Tag Archives: Self-esteem

Stuck in a repetition compulsion

I sometimes think I should rename my blog to some variant of “Shakespeare”.  I quote him so often.  And there is no need to quote anyone else.  No one said more.

On the subject of change, he explained why we resist it so much, noting in Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy that we, “cling to these ills that we have rather than fly to others that we know not of.”  To put it in plain red-neck English, “Hell, as bad as things are, if I fool around and make changes, things are gonna get a whole lot worse.”

This is best illustrated in a standard psycho-dynamic explanation of why a woman stays in an abusive relationship.  She usually has such low self-esteem that unconsciously she feels she deserves nothing any better.  In fact, if she manages to extricate herself from one abusive relationship, she will end up in another one very quickly.  Some unfairly and unkindly opine, “Well, that is what she asks for.”  But she is merely caught in. or trapped in, what Freud call a “repetition compulsion”,  repeating a pattern of behavior which recapitulates an emotional trauma that she lived through.

Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled that neurosis is a substitute for legitimate suffering. He was suggesting that suffering is a basic part of life and that enduring pain from time to time is just part of life. Failure to do so is to get blocked or “stuck” in life.

The key to gaining release is always to “feel” the pain, the avoidance of which keeps one locked in a maladaptive behavior pattern. Or. to use a popular bromide, “No pain, no gain.”