Why You Find Yourself Saying What You Don’t Mean

Why You Find Yourself Saying What You Don’t Mean

Do you ever find yourself saying what you don’t mean?

 

Have you ever noticed that when we are most afraid of getting emotionally hurt, our natural instinct is to behave in ways that actually make things worse, not better? 

When we feel we are being blamed, our instinct is to blame the other and often this involves saying what you don’t mean.

  • When our feelings are hurt, our instinct is to hurt the other’s feelings
  • When we feel rejected, our instinct is to reject the other
  • When we are feeling ignored, our instinct is to ignore the other
  • When anything makes us uncomfortably vulnerable, our instinct is to protect ourselves


So much for “two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

Saying what you don't mean
Saying what you don’t mean happens for a reason, and there is actually an explanation for how we can KNOW one thing (I know I don’t want to leave her.) and say or do another (tell her I’m over this, we are done.)? We actually have two different kinds of “knowing” that we experience. 

  • LOGICAL/CONSCIOUS KNOWING – One part of knowing occurs in our conscious mind, also called our cerebral cortex. This part of our brain is logical, conscious, and the problem-solving part of our brain. We hold conversations with ourselves here (it’s our inside voice).

 

  • INSTINCTIVE/UNCONSCIOUS KNOWING – The second kind of knowledge comes from our reptilian brain. This part of our brain is unconscious. There is no inside voice here. The unconscious mind is responsible for our instinctive reactions. This is like a massive network of shortcuts that our brain has been programmed with to ensure our ability to respond quickly in a crisis.


The unconscious reptilian brain is reactive and acts quickly without consulting our logical mind. This part of our brain is famous for it’s limited, but the speedy-fast selection of coping responses that include: fight, flight, freeze, play dead or submit.

For example, some unconscious programming may look like this:

  • touch hot stove > move hand away quickly
  • car driving toward you > leap out of the way
  • baseball flying toward your face > put your hand up to protect face or dodge the ball
  • someone is yelling at you > *depends on early programming
  • you fear rejection > * depends on early programming
  • your feelings are hurt > *depends on early programming

* When it comes to perceived threats such as someone using a raised voice with you, how you respond is based on how you learned to respond to this behavior as a child. Everyone’s experiences shape their responses according to what you learned was most effective with the people around you. The opposite of this is an open and curious mind. (Do you have an open and curious mind? Read more here.)

Your early life experiences taught you through trial and error how to negotiate different moods, behaviors, personalities, etc. to get what you wanted or needed to feel emotionally or physically safe. Once our brain identifies the best response (the one that results in what we want or need to survive), we will use this response repeatedly and without thinking about it, when we are in a similar future situation. We will continue using this response until we realize with BOTH parts of our brain (logical and instinctive) that this response is no longer working. 

Our logical mind and our automatic brain each have their own version of “knowing.” The cerebral cortex knows what it is taught, and this knowledge is cognitive, intellectual, and conceptual. Our reptilian brain, which is unconscious, knows what has worked in the past to keep us alive. This knowing is intuitive, felt, sensed, also learned, and automatic. Sometimes what we learn logically does not match what our unconscious brain learned instinctively a long, long time ago. 

For example, imagine that growing up you frequently heard your parents have loud conflicts. You felt your heart rate pounding in your chest, and you felt sick to your stomach with fear about what might happen. Eventually, one of them would then leave the house for an unexpected length of time after these fights. As a child, upon your parent’s return, you expressed your disapproval, hurt and feelings of abandonment by not engaging with the parent who left; by shutting them out. 

Eventually, either your parent would respond in a way that helped calm your system (come to you, apologize and reassure you that everything is okay) or the silence was useful in creating enough distance from the source of your pain that you could calm your system and you could eventually reenter a connection with that parent. The successful resolution of your pain by being silent sent your brain the message that this was a good strategy. Now your brain is wired with the shortcut: raised voices > silence.

Fast forward to adulthood. Imagine that your partner raises their voice. Your system is alerted to danger. When this happens, your body quickly releases a chemical cocktail designed to protect you. Your body is suddenly sweating, your heart is racing, and you feel sick to your stomach (look for a future message about this chemical process, and how affects you). Your logical brain may be telling you that your partner isn’t mad at you, she’s just trying to share her feelings with you. But soon your instinct is to shut down, to be silent. So you do, and you stay quiet until your system feels safe again.  

