Idea #1 The Compulsion To Repeat The Past

How Did I Get Here Again?


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8 Ideas Newsletter, Idea #1 The Compulsion To Repeat The Past, 
May 2008,  InnerResources Counseling and Publications 

Idea #1 The Compulsion To Repeat The Past

Groundhog Day - The Movie
Repeating The Same Day Over And Over
Life has a way of repeating itself. And it sure does so in this comedy with a message. Bill Murray is the cold-hearted, cynical weatherman (Bill Conners) stuck with his crew in a small town on Groundhog day. Bill becomes conscious that he is reliving the same day over and over, and not leaving the town as he expected. He is puzzled at first, then anxious, and finally despondent and suicidal. He tries to kill himself and discovers that he cannot. He just wakes up the next day at the same time in the same bed and in the same hotel room. He is immortal and cannot escape the repetition that way. He is doomed to repeat this day until he gets it right.  
Each day Bill meets the same people who say and do the same thing. They don’t remember what happened yesterday, but Bill does.  So he has a chance to learn and change. 
Andie MacDowell (the news crew producer) turns out to be his reason for opening his heart and getting back on track. On a first “date”, at dinner she reveals,
“Believe it or not I studied 19th century French poetry. 
Bill guffaws and says,
What a waste of time.”
Bill Murray now gets smacked, smacked, smacked across his face.

A Second Chance
The next day, they are in the same restaurant at the same time.  Bill remembers the scene from “yesterday, but Andie does not. 
Andie repeats what she said the day before. 
“Believe it or not I studied 19th century French poetry.”
On this day Bill responds to her in french and in a drippy poetic style. Andie McDowell says with a full rich smile, 
“You speak French”. 
At first it may look like he’s just saying it, and we see the  possibility of a developing con artist or worse, a psychopath. But that will not be Bill’s way out of the repetition in this film. The path and the way out is for Bill to open his heart, and that’s the only way he can win Andie and the only way he can get out of this town.

The Story Of Harriet
Harriet and Jonas
Harriet and Jonas would show up in my office every week, reliably and on time, for over a year. The minute Jonas and I began speaking Harriet would interrupt or redirect the conversation. 
For example, if I presented a food combo that I knew Jonas, a very picky eater, would puzzle at, Harriet would let out a screech and go oughhhh!, thereby robbing Jonas of the opportunity of figuring out what he thought of me and my idea and not allowing me the opportunity to interact with Jonas over my puzzling suggestion.
In some of the meetings Harriet would appear to grab onto Jonas attention at the very beginning of the session, rivet her eyes to his and then engage in non-stop banter, without pause or break or any way for a third party to participate in a subdued and easy manner. Harriet and Jonas would often continue on like that for the entire meeting and then leave.
Finally, I assertively called a halt to this pattern. Within, the remaining portion of the session, Harriet remained quiet, or at least took a background role, and allowed Jonas and I to interact, and responded or assisted when asked.
In the very next meeting, one week later, Harriet repeated the same pattern of riveting her attention to Jonas and engaging him in non-stop banter. After a few minutes, I called a halt, reminded Harriet of what she had agreed to last week. She said she remembered and once-again allowed me to talk with Jonas. 
This pattern now repeated for several more weeks. Like Groundhog day, Harriet would enter the room with Jonas, rivet her eyes onto his and initiate their reciprocal rapid fire conversation about nothing. I would call a halt and remind Harriet of last weeks agreement, she would then allow Jonas and I to talk.
At some point it felt OK to ask Harriet if she remembered our agreement of last week. 
       She said, yes. 
      Then why do you begin each meeting as if we did not meet the week before and already discuss this
        I don’t know
        Is it that you don’t agree with my way of structuring the meeting?
After several more weeks of this, I asked
    Do you think you might have a memory problem?
    I don’t know, I might1
The Harriet Solution (partial)
Harriet was offered a new job at twice her current salary. One of the complaints about her on her previous job was that she did not wait to hear what the person she was talking to was about to say. She filled in and completed their sentences. If she took the new job, this would be noticed immediately and because of the nature of the position, she would probably be asked to leave
Harriet’s Exercise
I suggested that she attempt an exercise. She was asked to listen and remain entirely silent in our meetings, from beginning to end, no matter how painful it was to not respond and no matter how frustrating it would be to not correct any errors or misinterpretations  in the conversation, especially any that I might be getting from Jonas about how she was treating him. If she were asked a question, she could answer, in one sentence.
Harriet accepted the challenge. She, like Bill murray, was now conscious and for the time being, motivated. With our history of discussions behind us, Harriet succeeded in the meetings with Jonas and on her new job as well. 
Last I heard her ability to remember and to listen is helping her earn the big bucks.
 ©2008 InnerRESOURCES Counseling and Publications

The Compulsion To Repeat The Past234
How Did I Get Here Again?5
The Poems Version Of Idea #1
Jeff Landau, Ph.D. 

