40 Questions We’re Afraid to Ask – #32
We all know the definition of insanity . . . doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Following that line of thought then, making the same mistakes over and over again is a perfect example of insanity.
There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. We all do it. It’s one way in which we learn. Gosh, how many times did Thomas Edison make mistakes before he finally invented the light bulb? It’s when we make the same mistakes over and over again that it can become a problem.
It was Sigmund Freud who first articulated the concept of something called “repetition compulsion“.
According to Wikipedia . . .
Repetition compulsion is a psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again. This includes reenacting the event or putting oneself in situations where the event is likely to happen again. This “re-living” can also take the form of dreams in which memories and feelings of what happened are repeated, and even hallucination.
The term can also be used to cover the repetition of behaviour or life patterns more broadly: a “key component in Freud’s understanding of mental life, ‘repetition compulsion’…describes the pattern whereby people endlessly repeat patterns of behaviour which were difficult or distressing in earlier life.”(1)
Repeated mistakes are nothing more than repeated behaviors . . .
. . . and expecting a different result each time is our way of either dealing with something from the past and trying to master it or overcome. It is a known fact that we humans seek comfort in the familiar, and be it good or bad, our past is familiar. But hanging onto the past can be very detrimental if not kept in check and in balance with my need to move forward in life, and it can cause me to not to feel very good about myself, leading me to carry out the same behavior and make the same mistakes over and over again, hoping the outcome will be better, which it never is.
Working to discover what it is from my past that is at the root of this repeated behavior can be extremely helpful, and it will more often than not require the help of someone who is knowledgeable in this area; but simply discovering is not enough and it can lead me to dwell in the past, which is exactly what caused the repeated behavior in the first place, even if it was on the subconscious level. The only way to overcome this is to find alternative approaches to dealing with that area or those areas of my life in which I make the mistakes over and over again, and this is where strategic intervention can come into play.
It’s very much like breaking an old habit.
A habit is a result of my brain being wired a certain way through repeated behavior. I can’t simply try to quit the old habit or behavior. Instead, I have to replace it with a new one. In doing so I actually, physically rewire my brain through a different repeated behavior. After a while, the old neuro connectors disappear and are replaced by new ones, and the new, more productive behavior becomes just as natural, if not more so, than the old one.
We have to keep in mind that the past doesn’t really exist, except as a memory. It’s not real, except in my own mind, and to hang onto something that is not real is nothing more than another form of insanity.
So, the question remains, what mistakes do I make over and over again, and what new approaches or new behaviors can I pursue that will create more positive and productive results and lead me to live a more satisfying and rewarding life?