Posts Tagged ‘Imago Therapy’

Tennis Balls and Gifts

July 11, 2013

This post is by Tony Victor, Imago Faculty, and re-posted here with permission.


Here is an Imago Dialogue Riddle:  What is the difference between a tennis ball and a gift?  Well, when a tennis ball is served up to you, you are expected to put your own spin on the ball and send it right back over the net.  In fact your tennis partner expects you to try to return in such a way as to make it very difficult for her to receive it. However, if you partner does receive it be fully ready to have him put a new spin on it and send it back to you even more tenaciously than the first time he served it up to you.

A gift is just the opposite:  When a gift is served up to you, you are expected to receive it with gratitude and amazement, to admire the beautiful wrapping and the bow so delicately tied.  To, with wonder and awe, graciously unwrap it.  Just receive it — No putting your own spin on it — No sending it back.  Just receive it.

In part, Imago Dialogue is about receiving what your partner has to offer you.  The words your partner speaks are a precious gift–an opening into his heart.  When your partner speaks treat her words as precious gifts to be held, taken in, and cherished.

Even if those words are a bit painful.  Resist the urge to treat them like a tennis ball being served up to you — putting your own spin on them, and sending them right back.  Treating even painful words as a gift is the surest way to sooth the hurt for you and your partner.

This is especially important when the words are an affirmation.  Recently a couple who were making wonderful progress from their initial session began their session with her smiling, looking intently at him and saying “I love you.”  Immediately he responded “I love you too.”  This was an amazing moment of transformation for this couple.  Just a few weeks earlier they were ready to divorce and started counseling as a last ditch effort to avoid the lawyers.

I celebrated the moment with them.  Then I asked permission to try something a little different.  They agreed, I asked her to start again she looked at him and said “I love you.”  Before he had a chance to respond, I quickly asked him to just breath in the gift of her words.  Just take it in as you breath in.  Then mirror back, he said, “You love me.”  As he did his eyes welled up with tears and I knew that he was letting his defenses down.  This time he was accepting the gift not just returning the serve.  I used the above  riddle to help both partners understand this concept and how Imago dialogue is about gift giving rather than a tennis match.

While the rapid fire back and forth “I love you’s” was a wonderful step in a good direction, the pattern of communication more resembled a tennis match than a gift exchange.  As Imago therapists, I believe our role is to coach our couples to see their partners as serving up gifts not tennis balls to each other.

Tony Victor, D.Min., Imago Faculty Candidate, Certified Imago Consultant, and Certified Imago Workshop Presenter is available for Consultation either in person or via Skype or Facetime.  Dr. Victor has been in private practice for over 25 years.  He currently is the Owner and Director of a thriving group practice, The Midwest Relationship Center, LLC, located in Swansea, IL, just outside of St. Louis, MO.  If you would like to comment on this article or inquire about consultation, you can contact Dr. Victor by email drtony@themidwestrelationshipcenter.com or by calling 618-516-3338.

Dare y’a:

At the soonest possible moment, tell your partner you want to give her/him a gift and that s/he shouldn’t do anything except breathe it in for a few seconds….and then say “I love you” while gazing into their eyes.

Advertisements

Are You Getting the Love You Want?

June 20, 2012

Re-posted from Your Tango and written by Tammy Nelson, author of  Getting the Sex You Want.

You choose the person you are with for a reason, never by accident. Why do they drive you so crazy?

The bestselling book, “Getting the Love You Want” written by Harville Hendrix, teaches couples a powerful form of healing that Hendrix calls Imago Relationship Therapy. This theory says that we never choose our partner by accident.

Our mate, for good or bad, helps us to heal from our childhood wounds, helps us to grow as a person and if we let them, becomes the one person ideally suited to propel us into adulthood. Attraction to a mate is based on our almost totally unconscious capacity to choose a partner who brings out the parts of us that are the most vulnerable and sensitive, and frankly, those we are the most blind to. The person we choose as a partner is ideally suited to help us find those places within us that need healing.

I can tell you that it is no mistake that we are with the person we have chosen, even though on certain days it can feel like we have made the biggest mistakes of our lives. Our partner helps us to find those places within that need love and tenderness. And we choose the perfect person to help us get that love that we need. We choose our mate because they help us finish off the unfinished business of our childhood. If we can make this person love us in the way we have always needed to be loved, then we imagine that finally, we will feel whole, cherished and adored in the way we have always longed to feel.

As adults, we want to feel like the most important person to that one special person. Sort of like we did when we were children and had that unique, exalted place with a mother. As adults, we assume that our spouse should love us unconditionally, like our mother or father did in the past (or like we wanted them to).

Yet, marriage and committed partnership is not unconditional. There are conditions to marriage. And although we promise to love each other regardless of our foibles and limitations, those frustrations become a power struggle almost from the moment the honeymoon ends.

And yet it is those very frustrations of a serious committed partnership that hold the key to our own growth. The things that your partner finds annoying about you may actually be the things in you that need changing. (I know, this is not what you want to hear. It is so much easier to blame them for their faults) Perhaps your partner sees in you the things that you need to change in order to grow into your highest and most developed self, and in the best of all worlds, in their most loving and gentle way, they place that gift in front of you in order for you to grow as a person.

However, in reality, most of us don’t present the gift well. We yell and scream and with our own frustrations and abandonment fears we demand that our partner change in order for us to be happy. And we all know how well that works.

