I thought I’d offer you something a little different this week, something else for your inner therapist to ponder.

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’?

Dr Hendrix, if you had to outline Imago Relationship Therapy in a sentence, how would you describe it?

Well, in one sentence, Imago Therapy is a dialogical process that creates a safe environment between two people; and that safe environment facilitates relaxing their defences, namely regulating their anxiety; and they become more vulnerable to each other, so they can now share from their authentic rather than their defended place; and when they can do that, they experience what we call connection, that is, they are now two people relating rather than being defended against each other or merged with each other; and when they experience connection, they’ve got what they came for.

In our research that led to this singular therapeutic intervention and the singular diagnosis and the singular treatment modality, we got really clear on what couples wanted, which was to be connected with each other. In order to do that, they have to feel safe, and when they feel safe, they become vulnerable.

Through vulnerability they can connect and through connection they feel passionately alive. And then their objections to each other and their frustrations fall away. That’s essentially the healing process.

We see that a sense of connection in childhood in the caretaker-child relationship is what is yearned for by the child, and what motivates the later mate selection process, and what becomes the desired factor in a relationship.

All problematic issues seem to circle around ruptured connections: ‘We’re not close,’ ‘You don’t talk to me anymore,’ ‘We never hold hands,’ ‘We don’t make love often,’ they’re all connectional terms. So I came to the conclusion some years ago that instead of using a differential diagnosis with couples, they’re all simply scared because their connection had been ruptured and they want it back. And when they get it, they’re fine.

Ruptured connection is the diagnosis, restored connection is the cure, and dialogue is the process.

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Join us for Part 2 of this interview, where Dr Hendrix explores how we can discover ourselves through our relationship with others.

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*This interview was initially done on behalf of The CAPA Quarterly, journal of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association of NSW, Australia.
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.