This is the most powerful insight I know to determine which attractions lead to love and which lead to pain. It’s the step that changes everything–but that no one teaches us. Oprah.com excerpted this insight from my book Deeper Dating.
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I’m Ken Page and every week I’ll be giving you free access to the greatest insights, the most powerful practices, and the most essential findings to help you find love and keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy and the skills of intimacy are the greatest skills of all for a happy life.
Episode Table of Contents
- Attractions Of Deprivation: The Almost People
- Attractions Of Inspiration: Your Path To Happiness
- How do you identify an attraction of inspiration?
- You can choose which wiring to follow
- A little activity to close the episode
How To Tell Which Attractions Lead To Love And Which Lead To Pain
Well, today I’m going to share something that I think is huge. It’s the single greatest insight that I know. Use this simple tool and watch how much changes in your life and your dating life in ways that I think you’ll find wonderful. Today we’re going to talk about how to tell which attractions lead to love and which lead to pain. If you go there, you’re also going to get to hear about all of my upcoming courses, classes, and intensives. And by the way, if you like what you’re learning here, please do subscribe to this podcast and leave me a review on iTunes. It’s a great way to say thank you.
I’m really excited about this subject, and here’s what it is. In a really simple, binary way, all of us have two circuitries of sexual and romantic attraction. Two circuitries. One leads to real love and one leads to a nightmare forest that you can get trapped in for a very, very long time, thinking it’s finally going to bring you love and happiness. I call these two different circuitries of attraction, attractions of inspiration and attractions of deprivation.
The most important thing you can do if you’re looking for real, lasting, beautiful, generative love
Here’s what I believe is the most important thing that you can do if you’re looking for real, lasting, beautiful, generative love. Learn how to recognize the difference between your attractions of deprivation and your attractions of inspiration, which is not always so easy to do. And then, only, only pursue your attractions of inspiration. I truly believe that that’s the wisest path to love.
But, wise does not mean easy, because attractions of deprivation look and smell and feel like love to us until we know better. Attractions of inspiration hold challenges that very few of us are trained to meet, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to explore both types of attractions so that you can chart a path to love that lasts.
Attractions Of Deprivation: The Almost People
We are going to start with attractions of deprivation. Now these guys are, I guess the best way to capture the essence of what they feel like is if you ever had a bug bite or poison ivy or anything like that where you just had to scratch an itch and you felt like it would feel so good to do and happiness would come to you if you did it and there was just no choice. But you do it and you open up your skin. You do it and it doesn’t help at all, although at the moment it feels good. Attractions of deprivation are like that.
The people who carry that attraction are the almost people. The people who almost can commit to you. The people who almost treat you right. The people who almost don’t usually drink too much. The people who almost respect you, and the people who can almost commit to the work. There’s enough there that you don’t leave. But there’s not enough there that you can really build a good life together.
Attractions of deprivation keep you feeling inadequate
Attractions of deprivation draw us in like an undertow and they almost always get us hurt. When you’re in an attraction of deprivation you keep feeling like you have to do some thing to win your partner’s love or approval or care, and you spend way too much time worrying about what you’ve done wrong, or how you could get stronger, or how you could get more confident, or how you could lose weight, or what you could do differently to finally make things right. These relationships trigger a sense of need and longing that rob us of our sense of balance. And that need can take your breath away. In some essential way, your attractions of deprivation keep you feeling inadequate, but they dangle a carrot in front of you for something better.
The two major reasons
If these attractions cause so much pain, why are they also so hard to break free from? There are two major reasons. One, because they activate one of the most primordial human emotions of all, fear of abandonment. Another reason is that they trigger our sense of inadequacy. Ways in which we feel flawed or ashamed of ourselves, and we feel like, oh well that’s why this person doesn’t love us enough. It’s because of these horrible embarrassing flaws, and if I could finally fix those I could get this person to love me. There are other reasons as well why these relationships just keep trapping us and we can explore those in future episodes. But for now, one thing I also want to say is that many attractions of deprivation are what behavioral theorists call intermittent reward systems. What is that?
The Intermittent Reward Systems
In these systems, you get rewarded, only sporadically, and you cannot control when the reward is going to come. Interestingly, they are the most compelling system of reinforcement, and the hardest to break free from. Gambling’s a great example of intermittent reward, so are attractions of deprivation.
Have you ever experienced an attraction of deprivation? Have you ever been crazy about somebody who just wasn’t available or wasn’t good for you? Or, have you ever invested way too much thinking and time and attention trying to teach someone to treat you right? Or, have you ever felt desperate for the affection of somebody who sometimes treated you well and was available and other times just not at all? If you’ve never been there, I don’t think we’ve met yet, because these are the most universal and sneaky and seductive attractions of all. They look like love to you. They feel like love. They smell like love. It feels like you must scratch that itch to get your needs met. But ultimately, they leave you lonely alone, and a secondary bad thing that they do is they deeply reinforce your sense of shame and inadequacy.
