Imago relationship therapy?
Imago is the Latin word for “image“. It refers to an unconscious image about what love is and what love feels like.
You formed your image of what love is in -yes, how could it be otherwise- your childhood. Mostly by the interactions you had with your parents back then. Through these early experiences, you have developed your own understanding of what love is and what you need to do to feel safe and experience love from others. Unconsciously, you base your choice of partner on that image: you look for someone who matches your familiar image of love.
Your early experiences are stored in your old brain and give you signals when you interact with your partner. They influence the meaning you give to your partner’s behavior and they cause you to respond to your partner from old patterns.
You often felt rejected and unimportant as a child because your father or mother worked very hard and had little time for you. You will tend to attract a partner who makes you feel the same way.
Either because you choose a partner with a super busy job who is constantly away and can make relatively little time for you. Either because you yourself give that meaning to situations that feel that way to you, but have a different ‘meaning’.
Suppose: You want to tell something to your partner but he is busy with something completely different and thus reacts somewhat absent-mindedly. You interpret this as if your partner has no time or attention for you, whereas it is rather a ‘mismatch’ in timing.
So you project an image onto your partner and repeat old patterns because they feel familiar.
The ‘problem’ with this is that we often fill in what the other person is ‘saying’ and react to this ‘message’ when this is not what the other person is saying at all. Therefore we feel separated and misunderstood and we come into conflict, when this is not necessary at all.
The Imago dialogue
Imago relationship therapy uses the highly effective tool the ‘imago dialogue’ to both examine your ‘imago’ and secure the connection in the ‘here and now’. Because even though you often react to ‘old hurt’ and the wound did not originate in the relationship at all (barring exceptions), the beauty is that you can heal the wound ín the relationship.
So when, as a child, you were often sent away if you wanted to tell something because your parents had to work, you drew the conclusion that your story is not important (and you are actually not important). Within your relationship, it affects you when your partner doesn’t have time or attention for your story because it (consciously or unconsciously) revives old pain from the past.
Through your emotional reaction to your partner: ‘And you never make time for me either! If I’m not important to you, then go somewhere else!‘ your partner responds uncomprehendingly and annoyed. Which makes you feel even more like you’re not important.
In a dialogue you discover where that intense pain comes from, which helps you to have a better understanding of yourself. And its also allows your partner to feel more compassion for your reaction.
The super-structured framework of the dialogue allows your partner to be receptive to your story and you won’t be “rejected” again, as you are used to. That makes the dialogue a healing experience, allowing old pains to heal in the safety of the relationship.
As the founder of imago relationship therapy Dr. Dr. Harville Hendrix said in his bestseller “Getting the Love You Want“;
“We are born in a relationship, we are wounded in a relationship, and we can be healed in a relationship.”
Learn more about EFT and couples therapy.