Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) integrates and synthesizes the insights of the major Western psychological systems, behavioral science, and spiritual disciplines into a uniquely comprehensive and systematic theory of primary love relationships. The “Imago” is an image held in the unconscious–a composite of the significant character traits and behaviors of our childhood primary caretakers. An “Imago Match” occurs when we bond with an individual who is like our cartetakers in emotionally significant ways. The unconscious is drawn to the deep familiarity, and drives us to re-create our childhood psychological dynamics in an attempt to heal the wounds we sustained then but carry into our adult relationships now. IRT engages the couple to transform these old wounds and so that psychological and spiritual self-completion can occur.
IRT assists couples to:
- Learn the flagship Dialogue–a three-part dialogue that breaks couples out of defensive and symbiotic relating and promotes differentiation and compassion for the other.
- Identify their defenses against intimacy and learn emotional regulation in order to open and soften into their hearts
- Understand the drive for merger, and respond to it from wise mind, balancing it with growth and differentiation.
- Locate and disclose one’s deep, abiding needs and (as appropriate) make requests of the partner to meet these needs
- Identify the frustrations rooted in primitive and fantasy expectations of one’s love partner; Recognize the failure of archaic behavior to gratify needs and achieve self-completion;
- Perceive one’s partner realistically without the encumbrance of unconscious projections.
- Learn new skills and change hurtful behavior
- Stretch to consciously meeting another’s needs, thereby restoring the lost and denied parts of ourselves.
- Convert frustrations that have led to power struggles, into mutual understanding of partner’s needs and to learn how to respond with appropriate healing behaviors in order to meet those needs.
- Explore the origins of frustrations and to understand how these patterns are producing similar frustrations within the current relationship
- Look inward and discover the qualities in ourselves that we intensely dislike and then project onto our partner, which have contributed to the frustrations within our relationship, and to learn to recognize and acknowledge them as parts of ourselves
- Encourage couples to move beyond their power struggles and to learn to accept their partner as whole person desiring to grow and heal emotional injuries from their past
Imago’s basic premises are as follows:
- We were born whole and complete individuals. We became wounded in relationships during the early nurturing and socialization stages of development by our primary caretakers (usually inadvertently, in relationships with parents who were doing their best).
- We developed a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers deep in our unconscious mind. This we call our “Imago.” It is like a blueprint of the one we need to marry someday.
- We partner with someone who is an Imago Match; that is, someone who matches this blueprint of the composite image of our primary caretakers. This is important because we partner for the purpose of healing and repairing the unfinished business of childhood. Since we were wounded in relationship we need to repair in a relationship.
- We move into a power struggle as soon as we move into a committed relationship. The Power Struggle is necessary, for imbedded in a couple’s frustrations lie the information for healing and growth. The struggle, however, is supposed to end.
- The first two stages of marriage, “Romantic Love” and the “Power Struggle,” function at an unconscious level. For growth and change to take place, a couple needs to move into a conscious level of functioning.
- 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 therapy is to assist clients develop conscious, intimate, committed relationships