Unconscious Uncoupling and Coupling with our Potential Mates : Ever wondered how we get attracted to our potential partners, how we unconsciously & consciously couple with them and then uncouple? Ever wondered why the same type of people keeping showing up in our life over and over and how to change that?

Soulmates, serendipity and the folklore, that there is this one person, out there waiting for us has been popularized by many romantic movies. Soulmates are like the mythical unicorn, “everyone has heard of one”, but very few has ever seen one.

The most important movie around the soulmate theme, that comes to mind is Serendipity. In this movie  Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale), both in their 20’s, accidentally  meet each other while shopping for Christmas gifts.

Jonathan is instantly drawn to Sara, but Sara has this new-agey belief in destiny, happenstance and serendipity. She believes that if it is meant to happen, the universe will get them back together and it becomes wishful thinking or self fulfilling prophecy towards the end of the movie. In-spite of Jonathan’s reluctance, Sara moves away from her potential soulmate after leaving Jonathan’s number on a $ 5 Bill and her number on the end paper of a book “Love in the Time of Cholera” written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book describes a tale of love where the woman, Femina reads how she is taken ill while standing close to her lover, Florentino as a sign that they should not be together. Then, they circulate the book and the note back into the system taking a “wait and watch” approach.

Jonathan and Sara meet other partners in their life, almost forgetting that they ever met. As the story-line develops, both of them unconsciously and then consciously uncouple with their current partners heeding their inner calling to search for the forgotten dyads. In-spite of frantic search by both, their efforts come up short. Distraught, Jonathan is walking, reading an obituary about himself written by his friend which references the theme of the movie. The obituary reads as below:

Jonathan Trager, prominent television producer for ESPN, died last night from complications of losing his soul mate and his fiancee. He was 35 years old. Soft-spoken and obsessive, Trager never looked the part of a hopeless romantic. But, in the final days of his life, he revealed an unknown side of his psyche. This hidden quasi-Jungian persona surfaced during the Agatha Christie-like pursuit of his long reputed soul mate, a woman whom he only spent a few precious hours with. Sadly, the protracted search ended late Saturday night in complete and utter failure. Yet even in certain defeat, the courageous Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend, Dean Kansky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Jonathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. “Things were clearer for him,” Kansky noted. Ultimately Jonathan concluded that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call “fatum”, what we currently refer to as destiny.

The movie ends with Jonathan and Sara finding each other in the same city where they met, without explaining whether over time they were able to sustain that feeling of infatuation that they felt during the first meeting. I will now build a plausible theory using diverse subjects as to why the prevailing notion of “soulmates” is full of flaws and something else is happening here.

A couple of years back, sitting in an outdoor coffee shop with a clinical psychological friend named Alan, we watched a young kid playing with his pet dog, happy and blissfully unaware of the world around him. His mother came up suddenly, forced the child to abandon the playtime. All hell breaks loose. The kid starts throwing a fit, throws things around, and gets locked into a power struggle with his primary caregiver, i.e., his mother, eventually submitting to the situation while still frowning.

I was avidly studying interactions amongst humans and modeled those initial models into a simple excel based algorithm. I was fascinated and intrigued as to how sophisticated computer models spectacularly failed to model social science interactions due to the inherent complexity in them.

I could immediately fast forward and imagine the kid a few years down the line. In that imaginary future projection, I could see a grown-up adult engaged in a less or more intense brawl (a variant of his original experience) with his better half, re-enacting the same interaction in a new context, resisting, fighting and then frowning over issues.

Psychologists have always known that our childhood schemas re-enact over and over again in new contexts. They, however, view schemas with a therapeutic lens, i.e., how to resolve repressed unpleasant experiences that originate from childhood patterns. They are in the business of alleviating pain and not creating new outcomes. Usually, motivational leaders and life coaches fill this interstitial space. If undesirable schemas negatively impact our lives significantly, I have been obsessed with thinking, how could we re-frame undesirable schemas into desirable schemas to improve our life experiences. Specifically, how can re-framed schemas can create new experiences/contexts with romantic partners and potential mates.

Psychologists go through intensive training to learn how to tap into previous experiences (also called priors) and use language-based therapy or safe-harbor enactment replay, thereby improving or fixing the sub-optimal experiences or priors. The re-framing of these experiences is an inherently slow process, and it takes years of dedicated work to fix the older sub-optimal schemas. Very few of us seek psychological help or have the luxury of professionals helping us with our schemas. Even if we do reach a psychologist, the interactions and interventions are short term mostly used to alleviate serious pain.