Attractions Of Inspiration: Your Path To Happiness
I’ve spent years, years following attractions of deprivation because somewhere deep inside I knew that it was true that I was somewhat flawed and I knew that it was true that I had things to be ashamed of and I knew these guys were sexy and hot and wonderful and almost interested in me. It was not for many, many years until I realized that although I’ve powerfully had that kind of circuitry of attraction to these attractions of deprivation, I had another circuitry too. It was a circuitry where I could be attracted to people who were really wonderful and really good for me. I call these attractions of inspiration and they are your path to happiness. I promise you that.
Let me talk about these attractions. But let me just start by saying, I really believe, and I want to share with you, that the great secret to finding love, the great secret, right here, lies in choosing and cultivating only your attractions of inspiration. This is such a simple insight, but it takes decades for most of us to arrive at this awareness, if we ever do it all.
He or she’s going to love you for who you are
Attractions of inspiration. They have a quality of warmth and easiness. There’s a sense of quiet joy, of rightness, of home, of goodness, of safety, of a kind of joy that has a quality of goodness and not a quality of desperation or deprivation. In these kinds of attractions, in these relationships, our challenge is to accept our partners caring, not to try to win it again and again. Your partner, if it’s an attraction of inspiration, will challenge you to be better, but at bottom, he or she’s going to love you for who you are.
Your attractions of inspiration are fueled by a real sense of well being that the relationship creates in you, not buy this unrelenting itch for something that’s being denied you.
These attractions unfold differently and more slowly
Here’s another thing about these attractions. They unfold differently. They unfold more slowly. They get richer as time goes on. They may take a lot of work, but these relationships are precious because they allow the work of intimacy. They make us feel love, not desperation. They’re the only relationships to build your life around. They’re the only ones that deserve the gift of your most intimate self. Some people know this naturally and they end up in these relationships right away because they’re smart enough to know it. The rest of us need to learn it, and most of the rest of us are never taught this. That’s why I think this teaching is so precious and so important.
I want to read you a quote that comes from my book, Deeper Dating.
We can measure the quality of our lives by the relationships of mutual inspiration we’ve cultivated. Without such inspiration, any love will wither. And without these relationships, we too will wither, reverting to smaller, more defensive and wounded versions of ourselves.
I think of human beings as rubber bands
Sometimes I think of human beings, in my practice, as rubber bands. A rubber band, if you leave it alone, it shrinks back to its most comfortable, tiny size. But, if you hold it out to a greater size, if a force outside itself holds it out to a greater size, it can stretch and stretch and stretch. Without relationships and attractions of inspiration we revert to our smaller size. When our life is full of relationships of inspiration our life and our heart and our soul expands to a size that we could never achieve alone.
How do you identify an attraction of inspiration?
How do you find, how do you identify an attraction of inspiration? Here are some questions to help you identify these attractions. One, are you inspired by this person’s mostly consistent, caring, and acceptance? Two, are you inspired by this person’s goodness and decency? Three, is your love fueled by respect for the kind of person your partner is? And four, are both you and your partner willing to do the hard work of healing your relationships areas of weakness? If the answer to these questions is yes, and of course if there’s physical attraction, then celebrate baby, you have found an attraction of inspiration and you should treasure it. It’s the kind of relationship you’ve been looking for. It’s the kind of relationship that can sustain a future of love.
The principle of instrumentality
Let me tell you a little bit about what I’ve seen when people make this choice, this choice to only pursue attractions of inspiration. A few fascinating things happen. One thing is, and there’s fascinating science to back this up, when you make the decision that you are going to change your dating approach and you’re only gonna look for and only pursue these relationships, you’re going to start to notice these babies more. You really will. It’s called the principle of instrumentality. That when you set a big goal for yourself that really matters, you’re going to be more likely to notice the people who meet that goal and you’re going to be more likely to be attracted to them.
I have seen this in my practice and in the emails that I get from people who’ve read my work, again and again and again, is that when you make this distinction, doesn’t mean it’s not hard, because those attractions of deprivation can be so compelling. But when you make this choice, you start noticing and meeting kinder, better, more available people, and you find that you’re more attracted to them. When that happens, something else happens, you sense inside of you that you’re on a path to happiness, finally. There’s such great joy in that, and that’s something that I’ve witnessed happening, in my own life, and in so many of my clients lives.
There’s joy when you’re with someone who is sexy to you
There is a joy, there’s a joy when you’re with someone who is sexy to you and who emanates goodness and cares deeply about treating you right and being a good human being in the world. There’s a joy that bubbles up and then explodes inside you when you find that kind of relationship. By making this choice you will be setting yourself on a path to find that kind of relationship.
