Why is it that all too often our most passionate romantic relationships ultimately burn up in a fiery blaze of glory? Today I am defining “attractions of deprivation” and giving you tips for identifying yours. I also explain why we need to stop following these “attractions of deprivation” and what we can do instead.

Listen to this episode to learn why we fall for people who are bad for us, why we create myths of lost love, and how we can begin to turn away from our attractions of deprivation.

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Show Notes:

  • How can we identify our attractions of deprivation
  • What are iconic attractions
  • Why do we create myths of lost love
  • What are the two aspects of the myth of lost love
  • How to stop following your attractions of deprivation

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Why Do We Fall For People Who Are Bad For Us?

 

Hello everybody and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I am a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book, Deeper Dating, and the host of your podcast. And I’m happy to be here with you talking about something really important today.

How can we identify our attractions of deprivation? And if you want to learn more about this approach, or to get transcripts of any podcast episode, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com, and you can learn more. And if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get lots of free resources and get to hear about lots of other resources that are available. So let’s jump right in.

 

Our conscious self is drawn to the positive qualities, but our unconscious draws us to the qualities where we were hurt the most as children. Click To Tweet

 

Why do our most intense romantic passions end in disaster so often? And why do these, what I call attractions of deprivation feel just like true love, even as they lead us off the edge of a cliff?

And there’s an insight that can help us solve this mystery, but it’s one that we rarely get taught. It turns out our most painful attractions actually arise from our deepest intimacy gifts and those gifts of the brick and mortar of a love that can survive in this often treacherous world.

This episode will teach you how to recognize and avoid your own attractions of deprivation, but even more importantly, it will help you name the intimacy gifts that they conceal. So almost all of us are attracted to some particular type or types that just stop us dead in our tracks. A physical type, an emotional type, a personality type.

 

Why Do We Fall For People Who Are Bad For Us?

The child in us: our conscious self is drawn to the positive qualities, but our unconscious draws us to the qualities where we were hurt the most as children.

 

And these are what I call iconic attractions. They make us weak in the knees and they trigger our insecurities, as well as these kinds of seismic longings. So how does that happen? Well, Harville Hendrix’s model of the Imago explains that these people draw us in, in part, because they embody the worst characteristics of our primary caregivers. And even though we may be adults, we have unresolved childhood hurts around betrayal, manipulation, abuse, neglect, or even just simple misunderstanding from our caregivers.

And unconsciously, we seek the healing of those wounds in our intimate relationships, so we can finally love ourselves and feel lovable. But that means that we’re most attracted to people who can wound us in just the ways that we were wounded in our childhood. Our psyche wants to recreate the scene of the original crime and then save us by changing its ending.

The child in us believes that if the original perpetrators or their current replacements finally change their minds and apologize or make up for that terrible rupture of trust that we experienced then we can escape from the prison of our own feelings of unworthiness. So our conscious self is drawn to the positive qualities, but our unconscious draws us to the qualities where we were hurt the most as children. So what lies at the heart of this inexorable hunger for healing?

 

The child in us:

 

And the answer lies in the deep strata of our emotional being, where we create what I call our myth of lost love. I’ve talked about that before in other episodes. So as we grow beyond that kind of relative usual paradise of infancy, all of us kind of crash into this painful wall of our parents’ dysfunction and the cruelty and unkindness of the outside world.

And that feels like a deep loss of innocence, a betrayal of what we know life should be like. So we create a myth of lost love to explain why this loss occurred. And like any powerful myth, this one frames our understanding of how life and love works. And as we grow into adults, it becomes the mold that shapes our love lives.

So this myth of lost love has two aspects. First, it tells us how the world is unsafe and what we should do about that. It creates rules for us to follow, to protect ourselves from new assaults on our being. The second part of our myth is equally, but differently destructive. It explains our parents’ limitations in the way that makes the most sense to a child. “It’s my fault, and in some way, there’s something wrong with me and I’m essentially unlovable.” And then this myth continues its path of damage in our present lives by articulating the flaws that we’ve decided make us unworthy of love.

As we grow beyond that kind of relative usual paradise of infancy, all of us kind of crash into this painful wall of our parents' dysfunction and the cruelty and unkindness of the outside world. Click To Tweet

 

And it hones in on our most vulnerable, needy, and nonconforming qualities; our tenderness, our fierceness, and our differentness. And it tells us they’re to blame for our loss of love. And most of us, to some degree is going to be in a battle with that voice for the rest of our lives trying to disprove it, even as we remain stubbornly loyal to it. So when we find someone who awakens the unconscious memory of lost love, those buried hopes are awakened in spades. But if we’re choosing an attraction of deprivation, our hopes are going to be crushed almost definitely again, and that’s the part that is heartbreaking.

But it’s also, there’s something hopeful here, because in most cases, the very qualities we’re ashamed of, are the ones that are most able to attract the love that we’re truly seeking and I call them Core Gifts. And it’s important to know that these gifts are just not the same as talents or strengths. They’re your deepest sensitivity, your deepest passion, your deepest need, your creativity, and your uniqueness and differentness. They are the things that touch you and drive you and hurt you and move you. And so they’re not easy things to have.

