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The More They Hurt You the More They Hook You

Why is that? Why is it that the more they hurt you, the deeper in goes the hook?

It’s a demoralizing dilemma to be in. A lot of you wrote about it this week. One person sent this message: “I feel like a fool. I should hate him [her husband] for all of the sneaking around with ___ [the other woman], but all I want is to lie next to him and have him put his arms around me. I keep begging him to stay, not to leave me. I’ve become pathetic. I don’t blame him for not loving me”

Another woman was beginning to lose interest in her boyfriend, that is, until he became a no show on Friday night. The next day, she still hadn’t heard from him and his phone was turned off. She went into a panic that could only be quashed if he called.

Eventually he did call, told her he’d call her again that evening, but didn’t follow through. She went back into panic. Now she imagines that she is madly in love with him, that she doesn’t care about what a louse he’s been, she wants him and only him.

A man writes that he suspects his wife of having affairs. She flirts outrageously with other men right in front of him, avoids spending time with him, and doesn’t like having sex (with him), and seems to only care about her own needs. “I hate to grovel for her attention,” he explains, “and if I do try to talk to her about our relationship, she becomes angry and accusatory.”

Yes, it’s demoralizing to be in the “emotional beggar” role. But it doesn’t mean you’re a weak person. It just means you’re human. It could happen to almost anyone, given certain conditions. And it takes tremendous strength and insight to get out of it.

Another young man says his girlfriend has cheated on him more times than he can count, and she always comes back, swearing she’ll never do it again. She’s hurt him so many times, he’s tried to break up with her, and has dated many nice women in between, but the only one he obsesses about, the only one he wants is her. He’s hooked. He’s hooked by the pain she has caused.

I’ve already written about this– that when pain is introduced when you’re forming an attachment, it strengthens the attachment. I mentioned that when the researcher accidentally stepped on the toe of the duck, the duck imprinted him stronger than the other ducks. I also mentioned that fraternities inflict pain in their “hazing” to make the new “pledges” more loyal and bonded to the fraternity.

Here’s a little more explanation. The Zagarnic effect shows that the more problematic a situation is, the more enduring its impact upon your motivation. The study gave problem-solving tests to two groups. The control group had an easy-to-solve problem; the other group was given a problem that couldn’t be solved within the time-limit. Researchers went back to the two groups many years later. The ones who couldn’t solve the problem still remembered what it was about, but the control group had forgotten all about it.

When someone causes you to feel pain, the mammalian part of the brain (it is unconscious) creates an impression of that person so that it can warn you (with stress signals) to proceed with extreme caution during your next contact with him. This extra arousal from your autonomic nervous system gets confused with “being excited.” It arouses your “fight or flight” response, which gears you up for “competitive mode,” and the challenge holds your interest.

Also, someone who arouses those old familiar insecurity feelings reminds your mammalian brain of old feelings you had as a child when you were trying to gain your parent’s attention or acceptance, and this creates a kind of special arousal that hooks you in – and you find yourself “groveling.”
Regardless of the reason, if you find yourself in this position, first know that you are not alone. The best among us have probably been in this position. The key is to learn take back control of your life.

You are not your mammalian brain – it’s just a powerful part of your biological being. The antidote is to take 100% responsibility for your emotional needs, stop looking to your partner to take away the pain that he or she caused in the first place. It’s your job to set your life right.

Just don’t underestimate the strength it takes. And don’t judge anyone who is caught up in this. This is all about being human and learning not to be ruled by your addictive emotions – by your primitive brain.

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