Many of us really believe that attractions of deprivation are real love because they are so exciting, they draw us in so intensely. Just like when you’ve got that kind of an itch, or I guess an addiction or a compulsion is also a really good metaphor for that. Down to your bones, you know, you have got to fulfill this need. But it’s not a good thing.
These attractions suck us in and change our thinking.
I don’t want to pretend that’s not true because this is not an easy thing to change. And then, when they let us down, we believe it’s because of a lack in us and not because of a fatal flaw that’s embedded into this very attraction itself. And that’s the killer.
You’ve got another circuitry
I’ve known a lot of people, myself included, who at one point in our lives have had an epiphany. Yeah, you can be attracted to these bad boys and these bad girls and these unavailable people. You can have this circuitry of attraction, and almost all of us do. But you’ve got another one. In almost all cases I have found this to be true. You’ve got another circuitry under there and you know about it and it’s where you can be attracted to people who are kind and generous and giving and caring and smart and all those other good things. That you have an attraction where you could fall in love based on that as well. And when there’s physical and romantic attraction and then this attraction of turn on to inspiration, that’s happiness, that’s happiness.
Don’t worry about the turn on folks, it’s going to happen if it’s going to happen
Maybe your most immediate intense attractions, like oh, kind of attractions, are toward unavailable people, but you also have this other circuitry which is maybe a little quieter, a little more hidden, at first, but which can grow and grow and grow into such power. The problem is, we go out there looking for immediate turn on first and inspiration is something we hope will follow. Our order is off.
Don’t worry about the turn on folks, it’s going to happen if it’s going to happen.
It takes care of itself. But noticing inspiration, that takes a choice, that takes a conscious decision and it takes a little bit more time. When you switch your focus and look for inspiration first, watch what happens.
Go to deeperdatingpodcast.com and press Ask Ken and click on the microphone and share your stories about what happens when you try this, because you are going to have some good and hopeful stories, and other people would love to hear them, and I’ll have your message on my show.
You can choose which wiring to follow
You’ve got two different systems of wiring and you can choose which ones to follow. Yeah, most of us are wired to want the hard to get, and people who devalue us make us want to convince them of our worth. Those are the circuitries of deprivation. You know and I know that, as compelling as they are, baby, these attractions don’t lead to love. Please note that you, even if you have a hair trigger attraction to deprivation, it does not mean you can’t be deeply attracted to inspiration as well.
We just haven’t been taught how to distinguish between these two attractions, or that we can actually make a choice and cultivate passion and sexual heat in these positive relationships.
Attractions of inspiration though, have their own challenges, and this is a really fascinating thing. Whereas, your attractions of deprivation trigger fear of abandonment, as I said, your attractions of inspiration trigger another kind of fear. They trigger your fear of intimacy. We’re going to be talking about what to do with that in future episodes, but let me just say this, don’t worry about having fear of intimacy. It is just a line of crap that it’s only unhealthy people that have fear of intimacy.
If you’re breathing, you have fear of intimacy, because love is the most precious commodity on this planet and there is no way that you are not going to have fears of being hurt, being let down, having it taken from you. You’re human. That’s a given. Our task is not to eliminate our fear of intimacy, it’s to become wiser in how we hold it.
You might be worrying that the kind of this approach of like, oh, I have to be inspired by someone, might lead to a judgementalness or an inability to remain in a relationship in times of conflict because you say, oh, not inspiring. Those are real concerns, and we will explore them further. But, I want to say that in my experience, the reverse is much more likely. In an attraction of deprivation, baby, you’re going to be prone to deep self judgment and you will also be prone to a quiet, or active, disdain of your partner. In an attraction of inspiration, you will discover a capacity for patience, generosity, gratitude, and a humility that lets you lean on and value your partners deepest gifts.
A little activity to close this episode
With these insights, I want to invite each one of you, right now, to take a minute, we’re going to do a tiny little process together to close this episode. Picture an attraction of deprivation that you’ve had and how scratched the itch it was, or is, and how much it hurt, or hurts. I want you to picture your vision of an attraction of inspiration, where there’s turn on, but there is goodness, there’s goodness and hope and solidity and picture being with someone like that.
And see if, at this moment, you’re willing to make a decision. From now on, I am not going to pursue those attractions. From now on, I am going to look for goodness and inspiration, online, at parties, on dates. That’s what I’m going to look for, first and foremost. And when I find it I’m going to cultivate that if it’s an attraction that feels like it’s a romantic one, or even if it feels like a friendship one. I am going to make a choice to carve a path for my future life that is a road of pursuing and cultivating and developing on all levels my attractions of inspiration and not deprivation. This will make you stronger. This will make you happier and this will lead to love.
Thank you all so much for joining me and I’ll see you on the next episode of Deeper Dating.