Have you ever considered that, once we become adults who have shared a few relationships, when we are trying to get to know someone new, we are usually seeing them through filters created from past experiences? These prior relationships can include family, friends, coworkers, or intimate partners. Filters often form around biases, in either direction, but more often problems, because of the way our brain works. They might include things like being controlled, being criticized, being untrustworthy, being lazy, being irresponsible, being unfaithful, being rejected, being abandoned, or being abused. They might apply to specific groups, men or women in relationships, teenagers, bosses, etc. They may be generalized to anyone we are in a relationship with. If we have unresolved core personality issues as a result of our experiences, then they will intensify the strength of the filters (the filters will have a bigger influence). And the more potentially vulnerable the relationship, the greater the influence of the filters. So they are especially prominent when attempting to get to know someone new in a love relationship.
Re-creating the Past in the Present
When we are unable to remove such filters when trying to build relationships, with that special someone, then we are not getting to know them for who they really are. We are simply plugging the new person into an existing pattern of beliefs, and re-creating the past in the present. We are turning them into what we have been conditioned to believe people like them are. For instance, if a woman was controlled by a man in a relationship, stayed in it way too long for whatever reason, then she may have a filter around being controlled. If she does, then after she breaks free from the unhealthy connection, she may swing completely in the opposite direction, wanting to completely control everything, have total independence, and have distortions and sensitivities related to men and control. But she may also want to share heart-centered love with a man in a healthy relationship. So as she meets people, and starts getting to know them, her filters will cause her to misperceive both the nature and severity of the things the guys will say and do. Her filters will keep her from being able to see someone new for who they really are. She will be seeing her past instead. The stronger, or more powerful the connection with someone new, the greater the influence of the filters (because of the greater vulnerability, fear of bad relationships and perceived threats).
So if she meets someone she connects with deeply, someone with whom her energy is matched, someone she feels instantly safe and comfortable with, and someone she is really attracted to; and if she allows herself to initially reach out and connect with them; then the next thing she may do is pull way back or even sever the connection completely. When she thought about the experience, once it was over, her filters would begin coloring her perceptions of the person and situation. And then as he tried to communicate with her after their wonderful experience, she would interpret what he said and how he said it based on these filters, not him. And if she did decide to get together with him again, because something inside of her knew she really wanted to, and was aware of the truth; she might only allow herself to see him based on her filters, rather than who he really is. When we do this, it doesn’t matter how often we get together with someone, because when we do, we are re-creating our past while with them, rather than getting to know them as a relationships in our life. This phenomenon occurs much more often than we realize. We are, however, more likely to be able to see them for who they are when we get together in person. The less personal the connection, the more likely we are to be influenced by the filters. So in person is best, then Skype or phone, and lastly purely electronic things like instant messaging, text, or email. Although the electronic methods are great for sharing or confirming information, they do not provide enough information to really get to know someone.
Learning from the Past, but Not Re-creating It in the Present
It is definitely important to learn from our past experiences, and to allow our developing knowledge base to guide and protect us. But we need to be able to objectively assess someone new, and then accept the truth about them, rather than letting the filters created from our past experiences decide for us what they are like. We can identify and monitor red flags, without turning the person into one. Some people are so completely different from anything we have ever even imagined, and sometimes this is amazing, sweet, and fun; so we do not want to limit ourselves, and our future possibilities by turning them into the fears from our past. Give them a chance in your mind and heart. Let them be who they are, separate from everything else you have ever known. Let yourself be new and different too! We are different, more or less energetically connected to people, and so many other things; and through these relational factors, we are unique and different too, and new doorways may open, new paths appear, and our lives could immediately transform in an evolutionary direction. Or, we might completely block all of this by turning someone new, and everything that could flow from a connection with them, into painful patterns from our past.
The other downside of doing this is that we are continuing to invest in lower vibrations, and reinforcing these patterns in our lives. When we continue choosing to see through these filters, then we are choosing to create the things that formed these filters in our lives. It will keep us stuck in a lower vibrational loop, and we will continue experiencing life like this, whether it actually is or not. We may think we are progressing, because we are avoiding those things that cause discomfort and being more independent; but this is just one point along the same cycle, and will keep us stuck in it.
Removing the Filters and Getting to Know Someone New
Since these filters exist within our own head, and are sometimes subconsciously based, we may have a hard time recognizing them; especially in real time as the situation in relationships unfold. If we have conditioned beliefs, but they are not as solidified or intense as unresolved core personality issues; then we may be able to remove these filters fairly easily on our own. One way to do this is through present moment awareness. If we practice this, and then apply it while getting to know someone, we will be more likely to see them for who they really are, and also ourselves in the context of their company (the way we really felt about them, instead of what our filters may try to tell us). Another proven method is the perspectives of mutual friends. If you have any mutual friends with them, especially if they know the new person well, and if they have decent judgement; then talk with them about what you are perceiving, and listen to what they have to say. We don’t want to try to talk them into agreeing with us, because we are the ones with the distorted perceptions. We want to hear their more objective view of the person, and perhaps their interpretations or encouragement pursuant to our perceptions and reactions. Journaling is often helpful too, if we journal objectively, writing down the facts of what happened, how we felt about them, any red flags, etc. If we use our journal to reinforce our filters, then it will actually make things worse.
When we have unresolved core personality issues, then we will probably need professional help, and it will take longer.
It Might Be the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Both of You
When we experience a strong connection with someone, especially when it is based on a spiritual bond or harmonizing energy; it is probably worth facing our fears for, waiting patiently for, and jumping through a few hoops for. In fact, it could be the best thing that ever happened to both of us.
By Kai Swigart, PhD, MFT, CEAP, SAP, CAI