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Imago Therapy – Making Your Relationship Conscious

I Love You So Big! Blog – Lynne Namka, © 2011-13

“The FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was, or will be. The FREEDOM to say what you feel and think, instead of what you should. The FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of what you ought. The FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission. The FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure” and not rock the boat.” – Virginia Satir

One of the best things you can teach your children is how to be a loving human being. Partners and families sometimes fall out of love. Harville Hendrix gives you guideline on how to get the love back. Remember when you first fell in love with your partner and how the world was so rosy and your partner was simply wonderful? And how you felt deeply connected and understood? Ahh, the joys of the early part of relationship.

conscious relationship, imago therapy, open communication, intentional dialogue

Imago Therapy presents safe ways of relating to each other that helps both partners feel heard and understood by the other and moving toward creating a spiritually conscious union.

What we really want is to be truly understood. And to be really seen by the person we care about. To find someone who can read our minds and meet our needs. To find true love and intimacy that lasts a lifetime. To be loved unconditionally by our partner. To get the “Happy Ever After” promised by fairy tales. We want love especially when we are angry and wounded by our partner.

We want to work through the unfinished childhood agenda with our partner. We want to stay in that euphoric space of new love. But despite our deep longing to be connected with the one we choose to be with, it rarely happens. Most often, when one partner is angry, the other person becomes angry back or shuts down. During conflict, the two partners disconnect from each other. The relationship suffers as people become disillusioned with their partner. The two people may even secretly start to look for exits from the relationship. Common exits are addictions, silence and withdrawal, increased fighting, self blame and depression, anxiety and threatening to leave the relationship.

The main purpose of a committed love relationship is to become a responsible loving adult and complete unresolved childhood issues says Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want–a Guide for Couples and Keeping the Love You Find -a Guide for Singles.  Hendrix’s approach, more than any other current marriage counseling model, helps couples move their union towards a Conscious Relationship.

Hendrix fashioned the name Imago Therapy to illustrate how we fall in love with the image that we put on another person. And we fall in love with those chemicals that the rush of new love brings. You have heard that love is blind? We don’t see the real person, imperfections and all, but we put our illusion of what we expect in a romantic relationship on the other person. Later, when the bloom goes off the romance, we have to deal with what the person is really like.

Imago Therapy teaches major tools of communication and connection to bond people who love each other together. Blaming, criticizing, withdrawing and pouting are the common distancing defenses in relationships. The big challenge for a happy relationship is to stop using these destructive defenses! We can replace these negative defenses with actions that keep us in partnership even when times get rough.

“We all got wounded in relationship as children with our parents and siblings,” Bonnie Brinkman, Imago Therapist, explains. “The healing can only come in relationship. We need our partners for this. The old mom and dad stuff becomes the template for selecting a partner. We choose people to be in relationship with that represents the best and worst of our parents. The psyche holds an unconscious agenda to select the right person who can help us heal. Hendrix says that our partner, with all of their frustration about us has the blueprint for our healing.”

The heart of Imago Therapy is to use the relationship to mend the pain of being hurt and disappointed in childhood. Brinkman continues, “We are the walking wounded. Our partner holds the blueprint for our healing and growth. The elegance of this process is that we heart flutter over only a few people in the entire world. We fall in like with some of them and then find a person to fall in love with and hook up with. We unconsciously pick the perfect partner to help us do the growing up work. God, the Universe, Fate or whatever you call it helps us zero in on that perfect partner who will push our buttons so we can get on with our work. There are no accidents why we get together with the person we choose out of all the millions of potential partners. The one we choose is someone who is familiar to us–we have met aspects of them before in our mother and father. That sets the stage for doing the work of growing past our present defenses.”

In the Power Struggle stage of relationships, the partners become stuck in trying to tell the other what to do and gathering data to make the other person wrong, at least in their own eyes. Conflict sends grownups, back into the defenses of their little child. There can be wounding if each person knows the trigger points of the other and goes for them pulling forth the defenses they learned as a child. In power struggles, nobody wins. But as the saying goes from A Course in Miracles, “Would you rather be right or happy?”

According to Brinkman, there are four options that happen in relationships where there are unresolved power struggles

1.  Adios! Start the cycle over. Find someone new with whom to move through chemical soup into power struggles.

2.  Have a silent divorce. Stay together for religious or financial reasons or fear of being alone and become roommates with passion for life atrophying.

3.  Become the Bickersons and fight over everything, constantly injuring each other emotionally.

4.  Start to cooperate with the unconscious agenda and use the volatile situations for growth. Learn techniques to stay connected during conflict and practice reconnection. This is the “becoming a grownup stage” called The Reality Love Stage.

Making Your Relationship Conscious

The next stage is The Reality Love Stage of relationship where we are presented with many challenging opportunities to use each other to put the childhood pain to rest. Like everything we have a fight – there is another growth opportunity. But of course, it is an opportunity only if we choose to make it one. Some couples never reach this stage, switching partners when fighting get too toxic.

A new set of relationship skills and tools are needed to get the Reality Love Stage. Moving past the Power Struggle stage, the couple begins to realize that not only is their job to grow up but their other job is to help their partner grow up.  Imago Therapy presents safe ways of relating to each other that helps both partners feel heard and understood by the other.  It provides a process to travel the path of creating a spiritually conscious union.

Intentional Dialogue – A Way to Keep Connected During Arguments

Intentional Dialogue gives you a process of obtaining The Five Freedoms and the ability to have intimacy that Virginia Satir, pioneer in family therapy talked about. What creates intimacy? What we really want is to be heard and feel safe with our partner. Hendrix’s technique of Intentional Dialogue is a way of relating to your partner when he or she is upset by something that you did. It is a process that keeps the contact going even in times of feeling threat and stress – IT KEEPS THE COUPLE CONNECTED EVEN WHEN THEY DISAGREE! Intentional Dialogue gives the partner the love and attention they need when they most need it.

Sound good? Well you can get it! You and your partner can find the Happy Ever After, after all. That is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children – parents who work together to keep the kindness and love going in their relationship.

But – it takes learning a process of active listening and hard work. It takes resolution from both partners to do Intentional Dialogue when friction starts to build up. It takes being able to be vulnerable and stomach some uncomfortable feelings. It takes you out of your comfort zone into really being REAL!  Ouch! It requires listening and talking from the open heart; now that is scary stuff. The payoff is that you and your partner become a team actively working though the rough spots in your relationship. It makes you conscious in your relationship. You can actually feel closer with your partner after an argument when you stick to the dialogue.

And the technique works in all relationships, not only in romantic relationships. It even works with adolescents! I highly recommend Hendrix and his wife, Helen Hunt’s book on parenting, Giving the Love That Heals.

Want more ideas to help create a healthy, happy family? I carry on my teacher, Virginia Satir’s ideas on creating functional families. Go to my web site and scroll down to the articles listed under COUPLES. You will find the latest research on how to achieve happiness in your relationship which is then passed down to security and self-esteem in your children.

 The Perfect Gift for Children in Your Life

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 The Mad Family Get Their Mads Out 

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