So how many times have you found yourself at work and you get into the same conflict
again and again with that same person at work?
Or how many weekends have you spent arguing with your spouse or your kid at home?
The conflict might be different from day to day, week to week, but the dynamic is the
This is what Sigmund Freud originally called the repetition compulsion.
And this is the fact that we all tend to repeat the same dysfunctional patterns of behavior
一遍又一遍一遍又一遍 即使潜意识会说 不要做这个了
again and again and again and again even though our conscious mind says, “Don’t do that,
别做这个 别这么说 别这么说－－这就是强迫性复现症
don’t do that, don’t say that, don’t say that!”—this is the repetition compulsion,
and it’s more than just a habit.
This is a special feature of how our minds tend to work.
Initially Sigmund Freud thought that we human beings, we operate on what he called the pleasure
We love pleasure and we like to move away from pain.
And then he started working with a whole bunch of people who actually seemed to move from
one painful relationship to another.
So you find yourself in one domestic abuse relationship, you get out of it, but then
you move to another.
You find yourself in a dysfunctional relationship with your subordinates in one organization.
You move to a different organization: “But they’re dysfunctional here as well!”
Maybe it’s not just everybody else.
Maybe, in part, it’s you.
This is the repetition compulsion.
Now how do you deal with this thing?
The first thing to do is to become aware of it.
What is the typical pattern that you tend to fall in.
I mean, think right now of a difficult relationship in your own life.
It could be in your personal life, it could be in your professional life.
How do you deal with conflict in that relationship?
How does it start?
Does the other side start by saying some little subtle comment that gets under your nerves?
And then you decide to walk away for 15 minutes, your face starts to get red, you come back
15 minutes later: “You’re such a jerk!”
And you respond like that.
Or is it that one side says something and then you say something back and you very quickly
What’s the pattern that you find yourself typically getting into?
Note that pattern.
That’s your cycle of discord.
And there typically is some sort of common thread or trigger, something that tends to
commonly trigger those kinds of conflicts.
It might be that in your relationship you always feel second rung.
“You’re always trying to act so superior to me.”
Or it might be that you always feel excluded, and the moment the other side says anything
that even subtly demonstrates exclusion, now you’re back in that cycle of discord.
So how do you deal with the repetition compulsion?
The first step is to become aware of your cycle of discord.
Who says what?
Who says what next?
Because the moment you know that pattern, you can decide to break any little node in
that cycle and you break the whole cycle.
Here’s the frustrating part though—the honest-to-goodness frustrating part.
The moment you try to break that pattern it’s going to feel extremely uncomfortable for
you, because this is what you know.
This is what is natural to who you are in your identity.
当你试图改变的时候 某种程度上 是对你身份的威胁
And the moment you try to change that cycle you’re in a sense threatening a part of
your identity—for a good reason, but you’re threatening it.
And every part of your body is going to want to move back to the way things were before.
Let me give you an example.
Let me take the spousal example.
Husband and wife get into a conflict.
The wife experiences emotions very deeply and needs some time to boil in those emotions
before she can talk.
The husband wants to get this thing over as quickly as possible.
这是两个经典的个体 而且你把他们放一块儿 那么 问题来了
Now you take those two classic individuals and you put them together, you have a real
problem, because the husband wants to talk the thing out right away and the wife says,
“No, no, no.
I want space.”
And you have a chase situation, an attack-avoid situation.
My advice—and I’ve worked with couples like this—my advice in that kind of situation,
I was in one situation working with a husband and in that situation the advice to the husband
was: “You know what?
When you start to get into that conflict situation with your wife, don’t immediately try to
Take ten minutes break.
告诉你的妻子 休息十分钟 然后再谈”
Tell your wife, ‘Let’s take a ten minute break and then let’s talk about this.’”
This gentleman came back to me two weeks later.
他说 这方法太好了 但这是世界上最难的事
He said, “This stuff works like magic, but this was the hardest thing in the world to do!” he said.
你知道的 在浴室里 看着十分钟过去
“Because I was there in the bathroom, you know, watching those ten minutes go by, and
我身体的每一根纤维 每一根血管都在祈求我 去吵吧 去吵吧
every thread in my body, every blood vessel and so on was begging me ‘go talk, go talk’,
feeling so uncomfortable.”
That’s the lure of that repetition compulsion.
But he fought it.
十分钟过后 他说 嗨 亲爱的 谈谈吧
Ten minutes later, “Hey, honey, let’s talk.”
“Okay, let’s talk.”
And they’re in a very different place.
It’s not easy to fight the repetition compulsion but it is possible.
It takes mapping out: what is your cycle?
And two, how do you try to break this thing?
Uncomfortably try to break it.
Over time your habit will change and it’ll feel more comfortable.