Repetition Compulsion

Do you suffer from repetitive behavior patterns although knowing that some of them are unhealthy? You could be a smoker or a gambler. Or maybe you cheat on your partner or have some other sexual repetition compulsion in your relationship.

You aren’t by yourself! These behavioral patterns are reassuring because they are known to us.

However, many of them limit our relationships, hinder us from reaching our full potential, and jeopardize our future! Thus, when we find ourselves repeating detrimental conduct, we are engaging in repetition compulsion. Repetition compulsion was coined by a renowned psychotherapist called Sigmund Freud.

In this article, we’ll look at what repetition compulsion trauma is, why we do things we know are bad for us, and how we can change our behavior for good.

Breaking toxic relationship habits is doable, and we’ll learn just how to accomplish it today.

What is the Law of Repetition?

According to the Law of Repetition, repeating a behavior makes it more potent. In other words, the more you do the same thing, the more at ease you will feel. As a result, breaking out from your established behaviors will become increasingly difficult as time passes. For example, if you are continuously in relationships with individuals who put you down, you may find it difficult to be attracted to anyone else, even if you set out to find a mate who is loving and caring. Essentially, the harmful conduct becomes so natural that breaking away from it seems incorrect. In certain situations, you may even believe you deserve to be abused. This is especially if your pattern of toxic relationships is linked to a terrible event.

How does Repetition Compulsion Work?

The term repetition compulsion was coined by prominent psychotherapist Freud in a paper he authored in 1914 about “Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through.”

Despite the obvious irony, Freud observed that persons who grew up with traumatic events but could not vividly recall them had a greater inclination to engage in such destructive habits later in life.

I am aware that I have certain behavioral patterns and tendencies. More significantly, I am aware that I am drawn to particular types of people, people who fit into precise patterns and have distinct personalities.

Some of these patterns of conduct (mine and others) are unhealthy.

I, on the other hand, am a victim of them. What’s the reasoning? Because they are familiar. Even if we are skilled enough to notice a damaging habit, we are often lured to that pattern because it is familiar.

As a result, a child of a smoker who has witnessed a loved one die from cancer is more likely to start smoking. Even if the familiar is harmful, there is comfort in it.

Signs of Repetition Compulsion

Repetition compulsion has a negative effect on your life and mental health. It can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • experiencing recurring dreams
  • engaging in multiple abusive or toxic relationships during adulthood
  • engaging in relationships with people who are emotionally distant
  • having compulsions take precedence over pleasure
  • repeating the same detrimental behavior without changing anything
  • feeling destined to an unfavorable fate

What is the Source of Repetition Compulsion?

They believe that it takes weeks to create a habit and even longer to break one. Negative behavior patterns, on the other hand, might develop over time.

Depending on how deeply ingrained harmful relationship patterns are in use, it can take years to break them.

Many people who make New Year’s plans to lose weight or make other changes fail. They fail because they lack the discipline to repeat the new task frequently enough for it to become a habit.

Many of our unfavorable behavioral patterns were created at a young age. We saw our parents drink too much, yell too much to obtain what they wanted, or overeat to deal with stress.

During our formative years, we frequently learn more by watching what our parents do than by hearing what they say. This is especially true if what they tell us contradicts what we perceive.

Repetition Compulsion in Relationships

In a relationship, if one partner suffers from repetition compulsion, it significantly affects the other.

However, if both people are suffering from repetition compulsion, it can make the relationship nearly impossible unless both partners are completely aware of their problems and actively working on them.

My husband and I both brought baggage from our pasts to our marriage. My husband was a drug and alcohol addict who, though being charming, never allowed anyone to know the true him.

He learned at a young age not to trust or rely on anyone. Thus, maintaining relations with others on the surface meant never having to rely on or put himself out there.

I, on the other hand, was prone to being afraid of being abandoned. That motivated me to ruin relationships as they progressed. I felt more in control if I was the one who ended a relationship that I knew (in my head) was certain to fail regardless.

It took a lot of tears, a lot of years, a lot of counseling, and three years of sobriety for my husband and myself to really get our heads around our history and not let it control our present or future.

Breaking Bad Habits

Breaking bad relationship patterns time and again! But, like anything else in life, you can do it if you put your mind to it.

Here are the procedures I prefer:

  • Determine the behavior pattern that you want to change.
  • Recognize the reality of how that pattern came to be.
  • Accept where you are in your efforts to develop yourself. (there is no point in beating yourself up over past mistakes – learn the lesson and move on).
  • In this process, decide where you want to go (after all, you’ll never reach a goal if you don’t know what it is).
  • Determine ways to divide the goal into manageable chunks.
  • Along the journey, track your progress.
  • Recognize your mistakes and disappointments (but don’t let them derail your motivation).
  • It takes time to break the cycle of repetition compulsion.

You must understand that you spent years creating and developing these patterns and behaviors, and they will not vanish overnight.

Any worthwhile endeavor needs effort, attention, determination, and hard work.

Thus, if you suffer from negative behavior patterns in yourself or are drawn to broken people in your relationships, you will have to fight hard to resist those inclinations.