Due to the above, our unconscious pattern recognition systems intuitively draw us to similar kinds of partners so that we can heal/re-frame our sub-optimal schemas. We continue to unconsciously search for, unconsciously couple with and in many cases unconsciously uncouple from same old, same old partner themes, repeating the cycles. As explained later in this essay, these cycles are like themes in a movie where the actors have changed, the props are different, but the movie story-line is similar. These themes are called schemas by some psychologists.

As per a research cited in Evolutionary Psychology , approximately half of the adult population experiences difficulties in intimate relationships and spends considerable time being involuntarily single. There are good reasons for this statistics.

How does Mate Recognition work?

Many think that they just meet, recognize, and bond with their potential mates magically driven by fate or destiny as in the movie “Serendipity”. Some believe in soulmates from their past lives. As someone who has spend the last two decades studying the pattern recognition process in humans, I can say with a firm conviction that fate/destiny/past lives driven soulmate search is mythical. There are many permutations combinations of people we can be drawn to that seem like our soulmates, but lot of work is required in a relationship to convert our partners to soulmates.

It is more plausible that something is happening within the same lifespan. Right from birth, the initial environment starts shaping the recognition systems, decision systems, value systems, and preferences of an individual. We are usually not consciously aware that we recognize our potential mates based on a complex combination of early life experiences.

Our past is over-represented in our present, and our future takes cues from our present. In many ways, we are beholden to our past, even if coaches and mentors would make us believe otherwise. Unless one can learn how to search for their perfect soulmate on demand, the automatic pattern recognition takes over running on auto-pilot.  We can find our perfect soulmates if we can juxtapose our best experiences across our lifetime with parents, friends, past romantic partners, and peers and transpose them to new experiences.

I will use the term “unconscious” multiple times in this essay. The “unconscious” used in this essay is also not the the same as “knocked unconscious” i.e. to be in a comatose state, where the mind does not respond to environmental stimuli. This article opts to use the concept of the “unconscious mind,” which responds to stimuli beneath conscious awareness actively and in an adaptive manner automatically. Unconscious processes or responses may or may not enter conscious awareness.To read more, please see this post, “Understanding the Unconscious/Subconscious Mind.

Our unconscious mind is like a sophisticated operating system which runs on worlds best parallel supercomputer made up of more than 100 billion neurons called the brain. As most of the processing occurs below the conscious threshold, we are largely unaware of the computational powerhouse than runs our lives.

The unconscious is a massively parallel, hierarchical, cascading, nesting, and recursively looping psycho-neuro-physiological neural network which works entirely below the threshold of our conscious awareness.

It is plausible that our recognition systems are unconsciously recognizing our potential mates long before we consciously become aware of them. How could such a process work ? We have an operating system (The Unconscious Mind) and a powerful supercomputer (The Brain). In itself, such a system is not sufficient to run our lives. It needs another key functional component i.e memory.

All Recognition Systems require a Memory

It is well established that for any type of recognition to occur, the recognizing systems require a memory. If you have ever scanned your finger or thumb print on a bio-metric system, you know that there has to be a first time your bio-metric fingerprint dataset has to be stored in the system. No stored or existing dataset will lead to null recognition i.e. match not found.

The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Recognition processes in the brain are predominantly unconscious. These processes work at the unconscious level or the intuitive level while we are blissfully unaware of them. As recognition and motor systems (action systems) are intricately connected, once we recognize something familiar or unfamiliar, we move away or towards it unconsciously. This unconscious pull or push occurs incrementally i.e. in short, discrete or continuous steps, again, mostly without our awareness. If we are watching carefully, we may be able to connect the dots forward. It is however, a very hard skill to develop which requires extensive practice and sustained awareness. As Steve Jobs famously stated in his 2015 Stanford convocation address ” You can’t connect the dots looking forward; You can only connect them looking backward“.

The movement towards or away from a person or an event occurs in small unconscious steps i.e individual actions that are inconspicuous and unremarkable making them unworthy of conscious attention. We are usually not aware of these steps except in hindsight. Some people call this unfolding process as synchronicity or co-incidences. I have been able to model & validate this unconscious process in practice using artificial intelligence based “search and planning” sequences. In the field of AI, “search and planning” is the process used by an intelligent agent to reach their goals. As discussed elsewhere, our unconscious mind can compute upto 8 billion search and planning sequences while we sleep and 1/3rd of it while we are awake. I call this process “Unconscious Search (US)” which is always carried out by the sub-personalities in our mind. Imagine, if we could use this powerful function to our benefit in the search of a potential mate ?

