Excerpt About Relationships

Projecting the Dynamics of an Earlier Relationship Onto the Present One

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you are having an interaction with another person. It doesn’t have to be a highly charged situation; any interaction will reveal that you are reenacting a familiar pattern. You see the person in a certain way, you see yourself in a certain way, and you feel a certain way about how the two of you are relating. But even though your experience seems to be simply what is happening—you believe that you are just being where you are with that person—it is really formed by your accumulated knowledge and memories. The way you experience the interaction—and, in fact, almost any interaction—is a reenactment of an internalized experience of someone from our past. You are projecting the dynamics of an earlier relationship onto the present one and perceiving the present interaction through that veil. What is happening is not freely, spontaneously arising; you are forming it, you are making it be a certain way. And one indication of this is the fact that somebody else wouldn’t experience that person in the same way. You won’t see yourself as trying to be a certain way. You will think, “I’m just being who I am,” but it is not truly a spontaneously and freely arising experience. It is determined by your historical knowledge, your learned knowledge—all the beliefs and ideas about who you are and what other people are like and what reality is. It is influenced by your ordinary accumulated knowledge.

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