Imago Therapy Training Online with Michele O’Mara, PhD

Imago Therapy Training Online with Michele O’Mara, PhD

Imago Therapy Training Online: What is it?

Imago Therapy is one of several counseling approaches to couples seeking help for their relationships. This approach is designed to assist partners in identifying how their unconscious mind has been influenced by their unique childhood experiences.

Growing up, we are surrounded by people, places and things that inform us about the world. We learn what types of behaviors to expect from people, based on the people we are most commonly exposed to. Our brain is built for shortcuts, for efficiency. Therefore, each time we negotiate a new behavior our brain is assessing the situation for the best responses – the responses that keep us safe and provide us with what we need.

What works for us may not work for others, including our siblings. Though we are raised in the same family, with the same adults, we all have unique relationships with different nuances. Suppose you grew up with one sibling in a family of four. Your mother was moody, unpredictable, and would occasionally get so mad she would stop talking to you for days, maybe even weeks. This is a strong emotional withdrawal that can register as very scary for a child. Your instinct will be to find ways to preserve your connection. It is likely that one sibling may try to pursue a connection even if she is not getting much of a response. This can involve efforts to please her, such as cooking, cleaning the house and otherwise making life easier for her mom. The other sibling might decide it is best to lay low until this passes. That getting involved will simply make matters worse.

We don’t identify the “right” way to respond to people in our childhood, we only discover the best way that works for us. And, like most things, when we learn what works, we tend to automatically repeat this behavior over and over and over again without even thinking about it.

In Imago Therapy training online, we explore your automatic responses to different life experiences, and in particular, different emotional experiences in your marriage/romantic relationship. By doing so, we can begin to grow more aware of what works and what does not.

Can you imagine consulting a five year old for advice about how to respond to a spouse who stops talking to you when her feelings are hurt or she’s upset? Unfortunately, that’s essentially what most of us do until we stop and consider that our automatic response is not really working.

Relationships are always harmed by our efforts to protect ourselves. Therefore, in order to reverse the damage in a relationship, and return to a more connected, safe, and loving experience, we must identify and reverse the coping responses that are not working.

This is a simple overview of the Imago Theory, and provides you with some insight about what the goal is when you pursue Imago Therapy.

For more information about imago therapy training online, you can read this article. To take a brief quiz to identify your imago, go here. If you are outside of Indiana, you can receive Imago coaching services which are essentially the same as imago therapy, given that most couples seeking help for their relationships are not experiencing mental health concerns. Though I am a licensed mental health therapist in Indiana, I am not licensed outside of the state, and all of my services outside of Indiana are limited to coaching, which does not involve a mental health diagnosis, nor does it qualify for use of insurance.

If you would like to schedule an appointment for Imago Therapy training online with Michele O’Mara, visit omaratime.com.

Access to Her Inner World with Open Communication | Couples Quickies #2

Access to Her Inner World with Open Communication | Couples Quickies #2

Do you have access to her inner world?

Open Communication vs. Closed Communication 

Couple’s Quickie #2

There are two types of communication: open-door and closed-door.

Open-door communication is a direct and vulnerable sharing of your feelings, which gives the listener access to your inner world.

Closed-door communication is a self-protective way to share feelings by using protective behaviors such as criticisms, making up stories, accusations, explanations, and defensiveness.

If your partner shares a feeling with you, she is giving you a glimpse inside a world to which only she holds the key. When she unlocks this door for you, it is a gift. The views into her inner world may not always reflect back to you what you wish to see.

The gift is not about what you find inside her inner world.

The gift is that you are trusted with access to her inner world.

Imagine your workload is doubled and you have to work twice as much for a temporary period of time. Likely, both you and your wife will have feelings about this situation. If you are committed to open-door communication, you will come to each other from a vulnerable place and express your feelings in a direct and genuine way.

Open-door communication might sound like: “I miss you. Lately, I have been feeling lonely since you’ve had to work more.”

Closed-door communication might sound like this: “You work too much. I feel like you don’t care that I am alone all of the time.”

While the closed-door message is coming from the same vulnerable source of pain, the delivery is harder to hear. She is letting you know there is something going on in her inner world, but she’s keeping the door shut by using criticisms, in an effort to protect herself.

