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Understanding and Charting Bonding Patterns
and using this to help stop them (see below)
NOTE: I am still only just coming to a better understanding of these patterns (in 'em and couldn't see 'em) but these notes are helping me to gain a clearer picture so I thought I would share them with you....John)  

One of the hardest to understand and difficult aspects of inner self work are what Hal and Sidra Stone describe as ‘bonding patterns’. Part of this difficulty is that each bonding pattern involves one of your strongest primary selves interacting in a powerful way with someone else’s primary self to the exclusion of most other selves and adult awareness.  You seldom get into a bonding pattern except when a primary self thinks it "is" you. A self in this position has a powerful sense of knowing that what it sees as true and real must be true and cannot be questioned.

NOW READ ON.......

This is better explained graphically
This is getting a bit complicated for words alone so most voice dialogue facilitators use a diagram to illustrate the pattern in a more visual form. The diagram below is one that Hal and Sidra Stone have used for years and it does help people see what is going on and separate from it.The more I understand bonding patterns the more I find it helps to picture them in this way. And the more patterns I draw, the more I come to understand the patterns.  First to help you recognise the patterns look at the energies the selves get into and that make up the pattern.  How you can use the diagram later on to help get out of a bonding pattern is explained below.

The parts of the diagram:
1. There are two horizontal energy flows one for you, one for the other person. Each flow is identified by an  endless horizontal loop reminding us that while we are in a bonding pattern we will be moving back and forth between our less vulnerable and our more vulnerable selves. The pattern just alternates  from one side to the other and back again as each person’s primary selves  loop in and out of the alternate more powerful impersonal one above position and the less powerful more personal one below position.

wpe35.jpg (1809 bytes)Person A's endless loop from vulnerable child to invulnerable parent and back again


wpe34.jpg (2054 bytes)Person B's endless loop from vulnerable child to invulnerable parent and back again



As you try to understand a pattern, remember that you can only see it from your own point of view. This however has to include your estimate of what the other person might be thinking and feeling since that is what your selves are reacting to anyway. That point usually turns out to be the best  place to start because understanding bonding patterns is easier if you can step outside your own loop and look as well at what might be going on in the other person that causes them to feel as vulnerable as you do. The bottom line here is that bonding patterns are based on inaccurate and untrue beliefs and forecasts we each make about the other person and the situation. The aim of the chart is to identify whatever is untrue and incorrect so you can stop repeating the pattern.

Trying to discover what was factual or true about what was going on in a particular pattern is not worth the effort. The selves responsible for doing bonding patterns are notoriously inaccurate at remembering facts. The one fact that would help and that is always true (but one that the selves won't tell you about) is that both people were feeling very vulnerable at the time.  This is why charting or drawing the energy pattern helps. it identifies that one point of truth and tells you  about your own underlying vulnerability around the other person. They can tell you later on about what is really happening on their side in terms of vulnerability, rather than what their selves tell them is going on.

Let's look at Jack and Jill's bonding pattern. 

1. JILL'S  REMARK  - start of the pattern
Example: It starts when Jill arrives home after a tiring day and makes a comment as she comes through the door. "This house is a mess!"
To Jack, this makes Jill seem more like a

Example: Jack tells himself  "If the house is a mess it’s my fault."
He  reacts by feeling more like a guilty son/child.

Jack reacts to block Jill's powerful one above self/selves and reduce his feelings of vulnerability. To do this he calls on one of his even more powerful selves to help protect his vulnerable ‘child’ by directing  strong blame, anger or criticism back towards Jill. 

Example: "I've just spent all day fixing your car and that's the thanks I get from you!". Attacking Jill like this makes him feel more like a strong parent again.

Jill reacts to Jack's  more powerful one above parent self/selves.  Jill's inner critic beats her up and tells her how ungrateful she was when Jack had been working all day on her car, putting her into the guilty child position:.
Example:  Jill bursts into tears "Oh Jack that was so selfish of me. I am a rotten person. What can I do to make it up to you?"

At this point the stage is set for the next round. Jill cannot stay for too long in vulnerable child. Her parent selves comes out and prepare to attack Jack again:

Jill's warrior selves tell her she must fight Jack's bullying control (this helps to stop her feeling guilty).
Example:   "Every time I try to talk to you, about a problem you make it seem like  it's my fault. I hate you!"
This makes her seem to Jack at first more like a powerful parent and he reacts to her "I hate you" by feeling like an unloved child.

