As an expert in conflict resolution, I meet a lot of people who get stuck replaying the same old problematic behavior again and again, even though it damages their relationships. Freud called this the repetition compulsion: We feel driven to repeat mistakes from the past in the hopes that this time the situation will work out differently, but it rarely does. To break free, you must identify the pattern. When your partner confronts you, do you typically yell or retreat? It helps to name the cycle: Do you really want to reenter the Conflict Vortex or Family Dysfunction Zone again? Well, not if you put it that way! Behavior patterns are tough to dislodge—they become part of your identity, so changing them can feel like a personal betrayal. But what feels most unnatural is precisely what you most need to do. Change takes time and courage, so be patient with yourself and with anyone else in the equation—because they’re working through their compulsions, too. Once you reach a place of understanding, the payoff is huge.
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