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Survival Instinct

February 4, 2013

In pursuit of self knowledge I’ve tried religion, acupuncture, astrology, tarot cards, Tibetan singing bowls, EMDR, and energy healing. I’ve nurtured my inner child, searched for my higher self which seems to show up just when I’m dividing the only remaining piece of pecan pie after supper. I was the youngest child in my family and I was 37 before they stopped giving me smaller portions at Thanksgiving and that’s only because I pointed it out from where I sat at a card table on a phone book so maybe I think the slightly bigger half of everything is my due.

But here’s the thing. Did you know that you tend to choose as your life partner, someone who will hurt and fail you exactly as you were hurt and failed in childhood? You’ll choose a partner with the good qualities of your primary caregivers as well, but what attracts you the most intensely, will be the negatives.  The abandoned daughter will pick a spouse bound to leave her, even as she thinks she’s chosen just the opposite. The guy with the nagging mother who eroded his self- esteem will invariably choose a wife who will do the same, even though she seems so complimentary and supportive during courtship.  It’s a brain thing. It’s hope. It’s our indefatigable belief that we can write a happy ending this time because we’re big people now with self- awareness and resources. It rarely happens but the instinct to heal is second only to the instinct to survive and sometimes wields primacy. We will even put ourselves in danger in an attempt to recreate a past we want to change.

Write a scene in which one person suddenly realizes his/her partner  has just said the exact same thing a hurtful parent always said. “Do you think you look good in that?” Be a man,” “You could be such a pretty girl.” “You have such a nice personality. “ Failure is not an option!”  “You think you’re special?”  “You think I’m made out of money?” Let it echo, let it go to a flashback and then become present again.

What happens? Does a character become quiet? Start planning to leave? Have an awakening? A transformative moment? Find sudden freedom? Pick up the keys? A fork?  A map? A phone? Who are these people? And how, after hearing this,  is nothing ever going to be the same?

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