So a tidy person will fall in love with a disorganised person and find their behaviour cute and cuddly. A creative person will love the ability to analyse of the logical person. A sedentary person will love the drive and energy that a person with an action tendency will bring to the relationship.
The trouble with completing yourself through another person is that it is an illusion. In psychological terms this tendency to idealise or demonise qualities in others, which we deny in ourselves is called ‘projection’.
To begin with we love (or hate) in them the qualities that we deny in ourselves, but because we are trying to complete ourselves through another person at some point around 18 months to 3 years the romantic bubble of projection tends to wear off.
When this happens the very quality that attracted us to our partner in the first place, ie that they are very different from us, is often the very quality that we grow to dislike about them.
So ironically the cutely neat person might now be perceived as a control freak and the amusing entertainer might now be perceived as a complete embarrassment. The idea of projection and how it affects relationships, is also described by Neil Strauss in the Truth when he writes:
In the dance of infatuation, we see others not as they are but as projections of who we want them to be. And we impose on them all the imaginary criteria we think will fill the void in our hearts. But in the end, this strategy leads only to suffering. It’s not a relationship when the other person is completely left out of it’
Or as Robert Johnson puts it:
‘He is usually so busy projecting his inner ideal out onto her that he rarely sees the value and the beauty of the woman who is actually there. And if his projection suddenly evaporates and he is no longer ‘in love’ in the romantic sense, then he finds himself in a terrible conflict. He wants to follow his projection as it flies off and alights on another woman, like a butterfly that moves from flower to flower’ .
The trouble with projection is, that unless you realise that it is taking place and take steps to integrate and accept the different aspects of your personality that you have previously been denying or ‘unselected’ you will go on to have a continuous string of romantic relationships that end in disillusionment.
The end of the illusion happens for both men and women since they are both denying aspects of themselves and projecting those qualities on to another.
Having said that, what they might do about the end of the illusion would probably be different for men and women.
For as Johnson says
‘the morality of the love potion tells him he must seek passion at all costs: he has the ‘right’ to fall ‘in love’ at random; that is what life is about! He has the affirmative ‘duty’ to himself to get all the excitement and intensity that he can’.
This sentiment is also reflected in the Truth when Neil Strauss is in the throws of his treatment for sex addiction.
‘I decide not to mention the other option I’m debating: to just say “Fuck it, this is my nature and not get in another monogamous relationship, to be free to go out with who I want, when I want”.
Since adolescence, we’ve been trained as men – by our friends, by our culture, by our biology – to desire women. It seems unreasonable to expect us to just shut it off forever once we get married. Legs are long, breasts are soft, and forever is a long time’
In contrast 18 months to 3 years after the start of a relationship women might be in a very different place in their lives. They might have financial dependency on the man and possibly children so are less likely to move on in search of the ‘perfect relationship’.
We believe that we cannot control who we fall in love with and to a certain extent that seems to be true. But what if our decisions are about trying to complete ourselves through another person?
Even though the Psychological Bingo Board is a very rough tool. It can be used to predict with some accuracy the sort of person and the type of relationship that we are likely to be subconsciously drawn to.
I remember showing this Bingo Board to a friend of mine who is who quite a self aware and developed person. Firstly she crossed off all the qualities that she stated that were part of her personality. What was most noticeably left uncrossed on the bingo board was boring, sedentary and dependent. The PBB model would suggest that she would be drawn to a boring, sedentary and dependent person. Knowing my friend very well and losing faith in my model, I thought it was unlikely that she would be drawn to this type of person
However when I told her my prediction about the type of person she would be attracted to she said ‘yes that’s quite true, I do’
If you have a type of person you are drawn to and a type of relationship that you tend to find yourself in, you can use the PBB to understand why that happens. Complete the bingo board firstly by making a cross on the behaviours that you decided to adopt as a child. Then go back and look at the behaviours you added to your PBB in your adolescence and finally go back and add the ones that you have integrated as an adult. You should now have a fairly complete picture of the decisions you have made through your life regarding your personality and the kind of person that you have chosen to be.
Now look at the ones you have not selected and this will give you quite a good idea about the people that you tend to be drawn to when you are unconsciously selecting partners for a relationship.
If this pattern of relationships is not working for you, you can use the PBB to integrate those aspects of your disowned or ‘projected’ self to move towards ‘wholeness’ in your personality.
This integration will reduce your risk of subconsciously seeking out people who at first you will adore and then a few months or years down the road you find irritating
There is another point here that I think it is also worth making. When I was an adolescent I realised that I got attention from my father for being intelligent and studying. He valued education and I was aware that I would get his approval if I kept on passing exams. This led me down the route of a first degree, then a Masters , then management courses and numerous personal development programmes and of course in to a career which involved helping others to learn. I had very much linked my approval with my attainments.
So when looking for a partner one of the first things I did was to share my attainments with them. This just felt like the normal thing to do. What confused me was how men just wanted to kiss and be affectionate with me without understanding the person they wanted to kiss. If I am honest I was quite judgemental of that. Until suddenly the ‘penny dropped’ that actually relationships are about intimacy, being affectionate, kissing, holding hands, eye contact and making you feel comfortable in their presence. The trouble is that I come from a family where this type of behaviour is completely alien to them. Sad I know but true. So I was leading with a behaviour that only a person raised in the same kind of family would understand and then probably they would be trying to impress me with their attainments.
Recently I was reading an article in the Sunday Times Magazine dated May 22nd 2016 by Ellie Austin called the ‘Missing Ingredient’ about how well educated young professional women are losing out in the numbers game. The article provided lots of facts and figures about how more women go to university. It also quotes Dr Sue Johnson a clinical psychologist who says:
‘We’re conditioning men into rapid sexuality and not teaching them how to relate’
In the same article they mentioned a view from a 29 year old film maker who when talking about a ‘near miss’ relationship experience says:
She said she fancied me and loved spending time together but that wasn’t “enough”. I was devastated. She’s recently signed up to some dating apps and was overwhelmed by the choice. In a different era, I am convinced she would have given us a shot, but today’s dating culture has led her to believe she could do better’.
As I read the rest of the article I wondered if these young, attractive, educated, female – and single women who were lamenting the millennium man draught had fallen into the same trap as me. Were these women leading with their achievements too?
It seems to me that both men and women need to learn to relate to each other at an emotional level and then as Thomas Lewis says in ‘A General Theory of Love’ people who had previously been invisible will start to become visible.
Now you have read this blog I can almost here you say:
That’s all very well and interesting but relationships are not about conscious decisions. That would take all the fun, adventure, excitement and mystery out of meeting someone special’.
And I would say
Well that’s a fair point, but how is enabling the subconscious to choose your life partners working for you so far? And if it’s working fine why are you reading this book? And if it’s not working fine, wouldn’t some alternative ways of looking things help?
Which brings me quite neatly onto the Continuum of love model which I will talk about in my next blog.
* Of course there are many more binary options that I have not listed.
With thanks to Jo Grant for permission to use her beautiful photos
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