It doesn’t matter to you if you are saying what you don’t mean, even if you know that you are making things worse for your relationship. At this moment, your system is more concerned about surviving this PERCEIVED EMOTIONAL THREAT than it is concerned with responding to the issues being communicated with a raised voice.  

What’s important about this information is:

• We are all operating with two parts of our brain at the same time: one conscious, one unconscious, and both are designed to help keep us alive and feeling emotionally safe.

• When we become activated or feel unsafe, we are at risk of responding with the same skills we learned at age 6 or 12 or 15, etc. when our automatic responses were first programmed

• Our failed efforts to protect ourselves from hurt are a clue that we are allowing our unconscious brain to lead the show. What we learned as a child to keep us safe now needs to be updated because it’s no longer useful.

• Being sensitive to, and patient with ourselves and our partner will improve our ability to grow into new and improved responses to our pain. Believe them when they say they didn’t mean what they said… it’s likely true.

• Though you can not communicate directly with your reptilian/ unconscious brain, you can observe your body’s reactions/sensation and notice when you are responding with behaviors that don’t seem to work. For example, my heart rate increased when her voice got louder, and I had an overwhelming urge to disengage and be silent.

• With these observations, you can ask yourself this simple question, “When have I felt this way before?” The answers will give you insight into what kind of programming is filed in your unconscious brain.

• Once you get clarity about the trigger (raised voice), and you notice how you respond (silence), you can be more CONSCIOUS (that’s the key) of this dance you engage in and begin practicing new responses to see what will work better now that you are an adult and have access to more coping response options.

Do you know what your imago is and how it can help your relationship?

36 Questions To Fall in Love went viral, but does it work?

36 Questions To Fall in Love went viral, but does it work?

36 Questions To Fall in Love went viral, but does it work?

By now you have probably heard that there are 36 questions to fall in love with anyone. This idea was given a public platform January 9, 2015, in a New York Times article titled, To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, by Mandy Len Catron. This idea went viral. It’s not surprising in our culture of quick fixes and fast solutions, that a 36-Question guarantee to fall in love would spread like wildfire. Who wouldn’t want to have that sort of love potion, with ingredients accessible to every last one of us…by simply asking 36 questions to fall in love, or make someone fall in love with us.

If you missed the original article by Mandy Len Catron, here’s a brief backstory that will help put this in perspective. In the article, Catron explained that she would occasionally run into a “university acquaintance” while at the climbing gym. In one of her random encounters with the climbing-gym-aquaintance, the two struck up a conversation. To her readers, she confessed to having had a pre-existing curiosity about him, saying she wondered, “what if?” after having “a glimpse into his days on Instagram.”

Wittingly, Catron found a way to weave into her conversation with this fellow-climber, a story about a research study she had read by Dr. Arthur Aron. The study, she explained to him, “tried making people fall in love” by having research participants ask and answer 36 questions. This study was published in 1997, and it is the original home of the 36 Questions to Fall in Love. Next she explained to fellow-climber, “I’ve always wanted to try it.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but I consider this some pretty advanced-level flirting. I’m impressed.

Predictably, fellow-climber-guy took the bait, and responded by suggesting that they try the questions together. They met at a local bar over drinks. With iPhone in hand, Mandy cued up the 36 questions, and they passed the phone back and forth, taking turns answering each one. By design, the questions progress from less revealing to more and more personal. Clearly, doing this experiment over drinks at a bar, with someone you have an existing curiosity about, is significantly different than the lab research by Dr. Aron.  However, the spirit of the research is kept alive, as Catron observes, “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative.” She alludes to how the questions forced her out of her safe zone where she could manage how she was being perceived, and took her into territories that required greater vulnerability.  As the questions intensify, the road ahead becomes less familiar, and this 36 questions adventure invites more and more self-disclosure.

Taking much longer than the 45 minutes allotted for Dr. Aron’s research participants, Catron and her climber-guy decide to do a suggested activity involving 4 silent minutes of eye contact with one another at the conclusion of asking and answering all 36 questions. Preferring more privacy than the bar allowed, they decide to walk to a nearby bridge, stand on the highest point, and exchange four minutes of silent eye contact. As Catron brings her story to a close, she reveals that she and climber-guy started dating after that night, and as of last report, they are still dating.