If she says she feels something, then she feels something. Unfortunately, it is a common communication mistake to hear feelings as complaints, disappointments, and criticisms. For example, the first statement, “I miss you,” might be heard as a complaint or a criticism.  You may hear it as if you are doing something wrong. That you should be home more than you are. This interpretation of “I miss you,” will likely provoke defensiveness.

When you interpret her feelings as a complaint, you are more likely to respond with a closed-door, such as: “I have no choice. I have to work.” This response misses the feeling she is expressing. This is a closed-door response to open-door communication.

If you heard “I miss you,” as a validation of your importance to her, you might respond with more softness. An open-door response may be as simple as, “I miss you, too. I can’t wait for work to slow down. Thank you for sharing that you feel the same way I do.”

It is not sufficient to add the word “feel” to your statements. When you say, “I feel THAT you…” or, “I feel LIKE you….” these are not feelings. These are opinions, stories, accusations, or potential criticisms. To truly share your feelings, you must be the subject of what you are sharing, not your wife or partner. A feeling statement will include a feeling word… I feel __________ (feeling word).

Feelings are never wrong, though they do change. They are also not accusations or criticisms. Sometimes we don’t fully understand our own feelings and all of the factors that contribute to them. The very best way to respond to your partner’s feelings is with open-door communication.

If she opens the door, appreciate and take good care of the access she is giving you to her inner world.

Got Questions?

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Access to Her Inner World with Open Communication | Couples Quickies #2

Ten Types of Relationship Betrayals | Couples Quickies #3

Infidelity is Not the Only Betrayal in Relationships

I have never understood the mindset that there is a game-winning or game-losing shot. This, to me, renders the entire rest of the game useless, and unimportant. If the star player has made a record breaking, 62 points in the game leading up to the final 3 seconds, the team is down by 2 and her final toss toward the basket misses, is she really responsible for the game-losing shot? I think not.

Nor do I think that one betrayal can make or break a relationship. Sure, it can complicate, undermine or greatly influence a relationship, but one isolated betrayal is not typically what leads to the demise of a relationship. Furthermore, just as a bad pass might lead to a missed catch in a basketball game, one betrayal might lead to another betrayal in relationships. 

We are all responsible for our part. Always. No matter what the game. Especially in relationships. 

Betrayals come in many forms. Though many people might disagree with me, I do not believe in a hierarchy of betrayals. A betrayal is a betrayal is a betrayal. 

  • Not showing up on time
  • Not making their partner a priority
  • Not being there when their partner is hurting or sick
  • Not contributing to the well-being of the family (me rather than we)
  • Not keeping promises
  • Keeping secrets
  • Lying
  • Humiliating or putting down partner in public or private
  • Committing an act of emotional or physical infidelity
  • Being physically violent

Relationships are fluid. They are strengthened one choice at a time, and they are weakened one choice at a time. There are no make or break moments in a relationship, there is always a gradual movement toward better or toward worse. Take notice of the entire dance, not just the last few steps. T

Got Questions?

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Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

LESBIAN COUPLES QUICKIES:  VALIDATION, NOT EDUCATION

Couples Quickies #1

When your girl expresses a concern, need or frustration in her life (not about you), do not mistake this as her request for you to fix the situation, or fix her. If you are someone who often responds by telling her what you think, and what she should do, this quickie is especially for you.

In general, when we are hurting and we go to our spouse / partner with a painful situation, we are not asking for solutions, we are asking for support. We want to feel less alone with our pain. Often, we just want reassurance that we are okay.

lesbian couples, validation, validate, listen

Here’s a roadmap for those of you who are unsure how this might sound:

Let her talk. Don’t interrupt. Keep your questions to a minimum.

 

1. Let her know you’ve heard her.

“It sounds like … <repeat the highlights that you heard her share so she knows you were listening – don’t add your opinions or thoughts, just reflect back to her what you heard>”
 

2. Validate her feelings.

Let her know that when you look at the situation the way she’s looking at it (not the way you are), her feelings make sense (even if you disagree).

“Based on how you’ve described things, it makes sense that you feel <insert how she says she is feeling>, because <insert meaningful points she has shared that let her know that you were listening and validate why she’s feeling the way she is>…
 

3. Reassure her. 

Remind her that you are here for her. Reinforce that you are a safe person for her to talk with when she is struggling, and that even if you see things differently, your ultimate goal is to be a safe and supportive person for her to talk to.
 

