The key to a happy relationship? Understanding why you fight

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.

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To Be Happier, More Productive at Work, Adjust Your Level of Complaining

A new study suggests you should show "sportsmanship" instead of complaining about problems at work.

A still photograph of Ron Livingston from the film Office Space, a 1999 American comedy film written and directed by Mike Judge.

Complaining about work-related problems actually cements their impact, says a new study in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. The results suggest practicing "sportsmanship" instead.

Researchers Evangelia Demeroutia and Russell Cropanzano asked 112 employed people in various industries to write diary entries – one in the morning, one in the afternoon – for three consecutive days. At the end of each workday, participants reported how much they had complained, focused on negative events, and blew situations out of proportion.

If someone reported low levels on these items, it meant they had practiced “good sportsmanship,” which the researchers defined as something like the willingness to tolerate the annoyances and inconveniences of organizational life without complaining. 

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