Imago Relationship Therapy is the process of giving couples information and even more importantly, teaching them tools to:
- help make the unconscious aspects of their relationship conscious
- address conflict at its roots rather just trying to solve it in a surface way
- be successful in the work of healing and growth
- create emotional safety for each other
- learn how to better meet each other's needs
- transform conflict into opportunities for deeper intimacy and connection
- fulfilment as individuals and as a couple
- learn how to become a source of pleasure instead of pain for your partner
- realise how to make your marriage or partnership a fulfilling, alive, passionate, fun,
- transforming source of increasing wholeness and sacred transformation.
The two most important tools are a form of healing and intentional dialogue and another is using the dialogue process to then help each of you make successful changes in your behaviour that are good for both of you and that lead to healing and growth... and to deeper connection between you.
Imago is the Latin word for 'image'. Several schools of psychology have used the same word in different ways. The way it is used in Imago Relationship Therapy is to describe the unique image of familiar love that each of us develops beginning at birth. It is the image or template of familiar love... how someone who loves us will be with us... both the positive aspects of that love and the negative.
So essentially as human beings, we take in what love feels like, sounds like from our parents and other adults who are significant in our life. Some images of familiar love may include fun-loving and free spirited, emotionally unavailable, preoccupied or stressed, ignoring, or interested and encouraging.
What's also important about this image of familiar love is that as we grow up in our families, we learn very quickly how we need to act and be in order to get love or approval and to feel safe. So we develop what we call survival patterns. A quick example might be for someone who had a smothering parent, their survival pattern might include never getting too close to someone (because they feel like they will disappear, they can't be a separate person, etc.). For someone who had a critical parent, they might learn to survive by becoming a perfectionist, or becoming very rigid about how everything needs to be done and how everyone needs to be to be OK.
While many people have a conscious (and sometimes written) list of what they are looking for in a spouse or partner... tall, handsome, ambitious, responsible, etc., all of us have an unconscious list too... one that is outside of our awareness. We look for someone who has parts of us that we have not developed (or been allowed to express). Our unconscious looks for love that feels familiar enough. It may not be an exact replica of mum and dad, but it is close enough... someone who can be fun, but is also just a little emotionally unavailable… love that can be strong, but also a little critical.
Imago Relationship Therapy was developed primarily by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and his wife, Helen Hunt, M.A. in the 1980's. Licensed therapists are further trained to work with couples and singles using this approach and process and are certified by Imago Relationships International. Workshop presenters and clinical instructors for mental health professionals are also trained and certified by IRI.
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