Your nervous system seeks out what’s familiar, not what’s good for you.

It’s a confusing thing. Why do we fall into the same patterns over and over again? We know “this kind” of person is not good for us, and yet we repeatedly date people just like them.

It’s important to remember that our nervous systems are often trying to take us into a space that’s familiar, not what our logical brain thinks is good for us. In the world of the nervous system, familiar = comfort. It wants comfort.

Going back to the example above, let’s say you’re trying to break the pattern of falling into abusive relationships. You know “that person” is not good for you, but you keep going back to them and people just like them. Well, ask yourself, did you grow up around people who were similar? Were your parents abusive? Is that sort of person all you know? Did you grow up in a household that had uncertainty, instability, noise and chaos?

Perhaps you hated it. You may have even promised yourself that you will never live like that again or surround yourself with people like that. However, this is what your nervous system adapted to as familiar. It’s what it knows. When there isn’t that chaos and uncertainty, it’s a new experience. It doesn’t know how to react or how to be comfortable in quiet, calm and security.

So, what happens? You find someone that is more grounded and calm, spend some time with them, and then leave. They’re boring. It doesn’t feel right. It’s uncomfortable. This is your nervous system trying to go back to what it knows.

There are different ways to break the pattern, but in general, it’s helping the nervous system adjust to and appreciate new territory. In meditation, we notice all of the desires, aversions, needs and wants, and allow ourselves to find grounding amidst all of this. There is a new peace that arises, one that is not contingent upon riding the emotional roller coaster. From this new space of peace, one is more likely to value the company of someone similar, if that’s what you’re looking for.

You can read more about this in the book, “A general theory of love.”