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Toxic Relating Patterns – Five Protective Neural Patterns & Role Scripts (1 of 4)


Love that turns toxic is neither healthy nor genuine, though the intentions of each partner are often well-meaning.

A couple relationship can be described as toxic when, due to emotional reactivity and defensive reaction patterns, it no longer promotes, and instead harms the mental, emotional and, or physical health, well-being and growth of each partner. The relationship is increasingly off balance, a factor that is affected by and directly affects the individual inner sense of balance, health and safety of each partner.

In contrast, genuine love is an empathic connection that recognizes the authentic other and self as separate and unique beings, even encouraging the individuality of each as essential to the formation of healthy intimacy in a relationship.

Neurological findings in the last decades show that we are wired for certain early protective behaviors in life, and that these can become habitual responses that get automatically activated, as they most often operate without conscious awareness. Intense emotional experiences in childhood can alter the structure of the brain and have enduring effects in adulthood.

14 thoughts on “Toxic Relating Patterns – Five Protective Neural Patterns & Role Scripts (1 of 4)

  • November 20, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Some of these pairs remind me of the Myers-Briggs/Jungian Typology dichotomies.
    Doer/Feeler – Thinker/Feeler
    Responsible/Negligent – Judging/Perceiving
    It would be interesting to see how type fits in to this and how it can be used to help bridge communication.

    Reply
    • November 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Interesting observation, Sabrina! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • November 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    This article would be a lot easier to understand with fake names and more concrete scenarios than just partner A and B – I got quite confused!

    Reply
    • November 27, 2011 at 6:45 am

      Thank you for the feedback, Katie. I can see how partner A and B labels may have been confusing, and agree that concrete scenarios would bring added clarity. They will be in a book that’s in process…. Thanks again for commenting.

      Reply
  • December 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

    Reply
  • December 31, 2011 at 12:31 am

    I am completely fascinated by your observations. I need to find more resources to help me work through a currently toxic relationship. Are there any books you can recommend I read? I am willing to put in the hard work, because I believe I have been unknowingly hurting and not helping my relationship. I believe we have been trudging through this rough spot because we feel we have a strong base, but it is wearing away faster than we can repair it. Thank you for any direction you provide.

    Reply
    • January 5, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for your commitment to change and relationship transformation, Louis. One book that might be helpful is “The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy, and Validation” – if you find it challenging or overwhelming, consider seeking professional assistance to support you in healing your relationship.

      Reply
  • May 22, 2012 at 4:35 am

    The very crux of your writing whilst appearing agreeable originally, did not really work properly with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the paragraphs you actually were able to make me a believer but just for a short while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one would do well to help fill in those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I could certainly be amazed.

    Reply
    • May 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for the message, Noreen. Send me one specific example regarding ‘what’ you believed, and lost belief in, at [email protected] and perhaps I can provide a more helpful response. I can tell you this, however, it is not easy to change entrenched patterns that we have been practicing for decades, if that is the basis of the disappointment you express. It often requires professional help. Thanks again for writing! I hope to hear from you …

      Reply
  • May 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    These dyads are helpful to illustrate what is typical in codependent relationships, which I describe in my books. For example, one partner blames the victim, is over-responsible Top Dog to under responsible Underdog, or is the Pursuer of a Distancer. What I’ve noticed is that not only can these roles overlap, but partners often switch roles within a relationship, and certainly in other relationships. A blaming boss at work might be a victim at home or a Pursuer in one relationship becomes the Distancer in the next.
    Darlene Lancer, LMFT
    Author of “Codependency for Dummies”
    http://www.whatiscodependency.com

    Reply
  • July 30, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I recognize a couple of these patterns and while that’s useful, more immediately useful would be strategies to break these old entrainments.

    I note you recommend DBT, which is helpful — however the kind of neural wiring from early on that you are describing responds (but slowly) to that approach.

    Having recently “unwired” some significant neural patterning with the help of a counselor who is also qualified to do EMDR work (the same thing they use for PTSD, which that kind of entrainment has a lot in common with) – I was able to read these from an interested perspective. At one point just reading this would have triggered despair.

    I think these patterns are engrained as you say, and difficult to undo at the normal level of consciousness.

    I’m pretty tickled to be able to go “huh! or oh. or wow, that’s their thing” 90% of the time now (instead of always falling into the rut of the script).

    It’s not a 100% change, but it gets an “A” grade from me, and when I get triggered (rage and conversely, accepting any and all abuse in order to deserve love or even to exist) are no longer my guardian coping strategies.

    They really did help in the manipulative, lying, self absorbed and occasionally cruel family I grew up in… and they really did help me choose the familiar in dating and relationship partners… e.g., smart and mean! (If I could resolve that and win their love, I would deserve to live and be happy. But it didn’t seem to work that way.)

    Anyhow, you might wish to explore the PTSD angle (you don’t need to call it that, but EMDR worked for my sister who was also a Viet Nam vet, and who also attracted “interesting” partner choices until about 10 years ago… right after she got PTSD treatment. Then the script seemed to unwind. There may be a new one or a different one in place now, but she’s much happier and she did make changes.

    Thanks for letting me blether on on your blog. I used to despair at these kinds of articles, because the duality made it seem like I was either doomed to repeat the pattern (no way out) or change seemed next to impossible.

    Oddly, it isn’t.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2015 at 11:39 am

    For each pattern that is identified as off balance, please consider adding what adds balance. I realize you can only write so much, but no principle-centered solutions are identified so the reader walks away with no insight of the solution method.

    Reply
  • June 7, 2016 at 3:47 am

    Some of what you describe in your typology is reflective of reality. However, I find your embellishment of toxicity into a good vs bad relational pattern gives a sense of unrealness. The message that rang clearest for me in reading your blog was blogger would benefit from a return tobthe drawing board after reading or rereading some of the attachment and intimacy literature. Stan Tatkin, Ellyn Bader, Terry Real… Here you will find more balanced and more helpful typologies for understanding and correxting intimate partner relationships that become challenged by the attachment patterning that we carry into our relational fields.

    Reply
 

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