What is a ?bonding pattern in a relationship?
If person A has selves that regularly cooperate with or fit in well with selves in person
B the result can look and sound like a ?good relationship? but it is really only the
selves dancing together. This is a positive bonding pattern.
If person A has selves that react against, resent or are annoyed by polar opposite selves
in person B (and A and B are unable to keep these selves separated) those selves will
battle each other over and over about the same things and there will seem to be no escape.
They are enmeshed in a negative bonding pattern.
The rescuer and the bird with the broken wing -
One of the most difficult bonding patterns (from Growing Awareness 2000
In this bonding pattern there are two powerful innner selves each playing deeply
significant roles. In both partners, the selves playing these roles keep their real
motives (protecting the person they belong to) hidden behind a mask that suggests the
opposite is the case.
Setting the scene
The rescuer self presents an image of strength, self-confidence and the ability to
overcome problems, typical of a one-above self. The wounded bird or bird with the broken
wing self on the other hand characteristically has much to say about how helpless or
disadvantaged he or she is.
meet, this sets the scene for a rapid connection, since the one-below bird is in need of
the very things the rescuer is able to provide and is more than willing to express
gratitude and abundant appreciation in return.
The relationship typically moves forward very quickly, driven by the obvious neediness of
the bird, and the over-eagerness of the rescuer to help. It?s beautiful to watch (at
first) but one of the clues to future problems is the absolute absence of any kind of
conflict or anger about even the most irritating things either person does, things that
would normally create an understandable reaction in a healthy relationship.
Meanwhile, behind the curtain ...
But wait, there is much more going on under the surface. Keep in mind that in its heart no
inner self is philanthropic or unselfish enough to make sacrifices on the part of the
person it is protecting unless there is a clear and realistic pay-off that makes the
So what is really going on inside the rescuer? As with all selves its primary mission is
to reduce underlying vulnerability. Let?s say for example that Jim has an underlying
vulnerability about not being worthwhile and many unresolved childhood issues about being
unable to rescue his parents from their pain and wounding or get things to work in his
Like all of us, Jim?s inner child will be looking for opportunities to resolve these old
issues and like most of us, his inner selves, particularly his rescuer self, mistakenly
believe that the only way to do this is by sorting out other people?s problems so well
that they will tell his inner child that he is at last worthwhile and a success as a
As your awareness grows you will discover, or may already have discovered, things don?t
work out this way, but the rescuer self does not have this awareness.
Underlying issues (I forgot to mention that ...)
Meanwhile the bird with the broken wing also has underlying issues that are far from
obvious. Let?s say that the wounded bird whose name is Arial has always been troubled by
feelings of being controlled by others and expresses this by depicting herself as weak,
helpless and damaged as a result of being controlled in this way.
Arial?s one-below wounded bird self also describes her as having lost the power to fly, to
the delight of Jim?s rescuer who knows he can restore her flying self again and thereby
gain the appreciation he is looking for.
He didn?t mention it to Arial but Jim?s rescuer is also troubled by his underlying fear of
being abandoned and has become rather attached to her. The rescuer plans to keep her close
to him forever after she has regained her strength so she can fly around him in circles,
appreciating him every day for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately, this does not fit in with Arial?s long term plans, which her wounded bird
self forgot to mention to Jim when they got together. Since her vulnerability issues are
about being controlled by others, her primary aim is to break free from that control. Once
she can fly again (thanks to Jim?s rescuer) what she really wants to do is to fly faster
and further from control than ever before.
At some time these issues have to surface since the they represent the most important
reasons behind the positive bonding pattern. (Let?s be honest, it?s not really a
?relationship?.) For the selves running each side of the bonding, nothing else is as
It?s at this moment that all the hidden resentment surfaces. Jim will be triggered into
anger if Arial wants to fly away. That will trigger Arial?s anger because she feels he is
trying to control her. Jim will then become even more resentful because now she is failing
to show the appreciation he needs and expected in return for all he has done for her.
Breaking free of the bonding pattern
To get away from Jim?s resurfaced controlling selves, Arial may need to call on some of
her hidden selves, ones who will ultimately create so much conflict between them that Jim
will be the one to end the relationship and tell her to go. Alternatively, once she stops
appreciating him, Jim may become so resentful he will dump Arial and go looking for a new
wounded bird to be rescued so he can start all over again.
The rescuer and the wounded bird is a characteristic codependent relationship in that each
person?s primary self works hard to meet deeply felt needs in the other person. However,
it does this conditionally with a strong but hidden expectation that their gift will be
repaid in the way the giver wants, not the way the other person would like to.
It is not an adult relationship, it is a bonding pattern, and because of its nature cannot
last. While on the surface each seems ideally suited for the other, there is a deep
conflict between the underlying needs of each person.
In this climate there is no room for the essential elements of adult-to-adult linkage to
develop. Instead two primary selves who initially danced rather well together and
complemented each other?s needs, have managed to get together into a bonding pattern which
is doomed to fail.
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