Posts Tagged ‘Harville Hendrix’

Interview with Imago Founders

May 22, 2013

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, co-founders of Imago Relationship Therapy, were recently interviewed by Carol Donahoe, Rhinebeck program director at the Omega Institute, about why couples fight and how to replace negativity in a relationship with curiosity.

Carol: How did you come to create Imago Relationship Therapy together? Did it happen because of your relationship or along with it?

Helen: On one of our first dates, Harville told me he wanted to write a book about why couples fight. He was exploring why couples who are drawn together and think they’re in love end up being each other’s worst enemies. We were both divorced, and I was mesmerized by the idea. The answer to this question is so important and significant for our well-being.

Harville: This was in 1977, and over the next couple of years I continued to do research and process my ideas with Helen. She has a background in psychology, so she was a great partner. I don’t think there was ever a decision to “do this together,” it just emerged out of our relationship. In 1979 we named it Imago Relationship Therapy, in 1982 we got married, and in 1988 Getting the Love You Want came out. Helen was busy working in the women’s movement and stewarding our family when I was away, but she was always part of Imago. Sometimes I’m not sure who came up with an idea. I will think it’s me and Helen will think it’s her and then we can know it probably came up in a conversation.

Helen: I was very happy not being overtly involved, but I’ve always feel like a partner.

Harville: Yes, it would have never happened without Helen and our conversations.

Carol: So why do couples fight?

Harville: When two people meet and fall in love, they idealize each other. They see each other as the person who will meet their needs. At first it seems true—people do all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally do because they’re trying to bond with someone, and we each end up with the impression that the other person is perfect and they’re going to do all we want them to do. But once a commitment is made—this often happens after a wedding—there is a desire to reclaim ourselves, to find some differentiation from the merger that happened during courtship, and we begin to act more like our true self. For example, when we’re dating, if you say vanilla is your favorite ice cream, I might eat vanilla ice cream, too, just to bond with you. But then we get married and you find out chocolate is really my favorite flavor and you wonder where the guy who liked vanilla went. It seems to you that I’m not the person you married, that I’m behaving differently or strangely, and you want that idealized person back, the one who was meeting all your needs.

Carol: Meanwhile, the same thing is happening with the other partner, right?

Harville: That’s right. Both parties are feeling disillusioned and entitled. Both people are trying to recover themselves and neither person wants the other to do that. Couples realize at that point that true intimacy is harder than they thought it might be, and the fear of this is what makes them fight.

Carol: This is the moment, then, that there is an opportunity for a couple to have a conscious relationship?

Helen: Yes. First, both partners have to realize that they each have wounds from childhood and that one of the purposes of marriage is to finish those childhood issues. We didn’t get our needs met by our original caretakers, and now is our chance to heal that. Second, it’s important to realize that incompatibility is grounds for marriage. Most people believe if you’re struggling in your marriage you’re married to the wrong person. We are convinced that if there is struggle, growth is trying to happen and it’s the perfect opportunity for a conscious relationship. At that point, both people need to move beyond the negativity and shift their focus from themselves to the space between. Couples experience a shift when they move from their own need for gratification and embrace the well being of their partner and the whole relationship. At that point a whole psycho-spiritual transformation begins to take place.

Carol: Imago has helped millions of people, but it also helped your relationship as well. How did you come to experience your own work?

Helen: We struggled a lot in our marriage, especially when the fame came. We probably would have limped along with a so-so marriage because neither of us is a perfectionist, but we realized there was a split between how others expected us to be and how we were at home.

Harville: You were great; it was me that was the problem.

Helen: Yes, I probably thought it was you but I had to learn it was me, too. So we used Imago therapy and through that process discovered another piece that transformed our relationship: we agreed to absolutely no negativity. It became the number one rule. It’s hard, but surprisingly transformative.

Carol: What if something seems negative to one person but not the other?

Helen: If your partner thinks it’s negative, then it’s negative. Harville and I were both raised in a culture that values critical thinking. We were both schooled to look at what’s not there, to be critical. It was a good quality to have. But in a relationship it can destroy any sense of safety.

Harville: You can’t have a great relationship unless it’s emotionally safe; it has to be predictable and reliable. You need to be able to count on the fact that when you’re around your partner you’re not going to get hurt or be criticized, put down, or shut out. When we first agreed to no negativity we though we needed to replace it with positivity. But that didn’t work. In the end, we replaced it with curiosity. If you’re curious about the other then it becomes exciting to learn about them and their inner world and when they open up you are able to be empathetic and they feel safe. Safety is essential to being able to connect, and when you’re connected you are joyful to be alive.

Carol: Helen, let’s say Harville did something that really annoyed you. How do you deal with it if you don’t want to be negative?