Our unconscious mind provides piece by piece recognition awareness using drip feed streaming to our conscious mind, intuitively propelling us towards our potential mates or repelling us away from our coupled mates. The “unconscious recognition” process moves from an automatic search to reflex action type implementation without our conscious awareness. Landmark research by scientist Benjamin Libet has proved that our intuitive or unconscious mind takes a decision within 500 ms before we become aware of it, moving us automatically from unconscious search to unconscious implementation removing the conscious mind from the decision cycle. It is so fast that we do not even realize that our mind has just completed a sophisticated computational process.

The implication of Libet’s research operation of the unconscious mind is enormous as it challenges the fundamental premise of free-will. Pause for a moment and think of what it means. We have given the power of attorney to our unconscious mind very early in life and it runs our life and takes decisions on behalf of us. A sophisticated unconscious system that keeps repeating our previous patterns combined with a processing system that informs the conscious brain with a 500 ms delay traps us into a destiny type cyclic processes. It means that we are not in control of our life, our unconscious mind is effectively running on auto-pilot.

How and when do we form our first memory data set that activates the pattern recognition system ?

Field of Intimacy and First Connection with Primary Caregivers

We form our first intimate connection with our primary caregivers, i.e., mothers and fathers. The first relational contact is between the unconscious of the mother and the unconscious of the infant (J.R. Schore, 2012). Each of us has a personal unconscious memory of these bonds deeply buried in our unconscious mind. Unfortunately, extensive research is pointing to the fact that we have no memory of these early memories and we all suffer from childhood amnesia as during that time, our verbal and semantic brain has not yet developed. Under hypnotherapy settings, we can recall those experiences, but it is not an easy task.

We establish the most pivotal life-defining relationships when we are very young babies and do not consciously remember those memories. .When a child is 0-3 years old, the left brain has not started functioning (is still forming connections), and initial impressions/experiences/relationship experiences get embedded/absorbed as imprints in the right brain, a.k.a the unconscious mind.

On this basis, as rivers that originate from somewhere and pass-through/shape various touchpoints on their ways, our future relationships are shaped by our past relationships most of it was buried deep in our unconscious mind as hard to recall/modify procedural as well as implicit memory database.

These imprints are foundational attachment models that store images of our relational patterns (from a range of attraction to repulsion, control in relationship dynamics) due to our resultant experiences in life. For the rest of our life, we keep intuitively getting drawn to versions of people who validate/match our formative models of imprinted relationships.

These formative data-sets are memories of being loved (or not), of being held in a warm physical embrace (or not), memories of being supported and cared for (or not), of being valued, respected, allowed to express our vulnerability (or not). These experiences are stored in our embodied mind as felt senses (the felt sense of a warm, caring hug) and also as dynamic relational patterns (how things evolve in a space over time). They create a baseline using the first experience of loving, caring, and intimate relationships in the context of parent-child love creating the first field of intimacy we experience as a child.

Mark Banschick, MD, defines the field of intimacy as a real energetic field in which we experience the felt sense of love, bonding, trust, and rush of oxytocin hormones also called love hormones. A felt sense is a bodily sense that we feel in our bodies and contagiously engulfs our intellectual thinking. If you ever felt in love, you have experienced this feeling. The world seems different, beautiful; there is a bounce in our step with a rush of excitement in the air.

It is also easy to see that this exciting feeling of love is short-lived in most of our relationships and evolves into other more routine feelings of conflict, upset, anger, and disappointment as we progress in a relationship. As per Banschick, when we experience the field of intimacy again as we progress through our lives, we can get re-traumatized in this field or get healed. This field has a significant power that triggers and catalyzes the re-enactment of our past lives. Couples can enhance harmony in the field of intimacy while experience love, trust, and bonding over the long-term. They can achieve this by re-framing their interactions in the felt-presence of each other.

Our experiences in the first field of intimacy as children are not always harmonious and perfect. In dysfunctional families where parents are aloof, emotionally, and physically unavailable due to domestic conflict, mental health issues, addiction, abuse poverty, or absence of one parent, children learn dysfunctional patterns.

It is essential to highlight that picture-perfect families with everything seemingly perfect also have significant dysfunction strains. The semblance of normalcy in these picture-perfect perfect families leads to people in these situations, not seeking mental health help. In all the picture-perfect families as well as the dysfunctional ones, parents have the best intentions for the children, but, due to their unresolved issues, project those patterns on to children creating a generational hand-off from one generation to other.

In this formative environment, children learn to cope with the situation by remaining upset, creating vulnerability walls, letting go of our need to be hugged, cuddled, cared for, loved, by being clingy and needy or by using avoidance patterns. Patterns of fear of intimacy, fear of rejection and fear of being abandoned are formed during this very first stage.

