I often get asked, “Why do I always get attracted to people who are wrong for me?” Now the question is quite legitimate because most of us have been there.
But the answer is quite simple:
Because your wounded self is attracting another wounded self.
You must be wondering what I referred to as ‘wounded self’. Read on to know what I mean and understand how toxic people have functioned in your life.
Toxic people come with baggage of their own personal problems and dump it on to us. It invariably leaves you behind with critical issues and a damaged psyche. Toxic people are not only wrong for us but downright destructive. Then why do we always get attracted to people who are wrong for us in the first place? It is not like we are unaware that a particular person is toxic to us. The signs are totally loud and on the face.
But you are exasperated by the way in which you are repeatedly getting attracted to them. Well, to tell you, the fault is not yours.
Because your tendency to get attracted to people who are toxic for you happens as a result of your pattern of past experiences and your attachment style.
Most of us, if not all, at certain levels, have carried ourselves into adolescence and adulthood with unmet needs from our childhood years. The needs could be of various types – the need to be attended to, the need for autonomy, the need to be cared for and the need to be accepted and loved, most of which could only be fulfilled by our primary caregivers. This does not mean, your parents or your primary caregiver is to be blamed for the situation you end yourself into. For circumstantial reasons alone, some parents cannot meet all the needs of their children. It might be a personal reason – work, financial reason, situational reason – separation from spouse, death of a spouse, the birth of a new child, or even medical reasons which might have kept the parents occupied. These children will transit to the next level of their developmental phase without having the needs of their previous years met.
Now, moving on to the teenage years of our life, we all come under the speeding freight train named ‘puberty’. And these teen pressure gets us to view ourselves and the world in a much-distorted way. We came under the peer pressure to fit in with the usual and to some point, we were even ready to morph ourselves into someone we never wanted to become.
Slowly we lost our sense of recognition with our ‘authentic self’ and started readily moving towards the person we wanted to be for bagging other people’s approval and acceptance. The same acceptance, love, and praise we were deprived of in our childhood. Scrapes of this praises and approval worked as a reinforcement to further push our real selves to exhaustively build a ‘fake but ideal social image’.
Similarly, when a person who rejected us (or had the potential to reject us), we became willing to sacrifice our self-dignity, and self-respect to degrade ourselves just to gain their approval. It sort of gave us the thrill of winning someone over, who was hard to win over. This thrill of working hard enough, pushing ourselves over our boundaries to win their hearts gave us a sense of control over ourselves which we were forever looking for in the years when we really were controlled by societal standards.
When we matured sexually and started looking for contemporary romantic partners, we got drawn to people who could recreate the same dynamics we had with our primary object of attachment. Years of the perpetuation of this toxic pattern of seeking approval got us into the notion that love and praise that is gained by overcoming challenges is a prize truly won. We started subconsciously getting attracted to people who had their needs to be fulfilled.
A part of our cognitive schema thus developed around the idea that we had to get all the needs of the other person met to win their love and adoration, much the same way we earlier earned love from the on again-off again display of our parents’ affection.