Helen: You use what we call in Imago “sender responsibility.” You figure out how to communicate what you’re feeling from your higher brain, from the highest degree of functioning, so there is a greater likelihood your partner will hear it. Use “I” language rather than “you.” Be selective with how much you bring up so you don’t flood your partner. Speak in a calm tone to increase the chances that your partner will hear you and respond positively.

Carol: Imago has been around for several decades now and has made a difference in many, many lives. Omega is interested in how individual transformation in turn changes society for the better. Have you seen this with Imago?

Harville: Yes, we have, and we’re working on an exciting project to bring Imago to an even wider audience. We are stripping out the part of Imago that can be used to educate the public on how to be in a committed partnerships or marriage. We’re working with a group of relational experts—John Gottman , Dan Siegel, Michele Weiner-Davis, Ellyn Bader, and Marion Soloman—to launch a global wellness movement that focuses on all relationships. Our first initiative is Project Dallas, where over the next few years we’ll bring this technique to the general public using social media, traditional media, and trainings. The goal is to saturate the environment with the idea that healthy relationships make for a healthy society. We’ll be filming what we do and will ultimately turn it into a documenatary.

Helen: The idea behind this was that if you want a driver’s license, you have to take a course and pass a test. If you want a broker’s license you have to take a course and pass a test. Bu if you want a marriage license you simply have to pay a small fee, yet marriage is one of the most important commitments you will ever make in your life. We think most couples wait too long to get help so we want to bring the simple practices of a conscious partnership into the mainstream so people know how to be in a marriage before they enter one. We believe we have the technology to end divorce if people can learn these principles of communication.

Harville: Yes, and Helen doesn’t mean just she and I think we can end divorce. All our partners in this endeavor feel the same. The point is there are a lot of couples who don’t need therapy. But there isn’t anyone that doesn’t need relationship education. Maybe 10-20% of the population had a happy enough childhood not to have a problematic marriage. But that means 80% of us are great candidates for relationship education. We’re going global with this and we think it’s going to change everything.

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Imago featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network

November 6, 2011

Last week Harville and Imago Therapy were featured on Oprah Winfrey’s new OWN series Oprah’s Lifeclass.  Lesson #18 topic was “Do Your Eyes Light Up When Your Child Walks in the Room?” and the subject of the class is one of Oprah’s favorite topics: how everyone just wants to be appreciated or validated.

As described on Oprah.com

For Oprah, Harville Hendrix was the best teacher of validation. Harville developed the Imago Theory, which is that you end up imaging in your adult relationship what you most need to heal from, whether physical or emotional wounds, received in childhood at the hands of your parents or caregivers. In 2006, Harville facilitated an Imago therapy session for Louie, who was abused as a child and was verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his wife.

View the clip on Oprah.com.

Ten Steps to Happiness

September 13, 2011

Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix  were in new Zealand in February 2011 and the local paper  (New Zealand Herald)  interviewed them…

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix a  few tips to ensure a lasting, happy relationship, are to: accept differences, not criticize and give and receive unconditionally.

The man whose been dubbed “Oprah’s Marriage Whisperer” says, “We all want a happy relationship. Few of us have one. I personally know of only a few couples who are genuinely happy, and their satisfaction with their relationship is a result of many years of hard work.”

“That is the magic word: work. That is what a happy relationship requires, but it is a very unpopular word.”

Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt have developed 10 simple steps for couples to help in the journey to a relationship of their dreams. The pair has spent the past 30 years helping thousands of couples learn how to recapture that magical connection and strengthen and sustain it for a lasting and loving relationship. In the process they co-created Imago Relationship Therapy, which is practiced by more than 2000 therapists in 30 countries.

Imago first came to public attention through the New York Times best seller, Getting the Love You Want, co-written by Hendrix and his wife LaKelly Hunt (a famous philanthropist in her own right).

HE SAYS

Absolutely no criticism! All criticism, even “constructive criticism” not only fails to get us what we want but it’s a form of self-abuse since the traits we criticize in our partners are often projections of unpleasant truths about ourselves.

Instead of criticizing, explore why a particular trait in your partner bothers you so much. For example, perhaps him wanting “too much sex” is really about your own sexual inhibitions.

Accept that your partner is not you  We all understand – at least on the surface – that our partner is a separate human being. But deep down we often see and treat him/her as extensions of ourselves. Practice seeing and accepting your partner as someone with different perceptions, feelings, and experiences that are equally valid as your own.

Close all exits  Identify activities that you engage in that become an escape from the day-to-day intimacy of the partnership (any activity, thought, or feeling that decreases or avoids emotional or physical involvement with your partner). Exits can be functional (car-pooling, work, taking care of kids), motivated (watching TV, reading, sports, hobbies), and/or catastrophic (emotional or physical affairs, addictions). All exits, however, deplete the emotional reserves in a partnership.

