23rd July 2010

What can Imago do for my relationship


Throughout my website you will notice I make reference to the fact I use ‘the principles of Imago’ when working with couples and relationship issues. In this blog entry I will share with you a little bit about the principles of Imago and offer you the key elements of the Imago Dialogue for you to try out in your own relationship.  So here goes…

Imago relationship therapy was developed by Harville Hendrix some twenty years ago. His interest in how relationships worked was as a direct result of a marriage break-up.  After years of research Harville came to the conclusion that ‘our partner holds the blueprint for our personal and relational growth’.

If you are anything like me it might take you some time to really get your head around that statement so I would like to offer you the ‘lay mans’ version which I think is far simpler. Simply put it means we are required to view our relationship as the place that will challenge us the most and that has the potential to heal us the most. 

Personally I can completely relate to the ‘challenge us the most’ part and clients share they connect with that too. The part that seems to cause confusion is how our relationships can ‘heal us the most’. Imago believes that in order for the relationship to become a place of healing we need to commit to three essential conditions.
They are:-

  • The relationship
  • Change and growth
  • Personal responsibility

Most people I talk to are happy to commit to all three conditions.  The question that always seems to come next is ‘What does that look like in real life?’

What can the Imago Dialogue do for my relationship

Before we can address ‘What does it look like in real life?’ we need to learn an essential skill.  This skill is known as the Imago Dialogue.  The purpose of the Dialogue is to:-

  • Interrupt your relationships conversational bad habits
  • Slows down reactivity in emotionally charged situations
  • Ensures you hear exactly what the other person is saying to you and then they allows you to respond appropriately
  • Provides a very tight structure in which you can communicate
  • Ensure you articulate and understand each others’ intention behind everything you share.
  • Again I hear people say that this is exactly what they want to happen but then they ask me ‘How do I do that?’.

Three steps and change

The ‘How’ is partially answered in the three steps of Imago Dialogue.  They are:-

  • Mirroring
  • Validating
  • Empathising

Each of these steps is a huge topic all of their own and I will offer you more information on them in future blog entries.

Eliminate all criticism

The next part of the ‘How’ is to eliminate all criticism from your relationship. This is something I found particularly hard as criticism used to be the way I communicated my dislike or disagreement with what was being said or happening.  Clients regularly share that this is one the most difficult skills to learn as it requires reprogramming patterns of behaviour which have often become well embedded in their daily lives and their relationship.  (I will share more about eliminating criticism in a future blog entry).

Start by noticing your ‘conversational bad habits’

I am conscious that this blog entry has offered a very brief overview of the principles of Imago and that there is a need to go deeper into the processes with you at some point. However, I hope that this entry invites to you be more curious about your own ‘conversational bad habits’. 

If so, you might like to take a little time to write down some of your ‘conversational bad habits’ and then next to each one write down the impact they have on your relationship. It is often only when we take the time to stop and write something down that we begin to face just how destructive and disconnecting our conversational patterns are for ourselves, our partners and our relationship.


If you found this entry useful, and you would like to explore how we might work together, then just click here.

Posted by Kerry-Lyn on 23/07/10 at 03:04pm
Theme: Communication
Theme: Marriage
Theme: Relationships

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