21 Jun THE DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE SYNDROME
Moss Jackson PhD
Psychologist Success Coach
Are you in a relationship?
Do you love your partner?
Do you sometimes hate your partner?
Do you sometimes say terrible things to your partner that you later feel guilty saying?
Are you sometimes out of control and think that you made the wrong choice?
You might be suffering from an affliction I call the “Jekyll and Hyde” Syndrome!
Jake and Susan loved each other, they were highly educated and appreciated the education their parents gave them. Jake was an engineer and Susan a high school teacher. From the outside they looked like a perfect couple, but they suffered from the affliction I call the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. It was as if there were two different marriages. One was characterized by deep attraction, companionship and fun while then other was antagonistic, abusive and full of conflict.
More often than not, they would slip into a wartime dynamic where each struggled to outdo the other with insults and massive disdain. For example, take an argument they both created a couple of nights ago. Jake and Susan were out to dinner with friends and they started to argue over a difference of opinion. They held it together for dinner but once in the cocoon of their car, war broke out. Susan began by accusing Jake of “once again” dominating the conversation. Jake, unable to just acknowledge her upset, launched into a nasty comment about her dress, shouting about her provocative blouse and attempt to flirt with one of the other husbands. Susan rolled her eyes and retaliated by bringing up an affair he had five years earlier.
Counter criticisms flew back and forth, each getting nastier than before. It was as if they had become poisoned by their upsets and unable to contain their mutual disgust. Their previous positive regard had transitioned into a toxic fight and power struggle. It did not matter who first expressed an upset; neither of them could tolerate the hurt, nor hold each other in a caring embrace.
What happened to cause such a descent into joint misery? Susan had been raised by an alcoholic father and emotionally cold mother. She never felt quite secure enough and cared for. Her father was verbally and physically abusive to both her mom and her. Mom would never say anything back for fear of an assault but, instead, would take it out on the children by holding them to perfectionistic standards. Susan could never do anything right according to her mom. Her parents never apologized to each other or the children. Jake’s parents divorced when he was nine because his father had an affair and left for another woman. His mother, depressed and bitter, never forgave him nor ever recovered from the abandonment.
Let’s condense the couple’s dynamic: the following stand out:
- Both Jake and Susan came from tense and unpredictable households.
- Neither had been taught how to argue by keeping the discussion focused on the issue at hand.
- Susan fought by hitting her husband with the “kitchen sink” bringing up all the dirty dishes of their past.
- Neither had much tolerance for pain.
- Both took things very personally.
- Neither knew how to effectively self-regulate their emotions and tensions. They became easily flooded with cortisol, the neurotransmitter that prepares an animal or person for battle with a fight or flight response.
- Both would trigger emotional hijacking with the other, thereby depleting their thinking brain of any effective executive actions.
- Both experienced intense shame sometime after their explosive episodes and rushed back into desperate reconnection without processing any of what had happened.
Perhaps you can relate to this couple. In my next post, I will provide some useful actions you can take to detoxify your Jekyll and Hyde relationship.
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