Use “I” language Own your experience by saying how you feel rather than blaming your partner. For example, “I feel bad when …” rather than “You make me feel bad when …”

Give and receive unconditionally Offer gifts with no strings attached. The unconscious receives only unconditional gifts. It does not accept a “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours” attitude. Similarly, learn to accept gifts. Often we feel unworthy of receiving compliments from our partner and reject it. Instead of saying, “You don’t really mean that I’m beautiful/handsome/smart,” say “Thank you. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.”

SHE SAYS

Put play on your priority list Make a list of high-energy activities you would like to do for fun with your partner. Write down as many ideas as you can think of that you are currently doing, that you did in the early stages of your relationship and activities you would like to engage in. They should be activities that create deep laughter and/or that involve physical movement and deep breathing. Make a commitment to enjoy a playful activity at least once a week.

Amplify the positive resources in your relationship Flood your partner with compliments. On a regular basis, tell your partner what you love about him or her. Talk about his/her physical characteristics (“I love your eyes”), character traits (“You are really intelligent”), behaviours (“I love that you make coffee every morning for me”), global affirmations (“I am so happy I married you”).

Learn couple’s dialogue The most important and challenging step to becoming a conscious partner is changing the way you communicate. Imago Dialogue uses three basic techniques – mirroring, validating, and empathizing – to fortify the connection between partners. Check to make sure you understand what your partner is saying (mirroring), indicate that what your partner says makes sense, even if you don’t agree (validating) and recognize the partner’s feelings when s/he tells a story or expresses an opinion (empathizing).

Make dialogue a way of life Dialogue will not only improve the way you communicate with your partner, it will improve the relations with your children, and with everyone you come in contact with. Practice dialogue until it becomes a habit and a way of life.

See your relationship as a journey A committed partnership can become someone’s worst nightmare, but through intentionality and commitment, a marriage can also be a spiritual journey. If you married because you chose to marry, you are with the right person – especially if you feel incompatible. See your partner as the person who holds the blueprint for your journey to wholeness.

Celebrating 25 years of Harville Hendrix on the Oprah Winfrey Show

September 1, 2011

This post has been kindly shared by Imago Relationships International.

Oprah Winfrey just released a special commemorative issue of her magazine to celebrate 25 years of the Oprah TV show, and Imago founder Harville Hendrix was featured as her #2 “Aha” moment.

(You can buy it at the newstands or through this link)

Oprah writes about how she saw her relationships in a completely new light after the 1988 TV show, when Harville taught that “you’re unconsciously drawn to your partner, because that person can heal your old unresolved wounds.”  Oprah saw that a relationship is more than a romance.  It’s a Spiritual Partnership, about growth and healing.

In 2005 Harville was dubbed “The Marriage Whisperer” in an Oprah magazine article, in which he is quoted as saying  ”For most couples, the romantic interlude of a new relationship leads to an inevitable truth,  a slow discovery of the other as ‘not the person I thought he was.’  The breaking of that illusion is one of the most shocking and terrifying experiences of married life.”   Harville explains  “In this power struggle, partners move from courtship into coercion, trying to get each other to surrender their otherness.”

Fortunately the relationship needn’t end in that power struggle.  Harville and his partner Helen LaKelly Hunt developed Imago to help couples move into a stage of romance they call simply “true love”. In a 2001 Oprah article, Harville explains how to use the Imago dialogue approach of mirroring, validating and empathising to work through the power struggle, and restore connection. Maybe that is why Oprah has occasionally let slip on TV that Harville is among her favorite couples therapists.  Imago not only makes relationships clear and easy to understand, it provides couples with practical solutions that they can apply too.  You can find some great information about Imago on the Oprah site, with practical guides on how to restore the romance to your relationship.

Harville’s message has had such a powerful influence on Oprah that in the intervening years she has invited him back to her show 17 times. In May 2011 when she reviewed her 25 greatest lessons from the show, Oprah described a 1993 show which changed her relationship with her partner Stedman, and attributed the survival of their relationship to Harville’s insights.

The Oprah magazine has brought some of Harville and Helen’s newer work to the public attention too, such as their work together on Receiving Love. In a touching personal article for the magazine, Helen shares her “Aha” moment when she and Harville were also struggling in their relationship, and discovering together just how hard many couples find it to actually let love into their hearts and overcome the resistance that often stems from deep rooted self-hatred.

“The common wisdom,” Harville and Helen write, “is that romantic relationships would stay happy if people did a better job of giving to each other. But that’s not what we’ve discovered. We’ve found that many people need to do a better job of receiving the gifts their partners are already offering.”

With 25 years of Imago on the Oprah show to celebrate, there’s new discoveries still emerging from Harville, Helen and the thousand or more professional therapists they have trained around the world.

Imago Relationships International congratulates Oprah Winfrey on 25 years of her show, and appreciates all that she has done to bring deeper connection to many couples, and thereby help bring peace to the world.