5 Ways Repetition Compulsion Can Destroy Your Future and Relationships

#1. It Has the Potential to Keep You in a Negative Holding Pattern

If you don’t address the problem, it will likely reoccur. Making mistakes is not a sin, but we must learn from them, accept responsibility for them, and avoid repeating them.

#2. It restricts your options.

We will never be able to be the people we are meant to be as long as we are bound by our history and our negative behavior patterns. We can work hard and achieve some success, but we will never attain our full potential as long as those patterns govern us.

#3. It has the potential to lead you into difficult relationships regularly.

I can speak from personal experience when I say that bad behavioral habits not only make us less than ideal mates but also cause us to gravitate toward individuals who aren’t either. That’s not to suggest they’re not wonderful individuals. However, as long as those bad behaviors dominate our personalities, we will struggle to be decent partners, and they will as well.

#4. It may harm your relationship.

When we are already in a committed relationship, every time those negative behavior patterns enter our conversation, we risk ruining that relationship. We also run the danger of undermining public trust. Substance misuse is frequently a byproduct of toxic practices, and it can also devastate an otherwise healthy relationship.

#5. It has the potential to drive away compatible partners.

If you are not in a committed relationship but are looking for one, it might be difficult to attract partners who are psychologically strong and well-balanced if you are battling destructive behavior patterns. The unresolved concerns from the past will ultimately come to light. When this occurs, healthy partners will notice and will most likely leave.

What Similarities do Maladaptive Behavior and Repetition Compulsion share?

In fact, maladaptive behavior and recurrent compulsion are remarkably similar. This conduct makes it difficult to modify or adapt to a new setting. It frequently occurs after a traumatic event, a severe sickness, or big changes in your life. It could also be a habit that you established over time, but it can be worked through in the same way that repetitive compulsion can.

Repetition Compulsion Treatment

“Whenever you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself whether you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”

Deepak Chopra

The level of trauma and dysfunction a person has experienced determines the course and pace of therapy; nonetheless, the fundamental goal of treatment is to establish control over one’s current life rather than repeating trauma in action, emotion, or physical states.

It is critical to create a secure therapy environment in which clients can address the facts of their childhood traumas and how they affect their current lives. This connection provides a safe bond that might act as a barrier against greater social isolation and undesirable behavior patterns.

However, before delving into their traumatic foundations, clients must refrain from customary coping techniques or defenses used to defend against emotions of traumatic overloads, such as substance misuse, self-injury, or aggression towards others.

Read Also: Divorce Mediation: Cost and How Long Does It Take

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) are all effective treatments for altering cognitive patterns that contribute to undesirable behavior. It is critical to focus on becoming aware of cognitive distortions, negative self-talk, and basic beliefs and then replace these thoughts with healthier, more realistic views.

Trauma-sensitive persons have difficulties seeing time accurately and frequently believe that a negative experience or mood will persist forever. Instead of ignoring reality or self-medicating with booze or drugs, their challenge is to learn how to notice what is happening in the here and now and recognize how things may and will evolve.

Once the traumatic experiences have been pinpointed in time and space, a client can begin to draw distinctions between current life difficulties and prior trauma, reducing the trauma’s impact on the present experience.

Furthermore, self-regulation strategies that encourage a state of calm and a connection to the mind and body can be quite beneficial in the healing process. To re-establish a sense of safety in their bodies, most trauma-sensitive persons require some type of somatic work. Deep breathing, positive visualization, mindfulness-based activities, and yoga all help to modify the arousal response of the central nervous system and quiet the brain.

Though the road to recovery is long and difficult, aid is available, and mental well-being is attainable.

What Is an Example of Repetition Compulsion?

For example, a person who was spanked as a child may incorporate this into their adult sexual practices, or a victim of sexual abuse may attempt to seduce another person of authority in his or her life (such as their boss or therapist): an attempt at the mastery of their feelings and experience, in the sense that they can control their feelings and experiences.

How Do You Treat Compulsion Repetition?

  • Investigate your childhood traumas with a therapist or counselor.
  • Making a concerted attempt to recognize and oppose pre-existing tendencies.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy trains your brain to recognize negative self-talk and other triggers.

What Is the Purpose of Repetition Compulsion?

An unconscious urge to replay early experiences in order to overcome or master them, according to psychoanalytic theory. Such traumas are re-enacted in a fresh context that represents the suppressed prototype.

What Is Repetition Compulsion Trauma?

This is related to the perplexing psychological phenomenon known as “repetition compulsion.” In repetition compulsion, a person repeatedly repeats a painful incident or its circumstances. This includes reenacting the experience or putting oneself in settings where the occurrence is likely to occur again.


In this post, We looked at how many of us gravitate toward toxic behaviors even though we know they are terrible for us. We do this because these patterns of conduct are familiar to us.

The drive to damage familiar behavior patterns is professionally characterized as repetition compulsion.

Humans investigated why we instinctively gravitate toward the familiar, even if it is damaging. More significantly, we looked at steps we may take to disrupt toxic relationship patterns so that we and our loved ones can enjoy a happier, more meaningful life.

In short, we don’t want to live with repetition compulsion trauma because we refuse to confront our detrimental behavioral habits from the past. Your spouse, partner, or prospective partners deserve better. If you have children, they are also entitled to a better life.

What has been your most difficult obstacle to overcome in the past? Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments section.

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