If there is one thing in life that can completely create imbalance in our lives, emotionally and physically – it’s troubled relationships.
Relationships between our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, co-workers, or our boss – any relationship out of balance has the potential to create havoc in our lives.
Relationships have a huge impact on how we thrive, our health, our overall well-being and enjoyment of life.
We are genetically wired for connection and we need connection, we need relationships to survive. So when our relationships are challenged we feel enormous stress, we feel threatened and our bodies suffer – causing anger, resentment, guilt, sadness and pumping out stress hormones causing us to be on alert, a constant fight or flight mode.
Our relationships live in the sacred space between us, which is sacred – Martin Buber
Harville Hendrix a renown psychologist, author and leading relationship expert and creator of Imago Therapy says that we unconsciously choose a partner who in some ways represent the positive and negative traits of our parents/caregivers.
The unconscious wants to heal. Unconsciously we imagine that the other person will be able to be there for us, be reliable, meet our needs and give us what we long for. When this does not happen we get disappointed, hurt and feel angry. Creating conflict and struggle in our relationships. But our relationships and the conflicts we have can actually be a fantastic opportunity for us to heal.
Through the Thou a person becomes I – Martin Buber
Harville Hendrix says that when we have conflicts we tend to put each other down and when we do that we lose equity – if I put you down, you become less than me and that creates anxiety.
Harville says it’s important to have equity, all negativity must stop so we can become equal. He asks what is the function of the negativity? The function is to avoid intimacy which can cause pain. Another function of negativity is to try to get the partner back to how it was, back then when we were in love and everything was great.
Our relationships are only as good as the connection between us.
Harville Hendrix says that if we replace negativity with curiosity everything changes. Then we can ask questions with compassion and mirror what is said with empathy, making the other person understood rather than feeling wrong.
The Imago Dialog:
One partner has a message it could be ” I feel ……… when you…… ” It’s important that there is no shaming, critizing or blaming but that we only talk about how we feel ourselves.
The other echoes what was said, word by word or by paraphrazing and saying “let me see if I got you right…….”
” so what I heard you say is that…….and it makes you feel really……. when that happens or when I do that” – finishing by saying things like “Is there more? or did I get it all?”
If there is more – then it is repeated and the whole thing is summarized.
The next step is validation. Who is right or who is wrong is not important, emotions cannot be discussed only validated.
The partner who is listening will after summarizing say things like – ‘That makes sense to me – it makes sense to me because……..”
We don’t have to agree but validate the feelings.
In this step the listening part imagine how the partner might feel.
” I imagine that you must feel really hurt, angry, sad, lonely …… when that happens ….. is that how you feel” ?
It is so healing to be heard, met and validated like this by your partner! We long for this, to be truly understood.
Read more here on the Getting The Love You Want website.
Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen Hunt have written several amazing books that I wholeheartedly recommend!
Getting the love you want – is a classic a relationship bible in every sense.
Giving the love that heals – A guide for parents – an absolutely amazing book for parents on how to communicate with our children.
And the new book that is just out
Making Marriage Simple – Ten truths for changing the relationship you want into the one you want
More often, the expectation escalates…
Exactly Amy and then the problems when we don’t talk about it!
Harville Hendrix talk about expectations in the youtube too. The Imago dialog is a great tool.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
OMG spot on Anne! I am having so much trouble with a girl at work at the moment. It has turned my life upside down 😦 I feel sick and anxious and the smallest thing makes me doubt myself. Tyler and I do the ‘I feel’ bit but it’s not really practical in a work situation for me. love this post!
Thank you Cass! I’m sorry that you are having trouble with a girl at work. It can really affect us big time! So important to have a place to air it and express how you feel! The imago dialog is such a great tool!
It is so easy to turn anger inwards and fell hopeless and begin to doubt ourselves. I love this Quote from Steven Winterburn
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes” 🙂 Take care! XXX
He is so right, Anne! Thanks for this wonderful read!