And yet, we know somewhere deep down, that we chose this person because they hold the key to our emotional and developmental growth. We took on this relationship challenge because they are the perfect person to help us grow into our highest selves. But we still get really mad when they confront us with the truth – that we need to change parts of ourselves in order to grow into who we need to be – because we know somewhere deep down that they are right.  And it is painful and annoying to know that we really do have to change something in ourselves.

You choose the person you are with for a reason, never by accident. Why do they drive you so crazy?

It’s easier to think that they are the problem. Sometimes it’s just easier to fantasize about trading them in for someone else; maybe someone who won’t demand that we change, someone who will accept us for who we are, who will love us unconditionally like our moms and dads did. Ultimately, if we are honest with ourselves, somewhere deep down, we know that this is not the goal of a committed partnership.

Relationships are the key to healing. If we try, we can make each other feel cherished and adored. We can get the love that we want and we can give each other what we need and help each other to grow.

Using some of these basic theories of Imago therapy you can learn how to make your relationship more rewarding and find a new intimacy in your relationship.

But no one ever said it was going to be easy. Growing up never is.

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.

Getting Your Sex Life Back In Gear

July 25, 2011

IMAGO Director, Tim Atkinson interviews YourTango.com Expert & Sexologist, Tammy Nelson for her thoughts.

Is it just a natural part of getting older together that our sex life is going the way of the Dodo?” asked Brenda and Simon. “We really care for each other, but on the rare times it happens, sex is pretty dull.

Tammy Nelson made quite a stir in 2008 with her book Getting the Sex You Want in which she applied Imago Relationship Therapy to restoring the love lives of couples like Simon and Brenda. “Sometimes couples wonder if their marriage is simply past its expiration date” she told me. “They are asking whether it’s time to trade in their partner for a new model.

Simon doesn’t want to be unfaithful, but makes up for lack of action in the bedroom with internet porn. That leaves Brenda worrying that it might not just be the sex that’s wrong, but that the whole relationship is fading away. “We don’t even really know how to talk about it” they shared with Tammy.

Not knowing how to talk about sex is extremely common in relationships, and Tammy’s response is to use Imago Relationship Therapy to get Brenda and Simon talking about the deeper things that really matter.

Step 1 – Talk about what it is you are missing in a positive way

Shortly before my last marriage ended, my wife would say to me things like “get some help with your sex technique.” Other days she might complain, “You don’t find me attractive anymore.” From Tammy I learned that these comments are painfully common, and are just as effective as saying nothing and silently seething. Instead, it’s important to find a way to share your concerns in a positive way. “I’m feeling distant from you” might be one way, or “I’m missing those wonderful times we had together.”

Step 2 – Talk about what sex means to you

“Usually at least one partner feels guilty and anxious about the lack of sex” explained Tammy “So it’s helpful to start connecting around sex in a way that looks at the deeper needs, rather than the physical details.” Tammy coached Simon and Brenda in a way of talking called the Imago Dialogue. She would ask each partner to share what sex means for them. One might say “Sex for me is about being emotionally connected”, and then the other would mirror that back, repeating what they heard. The mirroring process helps build connection, because each partner feels really heard. Mirroring becomes more important the deeper the conversations go.

Step 3 – Appreciate your partner

When couples talk about what is going wrong, things go more wrong. For example, men tend to avoid sex altogether if there is any suggestion of dysfunction. It’s easy in these conversations to shift the blame on other things, like too much stress at work. Soon discussions about sex get blocked, waiting for the external world to change. And it rarely does.

Instead, turn the conversation around. Tell your partner “One thing I really appreciate about you sexually is…” This will be even more effective if you can both use the mirroring process described in step 2. You can add “One thing I really like about our sex life is…”

Tammy encouraged Simon and Brenda to talk more about the whole sexual experience. “It’s not all about the finish line” she says “but finding the delight in each moment couples share together.”

Step 4 – The weekly sex date

I was quite taken aback when Tammy told me that her advice for a couple wanting to resuscitate their sex-life is to set aside a regular time for sex. “Same time, same day of the week, whether you feel like it or not.” she prescribed. “Even if you are angry or tired!”

I always thought that sex should be spontaneous, but Tammy changed that. “Marking a regular date in the calendar sets up some anticipation, and helps couples begin to look forward to it. Simon and Brenda were resistant, but willing to at least try it. They found, like many, it worked well for them for a few weeks, and started to get the sizzle back.” She explained.

But after about six weeks many couples hit a wall. That’s when it might be time for some good “nuts and bolts” type conversations about what happens in the bedroom, and maybe get a little specialist advice.

Step 5 – Get exciting

Now is the time to start using the Imago Dialogue to explore more about what you really want sexually. Stay in the positive, telling your partner “Something sexual I enjoyed in the past…” and then expand into what you would like more of in the future.

At this stage Tammy starts coaching couples to share fantasies. “These aren’t necessarily things that couples are really going to do” explains Tammy “it’s more important for their partner to understand what these fantasies mean to their partner emotionally.” Tammy calls it sexual empathy.

One example may be a partner who wants to be blindfolded, but her partner didn’t want to do this because he felt it was degrading to her. Through Imago Dialogue he learned that his partner felt that being blindfolded would free her from insecurity about her body, and enable her to be more fully engage in pure sensation. It became a new point of connection.

Tammy’s work is deeply rooted in Imago Relationship Therapy, where creating deeper connection is all important. She believes that eroticism is an important part of that connection, bringing a fresh energy into the relationship. As sex becomes a world of new adventure and discovery, Brenda and Simon can fall deeper in love than ever before.