“I see this situation a little differently than you do, but what matters to me the most is how I can be here for you, and make you feel supported.”

4. Inquire if she wants your perspective.

 

“Would you like to know my thoughts about this, or is it best for me to just listen?”

5. Share with her consent.

IF she says she wants your perspective, THEN, and only THEN, share your perspective.

 

“How I see this situation is … “

Focus more on understanding, less on being “right.” Remember, she has come to you to feel better, not worse.

Got Questions?

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The Secret to New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

The Secret to New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

The Secret to Creating New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

 

New Year’s Resolutions are a fancy way of committing to change. Unfortunately, resolutions are a lot like diets. They are well-intended, often very prescribed or specific, and they are treated as a challenge, or a task to be accomplished. Both diets and resolutions are pursued with the hope of an overall positive outcome or to reach a particular goal. Unfortunately, resolutions, like diets, are usually not sustainable. Don’t fret, if you are a resolution-maker, I have a four-step process to help you transform your resolutions into meaningful and lasting strategies for long-lasting change.

Resolutions are designed to move you toward an improved feeling or life experience. More specifically, they are intended to shift the way you FEEL about yourself and your life experiences. Resolutions are the roadmap you create to move you toward what it is you want. The biggest problem with the most common resolutions is that they are not focused on how we wish to feel, they are concentrated on what we think we need to do. Common resolutions focus on tasks like, stop smoking, save money, and exercise. For a resolution to be effective, it must focus on the way we wish to feel rather than target the things we do.

New Year’s Resolutions are designed to scratch an itch. To be effective, you must first identify what itches. Resolutions are an effort to change something with the belief that it will lead to feeling a certain way. We decide, for example, if I lose weight, I will feel better. What “better” means to one person, however, is not the same as what “better” means to another person. If what is making you feel worse is related to stress at work or in your relationship, there are not enough carrots in the world that you can eat to make your relationship better or your work less stressful. Therefore, the resolution to lose weight may not actually be the best roadmap to reach the end goal of “feeling better.”

The resolution “to exercise” is like a scratch. The goal is to make resolutions that address the itch, not the scratch. Saving money is another scratch. It’s a strategy — a how-to — that we think will lead to feeling a certain way when we achieve this goal. Sometimes the goal to exercise is not even about how we feel about ourselves, it’s about how we think others feel about us, our body, and how we look. (See how this gets complicated)? Examples of different end goals or ways of feeling, that people want to experience through exercise may include: feel healthier and more energized, feel more powerful /physically stronger, feel sexier, feel more comfortable in your clothes, feel more desirable, feel good enough, feel more likable and feel better about yourself.

The secret to sustainable New Year’s Resolutions is in your awareness of and connection to how you wish to feel. If your goal is to feel healthier and more energized, what happens if you exercise every day for three months and still don’t feel more energized, or healthier? (Answer: you will stop exercising!) If, for example, you have trouble setting boundaries with others and you overextend yourself or surround yourself with people who are emotionally draining, you may not achieve your desired end goal of feeling more energized and healthier by merely exercising. There is no amount of exercise that will keep others from draining you. You may also need to learn to say “no,” to pay attention to what is energizing you and what is draining you, develop better sleep patterns, and get exercise. This is why most Resolutions are short-sighted and may miss the mark if they are focused on what we do instead of how we wish to feel.

New Year's resolutions

 

A Four-Step Formula to Creating More Effective New Year’s Resolutions

 

⦿ STEP 1: Identify goals that target the specific feeling you wish to experience.

Rather than making your goal specific to diet changes and weight loss (your preconceived notion about how to feel more energized), create a more flexible resolution that can grow and change with you. Take any of your New Year’s Resolutions and ask yourself: “How do I think I will feel by accomplishing this?” If you have not created resolutions yet, simply ask yourself, “How do I wish to feel?” 

To give you an example of how to build a resolution, we will use the goal of experiencing more energy. In this example, the focus of the resolution will be to feel more energized.

⦿ STEP 2: Notice what is already present, as well as that which adds to and takes away from the focus-feeling/end goal.

For your own resolution-making, ask yourself, “When do I feel <desired feeling>, and when do I feel <undesired feeling>?” This expands the developing New Year’s Resolutions to now include: to notice what increases my energy and what drains my energy.