While it’s a more fun to think Cupid’s arrow was built with these 36 Questions, a quick look at the facts tells us we are going to need more than 36 questions to fall in love (and though I have 1,000 more questions if you wish to ask them, I’m not talking about more questions. There are great lessons we can learn from Catron, though, about how we can effectively improve our own search for love, as well as our efforts to nourish the love we have. What strikes me as important pieces of Catron and fellow-climber-now-boyfriend’s love story are these things:

  • Curiosity.  This is how all real connection begins – having an interest in someone.
  • Reciprocation.  When curiosity is reciprocated, the potential for a spark exists. It doesn’t work if it’s only one-way.
  • Vulnerability.  This is the risk-taking part, that opens us to hurt, yet also forms a foundation of trust and intimacy for a relationship to grow.
  • Take action.  To build love we must do something.  Love isn’t a thing we have, it’s a thing we do – so to find it, grow it, and maintain it, we must take action.  Love is a practice that never ends, because love is the practice and the practice is the love.36 questions to fall in love

If you want to be an epic sparkster (spark starter) like Catron, here’s a challenge that will give you the perfect opportunity to take a risk to get to know someone better (or to better your knowing of someone you love) – THE 36 QUESTIONS CHALLENGE.

Speaking of practicing love, this recent Style video from the New York Times Modern Love video series, is a perfect ending to this post. Enjoy this quick video that highlights three long-term couples who ask one another the 36 questions to fall in love. Their experiences are captured in this touching video. You will see the unfolding of exactly how curiosity and vulnerability combine to make the perfect intimacy cocktail, and their answers highlight the fact that love is a practice, a thing we do.

 

The 36 Questions Challenge

The 36 Questions Challenge

The 36 Questions Challenge

The 36 Questions Challenge is an invitation to connect to someone… to anyone.  These are the same 36 Questions that went viral in 2015 after Mandy Len Catron shared a story about how her and her now boyfriend, used these 36 questions as an experiment, and they fell in love.  While there are no promises that you will fall in love, the odds are really, really high that you will feel significantly closer to any person with whom you do this exercise.

THE 36 QUESTIONS CHALLENGE

Give it a try… what do you have to lose?

Suggestions for how to use this 4 minute video of The 36 Questions Challenge:

  1. Invite someone you have a crush on to take the 36 Questions challenge with you. You can do this in person or online.  (Yes, I’ve made it easy for you to duplicate the clever strategy used by Mandy Len Catron).
  2. Bring this up with a group of friends and pass the questions in a circle, with each answering one then passing to the next person to ask a question, then the next, until all 36 questions are answered by someone.
  3. Exchange these questions with your current partner to see how up-to-date you are on her!
  4. Use this at your next family gathering to generate some fun and create some meaningful conversation.
  5. Try this out on a stranger – maybe you have layover at the airport and time to kill, take a risk and invite a stranger to do the 36 questions challenge with you.

 

JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP HERE

THE CHALLENGE VIDEO

Happy curiosity to you and your question-partner.

Wishing you much closeness and connection, and may you see and be seen, know and be known, love and be loved.

Strategy 16 for Lesbian Couples: (What do all five love languages require?)

Strategy 16 for Lesbian Couples: (What do all five love languages require?)

Strategy 16 for Happy Lesbian Couples:  Do you know what the five love languages have in common?

While there are five love languages, (Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation), they all have one thing in common – GIVING ATTENTION.  When you give gifts, give attention, give time, give acts of service, or give words of affirmation, you are giving your attention.

By the way, if you have not read the Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman, I view this book as required reading for all couples, and lesbian couples are no exception!  I just checked, and there are 10,652 customer book reviews with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.  So, yep, it’s a good one for your happy relationship reading list.  If you don’t like to read, get the audio version here and listen to it together.

I do not know of a more basic method of expressing love, than that of simply giving someone your full
lesbian couples, five love languagesattention. Your attention may simply be listening, spending time together, or holding your partner when she needs held. Or, it may involve calling to check on her when she is feeling sick, or asking her to talk about her feelings when she seems blue.  Maybe you pick up a special treat from her while you are out, and bring it home.  Leave her a note on her car seat if she leaves after you do.  The possibilities all include the five love languages, and they are endless.

