Why do people have the same fights, over and over again? That's the repetition compulsion, a deeply ingrained psychological phenomenon—but not so deep that it can't be beaten.
Sigmund Freud initially thought humans operated on the 'pleasure principle'—that we run toward pleasure and run away from pain. However, this didn't quite align with what he saw in his office. There, he worked with people who escaped abusive relationships only to end up in a new relationship with the same dangerous dynamic. Many of us have the same fight with a coworker or a loved one, in different forms, over and over again. This led Freud to a turning point in his theory: he dubbed this phenomenon the repetition compulsion, a psychological trap where we repeat the same dysfunctional behavior or fall into the same traumatic circumstances, over and over again. In the video above, Harvard professor Dan Shapiro explains that there is a way to break this cycle of dysfunction and have healthier relationships. It's not easy, but it's worth doing to live a happier and less stressful life. As Sam Harris describes in his book, Waking Up: "My mind begins to seem like a video game: I can either play it intelligently, learning more in each round, or I can be killed in the same spot by the same monster, again and again." Understanding the way that you fight, and what your conflict triggers are, will stop you living the same destructive patterns on a loop. Dan Shapiro's latest book is Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.
If you're not doing relational thinking, you're not really thinking, says psychotherapist Esther Perel. Understanding how complementarity between people and partners works is critical to success.
When you treat business relationships as perfunctory or shallow, the truth us, you lose. The dynamics between business partners are no different to the ones at play between romantic partners. Psychotherapist Esther Perel’s brings relational thinking to the forefront—this mindset can take a business or creative partnership from merely surviving to actually thriving. She speaks here with Big Think co-founder and president Peter Hopkins about self-esteem, building trust, and how the myth of perfection can hurt couples, whether that’s in businesses or in love. Perel is the author of Mating in Captivity. See more at estherperel.com.