Imago Relationship Assumptions
Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT), developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. of the Institute for Relationship Therapy in New York, is a paradigm shift in the understanding of marriage and marital therapy. Couples learn to become safe and intentional, to recognize and repair the wounds of the past, and to restructure frustration and ‘incompatibility’ as opportunities to reclaim their whole self.
Some of IRT’s basic assumptions are the following:
Our original state is one of wholeness, joy, connection, curiosity, spontaneity, and passion.
Over/under-parenting and the process of socialization, creates wounding at various stages of childhood development as essential developmental impulses are blocked. The child unconsciously determines the impulse, rather than the parent, to be “unacceptable” and creates patterned behavior to adapt to the wounding. This is our “character structure.”
Partner selection is the result of the unconscious desire to complete or correct what was unfinished in childhood. We select a partner who carries both the positive and negative characteristics of our caretakers (the “Imago”), and who was wounded in the same area, but adapted in a complementary way.
The adaptation patterns of one partner triggers the wound and survival pattern of the other, creating a cycle of reactivity. Pattern relates to pattern, rather than person relating to person.
Developmentally specific nurturing of each partner helps heal the childhood wound. And paradoxically, our partner will need the very thing that will stretch us out of our own pattern and help us reclaim aspects of our self.
The more primitive part of the brain stores emotion and memory related to perceived threats to survival. It is atemporal and ignores our rational explanations about its fear. While insight is important, consistent corrective experience is needed to change survival patterns.
This therapy helps couples access and integrate those unconscious developmental needs triggered in relational conflict, and become increasingly conscious and intentional in their own behavior in order to create safety for their partner. Frustration and hurt become pathways to create a “conscious relationship” that is characterized by real love, intimacy, passion, connection, joy and other inherent qualities of our original self.