Rihanna is fabulously talented, beautiful, wealthy and desired. At one level it seems hard to understand why she would choose to be in a relationship with an aggressive and violent man like Chris Brown and then to return to him following repeated domestic violence.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJgQ8aN1-pM]
In fact her situation is far more common than we realise. I’ve explained in earlier posts how our attraction process is driven by the younger portions of our brain. The baby part of our brain is looking for a ‘familiar’ environment. This is the reason that disrupted relationships in the first few years of life can have such powerful on-going effects. Why is familiarity so important? If you are a baby you are incredibly vulnerable – if you are alone you can die, if you are cold you can die, if you are wet you can die – basically anything and everything could kill you. Your sole anchor to safety is your caregivers. Therefore if you did survive to adulthood your baby brain uses your early experiences as a ‘good enough’ guide to survival and looks for someone with whom you have a similar emotional resonance.
Rihanna grew up with an addicted violent father – her early imprinting seems to draw her to men of a similar ilk. This same pattern works in most relationship albeit not so obviously. We are drawn to someone with a similar emotional pattern both positive and negative. In the honeymoon stage we are high on the love drug PEA (see earlier post), when that wears off we move into the power struggle stage (see post). At this stage it is common to feel quite hopeless and stuck in the relationship and to want to give up. In fact the purpose of this pain is to get our attention. The message our pain is shouting is, “THIS IS NOT WORKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When we really get this we can move into the next stage of relationship.
The next stage is called conscious loving and it involves an intentional choice to love our partner in the way they need rather than the way we want to. Real love involves limits and understanding – it does not tolerate abuse or control. The loving thing that Rihanna did for Chris was to report the abuse and let him be held accountable and responsible for his own behaviour. This creates safety for Rihanna which is essential for loving relationships it also alerts Chris to the seriousness of his behaviour. The challenge for Rihanna was probably about being assertive (in this area the public nature of the attack probably helped her).
The path to real mature authentic love is ALWAYS difficult (not necessarily all the time :-)) simply because intimacy and connection require vulnerability – and as we see above we are attracted to people who remind us of those who have hurt us, and who defend themselves from hurt by reacting in ways that hurt us. The good news (and there is some) is that a the deepest level of their being our partner longs for us to be fully and consciously present for them – our conscious and loving behaviour towards them meets their deepest longing.
What Rihanna would say to Chris with boundaries is that I love your deepest and truest self – I reject your immature and childish anger, your bravado and posing because what I love is what is good in you. This creates the possibility of a safe place within which Rihanna can grow and heal from the wounds of the past – as she has begun to heal with her father and Chris can be loved, and respected and desired for his good heart.
If they will issue and accept these invitations – time will tell.
Next post – why i don’t have a lizard brain . . .