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Love is a Pattern

According to many psychologists, our behavioral patterns, including how and whom we love, are developed by the age of six.   As children our ability to communicate is minimal but the power to observe and mimic as a survival skill is deeply rooted in the genetic coding of our species.   This means that the relationships we seek as adults imitate the dynamic we observed between our parents or caregivers (up to when we were 6).  As we grew older and hopefully wiser, our parents may have tried to give contrary advice;  “Do as I say, not as I do (or did)”, but unfortunately the observed behavior was much more powerful than their contradicting advice.

Donna Wilshire, a friend of mine who writes about the Oral Tradition, explains that our species survived and thrived for many thousands of years without writing and books.  In the beginning, people communicated with each other and passed information down to the next generation through stories that were told orally, face-to-face, heavy with body language, and rooted in ritual and routine. Long before mankind could communicate through writing or, most recently, the Internet, humans learned through observation and repetition.  This explains why the patterns we observed as children and that we now mimic seem to have more power over our behaviors than our intellects.  In other words, we’re smart enough to know better but find ourselves involved in situations (romance, friends or work) that go against our better judgment.

Survival skills are merely learned behaviors that determine how you’ll respond to a given situation, but the word survival doesn’t mean a healthy existence.   Survival only means the continuation of life, or continuing to function.  Love is not only a pattern but it’s also a future behavioral model that we ‘default to’ when we encounter similar situations. In other words, our caregivers acted as role models for our future relationships.   The roles or dynamics that we observe become our ‘emotional baseline’ and act as templates that we apply to our relationships.  The dynamic we observed in their relationships ultimately becomes the dynamic that we seek, especially since we mimic to survive.  For example, if during the time between ages 0-6 the relationship you observed was full of criticism, the odds are very high that you will subconsciously seek criticism in your relationships even though you know that will not bring you happiness.  

Patterns play a very powerful role in our lives.  They have the ability to cloud our awareness of healthy human interaction because most of us are not taught how to exist in a healthy relationship, nor how to give love based on our own values and self-awareness.  Our history limits us because we don’t know what we don’t know. Basic survival techniques in the animal world are taught to allow the next generation to endure and survive.  Patterns that govern human emotion are no different regardless of their level of healthiness.  

So it appears that we’re all pattern junkies and unless educated otherwise, we’ll default to a pattern, role, or dynamic that we learned via observation.  At other times, given the right circumstances, we’ll still go back to these default traits even though we know better.    One step to breaking these patterns is by establishing a strong set of personal values, which govern all of our future actions and behaviors.