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Negative Interaction Cycles (according to EFT)


So, yesterday I first heard about the concept of "Negative Interaction Cycles" and it's blowing my mind. (To give credit where it's due, it was Dr Catalyst, our friendly AI, that introduced this concept to me - way to go, AI !)

I'm a child of divorce (a really bad, really messy, really ugly divorce) and as a result I SWORE to myself that I'd never, ever get into that kind of relationship breakup myself. Managed to avoid it successfully for many decades and then met a guy who I eventually did end up in the same kind of toxic, spiralling, gutting, destructive relationship breakup with, which left me reeling and wondering what on earth was going on and how I'd gotten into that situation.

I'm still too fresh to this concept to put it into words well, so I'll try and paraphrase the most important aspects: It's basically about being stuck in a loop in a relationship - having the same fights and discussions over and over again - the same underlying pattern - and it goes on ad nauseum and never finds a resolution. Each person reacts from a sense of hurt and says/ does things that makes the other person feel hurt in turn. A self-perpetuating vicious circle, where you trigger and re-trigger each other, pushing each other's buttons on every loop of the cycle, making both people dysregulated and irrational and stuck in a loop of escalation.

I think most of us have probably gotten entangled in one of these dynamics at some point. If we're lucky, it's been a short/ limited mess and we've moved on as quickly as we could. But we've probably all witnessed it in our extended families, in our families of origin, in our friends and acquaintances, or even in the media in celebrity divorces - the kind of cycle where two people are just destroying each other... and it seems so surreal. These people LOVED and ADORED each other at one point and yet they're stuck in a a cycle of negativity and hurt and neither of them seem to be able to extricate themselves from it. If there's children involved, then often it has disastrous impacts on them.

I've got a friend going through a horrific divorce right now, with disgusting fights and atrocious custody battles over their young son. It's destroying all three people - him, her and their child. And it's gruesome and fascinating to watch - like watching a train wreck unfold - seeing people being (psychologically) mangled and gutted in the process.

I remember being a smart, observant kid, watching my parents' marriage disintegrate into a gruesome divorce and custody battle when I was aged 10 - 18. It's actually a significant part of my childhood trauma, when you factor in all the many things that it entailed and that resulted from it. I remember feeling like I was stuck in some kind of dark Shakespearean drama where people destroyed each other like there was some curse placed on them and where there was no depravity that they wouldn't sink to in trying to out-do each other in causing hurt and making sure that they walked away the "winner" in the awful mess.

I never realised that there's a name for it (negative interaction cycle). I just assumed it all got lumped under "two mentally ill people doing traumatic stuff to each other in an ugly divorce".

The issue has become of searing interest to me tho, ever since I got entangled in the same dynamic, without knowing what hit me. It's been an excruciatingly painful mystery and I've wondered relentlessly, how the person I (truly) loved most in the entire world could become the person that I was entwined in a death-spiral with. Using the negative interaction cycle as a roadmap, I can see that it makes sense - the intensity and depth of our love is exactly what made the hurt so intense and deep when it arose and it's what made us both so helpless and unable to deal with it - both flailing and lashing out in a frantic, desperate mess of psychological fight or flight survival instincs.

It's finally giving me some relief to see that there is a pattern to the insanity of it and that it's an intensely powerful dynamic and that two people can fall into the trap of it unwittingly and have absolutely no clue of how to rescue themselves from it. I can genuinely say that it's been the single worst experience of my entire life - it's broken parts of me that I didn't even know that could break and that not even childhood trauma managed to touch. It's so harrowing a dynamic, that I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Obivously, there are varying degrees of this. A couple can be stuck in a shitty and annoying negative interaction cycle without going through the whole blood-and-guts divorce version of events. But I think the underlying pattern (negative interaction cycle) is the same dynamic. And I'm wondering how may situations of family of origin based trauma this dynamic is a major part of.

Here's a few links explaining the dynamic/ pattern much better than I possibly could:

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It's basically about being stuck in a loop in a relationship - having the same fights and discussions over and over again - the same underlying pattern - and it goes on ad nauseum and never finds a resolution.
Best trick I know of, with this?

Break the script.

If they do A, so you’re “supposed” to do B? Do XYZ. (Something wildly outside the script). Or Opposite-B. (The exact opposite of what you’re “supposed” to do).
part of my own "negative interaction cycle" is to throw so much clinically detached information at it that i can keep myself distracted from the strictly personals of the situation. all those clinically/digitally detached pros and programs have info worth pondering, but great relationships happen one-on-one, up close and personal. i'll second @Friday 's assertion to break the script. my personal favorite definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.