The Recognition System & Invariant Representation in Brain

The recognizing systems are recognizing a complex range of attributes, the most significant being our previously-stored relational patterns with others over time (called spatiotemporal interaction patterns or schemas).

If we have always had disharmonious, push-pull relationships with the most important people in your life (parents, siblings, friends. romantic mates, ex-spouses), the recognition system is searching for people who will maintain our relational pattern. If we come across a sweet, harmonious, loving, and caring mate, our unconscious decision-making processes will exclude that person from our search using the search exclusion process. One can break these patterns, but it is very challenging and psychologically discomforting for humans. We would instead move from one painful situation into another one, blissfully unaware that our recognition systems are playing the same tape over and over again.

Our brain uses a process known as invariant representation to store the initial schemas/data-sets and then use them as matching templates. All novel possibilities in the environment (mates who do not fit our schemas) are eliminated from our search scope. Even if we can find these novel possibilities, our unconscious mind will take actions to draw us away from them using “search & planning” sequences.

Invariant representation is a process by which our brain stores a modified and more general version of experiences in our brain and then finds people/situations that are eerily similar at the core level (personality), while allowing the higher level dimensions to change (physical looks, external behaviors, mannerisms, etc). As an example, when one watches a movie with the same theme, the theme is an invariant schema of the movies while the actors and props can change.

Invariant representation is a memory pruning process to conserve memory space. It is a process in which our recognition memory systems retains the most important/distinctive features of our environment while discarding the less important ones. Our brain is always working to match our invariant schemas (general themes in our life) with our external environment. Any amount of conscious effort to control our mental models is largely ineffective and only works for a short period. Eventually the intuitive brain a.k.a unconscious takes over and places us on auto pilot. Due to this process, our unconscious keeps drawing us to proximate versions (same at the core level, i.e., behaviors but different in topmost layers, i.e., mannerisms) of the original templates. These people seem different initially, and we get baited into an intuitive coupling but over time series (the span of relationship), our mates play out their core personalities as the unfolded enfolds.

Unconscious Coupling, Uncoupling with our Soulmates

The terms conscious and unconscious uncoupling became famous during the divorce of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. The Paltrow-Martins announced their split as a conscious uncoupling, not aware that unconscious uncoupling occurs well before conscious uncoupling occurs.

The unconscious uncoupling process leads to a set of intuitive actions that reduce the bonding and intimacy levels between a couple. The conscious awareness of an inner desire to separate is mostly a ruse as it is “after the fact” message that pops into our conscious mind that makes us feel we are in control deluding us that we chose that option. It is a core reason why couples need to keep working on the relationship continuously, if they want to remain unconsciously coupled. In Eastern societies, where divorce used to be considered social stigma and in cases where one partner has low esteem, couples can live under the same roof while being unconsciously coupled. In the modern society, it almost always leads to a separation and/or divorce.

The phrase “conscious uncoupling” was made famous by Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami. Recent neuroscience research contradicts Sadeghi and Sami. Starting with Dr. Benjamin Libet many years ago, has unequivocally proven that the unconscious mind takes a decision to act in a certain way 500 ms to 10 seconds before the conscious mind becomes aware of it. The conscious mind is pretty much irrelevant in the scheme of things in our life.

Paltrow writes in her blog as to “how fantastic” divorce can be, but nothing is further from the truth. While unconscious uncoupling can be a profoundly healing process for some, for the majority of us, the unconscious and conscious coupling is high stress, life-disrupting event. The pattern will repeat itself in due course unless one becomes aware of how they contributed to the unconscious uncoupling process. It takes two hands to clap.

Conscious uncoupling is a decision independent, last mile, automatic, and involuntary process in the relationship dynamics. Unconscious Uncoupling coupling, however, is a system level decision taken by our brain and mind. 

Unconscious coupling does not mean that one will find a better partner next time around. It is more probable that one will feel good in the short term and may accept reality by reducing their expectations from a relationship. For the uncoupling process to be profoundly healing and transforming, one needs to self-reflect and remodel our unconscious schemas.

Intuitive Propulsion, Automatic Search and Intuitive Action

The concept of intuitive propulsion was first highlighted by Carl Jung, the noted Swiss Psychiatrist. Jung said that we experience an automatic and unconscious attraction towards specific events and people in life. He attributed this propulsion or impeller type flow to a person’s soul. Still, computational neuroscience has proven that the answer lies in human neurology, our unconscious search drives, and the prediction function of the human brain. Our brain is continuously unconsciously, searching for affordances (possibilities) and choice, judgment, and action in the environment that validate our beliefs. All affordances that do not endorse our belief system are eliminated from the search space. As discussed elsewhere, the a new theory of predictive coding is fundamentally changing our understanding of the brain and mind.

