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’?
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?
They sound like pretty dull words.
And it seems we know best what they mean when things go wrong with them. We hear general statements about what mental health ‘should’ (or ‘shouldn’t’) look like for everyone. So it often seems like a kind of one-size-fits-all expression.
But if you dig a little deeper beneath their surface, buried within these two words lie all manner of riches. And there’s meaning to be found here that’s for you alone.
So grab your shovel and come dig with me for a moment.
If you believed all the red and pink gift cards in the shops, you’d think Mother’s Day was (only and always) a day of joy and gratitude. Of celebration. Of unrelenting happiness.
And maybe for some, it is.
But for many of us, there’s also other undercurrents to a day like this…
If your mother has died (as this heartfelt blogger shares).
Or if you’re yearning to become a mother, yourself, but haven’t been able to.
Or if you’ve lost a child, through death or disappearance or distance.
Or if your relationship with your mother hurts just to think about.
How do you get through a day like this?
I took this photo many years ago, in Germany, where the woodpiles are stacked high in preparation for long, cold winters.
This particular scene was in a forest, with the cut, dead wood being framed by the living. It reminded me of a powerful saying:
When the axe came into the forest,
the trees said,
‘The handle is one of us’.
It’s pretty chilling…
And it seems to outline the dangers of putting loyalty before safety; putting the relationship before the self.
Have you ever done that?
Is it possible you might be doing it now?
Maybe even in small ways that just chip quietly away at you.
That slowly whittle you away…
There’s an old broken piano keyboard in someone’s pile of junk out in my street, waiting for the garbage truck. Most of the keys are bent and some have broken off. It’s looking pretty forlorn…
Have you ever felt a bit like that sometimes?
Like some of your keys have gone missing somehow.
Or some of your strings have been busted.
Or you’re just generally out-of-tune; neglected; broken.
Maybe at times like those it’s been tempting to just give up and wait for the truck…
But maybe there’s another option, too?
I picked this leaf up off the ground the other day. Uncannily heart-shaped. Fallen. And though it’s clearly seen some damage in its time, and has even worn through in some places, it has a beauty and a fragility all of its own. Something that no verdant (‘perfect’) green leaf could emulate…
It’s an interesting thing to reflect on in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day; a time when so many big glossy red hearts burst boldly from card shops and florists. When the spotlight’s on rich romantic love and the hearts in the throes of it. When there might seem to be less space for those hearts that feel a bit worn through; a bit damaged…
So what condition is your heart in at the moment?
This photo is of a tiny bit of street art at the train station – it’s only a couple of centimeters long. And you had to be quick to read its message, because it was painted over the very next day.
But what a message it was:
“can’t live without a baseline”
…written beneath a line of electrocardiogram-style heartbeats
and a heart…
So what’s your heart’s bottom line or baseline when it comes to relationships?
With your partner, your friendships, your family ties.
What’s the minimum you need to feel nourished or supported or connected or loved?
(And have you ever really thought about it deliberately before?)
What might the signs be that things aren’t working so well, or that they’re becoming damaging in some way?
And what can you do if it’s already drifted beyond that?
These two hearts were drawn together on the pavement near where I work; one with cobwebs, one without. They’re just a couple of children’s chalk drawings – yet, they’re also food for thought. And they remind me of another way of understanding the experience of infatuation.
When infatuation or unrequited attraction or a ‘crush’ is awakened within us, how much of that is actually really about the other person occupying our thoughts, and how much is perhaps saying something about the condition of our heart? Our life? The forgotten, un-used, cobwebbed parts of our passion?
There’s an old saying that these things are called ‘crushes’ because they hurt. And, aside from those moments of euphoria, they often do.
So is there also a way of taking some of the crush back out of infatuation? Of healing some of that hurt? And with it, perhaps, healing some of the stuff that might have invited the crush into your life in the first place?
If you’re into gardening at all, you’ll probably know that although plants like to grow alongside one another and create a supportive ‘microclimate’ together, they still need their own space.
Even at the time of seed planting, if you want to give them an optimum chance to flourish, you’ll need to include a certain distance between them.
Planted too close, and they can start to rob each other’s nourishment (like the trees in these photos; one almost enveloping the other).
So can the same be said of human relationships?
And if so, how close is too close?
Murray Bowen, the ‘father of family systems theory’, noted this tension between the desire to be close and the desire to stand apart in order to give our individuality – our sense of self – a chance to breathe.
He saw both these drives as vital “life forces.” And he envisioned the struggle between them as an evolutionary paradox that we all must wrestle with. To know that there’s a certain safety in togetherness, but that it often comes at a cost of self…
So how do you balance those opposing needs in your life?