My mother was a psychologist with a private practice. She saw lots of relationships up close and personal. She always wondered how people seemed to be able to find others who satisfied their unconscious needs. The Ying to their Yang.
“How,” she would ask, “Does the sadist find the masochist?”
You need one of each for a relationship to work. No one wears signs advertising their dominatrix tendencies. How does the person who likes to wear diapers or fluffy animal suits, find like-minded people? Today the answer is online, but before the internet, people still managed to find one another. We are all like puzzle pieces. There are a few other pieces that fit neatly into our piece. But only a few. How do we find those needles in the haystack of humanity?
For example, everyone knows someone who always seems to end up with a similar ‘type’, usually one that is not good for them. There’s the woman who finds men who treat her badly, cheat on her, or abandon her. How does she know who is going to fit that pattern from an initial, often neutral social contact? When we first meet someone, we can’t really know them. So — what propels our choices?
My mother believed we all put out ‘vibes’ or signals on a subtle, primitive, even physiological level. Dogs can hear and smell things humans can’t. Mom believed that the unconscious ‘senses’ things of which the conscious brain is unaware. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s micro facial movements.
I’m a perfect example of this unconscious level of communication. When I was young, I was attractive but very guarded about relationships with men. I was superficially outgoing, intelligent, and funny, but I was very closed off emotionally. Men sensed that and stayed away. I could go to dances, looking great, and never get asked to dance. It was as if I’d created an invisible protective shield around myself. I ended up marrying an abusive, controlling, manic-depressive. I stayed with him for 25 years.
Decades, and years of therapy later, I started dating again, after my divorce. I had conquered my inner demons and was open to a healthy relationship. I had no trouble finding men who were interested in me this time around, even in my late 40’s. I ended up in a wonderful marriage to a kind, caring, delightful man.
Something had happened to me on a deep, emotional, and unconscious level. Yet it made a palpable difference in my real world relationship experiences. How was that change so effectively communicated to the outside world? My outward personality hadn’t changed much. To meet me, you weren’t hit in the head with my inner transformation. My friends still recognized me as the same person I had always been – at least on the surface.
I’m not a psychologist and I don’t have any answers. I find it fascinating that who we are on a psychological level manages to get projected to other people. Haven’t you met someone and immediately had a strong reaction to them, either positive or negative? I met a woman at a book club meeting. I knew we were going to be friends. Years later we are still best friends, yet we hardly talked at that first meeting.
We call this ‘chemistry’. We say we are ‘drawn’ to someone. I don’t know how to explain it, but three cheers for whatever it is!