Coupling, Uncoupling and Log On/Log Off Cycles

Finally, it is time to discuss the log on/log off cycles in the unconscious coupling and uncoupling process.

Unconscious coupling is an iterative process of forming a resonating connection with our potential mate in which a coherent dyad is established and sustained over time. Our intuitive schemas (mental models or imprints) can quickly and automatically pattern recognize the fit(s) -i.e., people meeting our unconscious expectations and then unconsciously impel us into taking intuitive actions into interacting and bonding with them.

When this process starts, the energetic field of intimacy is activated. We feel the excitement, developing significant interest in the other, and the significant other captures a large portion of our mind-share. When this process completes, we are unconsciously coupled with our mates.

The resonant waveform formed in the process commences with a “Log On” process,” which connects and sustains the bonding of dyads (a formation of two people). There has been significant corresponding validation using qEEG testing and the brainwave patterns between two coherently connected mates.

Unconscious uncoupling is the opposite process of coupling by which one gets intuitively repelled away from the perceived unviable mate. Once the patterns have run their time series (span), intensity (amplitude), or both, a process of uncoupling commences. It starts first with the coherent dyad becoming an incoherent dyad first. Eventually, this sets off a “Log Off” process, and the dyad separates. Faulty unconscious uncoupling is also responsible for impelling people away from their so-called “Soul Mates” who have the potential to connect with them on all levels of the connection pyramid discussed below. After the process of unconscious uncoupling has run its course, the final log off happens in full conscious awareness. The final log-off (conscious uncoupling) is the terminal process in the interaction chain progression. The process of uncoupling, however, begins many months or years before the emergence in our conscious.

Attraction Types

We can be drawn to our potential soulmates at multiple dimensional levels. We can be physically, emotionally, intellectually, or intuitively drawn to our partners. We can also move across dimensions as we progress in the relationships. Dimensional connectivity on more one level can lead to more long-lasting relationships. Although couples can progress from the lower levels of connection as they progress in the relationship, top-level connections are more stable than lower-level connections (physical attraction). These levels are progression levels in which couples move through multiple levels of gamification type success and then return back to move to the next level.

During the relationship progression, couples can either connect at multiple dimensions or start unconsciously uncoupling from their partners. Progression from bottom to the top of the pyramid has a higher uncoupling and exit rate. Progression from top to bottom of the pyramid has the lowest uncoupling and exit rate.

The entry and exit points for relationships can be driven by the physical attraction, which is powered by the limbic brain, emotionally drawn, which is powered by the mid-brain or intellectual pull, which is dominated by the neocortex. The most powerful entry point for relationships is the intuitive dimension, which creates a powerful multi-dimensional attraction, but the attraction unfolds over a long period leading to positive surprises in the relationship over time.

Physical attraction (Type 1) lasts for a very short period, followed by emotional attraction (Type 2) which lasts a little longer due to dependence issues but intellectual attraction (Type 3) is relatively stable over longer periods. The most stable dyads, however, are Type 4 and Type 5. Once people move to Type 4 and Type 5, co-dependence patterns shifts over to interdependence which finally changes over to collaboration. The relationship dyads based on collaboration are most stable while those based on dependence (neediness) are most unstable.

Soulmates are “Convergent Dyads” linked with each other at intuitive, emotional, physical and intellectual dimensions become phase-locked (heart-mind/mind-mind/heart-heart) with each other. They experience multiple log-on cycles frequently across all touch-points dimensions a virtual private network (VPN). It is a feeling of being intimately connected with the other at all levels with trust, bonding, sexual, emotional, intellectual intimacy creating absolute intimacy experienced by very few lucky couples.

In summary, it is not that people are drawn to us as life wants to throw a challenge at us. It is also not true that opposites attract and Men are from Mars while women are from Venus. Most definitely, soulmates are not from past lives with whom we had a deep connection.

The Mate Recognition, Coupling, Unconscious Uncoupling, and Conscious Uncoupling process operates in this manner, as our neurology and psychology (by way of our unconscious schemas) are merely repeating our history (in an invariant form). Our brain uses these memory patterns as templates to only match us with those who have a striking familiarity with our past. Breaking away from these generational hand-offs schemas is the real process of maturing and growing up.

Working on relationships together to convert or transform them to a point where deep feeling of bonding, trust, communication and affection is experienced is similar to formation flying by two planes. The pilots have to constantly make adjustments to ensure that they are flying in sync and take evasive action when their fl