Looking at it graphically, here is Jack's view of the pattern. Jill, by the way, may see parts of the picture very differently.

Jill's horizontal loop                     

1."This house is a mess!" Jill seems  like a one above mother/parent

wpe35.jpg (1809 bytes)

4. "That was so selfish of me. I am a rotten person. What can I do to make it up to you?"
Jill feels like a guilty powerless daughter/child

2. "If the house is a mess it’s my fault."Jack  feels like a guilty son/child

wpe34.jpg (2054 bytes)

3. "I've just spent all day fixing your car and that's the thanks I get from you!" Jack feels like a strong parent again.

Jack's horizontal loop


Bonding pattern - round two

                         Jill's horizontal loop                     



5. "Every time I try to talk to you, about a problem you make it seem like  it's my fault. I hate you!" Jill is back in one above parent again

wpe35.jpg (1809 bytes)

7.... Jill

6. Jack  feels like a guilty son/child again

wpe34.jpg (2054 bytes)

8. .... Jack

Jack's horizontal loop

2. Notice as well the two vertical loops (dotted lines) reminding us that each time Jack and Jill move back and forth on their horizontal loop (from vulnerable child to invulnerable parent and back again) each opposite energy shifts is likely to hook the other person back and forth into their opposite energy.
This is why once we get locked into a double loop (the actual bonding) it is so hard to get out of it.Our less vulnerable sides interact with the other person’s more vulnerable selves and vice versa.

wpe37.jpg (1991 bytes)Let's say that the left hand vertical loop represents the pattern where person A is wpe37.jpg (1991 bytes)
in their parent energy and person B is in child energy. The right hand loop then represents the opposite state where person B has moved or flipped into their parent energy which flips  person A into their child energy. Identifying this helps us to stay aware of the way each side of the bonding pattern is constantly setting up an energetic counter reaction in the other person.This is why there are four separate ‘corners’ for each bonding pattern:|

A. When Jack is in one below child energy Jill will get hooked into parent energy

B. When Jack's one above parent energy Jill will get hooked into child energy

C. When Jill is in one below child energy Jack will get hooked into parent energy

D. When Jill is in one above parent energy Jack will get hooked into child energy

Trying to fit two people’s perception into one diagram adds to the confusion caused by the complex and constantly changing nature of the pattern. It took me a long time and much confusion before I realised that although both people’s names appear in the same diagram, you can only get one person's view of a pattern into a single two dimensional diagram with four corners (see below) You can't even put your own idea of how the other person MIGHT see things in the same pattern into the same diagram without getting thoroughly confused.  So it's better to use two or four separate charts, one diagram of YOUR  loop pattern as you see it (below) and  another of your ideas of  what the other person's  loop pattern might look like as you think they might see it, using  a slightly different different chart (shown further down this page). If the other person wants to chart the same pattern they then need another two separate diagrams of their own.

Here is the top half of the actual chart I get clients to fill out:

wpe3A.jpg (40753 bytes)

* for a positive bonding pattern change this to "that I do like"

Person A's charts one pattern (above) as they see it and a second chart (below) for how A thinks B might be seeing the same pattern.   The other person B in turn can draw another two charts for themselves. Comparing all four these afterwards (as long as everyone is in the adult state at the time) is often very enlightening and helps restore peace.

wpe38.jpg (53782 bytes)1. Identifying the underlying vulnerability behind the pattern
Identifying your own underlying vulnerability  reminds  us that this is the reason the selves set up your side of the pattern in the first place. If the other person can identify and name the cause behind their reaction and counter reaction as well, it becomes much clearere how all this keeps fuelling the bonding. For counsellors, identifying underlying vulnerability helps clients (once they can see and understand the pattern) discover ways to stop them continuing. See Getting out of Bonding Patterns   also  Bonding Patterns - case studies)

Positive Bonding patterns

The roles are reversed in a positive bonding pattern. Jack's Rescuer Father might fix Jill's car which sets up a positive pattern with Jill's Appreciative pleaser daughter. "Oh Jack you are so wonderful spending the whole day working on my car! I love you so much."  Jill may then loop into Nurturing Mother and spend the evening cooking Jack a special meal, tidying the house and washing Jack's clothes while Jack relaxes into Protected Son and watches TV. One problem with positive bonding is that there are usually hidden conditional expectations of getting something back in return. When these are not met the pattern can go negative very quickly. See also the ' The rescuer and the bird with the broken wing' case study.
The other big problem is that sex between a couple in long term positive bonding is often unsatisfying if neither person in the bed is in an adult state.  If one or both partners are incest survivors the overtones can be so toxic that often the 'relationship' where a positively bonded couple who say "We never fight." may be the same one where they also never have sex.  (A bit of playful positive bonding in bed is OK on occasions, just don't let it become too regular. Sex is meant to be grown-up's work. don't leave it to the selves.)