Happy lesbian couples know that attention comes in many forms, and when you intend to let your lesbian love know she’s your priority, the one you choose, and that she matters to you, be sure you offer her your gazing, smiling, dancing eyes; your open, allowing and listening ears; your laughing, loving, and  kissing lips; your soothing, sexy, complementing voice; your helping, healing, loving hands; and your embracing open and accepting arms.  Be present, aware, and engaged.  You are what she wants.  Give her more of you.

Giving someone your full attention is possibly the single most powerful way to show someone you love them.  Be among the happy lesbian couples who take time to better their relationships a little step at at time.  You will be sure to increase your ability to speak the five love languages, too, if you keep expanding your list of ways to give her your attention.

Lesbian Love – Marry her in fashion: book workshop, post the date, share news

Lesbian Love – Marry her in fashion: book workshop, post the date, share news

Spread the news, you can enrich your lesbian love life with more knowledge than books can teach (no matter what those book reviews say), more intimacy than date nights can provide (no matter how high your fashion) and before you  marry the love of your life,  finish reading this post and do a little happy dance like you’re Ellen, because you have stumbled across something that’s kind of a big deal.  If I say so myself.

 

When I finally “knew” what I wanted to be when I grow up, I never looked back. First, Oprah introduced me to Harville Hendricks and his Imago theory (well, me and millions of other viewers).  Then after hearing incredible book reviews for his book, “Getting the love you want,” by I knew I needed to read it.  What a life-changer for me.  Everything about my own relationships started to make more sense.  Lesbian love.  What a scarcely discussed topic.  In my early 20’s when I was coming out aa s lesbian and looking for love, there was nothing to help with how to date, there was no Ellen to normalize being gay, it was not in fashion what so ever, and a post like this didn’t exist!  If it was in the news it was because of things like “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and to think of having the option to marry was unheard of!

Times, they are a changing though.  Lesbian love is alive and kicking!  I have built much of my professional life around understanding lesbians and their relationships.  First, I had to get a good understanding of relationships.  Next, I had to see how much of these heterosexual concepts apply to lesbians.  Then I had to figure out what is missing.  After doing all of that, I decided I better just post all of this information together and create a lesbian couples workshop.  So I did. I call it, The Couples Weekend. Clever, right?

  

When are your next couples workshops?

Updated WORKSHOP DATES ARE listed here.

 

 What is the typical schedule for you two-day workshop?

I usually schedule workshops on Saturday and Sunday.  We typically meet from 12pm-5pm Saturday and 9:30am-5 00 pm Sunday. There is a 75-minute lunch break, with lots of nearby options to get your nutrition.

  

Do you have a way to notify people when you schedule your next workshop?

To be notified by email of the next available couple’s weekend, simply email me on my contact form (scroll to the bottom of the page), and I will share the news with you when the next workshop is scheduled.

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What is The Couple’s Weekend?

As a Certified Imago Therapist, Michele O’Mara has created a unique blend of all that is amazing about the Getting the Love You Want Imago Therapy weekend, with specific skills, resources, information and exercises designed especially for same-sex couples.  To learn more about Imago Theory, you can read this post I wrote. The weekend is an incredible opportunity for same-sex couples from across the United States to spend a weekend intentionally focused on creating (or improving) an OUTstanding relationship!

The weekend is a unique blend of education (concrete skills, and information about improving your relationship), processing (discussion of the new skills and information shared), and exercises (done privately with your own partner – not in front of the group).

REGISTER HERE

REGISTER at least 15 days prior to the weekend to save $100

 

What Can I expect to gain from The Weekend? 

  • Learn the 10 essential ingredients of an outstanding relationship and how to apply them to your relationship

  • Learn new skills to improve your communication and connection with your partner

  • Participate in your own in-depth relationship review

  • Create a personalized relationship improvement plan

    A fun weekend spent with other same-sex couples in a comfortable setting

 

Will we have to talk about our personal issues in front of other couples?

There will be opportunities for couples to volunteer to role-play a skill, but your level of disclosure about your relationship is entirely up to you. Important News Flash:  You do not have to share anything about your relationship with the other couples that you do not want to.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that your benefit directly correlates to your sharing, howwwwwever, the choice remains yours.

