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Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of marriage therapy founded by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting The Love You Want: A Guide For Couples, Keeping The Love You Find: A Personal Guide, and Giving The Love That Heals: A Guide For Parents.
IRT claims to integrate and extend western psychological systems, behavioral sciences, and spiritual disciplines into a theory of primary love relationships. Its basic premise is that:
- We were born whole and complete.
- We became wounded during the early nurturing and socialization stages of development by our primary caretakers (usually inadvertently).
- We have a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers deep in our unconscious mind. This is called the Imago. It is like a blueprint of the one we need to marry someday.
- We marry someone who is an Imago match, that is, someone who matches up with the composite image of our primary caretakers. This is important because we marry for the purpose of healing and finishing the unfinished business of childhood. Since our parents are the ones who wounded us, it is only they who can heal us. Not them literally, but a primary love partner who matches their traits.
- Romantic Love is the door to marriage and is nature's selection process that connects us with the just the right partner for our eventual healing and growth.
- We move into the Power Struggle as soon as we make a commitment to this person. The Power Struggle is necessary, for imbedded in a couple's frustrations lie the information for healing and growth.
- The first two stages of marriage, "Romantic Love" and the "Power Struggle," are engaged in at an unconscious level. Our unconscious mind chooses our partner for the purpose of healing childhood wounds.
- Inevitably our love partner is incompatible with us and least able to meet our needs and most able to wound us all over again.
- The goal of Imago Relationship Therapy is to align our conscious mind (which usually wants happiness and good feelings) with the agenda of the unconscious mind (which wants healing and growth). Thus, the goal of Imago therapy is to assist clients develop conscious, intimate, and committed relationships.
- The core practice of Imago therapy is the "Couple's Dialogue," in which a couple engages in a structured conversation, with or without an Imago Therapist.
- The Couple's Dialogue consists of Mirroring (repeating) each statement, Summarization, Validation ("That makes sense because ...") and Empathy ("I imagine that makes you feel ..."). This enables each partner to extend themselves to understand the experience of the other as different from their own. If you can work with an Imago therapist, he or she will help to deepen that dialog.
- The process of trying to help our partner to heal their childhood wounds ends up growing parts of our own personality that need the most growth. This is largely due to the unconscious process of finding a partner than matches our Imago. As partners help each other to heal, they are also helping themselves to grow, moving them both closer to becoming whole and complete again.
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