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Imago and Me: A Guest Post by Michael Cohen, psychotherapist & coach

In Realtionship, Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 3:17 am

Michael Cohen

Until I was trained as an Imago Relationship therapist, I never really knew if I was helpful to the couples that came to see me. I always did the best I could to mediate their conflicts and to make sure they each could learn about their role in the problems they were experiencing. Inevitably one person would feel like I was taking sides, even though I made every effort to stay neutral. In conversations with colleagues and in supervision groups, we all shared our frustrations with the couples therapy we were doing.

Seven years ago my partner Dan and I went to a weekend workshop called Getting The Love You Want, http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com/. It was one of the prerequisites to Imago therapist training. Both of us decided we wanted to be trained in this method and there was no better way to begin than to experience it for ourselves.

We were blown away by how helpful it was. We learned so much during that weekend, about ourselves and about the repetitive arguments and frustrations we were having. We also got a really clear sense of what it was that was limiting our intimacy together. We spoke our fears and were able to understand them within the context of our families of origin, or what we had experienced as children. It all made great sense and released a great surge of hopefulness for us.

Now I have been practicing Imago Therapy for 7 years with many couples, and I know that the work is helpful. I see the progress clearly and I am excited to pass along what I know to other people. Imago Relationship Therapy is a very psycho-educational approach. I like to call it relationship training, because for many people it is the first time they have ever been taught the art of and techniques of being in a partnership. Most people come to relationship with very unrealistic expectations and very few skills.

Rose and Shawn were one such couple. They had a perfectly lovely first year of life together, and then as happens, they began to deal with some conflicts. Shawn had been brought up to believe that he would meet a partner who would make him happy, someone who would never disappoint him. He was very invested in that after his childhood, which was filled with disappointments. His mother died when he was 10, leaving him with an overwhelmed father who quickly married a significantly younger woman. Shawn felt perpetually left out of this new family and retreated inside to a lonely and resigned place. When he met Rose, she offered a loving connection and a sense of loyalty that reminded Shawn of none other than his own mother. We call that his relationship Imago, or his unconscious idealized image of love.

As a result of this history, Shawn’s reacted to Rose’s differing needs and separate sense of self by getting frightened, becoming angry and accusing her of being unfaithful to him. He had not made any of the connections yet to his past, as most people don’t, until they begin to take responsibility for their feelings and reactions. Shawn, like many of us, needed safety, support and guidance to make those connections. He needed a trainer, if you will, to help him understand what was happening between he and Rose, and to discover new ways to relate. After some work, Shawn was able to make those connections and to learn new ways to deal with his feelings. Of course Rose had her work to do also. They are still in therapy together and they love the process.

Sometime people come into couples therapy seeking to change their partner. Few things are less productive or more frustrating. In Imago therapy, there is great emphasis placed on learning about and changing you. Some of the questions put before you in the course of this treatment/training are: What is your role in each conflict? What of your past is influencing your reaction to your partner? What are the challenges present for you to become a better partner? What old habitual responses do you need to look at and revise so they bring you what you want? How well do you attune to your partner’s needs?

The creators of Imago, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt have created exercises and useful tools for couples to delve into this rich terrain. Self-discovery within the context of a relationship can be the most valuable of all personal growth.

One of the most helpful tools is called the Intentional Dialogue. It is a method of communicating that allows people to truly listen to each other. One of the foundational beliefs of Imago theory is that the core of most relationship difficulty is that people do not know how to communicate clearly (especially when it comes to feelings and needs) or to listen well. Once these skills are learned and practiced, many couples learn to solve many of their own conflicts by themselves.

Relationship can be so wonderful and at the same time, so difficult. We all need as much support as we can get to make them work well. The best support I have found, both as an individual, and as a therapist, is Imago Relationship Therapy. Check it out, and check out our new website as well: http://www.gaymalecouples.com/.Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have comments or questions. I love talking about Imago and about relationships.

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What are You and Money doing together this Holiday?

In Dialogue, Realtionship, Uncategorized on November 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm

A Guest Post by Shell Tain, PCC, CPCC

So, what do we do with Money over the Holidays?  Most of us use it and ignore it at the same time.  We spend it with the idea that we will catch up with it in January.  Actually it’s more like April, because it takes that long for many people to catch up with, or recover from, their holiday spending.