 

What kind of couples will be there?

The Weekend is open to gay and lesbian couples. This is a great resource for any couple. You may already have a strong relationship and use The Weekend as a way to tune-in to and tune-up your relationship, or you may be struggling to find your way back to each other. There will be a mixture of couples – some functioning better than others, but all with a desire to improve their relationship!

REGISTER HERE

 Can you describe what The Weekend will be like once we are there?

We will convene in a meeting room around a large table that is casual, intimate and functional. There will be breaks to stretch and snack (beverages/snacks provided).

There will be a blend of education (lectures), process (discussion about what we are learning as it applies to your relationship), and exercises. All exercises are done privately with your partner, separate from the group. Michele O’Mara will observe each couple doing their exercises and be available to guide and support your individual work.

What makes this such a good financial investment in our relationship?

This is less than half the cost of the equivalent amount of couple’s counseling! Payment plans are available if necessary, and we do accept Visa and Mastercard as payment options.

 

REGISTER HERE

 

 How does The Weekend compare to couple’s counseling?

 The Weekend is about building OUTstanding relationships. The emphasis is on strengthening relationships, creating a hopeful, forward-moving momentum on which you can continue building and strengthening your relationship. Though this is not counseling, and in many ways is more like an intensive class on relationships, The Weekend does offer you all of the benefits of counseling and more. The Weekend is designed to bring out the best in both you and your partner, for the good of your relationship.

 

Why should we sign up?

Receive 75% more for your investment. For the same cost as 2.5 couple’s counseling sessions, you can receive 12 hours of tools, education, counseling and a rare opportunity for peer-couples support and inclusion in a community of health-oriented couples!  12 hours of couple’s counseling = $1560 or 12 hours of couple’s weekend = $550 ($275 each), if you register 15 days in advance, or $650 ($325 each) if you register less than 15 days prior to the workshop.

  • Expedite your healing, insight, and relationship growth.  Receive three months worth of counseling in one weekend by attending The Couples Workshop!!

  • Enjoy the benefit of learning from other couples, their experiences, and gain insight and support from other couples – an up-close look at lesbian love that you can not get anywhere else!

 If we are traveling from out of town, where should we stay?

There is a brand new hotel that is literally within walking distance from the workshop, too.  My last call to them informed me that one-bedroom is $59/night and the two-bedroom is roughly $65/night – you will need to see how accurate this is, and I have never been to the actual motel, I only know it’s very new.

Whitehouse Motel 

Address: 2688 E Main St, Plainfield, IN 46168 

Phone:(317) 839-9358

You can also explore hotels near the Indianapolis International Airport. The airport is less than ten minutes from the workshop location (which is 2680 E Main Street, Plainfield, IN 46168).

 

What have other lesbians said about this weekend?

  • lesbian love“I learned a huge, vulnerable spot for [my partner] and saw how it plays out in our relationship. Also, I identified a big hole in my past that affects how I connect with her.”

  • “Michele was funny, entertaining, and so wise with wonderful words of wisdom, compassion, and understanding.”

  • “You must be willing to explore your inner depths. If you are willing, you will be rewarded many times over.”

  • “I have learned many things about my partner and myself that I didn’t have a clue this is why I sometimes act the way we do. The communication style is going to be helpful for us!”

  • “This experience was life changing!!!”

  • “It was phenomenal.”

Tell me when your next workshop is scheduled!

10 + 3 =

Imago Relationship Therapy / Couple Therapy / Imago Therapist / Imago Workshop

Imago Relationship Therapy / Couple Therapy / Imago Therapist / Imago Workshop

Understanding Imago Relationship Therapy / Couple Therapy and Imago Workshop with an Imago Therapist

imago therapy

What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

Imago relationship therapy (pronounced “ehm – mah – go”) is a type of couple therapy (and also an imago workshop) that is based on the work of Harville Hendrix, which you can read about in his book, Getting the Love You Want.

Understanding Imago Relationship Therapy, starts with understanding “IMAGO?”
During our childhood, we develop an imprint of the positive and negative traits of our primary caregivers. This  imprint is a collection of images and experiences that are both conscious and unconscious, and they form  what  is called our “IMAGO.” Imago is simply another word for image. This imprint or “imago” represents what is familiar, which includes both the good experiences as well as the uncomfortable ones. This imago, over time,  develops into an unconscious guiding force in our life. It serves as a map, directing us toward others who fit this image. Similar to a magnet that has the capacity to both attract and repel, our imago is able to do  the same.

