"We are all carrying around repressed pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.
When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she is activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging the old wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those original wounds by our repeating behavior patterns."
"We, in our Codependence, have radar systems which cause us to be attracted to, and attract to us, the people, who for us personally, are exactly the most untrustworthy (or unavailable or smothering or abusive or whatever we need to repeat our patterns) individuals - exactly the ones who will 'push our buttons.'"
As long as we have not healed our childhood wounds then there are a lot more than two people involved in our relationships. There may only be two people in the room - but the room is also full of the ghosts of all of our past emotional wounds. Until we start clearing our emotional process of the buttons/triggers that throw us into the past, we are not capable of being honest in the now. When we react in the now out of old wounds and old tapes we are being emotionally dishonest with ourselves and our partners.
The way the dynamic in a dysfunctional relationship works is in a "come here" - "go away" cycle. When one person is available the other tends to pull away. If the first person becomes unavailable the other comes back and pleads to be let back in. When the first becomes available again then the other eventually starts pulling away again. It happens because our relationship with self is not healed. As long as I do not love myself then there must be something wrong with someone who loves me - and if someone doesn't love me than I have to prove I am worthy by winning that person back. On some level we are trying to earn the love of our unavailable parent(s) to prove to ourselves that we are worthy and lovable.
What is normal and natural in romantic relationships in this society is for a person whose primary fear is abandonment to get involved with someone whose primary fear is being smothered/losing self. The person with abandonment fears reacts to shows of independence on the part of the other as if the other were abandoning them. That causes them to become more needy and clinging - which causes the other person to pull away - which causes the first person to cling more - which causes the other to pull away more. Eventually the person with abandonment fears gets angry and disgusted and pulls back into themselves - which to the other makes it safe to come back and plead to be let back in. And after a short honeymoon period the dance can start all over again.
"Wait a minute!" you are probably saying if you read my last article in this series (codependent & counterdependent behaviors), "you said at the end of your last article, that both the codependent and counterdependent types of behavior were reactions to fear of abandonment."
That is true. The codependent type of behavior is an attempt to overcome the core belief that we are unworthy and unlovable by working real hard to earn love from another. The more a classic codependent feels they are being abandoned the harder they work.
The counterdependent is someone who is so convinced of their core unworthiness that their defense is to not open themselves up enough to admit they need another because they are sure they will be abandoned if anyone else sees who they really are (I used to feel if I ever truly opened up to someone, they would run away screaming in horror at my shameful being.) So, they abandon before they can be abandoned (this includes abandoning themselves by being attracted to people who are unavailable - saves them from taking the risk.)
Both types of behavior are dysfunctional and self defeating. Codependents are drawn to people who will abandon them (this abandonment does not have to be physical - it can be emotional so that the relationship continues but the codependent person has to settle for crumbs instead of truly getting their needs met.) Counterdependents let down their guard once every 5 years or so and let in someone who will perfectly betray and abandon them in order to prove that they were right in the first place to not open up to people.
It is very boring and incredibly painful to keep repeating dysfunctional relationship patterns. The way to stop repeating those patterns is to start healing the wounds that we suffered in childhood. A big part of this process is awakening to the reality that it is not our fault that our relationships haven't worked out. We were set up to fail to get our needs met in relationships by the unhealthy environments we grew up in, by the dysfunctional and dishonest definitions and role modeling that we experienced. We were powerless to do things any differently than we did them until we started to examine our patterns and discover the ways in which our childhood experiences have been running our lives.
One of the most important steps in learning what Love really is - in starting to Love ourselves in healthy ways - is to start working on forgiving ourselves for being little kids who were wounded by being raised by people who were wounded when they were little kids.
This 4 part series on Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics is followed by a nine part series of articles on Healthy Relationships Behavior.