Peeling The Onion 
a current situation sets in motion 
an acid drip 
searching our psychic architecture 
looking for crevices to lay upon 
the layers of like minded memories 
energized cohesively 
down to the bottom 
to the beginnings 
of our life 
and before 
Here I sit - stand - walk in circles 
mind flutter cluttered 
thinking to myself 
What am I doing here?
How did I get here again? 

When I talk about 
How did I get here again?
I’m layering downward through time 

When I talk about 
How did I get here again?
I’m talking about 
I’m talking about
having to stop on the way to going somewhere 
and never getting there 
never, never getting there 
over and over and over again 
never getting there 
How did I get here again? 
means never getting there 
I can’t count the number of places I never got to 
and ended up sitting 
in a pool of emotional blood 
saying to myself 
why is this happening? 
what is going on? 
lacking all understanding of  
the causes of things 
and my participation in it all 
the laws of relationship 
and my involvement . . . 
Part 2
How Did I Get Here Again? 
How Do I Get Off The Wheel 
Without Getting Enlightened?6 

The Causes Of Things 
Can I Learn?  
Can I learn to anticipate events? 
play in my mind? 
fantasize, imagine, theorize 
anticipate and imagine it all 
if this, then that…….. but if that, then this ….. 

Will I allow myself more than one way 
of knowing the world 
let my heart and dreams flow freely 
and provide the background for logics dance 
Then I can learn about the world, 
and myself.
The Causes Of Things 
The Gap, The Moment Of Possible Change

If we learn what causes things to happen 
we may be able to exert some control 
over their reoccurrence  
Well, first of all, 
it’s already a leap in consciousness 
to realize that there are causes to things, to events 
that there are sequences and consequences  . . . 
or to be very careful about it 
reliable correlations 
You know... 
if A occurs it is highly likely that  B will also occur

OK, so how does that apply to me? 
The consciousness that I am immersed in these laws, 
these causes of events, 
The consciousness that I exist 
and that these events apply to me 
nourishes my freedom of choice 
When we realize that one event causes 
another event to happen 
we can anticipate and imagine 
the gap 
between this moment 
and the imagined moment of the predicted event
we can imagine our old response and feelings 
and all of the possible new ways we could be 

seeing my future 
changes it7 

the gap is our moment of freedom
free floating 
with awareness of here and there
This is the beginning 
of how we can get more control 
over our experience of our life  and events 
There can be choice in my life 
I can choose.

The Causes Of Things
Am I Defending Against Total Insanity? 

from the surge of memories 
lying deep in the unconscious 
memories from childhood, 
love and hate bound and twisted 
murderous rage, 
waiting to be released 
bursting the ego bubble 
destroying the structure of my mind 
Am I defending against madness? 

Should I lie down and free associate. 
listen to my dreams 
and make “the unconscious, conscious”?
Choice, Awareness and Me 
So, if you find yourself walking in circles 
saying, “How did I get here again?” 
you now know that you can learn, 
protect your sanity, 
and predict and alter your reactions to the same circumstances 
the next time they occur 

It all sounds very reasonable, right? 
but know that it takes a long time 
to catch on to the fact that 
are in the same place again 
and that you don’t have to be there 
the next time around. 
The Causes Of Things
Solving a Problem 
When I was an undergraduate psychology student, I worked as an assistant in the experimental psychology lab. I remember discussing a newly discovered phenomenon with another fellow. If you put two rats in a “Skinner box” with a grid floor and apply an electric current, the rats would stand up and attack each other. The discussion centered around the idea that pain in a social context produced reciprocal physical attack on an unlearned basis. 
One day, I walked into the lab and saw a cartoon pasted on the wall. One of the rats was standing on the shoulders of the other. Both rats were looking upward in the direction of the experimenter. The rat on the bottom was saying to the rat on top, 
“When he goes to pull the switch, 
bite his hand.”

