See if you can find any parts of yourself in what he’s talking about here…
Dr Hendrix, you’ve said that people in love are masters of projection. So do you think it’s possible for us to ever really see the other person? Or, even in relationship, are we kind of only engaging with ourselves?
I think we do see the other. It certainly doesn’t start there, though.
It starts with a projection onto the other, of both the idealised and the unacknowledged, disowned, de-idealised aspects of yourself, so that romantic love appears to be pretty much an illusion, in terms of knowing who it is that you’re relating to.
Not so long ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr Harville Hendrix, co-founder of Imago Relationship Therapy and internationally renowned bestselling author of “Getting the Love You Want.” In that book, Dr Hendrix writes “We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship.”
According to Imago Relationship Therapy, each of us subconsciously builds an internal ‘imago’ or image of all the most positive and negative traits of our childhood caregivers. This image then forms a kind of template for the type of person we’re romantically drawn to, and who we can potentially find healing with in relationship.
Does that ring any bells for you?
What are your relationships like?
Who have you chosen as your partner/s and why?
And are there any ideas here in this interview extract that could help you bring more richness or healing into your relationship – and maybe help you ‘get the love you want’?
What happens when sadness comes to visit you?
Or anger? Or regret? Or pain?
Do you try to shut the door in their face? Maybe batten down the hatches, or head into your bunker and wait things out, until (you hope) they stop knocking.
It can be easy to want to resist feeling these things when they turn up in your life – after all, they hurt (and who wants that?).
But sometimes resisting them, or denying them, or expending your energy wishing them away can come at a cost of its own. For feeling bad about feeling bad can bring a second order of pain into your life; a whole new level of suffering that’s layered on top of the original hurt.
So what’s another alternative?
It’s winter here in Australia, but the fern in my garden doesn’t care. It’s putting out another new frond, unfurling, unfolding, even though it’s cold and the sun’s not out.
And the thing with these larger ferns is that, if you look closely, it’s as if you can see the whole frond already in there, just wrapped tight and waiting. Waiting for the plant to let go. To uncurl. All the fern has to do is just let itself be itself.
So how does this relate to you?
Well, what if, like the fern, the things you yearn for in your life were already inside you? Just waiting.
Hope turns up in the strangest places sometimes.
And sometimes you really need it to.
At the end of your tether, strung out, sometimes it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to do to make it through even just another day.
Today, I spied a mini-message of hope, stuck onto the bottom of a traffic sign in my neighbourhood, underneath a scrawled texta heart (that’s it in the photo). The whole thing was only a few square centimeters, easy to overlook. And I wasn’t expecting to find it:
“When you’re at the end of your rope,
tie a knot and hang on”
(Surely, this is ‘vandalism’ at it’s best…)
This photo is of my study. See the chair? It’s a brand new (old) one, bought only hours ago from a junk shop down the street.
Though I’ve been doing a bit of a clean-out lately, and didn’t want to buy anything new for a while, I just couldn’t walk past it. For something about it speaks to me of the stuff I love – old, weather-worn stuff that’s lived a full life. And it whispered to me that it could be a great chair to write in.
And that’s the key, really. For I’ve been trying to build a space for more writing in my life. I’m not really sure why, or where it could be headed; I just love doing it, and that’s enough.
So what are you building a space for in your life?
Just a small change can make a big difference.
Once just a “no stopping” traffic sign, the whole message here in the photo has been changed by someone’s sticker. Now it’s all about equality*.
So what does equality mean to you in your life?
What does it actually look like?
And are your relationships places where you feel like that stuff happens?
Just take a moment to ponder:
And what about the longest long-term relationship you’re ever likely to have – the one you share with yourself…?
In the town where I grew up, a giant fig tree perched on a hill overlooking the river below. It was massive; its gnarled roots seemed to be almost woven across the soil, and entering the dense shade it cast felt like walking into velvet. It must have stood there for eons, watching the water and the years flow by. (That’s it in the photo.)
I read a saying today that reminded me of that tree:
“Praise and blame,
gain and loss,
pleasure and sorrow
come and go like the wind.
To be happy,
Rest like a great tree
In the midst of them all.”*
How incredible to think about resting in all of that. Not resisting the turbulence. Not trying to control the weather. Just resting back into whatever happens to be. (And even growing in it.)
Do you think that’s possible?
How do you relate to food?
Do you deny yourself certain things because you feel you ‘should’?
Or splurge without limits?
Do you plan ahead, create gourmet experiences or just go with whatever’s on hand?
Do you tend to graze on autopilot?
Or maybe you eat ‘sensibly’ in public and then binge a bit when you’re alone (possibly with a double-helping of regret as the final course).
The reason I ask is because of an idea that British psychotherapist Tamarisk Saunders-Davies recently explored – that perhaps, as she puts it:
The idea is that maybe there are clues to be found in just about all the patterns and habits you form. That how you eat or dress or drive or spend your money (or don’t) might reveal something much bigger about your approach to life.
What would you make of that if it were true?
What might it tell you about yourself?
(And would you want to do anything about it?)
Why is this photo of a beach scene here, you might wonder. What’s that got to do with addictions?
It’s a good question.
(And the answer is even better).
For at a recent therapy workshop, Australian psychotherapist and addictions specialist Peter Harris noted that in his experience:
“The best solution for any addiction is a rich life.”
It’s pretty profound…
So when he’s working with people who have addictions like gambling, he might suggest running a kind of experiment (in the tradition of Gestalt therapy).
When the craving hits, what happens if you, say, go to the beach instead of going to the poker machines? What happens if you reintroduce elements of nature or other dimensions of your life at that moment? What might it feel like to go in search of something even richer than the craving? What else might you find? (About your life? About yourself?)
So come with me for a virtual stroll along the shore for a moment and let’s find out…