As a concept, it’s a fantastic script. Two star crossed lovers wounded by a past littered with one failed relationship after another. Life gives them one last battle to fight: the battle to find each other.
It’s a sweeping, soaring, tear-fest of two people hampered by fate and shackled to a future they can’t yet see but which they both know lies somewhere just beyond their immediate reach. It’s Gable and Leigh, Bogart and Bergman, Tracy and Hepburn. It’s Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln in that scene in Love Actually. Except in your version, Keira doesn’t let him walk away.
You have the script and, because this is your love story, you have a ready-made cast. It’s an epic romantic blockbuster destined to smash all box office records.
The only problem is that your subconscious has been tasked with job of directing it.
As the director of your personal movie, your subconscious is more Quentin Tarantino than, say, Steven Spielberg. It’s opinionated and often comes with its own agenda, drawing on your past experiences to inform your present and future. If you grew up in a house of drama, your subconscious is more likely to push you toward dramatic love and tempestuous hit-and-run run hook-ups.
More potent – and therefore emotionally dangerous – is that your inner Tarantino is also usually trying to resolve what is unresolved from your past. Your parents may have been emotionally unavailable, and so your subconscious will propel you towards unavailable partners in an attempt to heal the wounds of the past. And guess what? That just creates more pain.
It’s not uncommon for me to see clients who prove to be subconsciously trying to address abandonment issues by going out with a narcissist – the perfect representative cause of their traumatic or unfulfilling childhood experiences.
So, your subconscious doesn’t necessarily see the script in the way that you do. In his (or her) version, there are high speed chases, car crashes, jealous rivals, angry protagonists, high drama and arguments. Lots of arguments.
Your head may be filled with an exotic, pulsating romance set in the Orient or the glittering nightscape of New York, but what your subconscious will instead make is a drama-documentary set in the ordinary context of real life. Your real life.
You see a Hollywood ending. Your subconscious sees the opportunity to resolve the unresolved. And what you get is a B-reel destined to go straight to video (or, in today’s money, straight to download).
Hollywood loves to sell us the 90-minute dream. We’re conditioned to believe that love really can be forged in the time that it takes to consume a big bag of popcorn. But the reality is that good things take time and if the relationship you’re in is heavy on drama then the chances are you’re not starring in the main feature.
Very few of us go into a relationship knowing it will end. What’s the point? Most of the time life’s too short. The sex might be great, but contrary to what your hormones might be saying at the time, it doesn’t necessarily buy permanence.
In the main, we commit to other people because we think there’s a future in it.
Forget the first few dates when we’re flush with excitement and promise. In those early days, we’re all walking adverts for ourselves anyway. We say, do and wear the right things. We crank up empathy, sympathy and compassion, while tenderness and consideration get dialled up to 11. But in the end, it always takes time to find out who the other person really is.
Problems in relationships often come when they start fast. You meet someone, and it feels like you’ve been hit by a train. You’ve found ‘the one’. I call these ‘cosmic relationships’ – but intensity is not intimacy and while fast-forwarding the future can be a fix for the emptiness of the present, true love rarely happens in two days, even two dreamlike days.
There’s also a danger that in putting the other person in a box labelled ‘Soul Mate’, you create a high level of expectation very quickly – and when that person fails to live up to it, the disappointment is that much greater.
When commitment is too fast the relationship doesn’t have the chance to develop the trust that’s needed for both people to be able to reveal their shortcomings and imperfections.
We all have those – the inability to see our role in past relationship catastrophes, our short temper, tendency towards guilt-tripping and other less than glossy aspects that we tend not to reveal in the first couple of months.
As British philosopher Alain De Botton says: “A standard question on any initial dinner date should simply be: ‘So in what particular ways are you crazy?”
In cosmic relationships launched on fantasy, the eventual appearance of our less-than-charming characteristics means the other person can feel as though they’ve been victims of false advertising.
Intensity is like Styrofoam – it takes up lots of space, but it lacks substance. There’s no room for authenticity or intimacy. I see many clients who continually mistake intensity for intimacy, but intimacy takes time. By contrast, intensity is often instant – just as it is also often unavailability, too.
The key elements of a B-Movie are drama, intensity, breathlessness, no boundaries, self-abandonment – the perfect ingredients for a super toxic relationship soup.
It’s important to look at the subconscious issues at play and resolve them and that means understanding that it’s not down to being ‘unlucky in love’ or ‘not having met the right person yet’ or any of the other twaddle we are fed by the media
If you are continually attracting the ‘same’ kind of unhealthy relationship the chances are you’re playing a part in effectively re-creating your trauma in your relationships, and it’s vital to put an end to that negative pattern. That means finding a way of clearing out toxic beliefs about love and self in your past. Yes this does take both work and time, but the alternative is an existence of emotional pain.
Ultimately, it’s about learning to love yourself because the stronger we get, and the more we fill our lives with love, joy, and positive actions, the less we will enter these combustible liaisons. The more solid our sense of self-esteem and sense of self, the less we feel we need to fill an emotional void with the ‘fix’ of another person who comes on like a freight train in less than a hot minute.
Trusting in our path and worth should give us the confidence and grounding to know that taking things slowly can and will yield everything we desire, eventually. And the more solid our sense of self-love and worth, the more likely we are to recognise who will be a good life partner, and have a relationship that really works
But it requires the willingness to look at our own part in what we are re-creating, setting the intention to make different choices combined with the patience to walk mindfully through the initial clumsy bit of dating to find out who we’re really giving ourselves to.
If you’ve been lucky, you’ll end up with that Hollywood ending. If not, you may well just have to re-write your movie script.