Updated: Dec 14, 2019
In Harville Hendrix’s Imago theory, we create an image of our desired beloved by creating a mosaic of the desirable and undesirable traits of our primary caregivers and other influential people in our lives. We then find a partner that has many of these traits, and project onto them whatever Imago traits they do not possess. We find partners that have traits that will trigger unresolved issues within us to satisfy our innate drive to healing. At an unconscious level, we want to face the same issues and “do it better this time”. Being aware of this pattern prior to and in the dating stage of relationships helps people make conscious choices and become aware of potentially destructive patterns before they can damage the relationship.
The state of “singledom” is often a neglected rite of passage.
The times of being single can be a time of rich self-discovery and growth, an invaluable period when one can learn the deeper lessons of both finding and keeping love. The major potential in being single is to think about being single as an opportunity for self-discovery through consciously engaging in self-reflection when you are interacting with other people. In other words, a chance to get to know what your relational style is, and a chance to get to know how that relational style may be connected to what was unfinished for you in your childhood.
When you become consciously single, it’s helpful to notice how you’re carrying your style and the unconscious sources of it to every relationship. The idea of practicing empathy somewhere, like adopting something in the world that you really practice caring for and loving, knowing one day that’s how you’ll care for your partner, can be an intentional way of preparing for your relationship. Counseling during this period can support and accelerate your learning and growth as you move into conscious relating.
Dating can be a time to use your interactions with everyone while you’re still single as a study guide for yourself, so when you really found the person who turned your heart around, you would not be an unconscious relater. You would become conscious. You would know what to expect with romantic love, that it was an attractor, it was transient, it would go away, and you would expect that.
So that when the high of romantic love disappears you wouldn’t say, “Oh my God, what happened to that?” You would know it was supposed to go away. You would know that that period afterward could turn into conflict, and you would know that the conflict was an attempt to deal with that childhood need.
In a sense it would help you become conscious about what was coming down the road in you and in the relationship, and be somewhat prepared for that so that you will not suffer the ravages that are common to many new relationships.
It’s sort of like somebody rafting the Colorado River without any training in how to ride in a raft down those rapids. When you hit the rapids--which you will, and which are always there, you would be aware that they were coming, in some sense what they would look like, and you would have some relational skill and confidence to deal with it.
Once you have found your partner, counseling can be beneficial in working though the conflict and issues that arise. Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of relationship and couples’ therapy that focuses on transforming conflict into healing and growth through relational connection. There is frequently a connection between frustrations in adult relationships and early childhood experiences. Childhood feelings of abandonment, suppression, or neglect will often arise in a committed relationship. When such “core issues” repeatedly come up with a partner, they can overshadow all that is good in a relationship and leave one to wonder whether he or she has chosen the right mate.
Through Imago Relationship Therapy, people can understand their own and each other’s feelings and “childhood wounds” more emphatically, allowing them to heal themselves and their relationships and move toward a more Conscious Relationship.
There’s a myth in our culture that if you’re struggling in your relationship, you’re in a relationship with the wrong person; that if you’re fighting a lot maybe you’ve made a mistake. I want to dispel that myth and say, if you’re struggling in your relationship, growth is trying to happen. A transformation is trying to happen. That is when the real journey of a conscious relationship begins.