Unlike a magnet though, we are generally not aware (we are unconscious) of it when it happens.  The magnetic force in our imago has the ability to magically pull into our lives all of the people, relationships and experiences that we need in order to recreate many of the painful aspects of our childhood. And likewise, the magnetic force of our imago tends to repel those people, experiences, and situations that do not fit with what is familiar.

Why you ask? Imago relationship therapy is based on the theory that once we experience hurts in our childhood, we spend our lives trying to heal them. If we feel unloved, not good enough, invisible, unimportant, not special or any other hurtful feeling as a child, we go to great lengths throughout our lives to reverse these feelings, to heal. Unfortunately, the trap we often fall into is believing that we can outrun these hurts; that we can get out of this relationship and find another, better one that will work.

Over time, and after several relationships, it becomes obvious (well, with the help of couple therapy), that we continue to unconsciously recreate these feelings and situations in each imago therapist, imago relationship therapyrelationship we encounter. And in the unlikely, but possible event, that we attract a partner who does not fit our imago, we may just provoke those behaviors in our partner that do match our imago!  Our imago helps explain why we are mysteriously and often magnetically drawn to one person and not others.


With
 this theory, it is also suggested that we do not actually “fall” into love, rather we “fall” into infatuation or lust. Love is more of a decision, a choice.  Just as it becomes a choice or decision to not love. The notion of choosing to love is not to be confused with choosing our sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is more likely a function of genetics and other forces beyond our control. Choice in this context infers that once we become infatuated, (to the gender of our inherent sexual orientation) we make a choice to move those feelings further along a continuum, to deepen our commitment. We choose to give ourselves the opportunity to enter a more profound, more deeply felt place of love that comes in time through our contact and commitment to another.

STAGES OF LOVE RELATIONSHIP

According to the theory of Imago relationship therapy, there are several stages of development in a love relationship. The first two stages occur in our unconscious mind. These are the Romantic Love and Power Struggle.

STAGE ONE:  Romantic Love [unconscious]

The first of these, the Romantic Love is the period of attraction that brings two people together, often with passion, intrigue, excitement, and anticipation. Our bodies are flooded with a natural feel-good neurotransmitter called Phenylethylamine (PEA) which is also present in chocolate. This neurotransmitter has the ability to heighten our sense of pleasure. Consider the start of some of your relationships—the initial weeks and months of spending time together.

Can you recall the food you tasted, the music you listened to, the places you spent time, the scent of perfumes/colognes—all of your senses come to life heightening the pleasure you experience in everyday activities? PEA can last anywhere from 3 minutes to one year, but inevitably it fades. The Imago theory of relationships suggests that PEA is nature’s way of bringing (often incompatible!) people together long enough to commit to one another. And once the commitment occurs—whether that is a decision to live together, to share finances, to have a child, to have a commitment event/marriage, or something else, the power struggle begins.

STAGE TWO: Power Struggle [unconscious]

Interestingly, 60 percent of all heterosexual relationships end in divorce.  The rate for gays and lesbians would be nearly impossible to determine as there is no systematic measurement in our society that allows us to measure relationship commitments among same-sex couples. Of the 40 percent of heterosexuals who remain married, about 5 percent actually make it through the power struggle without an intervention such as counseling. While we are in Romantic Love, all we want to focus on is our similarities. However, as time progresses, so too does our understanding of one another, and our differences naturally emerge. When these differences surface, the power struggle is on.

Ironically, we often pick a partner that has a difficult time meeting our needs. If we crave closeness and connection, we are likely to be drawn to the partner who struggles with intimacy and contact. If we need a lot of distance and space, we are likely to find ourselves with someone who desires a lot of closeness, and who is maybe even a little clingy. What one partner most needs, is often what the other partner most needs to learn to give. It is in this exchange, the meeting of one another’s needs, that the healing begins to occur. In the less common case where our partner does not match what is familiar, we will provoke it! And to no surprise, the more energetic the Romantic Love is, the greater the Power Struggle is likely to be. Unfortunately, most couples spend their whole relationships at this stage, never progressing beyond the struggles.