Exercises and Questions
At this very moment, are you where you want to be in your life, or are you asking yourself why am I here - again? 
Are you experiencing No-way-out-perception?
Are you feeling somewhat hopeless about this?
Do you think that there are causes to the events in your life?
Or do you things just happen and that you have no say in it all? 
Can you learn?
Are you wondering why you are getting into the same place over-and-over again?
Are you able to identify why this is happening?
What role are you playing in this repetitive outcome?
Can you imagine new ways of being the next time you get a chance to do so?
If not, what might be getting in the way?
Do you have choice and influence in creating your life
Can you think of an example?

©2008 InnerRESOURCES Counseling and Publications

Have A Question About Our 
Counseling Services? (click here) 

Newsletter Archives
A Promise To Point You In The Right Direction, Exercises and Questions, March 2008
Idea #2  Is There A Right Person
Happy Valentine’s Day, Exercises and Questions, February, 2008

Talking, Communicating, and Knowing
Empathy, How Does Analysis Cure? Heinz Kohut’s view.January, 2008

Meditation In Action, Captain Videos Ring
(and the secret compartment for hiding messages, December, 2007

Schizophrenia, Alcoholism and Addiction
Jeff Landau, Ph.D. Interviews Dr. Hyman Spotnitz

Merger With Another Phenomenal Ecosystems
The Stress-Less Program
©2008 InnerRESOURCES Counseling and Publications

 Harriet and I were also meeting individually. The discussion about memory also came up when Harriet repeatedly asked for the day and date when she made out a check at the end of the meeting.
  In general, there seems to be more awareness of the fact that we tend to repeat the same thing over and over again even though our actions may no longer be rewarded and even though in fact they may be followed by very negative consequences. In alcoholism and the addictions, it is understood that patterns of behavior that initially brought pleasure and relief may now bring nothing but personal suffering. In recent years the Compulsion to Repeat the Past, or as Freud called it, the repetition compulsion, has been a major concept in popular self help 12 step groups. I’ve thought about it as an initial developmental stage and use it as the first InnerResources Idea. 
 The Compulsion To Repeat The Past can also point to Freud’s Death Instinct, and/or the concept of Entropy or undoing forces  (See, A History Of Aggression In Freud: Paul E. Stepansky, N.Y. International Universities Press, 1982; Landau, Jeffrey S, A History Of Aggression In Freud: Paul E. Stepansky, Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol.9, #2, 203-208). Many others have discussed this idea, from Ouspensky to Bill W (Alcoholics Anonymous (1936) 3rd Ed. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, New York City, 1976). The struggle to create life choices in the face of constant undoing forces is what this first idea is about.
 The universal-timeless, pre-historical nature of the repetition compulsion is also discussed by the Jungians who show it as depicted by the Uroborus, a serpent biting its own tail (Neuman, E. The Origins and History of Consciousness). The Uroborus shows up in cave drawings and pottery from all over the world and is associated with “dissolution”- “undoing” forces, entropy, in the physical universe, and with repetitive self-attack in the spiritual realm (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche). The Uroboros is also associated with incestuous longings for absorption into the womb mother, or for Freudians, merger and incest with the real mother. Piaget has shown the “circular reflex” to be a very early developmental stage in the history of the individual.  Forces of self-destruction and dissolution are in play before life, before consciousness in both the history of the race and the individual. That’s what we start with. In the absence of family support, love and life around us, the predisposing forces underlying the repetition compulsion would leave its mark on our fragile developing psychic architecture and could lead to our untimely death.
 Adapted and updated from Poems From InnerRESOURCES 8 Ideas,  and the 1987 edition of Let’s Talk: The Relationship Newsletter: The Compulsion To Repeat The Past, Summer, 1987, p4. 
 The reference here is to the Buddhist “Wheel Of Life”, and our repetitive and fixed excursion from one domain to another, and to the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The question being asked here is whether we can achieve some measure of freedom in the here and now.
 This is exemplified nicely in the pop film version of Einstein a la Nicolas Cage in Next, and of course Freud’s view of making the unconscious conscious.http://www.innerresources.org'sTalk-InterviewsDrSpotnitz.pdf'sTalk1987summmer.pdfshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2shapeimage_1_link_3shapeimage_1_link_4shapeimage_1_link_5shapeimage_1_link_6shapeimage_1_link_7shapeimage_1_link_8shapeimage_1_link_9shapeimage_1_link_10shapeimage_1_link_11shapeimage_1_link_12shapeimage_1_link_13shapeimage_1_link_14shapeimage_1_link_15shapeimage_1_link_16shapeimage_1_link_17shapeimage_1_link_18shapeimage_1_link_19shapeimage_1_link_20shapeimage_1_link_21shapeimage_1_link_22shapeimage_1_link_23