At the very least it seems we put our money thinking on hold.  And yet, what do we expect from Money during December?  We expect it to be there.  We expect it to stretch to meet our needs and desires.  We expect it to magically appear.  And we expect it to do all this cheerfully.  Hmmm.

Remember that thing about how we are going to be in relationship with Money all our lives?  Remember the question: “If we knew we were going to be in relationship with a person forever, how would we want that relationship to be.” I’m guessing that we wouldn’t expect anyone we were in relationship with to do what we expect of Money over the Holidays.

So, what might Money want?  What’s on Money’s wish list? You’ll have to ask your Money to find out.  (Yes, talking to your Money is a good thing.)

Here’s what I think Money will say to you.  I think it wants what everyone really and truly wants.  It wants your time and attention.  It wants to have a shared experience of deep caring with you.  Well, isn’t that what we want from our loved ones?  Stuff comes and stuff goes, and, frankly, it’s very few presents that make a lasting impression.  What we want is positive time together.  Money wants some of your time and attention.  It might even want your acknowledgment and appreciation for the frenzy you put it through during the holidays.

Wait!  Money as a loved one?  That may be throwing your off, but think about it.  Money is there, in your life, day in and day out, just like family.  Sometimes Money doesn’t give us everything we want, but then, neither does family.  Sometimes we have to work really hard to keep things going with Money, the same as with family.  Sometimes Money seems to let us down, just as family does.  And sometimes, Money really comes through and helps us, just like family.

Money will be with you longer than family.  You will interact with Money every day.  What’s the relationship you want?  What’s the relationship Money is asking you for?

Oh, and again, just like family, Money has some obstacles in communicating with you, doesn’t it?  It can’t talk to you; it has to get your attention in other ways.  What if you tried to notice what it might be trying to say?   What might that bounced check be saying?  What might the pile of unopened bills be saying?  And what might the money that unexpectedly lands in your lap be saying to you?

So check in with your Money and see what its wish list looks like for this holiday season.  Can you possibly fit in giving Money a bit of what it wants now, and during the coming year?

Shell Tain is credentialed professional certified coach, a money coach who knows how to help people make changes.   As an Accountant/Controller for more many years, Shell gained first hand money experience in everything from “start-ups” to mid-sized companies.  Her coaching focuses on how your feelings, beliefs and attitudes about money affect your progress in fulfilling your goals.  Working with Shell improves your confidence and effectiveness with money.  Shell takes her clients from the crunch to the “ka-ching.”

Shell Tain, PCC, CPCC

$ensible Coaching

503.258.1630

shell@sensiblecoahing.com

http://www.sensiblecoaching.com/saleitems.htm

Inner & Outer Roles

In Realtionship, Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 at 3:24 pm

At the Center for Right Relationship, we talk about Outer and Inner Roles as essential structures in relationship. The former describes an executive function and usually has a job description: CEO, Mother, Piano Tuner. The latter refers to the emotional functions in relationship: nurturer, initiator, peace-maker.

Recently I was doing some work around my own Inner Roles with a colleague. At supper, I’d described a way in which I am always accommodating in relationship. This is so natural to me, I rarely notice it is happening, until I begin to feel ripped off somehow, as though I never quite get my turn. It simply doesn’t occur to me to say what I want or even voice my opinion about a matter until so much tension has built up inside that I’m making a speech with wild gestures in the restaurant. Sometimes on an unrelated topic.

Or I walk away dissatisfied because I never said what was on my mind.

This role can make me tired.

So I began to play with other roles, less familiar to me, and came up with The One Who Claims Things for Himself. The gesture I came up with to express that had me step forward and reach out to grab something in front of me. There was a fierceness about the gesture that I found invigorating.

My colleague had me go back to explore the gesture of accommodation, and I came up with hands moving out from the heart, and then I bowed. When I slowed it down, I discovered a great deal of generosity and honoring in it. Not all bad, this accommodation, but too much too often, and I grow bone weary and resentful.

Then it occurred to me to combine the two gestures: the one of claming and the one of accommodation, and in doing so, I found out something about sinking in to scoop it up (attention, new ideas, acknowledgement) and draw it into my heart. It was out of this new energy that I could then offer to others. A workable compromise.

Some of the people we passed on the way back to my colleague’s hotel gave us curious looks, for I kept sinking and scooping and filling my heart and then opening it to offer the World.

But what of the fierceness that I found so invigorating?

In what way does that want to be given expression in my relationships?