Your Worst Nightmare

Sometimes We Are Our Own Worst NightmareThe gorgeous stranger across the room is returning your seductive smile. A warm glow and tingling sense of anticipation run through your body. The air seems electric, the atmosphere more alive. It’s here! — love at first sight, irresistible attraction, the stuff movies are made of. The sexual chemistry is sizzling.

When that happens, run the other way as fast as you can, says Terry Gorski, noted addiction specialist. What we call “chemistry” is often not what we think. “Chemistry” can signal that a person who embodies your hurtful patterns in relationships has shown up again. In other words, the thrill you feel is an indication that you’ve just met your worst nightmare.

It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point that the patterns for the partners we’re looking for are set in childhood. The time honored wisdom is that men marry their mothers and women look for dear old dad. This could be a good thing, except when the family is a difficult one. Children who grow up in abusive homes, for example, often learn that love equals pain, because that’s what they observe. When they grow up, even though they’re smart and know better, the tattoo on their nervous system tells them that when they feel pain-equals-love, they’re home.

If that sounds like your childhood environment, chances are good that you’ve been programmed to be attracted to the wrong thing. Many of my clients are single and don’t want to be, and often I hear them say about perfectly nice people, “but I’m not attracted to her/him! I don’t feel the chemistry!” Prioritizing “chemistry” might be exactly what is steering them wrong. We’ve all heard stories of people in the clutches of overwhelming attraction to practicing alcoholics, drug addicts, murderers on death row, and serial killers. It’s a better bet in your search for a potential mate to prioritize sexy qualities like integrity, kindness, and generosity.

If you are one of the many who find yourself in recurring painful, problematic relationships, it may be news that you can enjoy feeling a chemical attraction with somebody hot but not have to have it mean anything more than that. Certainly, enjoy it! It’s just not a reliable source for decision making. Through psychotherapy and/or other types of diligent work on yourself, it’s possible to change the patterns of who you are attracted to. It’s about learning to use your brain as well as your heart and hormones.

© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth

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Catherine Auman is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in transpersonal psychology, also known as spiritual psychology.

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