A few weeks ago Sharyl sent me an article. It was a .pdf of The Negative Love Syndrome by Bob Hoffman. It is fascinating and I’ve read it a few times a week since I got it. It isn’t very long and it is another layer of explanation along the lines of how people observe, learn and practice things as a child that become their unconscious adult behaviors.
With Negative Love Syndrome (NLS), just like compassionate love, children normalize the early experiences of “love” they observe from their parents / caregivers interactions with them and each other. No matter WHAT happens, it will be regarded as normal and set the baseline for all love behavior moving forward; these early experiences shape the child’s future actions so they will work unconsciously and often against their own interests to ensure the baseline experience is restored. But with NLS, the children normalize seeking loving behaviors that do not add quality of live or are simply negative.
For example, when mommy withdraws and doesn’t tell dad what is bugging her, daddy yells and then she does. The boys learn that adult females are cold and conditionally open (when they get yelled at), the girls learn to bottle things it up until her partner gets verbally abusive. Provided the boy yells, both eventually get what they want so they remain in “love.” This is in contrast to compassionate love were the women may not talk openly, but her husband accepts that she will talk when ready and will not pressure her. Children viewing this will internalize appropriate boundaries, and both the need for and respect of another person’s privacy. While the boy will not learn how to make conditionally females open, he also doesn’t learn to attack an object. He learns that women are people, with feelings and that they will talk when they need to. The lesson a girl learns from watching her mother set-up and honor the boundaries can on serve to make her more empowered.
If left unresolved NLS will manifest itself as a series of games between the adult and their future partners although little if any of this is conscious. Seemingly healthy relationships will begin to suffer as the adult works to create the relationship of their parents; which is the reason why they suffer from NLS. If their partner doesn’t realize that this is happening and remains committed to having a healthy relationship, they begin to alter their actions and play the game as well. This is why NLS relationships create unusual experiences for those who normally engage others with compassionate love.
It makes perfect sense when you reflect on it. You need and want your parents to love and approve of you so you try to do what they did. Doing something different than what they did will be tough because it goes against most of what you learned; it will feel and likely be perceived as rebellion. The assumption people make when they choose to get into a relationship is to work towards the bond that their parents had. One does not necessarily realize that this is what they are doing because they engage most parts of their life without the impact of NLS such that they may pick suitable candidates for girl or boy friends, ones who offer compassionate love, but once their own feelings of love begin to develop the negative love tendencies start to come out and degrade things quickly.
The confusing thing is that often what they are receiving is EXACTLY what they need and know they want but since it doesn’t feel like negative love it is rejected. The consequence of compassionate love being rejected tends to be a withdrawal from the rejecter – a negative love trait. So by rejecting the thing they want and need in their life, they are able to experience the thing that makes them feel normal and shittie.
People are going to be nuanced when how they manufacture a negative love environment so the games that get played can be very complex, engrossing and red herrings in terms of what is actually happening. Think about it, you are engaging someone with a very fast brain, that has automated and normalized something to the point of it falling outside of their consciousness so they are not even aware of what they are actually doing, let alone why they may be doing it. They KNOW something isn’t right, but resist all coaching in an effort to win the game.
The prognosis is good but only if the person is willing to change, so the outcome for most is poor. I have known a couple of people who have been able to find their way out of the darkness and would be confident that if someone is willing to work at it, they can get better. It takes time and a keen awareness of how you are thinking. But first it takes the person to realize that there is something wrong and a willingness to press pause, let things settle and see how the landscape looks.