How Imago Therapy Helps us Understand Attraction and Relationships with Imago RelationshipTherapy
Why Are We Attracted to Certain People and Not Others?
The Imago Theory offers an explanation for our attractions. When it comes to attraction, we do not decide who we are drawn to, only whether or not we will do something about our attraction. Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of relationship counseling that helps couples identify how their unconscious mind affects their relationship. This process is involuntary. I think that most of us can say with certainty that we have found ourselves attracted to someone whom in retrospect, we find ourselves asking, “What was I thinking?” The point is, you weren’t. You were feeling, and the feelings were likely very unconscious.
Attraction is a feeling. It is an intuitive pull toward someone that can, at times, be unexplainable. Although our thoughts influence our feelings, our attractions are a product of many unknown (unconscious) variables that often do not always make sense. Imago therapy helps us work to understand them. That’s where the Imago Relationship therapy comes in. What is important to understand is that our attractions can exist separate from a decision to act on them. We do not have control of who we find attractive, we simply have control over how we respond to this attraction.
What is the Imago Theory?
In the early 90’s, psychologist Harville Hendrix gave us a way to understand love, attraction and relationships in his book, “Getting the Love you Want.” He called this the Imago Theory. This theory says that 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.
Over time, our imago 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. If we attract partners that do not reflect what is familiar, we either project our beliefs onto them so that it appears they are who we expected them to be in the end, or we elicit from them the behaviors we have come to expect.
We are generally not aware (unconscious) of it when it happens. That’s the benefit of imago therapy. We can begin to understand the formula behind that magnetic force in our imago, and how it has the ability to 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.
What is Imago Relationship Therapy?
By using the Imago theory to understand our unconscious mind, we can unknot some of our childhood experiences and wounds. The Imago therapist is trained to help you uncover the influences of your unconscious mind. Many of the frustrations we experience in our adult romantic relationships, we also felt as a child. For example, if as a child I felt like nothing I did was good enough, I am likely to attract a partner with whom I have this same feeling.
Once the imago therapist is able to help you uncover your unconscious influences, also known as your “imago,” you can begin to incorporate new skills in your relationship. The primary skill involved in Imago relationships therapy is the Intentional dialogue. This is a very structured form of communication that the imago therapist will teach during session, that offers each partner a fail-proof opportunity to be heard and understood.
The goal of imago relationship therapy is to be able to develop a conscious relationship where you are aware of how you are feeling, and in charge of how you are reacting. Otherwise, you are likely experiencing unnecessary frustrations because your defenses are trying to be heard and understood by your partner’s defenses. This dance of defensiveness is very ineffective and can lead to a very lonely experience inside a relationship.