Positive Bonding pattern - Jack's horizontal loop                     

1.Jack's super caretaking father self: "I took the day off work and fixed your car for you."

wpe35.jpg (1809 bytes)

4. Jack - (a little later) switching to nurtured appreciative son: That was delicious. My mother never cooked anything special like that for me."

2. Jill's appreciative daughter:
"Oh Jack you are so wonderful spending the whole day working on my car! I love you so much."

wpe34.jpg (2054 bytes)

3. Jill: switching to nurturing mother: "Jack, you relax and I'll make something special for you dinner."

Positive Bonding   pattern  - Jill's horizontal loop

My disowned selves
These get in on the act because whatever we disown we are both repelled by attracted to. Since the attraction/repulsion loop lies close to the heart of most bonding patterns there is usually a connection.

Body sensations and feelings (red warning lights
But there is another way to become aware (at least temporarily) that you are in a pattern. Your body sensations and feelings tell you and for a start it is much easier to tune into them. These are the warning signals that are easiest to tune in to. For example you might notice (afterwards) that your anxiety level jumps ten points each time you get into a negative pattern with your partner. Or you might feel a sudden knot in your stomach or pain in your forehead. These signals are like the red warning light on an instrument panel. They don’t come on until after the pattern is happening, so by then, it is too late to prevent it, but they are a warning that things are overheating. Until we are aware we are in some sort of pattern we stay stuck in it. Body sensations are usually the FIRST WARNING and so can help us become aware faster.

Silent bonding patterns
Two people can also do a silent non-verbal bonding pattern based on body language alone.  You can get even stuck in negative bonding patterns with mechanical and electronic objects, particularly those that put verbal 'parent' messages on your screen like "Bad command or file name". You can also get into negative or positive patterns with pets and relatives in other parts of the world. Ignoring someone who wants your attention can set up a pattern as well.

Getting out of a Bonding pattern after it has started
Once you learn to tune in to the warnings from your body you can do something to stop the overheating early in the life of the pattern. That is  you can halt whatever your primary self is doing or saying to keep the fight going. What can you do? See Getting out of Bonding Patterns
(see also  Bonding Patterns - case studies.
Bonding patterns involve much more ‘doing’ energy rather than thinking and certainly not ‘being’ energy. Becoming aware and working from the aware ego/adult keeps you out of the bonding.

It is humanly impossible to 'solve' or 'resolve' any one individual bonding pattern so spending time on this is futile. Analysing details from one pattern is a waste of time. What does help is to notice the ways in which every pattern the same person does is the same, the details change but the underlying vulnerability is what stays the same, for both players.

Do it yourself

You don't need a trained therapist or counsellor to chart your own patterns following the examples above. If charting doesn't help fix things it may be time to get professional help.

GROWING AWARENESS  trainers, counsellors, facilitators and experts on bonding patterns include:

Northern suburbs:   Chermside Aspley  Bald Hills  3261 3882 John Nutting (BA Psych.)
Bardon Counselling Centre  Anthony Nutting (Psychologist) 3368 1300
Capalaba - Bayside: 3823 1766  Rick Reeves  (BA Sociol.

Copyright John Nutting 1996- - 2004  and      GROWING AWARENESS   All rights reserved World Wide   LAST UPDATE 

Don't worry about these copyright notices at the foot of each page. It just means I want to hang on to legal ownership of what I write for use in future books.  Until that day, please feel free to copy and even adapt them for your own use and for friends as long as you acknowledge me as the author and owner of the copyright and you don't charge anyone for them. If you want to use them professionally or commercially (charge a fee for them) or for clients, each sheet you hand out must include full acknowledgment of copyright ownership as above and if  you are benefiting as a result, I would appreciate an appropriate sharing.


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