⦿ STEP 3: Identify an action to respond to what you notice

Consider this question, “How can I experience more <desired feeling>?”in our example of feeling more energized, now that we have included noticing what expands our energy and what diminishes our energy, it makes sense to add an action step to do more of what expands our energy and less of what decreases our energy. Here is one way to say that: notice and lean into that which increase my energy and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy. This is flexible and allows us to respond to how we are feeling in many different situations, which is the goal of a sustainable New Year’s Resolutions.

⦿ STEP 4: Describe your intention as if it is already a part of how you think and behave.

Creating present-tense New Year’s Resolutions treats your resolution as a reality that is happening right now rather than a target to reach. The final resolution becomes:“I notice and lean into that which increases my energy, and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy.” 

If you want to take steps to feel better in the New Year, treat your resolutions like a journey, not a destination. Pay attention to the ride and course correct as needed along the way. Cheers to a wonderful journey in the coming year!

………………………………………………………………………………………

❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.is an expert lesbian relationship coach (www.lesbiancouples.coach) with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes/Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.

Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples for Five Common Issues

Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples for Five Common Issues

Relationship advice for lesbian couples

Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples

Lesbian couples are different in many ways from their heterosexual and gay male couple peers. However, lesbian couples are not particularly different from one another. There are some very common issues among female pairings, and I will be offering Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples for five of the most common issues.

Despite the endless stereotyping about what a lesbian is, women who love women are impressively diverse. If you find yourself doubting that, it’s because those who don’t meet the stereotype of a lesbian go unnoticed. When it comes to lesbian relationships, however, we are remarkably similar in the types of issues we experience.

Unlike heterosexual women, lesbians do not have easy access to information about what a typical lesbian relationship looks like. Rare is the lesbian who finds herself in the break room at work, sharing stories about her wife and their relationship. Additionally, the experiences that heterosexual women describe are often not relatable for lesbians. For example, how many heterosexual women do you hear expressing concern that her husband is best friends with the girlfriend he had before he married her? Or, how often have you heard a heterosexual woman express concern that her husband is constantly trying to read her mind and worries non-stop about whether or she’s feeling okay?

So, here’s today’s Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples. Rather than putting our focus on the common relationship problems, however, we will get right to the fixes for these issues. After all, we move in the direction we think — so let’s think solutions.

#1 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Allow Your Partner to Feel

It is okay if she is experiencing sadness, hurt, frustration or any other emotion that you find yourself wanting to fix or understand. As long as emotions are not used to communicate something (that’s good old fashioned passive-aggressiveness), let her feel what she feels without making it about you. The purpose of our emotions is to alert us to that which is joyful, dangerous, missing, violating, or any other situation that requires our attention. When you personalize how she is feeling, you interrupt an important and necessary process designed to help her clarify things for herself. Communicate with words and behaviors. Feelings are not a verb. We don’t anger. We express anger. Clarify what you are feeling. Then communicate with words or actions.

#2 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Facts are Your Friends, Stories Not so Much

I am sure you have a superpower. It’s just not mind reading. Trust me on this. When you are certain you know what she is thinking, feeling, wanting or not wanting, fact check. Believe her if she says you are misunderstanding her, or that what you are perceiving is wrong. They are her thoughts and feelings, so she really does have the final say about what is true for her. Even if she changes her mind later, believe her now. Focus on your feelings and thoughts, share those, and let her do the same when she’s ready.

 

#3 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Keep Your Friends, Not Your Exes

Independence is the first thing to go in lesbian relationships. If you want your new relationship to be your best, invest yourself fully and cut your emotional ties with your ex.

#4 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Forgive

If you are holding on to resentments that occurred more than one year ago, they have officially expired. Holding on to hurt as a way to protect yourself causes more hurt than good. If you are choosing this relationship, then you are choosing all of it, not just the parts that feel good. Deal with old hurts and resentments then let them go.

#5 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Flirt with her

My research tells us that lesbians want to be having more sex with their partner, but a lot of women do not want to initiate it. In the quest to commit, dating, flirting, romancing and all the good stuff gets rushed and sometimes neglected altogether. Time to go old school on your gal. Romance her. Flirt. Let her know you desire her. So get out your pretties, your boyfriend briefs, boxers or whatever does the trick for her and show some interest.

 

Got Questions?

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