I now recognize, after observing painful patterns repeat many times, how things that trigger me are just lessons I need to learn that are often delivered through other people. The more painful the experience, the more I can see (in retrospect) I learned from it.

Every now and then, when I find myself getting sucked into thoughts about the rightness or wrongness of a situation and how much pain it’s causing me, I take a step backward. I can see that people are just the mechanism to my growth, and painful experiences are just big Wrong Way signs redirecting me to my best life.

In his book Scattered Minds, Dr. Gabor Maté wrote, “It is well recognized now that people will form relationships with others exactly at the same level of psychological development and self-acceptance as their own… What we might call the law of equal development holds true even if the people themselves buy into the mythology that one of them is more emotionally mature than the other.”

I love this insight from Dr Maté, especially when he goes on to give a typical example of a married couple with one spouse that appears to be functioning in the world more successfully than the other. When the relationship is examined more closely it can usually be seen that both people have a lot of maturing to do in order to be able to function healthily as individuals rather than in a codependent state.

It’s no coincidence that we form relationships with people who trigger us. We are drawn to people who are, in some way, a match to our own issues, and they both challenge us and help us heal and grow.