We’ve all heard about theories of attraction. Some would say we’re attracted to our opposites. Some would suggest we’re attracted to similarities. Some would say it’s all just pure nonsense. While I’m sure there is a mix of opposite and similar attraction to some degree, there is one thing that I have seen as a counselor that I’m quite confident in:
We are attracted to our own level of function and dysfunction.
Working with couples and individuals, I hear so often defenses, rationales, justifications and all the reasons why they are right and the other person is clearly wrong. I’ve seen individuals create theories from their experiences and lay it out with such conviction and confidence:
“Here is what I’ve learned and it’s true without a doubt: All women are ______.”
“All men care about is ________”. They are such _________s.”
“The reason why they did this is ______.”
So often, we are quick to point out all the things wrong with whoever we are in relationship with (friends, family members, romantic relationships). However, in this tendency lies one of the greatest dangers we can ever live with: the inability or unwillingness to understand our contribution.
It’s been a highly common experience in some of my men’s Domestic Violence groups that the classic “women bashing” moments occur. The emotion and agreement that takes place escalates and I have to bring reality back into the room. It goes something like this:
“She is just absolutely insane. Listen to how crazy she is. She did this and that and….”
They finish their ramble and I have to beg the question: “Why do you keep calling yourself crazy?”
“Huh? I’m not. I’m calling her crazy.”
But here’s the challenge: if we are in fact attracted to our own level of function and dysfunction, and he/she is crazy, we are invariably self-admitting that we too are “crazy”. We were attracted to someone who had a level of dysfunction that we couldn’t see (until perhaps much later) because it mirrored our own, creating no anomalies for our brain to register and process. It was normal and comfortable and that is a direct reflection of our internal world. Hence, the sentiment I always try to remind people…chances are, most things, relationally speaking, will boil down to a 50/50 contribution in the big picture.
I love seeing a person take on a new posture of humility, shining the spotlight back on him or herself. They begin to gain an insight and understanding that nothing outside of me causes anything within me, but merely reveals what is already there. With this, a person can begin to grow in self-awareness, understanding their tendencies, their triggers, their wounds and their needs. They can move toward working through the chaos within to establish a stability, which creates a peace and a composure to navigate life’s endeavors with a sense of confidence and of course, a higher level of function emotionally, mentally and socially.
When a person increases his or her level of function, the world unfolds in a new way. Eyes are opened to beauty unseen. The “boring choice” becomes the passionately desired choice. We surround ourselves with different people and live our life with different priorities, motivations and meanings. After all, birds of a functional feather do flock together.
So, the next time we find ourselves wanting to shine a light on someone else’s baggage, perhaps it’s time to redirect our gaze inside ourselves and ask, ‘what is revealed in me?’
Learn more about Phil Zaffos, MA, LAPC & Heidi Zaffos, MA, LMFT, LAPC and Foundation Counseling .