Discovering Your Interpersonal Patterns

This is an excerpt from Your Interpersonal Patterns.

Julie felt stuck in her work life. She wasn’t really happy with her job and didn’t feel that she was doing well in the eyes of her boss. She also had trouble finding a love relationship that would work out in the long term. She had an easy time getting involved with men, but none of the relationships worked out. Either she would get fed up with the man or he would leave her.

She knew that her problems probably came from some unresolved psychological issues, but she didn’t know what those might be. When she studied the Pattern System, it helped her to understand her psychological patterns that were getting in the way of getting what she wanted in life. She was also able to understand her boyfriend’s patterns and those of the men she typically got involved with.

In exploring her work life, she realized that she had a Passive-Aggressive Pattern. She wanted to please people but unconsciously resented the power they had over her and acted out this resentment in indirect ways.

This happened repeatedly with her boss. She would take on any project he asked her to do without really considering whether she wanted to do it or whether she had the time for it. She did this because she wanted to please him, which is one half of the Passive-Aggressive Pattern. Then she would feel resentful and defiant towards her boss for piling so much work on her. However, she didn’t feel that she had the right to feel this way, so her resentment was buried in her unconscious, and she acted it out indirectly. This is the other half of the Passive-Aggressive Pattern.

Julie would put off working on these projects for her boss and end up missing deadlines. Sometimes she would do a project in her own way which wasn’t quite what her boss wanted. He would get angry about this and her lateness and demand that she do exactly what he wanted and finish on time. She would apologize and promise to do better, but underneath she became even more resentful and rebellious toward him. This came out in further Passive-Aggressive behavior.

She never dealt with this problem directly with her boss. This was partly because she didn’t understand what has happening and partly because she had a Conflict-Avoiding Pattern. This meant that she avoided bringing up issues that needed to be dealt with because she was afraid of conflict. So she never tried to talk about the difficulties with her boss so they could change these dynamics.

Even when her boss tried to talk with her about their difficulties, she would just become frightened and say she would do better. However, this was coming from her Conflict-Avoiding Pattern and not from a real understanding of what was going wrong or what to do about it. Thus there was no way to improve things with her boss.

In examining her love life, Julie realized that she had a Self-Effacing Pattern, which means that she didn’t feel confident in social situations, especially with men she was attracted to. She tended to be attracted to men who had a Controlling Pattern and sometimes also a Dependent Pattern.

This was certainly true of her current boyfriend Alan. Because of her Passive-Aggressive need to please people and her insecurities that came from her Self-Effacing Pattern, she was drawn to Alan, who seemed to be strong and know what he wanted and how to operate in life.

Julie also had a Caretaking Pattern, which meant that it was important for her to take care of people, especially men she was involved with. She got a lot of self-esteem from being needed and unconsciously expected to get love in return. From studying the Pattern System, she could see that Alan had a Dependent Pattern and therefore really needed her caretaking. This was another reason they were attracted to each other.

However, because of Alan’s Controlling Pattern, he was constantly telling her what to do and expecting her to give in to what he wanted. Julie fairly quickly came to resent this, and she consequently responded in a Passive-Aggressive manner that frustrated him. While at first she was very caring and loving, after a while she began to pull back from him and not be the all-giving mother that she had been. She would still claim that she cared for him, but she was actually withdrawn and distant much of the time. This was a way of protecting her autonomy and also indirectly expressing her resentment.

This was very upsetting to Alan because of his Dependent Pattern. He became sad and hurt when she didn’t take care of him, and he would often respond by becoming more Controlling in an attempt to coerce her into meeting his needs. However, this just triggered her Passive-Aggressive Pattern even more strongly and she further withdrew from him. This, of course, triggered his Dependent Pattern even more intensely and around and around they went.

In reflecting on her past relationships, Julie saw that she had repeatedly been attracted to men with this combination of Controlling and Dependence and that her relationships had usually unraveled in a similar way.