People take advantage of them or are frightened by them. They often have an intensity that can make us behave in irrational ways, and a sensitivity that could just drop us to our knees, and they get us in trouble again and again in our lives.

But they are the soul of our being. They are our genius. And if we don’t understand them and learn to dignify them and understand the way they’ve influenced our history, then on some level, in some essential way, we will never understand the deep storyline of our lives. So as long as we keep following our attractions of deprivation, those gifts are going to remain disempowered and so will we.

So how do you stop following these wildly compelling attractions? The first step is to recognize them for what they are. And the second step is to identify the Core Gifts they conceal. And I’m going to lead you now in an exercise, that’s going to help you do both of those, recognizing them for what they are, and then identifying the Core Gifts that they conceal.

 

Why Do We Fall For People Who Are Bad For Us?

The myth of lost love: when we find someone who awakens the unconscious memory of lost love, those buried hopes are awakened in spades.

 

Okay, so we’re going to do this exercise together right now. You could write it down, but if you prefer, you could just do it in your head. This is an exercise that I do as part of my intensives, but this is a kind of shorter version of it. And it can help you identify the negative withholding qualities, the deprivational qualities that keep drawing you in. And with that knowledge, you’ll have a beginning map of your path to healing intimacy, because you will know what to stay away from.

And you’ll also understand the parts of you that need to be dignified and honored, so you don’t keep doing this. Because anytime we find a pattern that is gold, because we can watch out for it and we can learn huge, huge batches of information about ourselves and what our Core Gifts are, the minute there’s a pattern that becomes really possible.

So if you’re doing this with paper and pen or a writing device, you could just write on the top, my attractions of deprivation. And here I want you to list and if you’re doing it in your head, just do it in your head. List all the traits of your former partners that hurt you, frustrated you, or made you feel unseen or unacknowledged.

Do not worry if the fault was partly or even largely yours. In this exercise, for this exercise, we’re going to really externalize responsibility, just to shift the focus so we get a clearer glimpse of what these patterns are. So list them anyway, write them down anyway, even if they’re partly yours. And you can include physical traits, like a kind of toughness in the lips, a kind of distrust in the eyes, whatever kind of a swagger, a physical swagger.

 

The myth of lost love:

 

So I’d like you to do that first, but I just want to say, if you’re having a hard time identifying these qualities, ask your best friends. They will tell you in a New York minute what those are. And they probably have wished that they could have told you this for years, or maybe they have.

So once you’ve done that, I want you to write on another piece of paper or just think in your head, this is going to be a portrait of your attractions of deprivation. So think about all the things you listed and write a profile of the kind of people or think a kind of profile of the kind of people who draw you in and cause you pain.

So here’s one example from my book. I’m attracted to bad boys, guys who have no problem expressing their needs and their anger. I’m talking about angry people, guys who don’t seem to need me like I need them.

When we find someone who awakens the unconscious memory of lost love, those buried hopes are awakened in spades. Click To Tweet

 

Guys who don’t need the validation I need. A lot of them have drunk too much. Three have cheated on me. All of them had this self-confidence that was so sexy to me. Some of them resented my success, but they definitely, all of them could not celebrate my big accomplishments with me and they were critical of me. And I ended up feeling guilty a lot of the time.

I’m attracted to guys with a kind of disdainful look on their face. That little bit of arrogance is very hot to me. So that’s an example. So you can pause the recording and do your own version of that. Okay, next. Underneath that, I want you to think about or write “my gifts”. And remember that our greatest wounds point to our greatest gifts.

 

Why Do We Fall For People Who Are Bad For Us?

How to stop following your attractions of deprivation: all of us kind of crash into this painful wall of our parents’ dysfunction and the cruelty and unkindness of the outside world.

 

So write down which of your gifts felt degraded, minimized, or not fully appreciated in these relationships. What parts of you did you most yearn for your partner to understand, appreciate, make room for? Those are your Core Gifts, so take a moment to think about that.

This information is invaluable because the gifts that get stomped on or overlooked are the gifts that we have stomped on and overlooked, which is why we even allow this to happen. And those gifts lie at the very cutting edge of our growth. They’re the qualities in our personality that we need to express and embrace, not to mention protect, which is why it’s so imperative that we choose people who honor and treasure these qualities. And those are what I call attractions of inspiration. And that is X marks the spot for where we want to build our relationship home in the world.

 

How to stop following your attractions of deprivation:

 

So now I’d like you to just take a few minutes to think about what you thought about or read what you wrote and notice your feelings as you let this sink in. This is a really hard exercise. It’s really sobering, but as hard as it is, it is equally or more valuable, because when we recognize this, we do two things. And in my intensive, we actually, once we’ve looked at our attractions of deprivation and inspiration and our gifts, we actually do a ritual of signing a pledge together. And it’s a pledge of saying, I am committed to the happiness that I want in my life to saying no to my attractions of deprivation, and to pursuing with bravery and heart my attractions of inspiration.

So don’t judge yourself for what you came up with because this knowledge is exactly what is going to set you free from future replays, and open the door to a relationship where you are finally loved for who you are. Thank you so much for listening, and I look forward to connecting on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.

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