What can imago couple therapy do to move beyond the power struggle?

Often this is where couple therapy with a certified Imago Therapist comes in. To move beyond the power struggle, a couple must become conscious of their thoughts imago therapistand feelings. This consciousness occurs in four different areas and leads to the ultimate goal of Real Love. The following represent the four areas
of conscious work that couples must move through in order to reach Real Love.

Make a commitment [conscious]

This involves making a conscious choice to work on the relationship and to help one another heal. A commitment requires that we close our exits—eliminating people, places, things, and activities that give us an escape from fully being in a relationship. This may include: setting clearer boundaries with our families of origin so that our new partnership is the priority; or dealing with our addictions to food, drugs/alcohol, sex, and work; or ceasing involvement in friendships with people that distract and tempt you from your partner.

Seek Knowledge [conscious]

We must seek support and information. We need to go to a place of curiosity about one another and to be willing to see each other in a fresh new way. We need to let go of old assumptions and open ourselves to the knowledge of who is partner really is and what she or he wants and needs. As we go through life, we learn to associate what being loved means with all of the experiences we have had so far.

Sometimes, we respond to people who care about us as if they are all the same person (our imago) and we make assumptions that “we’ll never be a priority,” or “they’ll always leave me,” or “I’ll never be good enough.” These assumptions come from within us—and we need to be conscious of these so that we do not paste them onto our partners who may or may not fit the description. Gaining this knowledge and learning to know our partner for whom he or she is, frees us to transform ourselves.

Experience a transformation [conscious]

In this phase, there are many changes. This is a period of renovation, where partners have committed to do the work of healing, they have sought the knowledge and resources to assist in their process, and now they are doing the actual work. Partners are re-examining their relationship vision, their romance, their identity, and any outdated beliefs about one another that need to be overhauled. This transformation includes empathy for one another, validating one another’s experiences and beliefs, and stretching who we are to include that which our partner needs us to be. The transformation stage opens up the door to all kinds of possibilities and leaves us feeling hopeful and renewed about the prospect of achieving real love.

Enjoy your awakening [conscious]

In our awakening, we become more aware of our own journey—learning about what it is that we bring to relationships that do not work. We move the focus from ourselves to our relationship with our partner. We use the skills we have acquired to meet our own needs as well as those of our partner—nurturing our relationship by tending to one another’s hurts. We become more aware of the parts of ourselves that we have disowned and that needs healing. And with our partner’s help, we begin to heal. This healing journey then leads us into the final stage of Real Love.

STAGE THREE:  Real love [conscious]

Real love is what we have come to associate with unconditional. This unconditional love, however, includes unconditional giving, receiving, valuing, and it leads to a spiritual intimacy that is deeper and more stable than that of romantic love and romance. This comes from really knowing ourselves, and really knowing our partners. Real Love is a non-defensive way of relating which evolves from feeling safe, and good enough, and healed with our partner. Real Love allows us to live with full aliveness and
joy. Real Love involves no expectations in the way we relate. It is a natural connectedness and oneness that respects the individuality of each partner without moving to change one another into clones of oneself. Real Love is spontaneous and
free. It’s the greatest gift we have to give one another.

What is an Imago Therapist?

As a Certified Imago Therapist, Michele O’Mara, PhD is specially trained in couple therapy, and offers imago therapy to all couples, as well as her own version of the imago workshop called the couples weekend, created specifically for lesbian couples.  An Imago trained counselor participates in an intensive two year training program (after completing a minimum of a master’s level counseling program). The Imago therapist training involves a rigorous exploration of how we make our partner selection (the source of our attractions); how relational behaviors are impacted by our characterological growth (including that of the therapist), and how to make conscious the developmental wounds we experience in childhood; how to address difficult couples issues; and how to assist couples in communicating effectively.

What is the Imago Workshop?imago workshop

The typical Imago Workshop is provided by imago therapists who have taken an advanced training through Imago Relationships International. This workshop is not the same as my Couples Weekend, however, as an imago-trained therapist, I included many key concepts of the Imago theory, including the Intentional Dialogue, the Stages of Relationship Development, the impact of our characterological development on our partner selection, and more.

 

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 Imago Relationship Therapy, couple therapy, imago therapist

Michele O’Mara, PhD

Certified Imago Therapist

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