Imago therapy according to Pat.

So your rose garden needs a little work?  If you are aware that your relationship needs help and your partner is willing to work with you to achieve harmony, count yourself lucky.  I’m sad to say that my marriage had already gone south before I recognized how bad it was.  So bad, in fact, that D was telling me he wanted a divorce.  I knew right away that I would need some help whether or not we were willing to go together.  A friend of mine told me of a therapist she and her husband had worked with some years previous.  Dr. A was a certified Imago therapist for individuals and/or couples.  My friend had told me a great deal about the Imago approach and it made sense to me, so I called up and made an appointment.  What did I have to lose?

Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., developed the Imago method of counseling.  The following is a quote from Dr. Hendrix which describes briefly why he thinks we’re drawn to our partners:

Psychologists say that “chemistry” is really our unconscious attraction to someone who we imagine will meet our particular emotional needs.  What we unconsciously want is to get what we didn’t get in childhood from someone who is like the people who didn’t give us what we needed in the first place.

I had to read that paragraph several times to get the gist of it.  I’m accustomed to shorter sentences. 🙂  Seriously, I have read most, if not all, of Dr. Hendrix’s books and his logic rings true.  Here’s a summary of what I understand Imago therapy to be:

  • All of us are born whole and complete.
  • We become wounded in our early stages of development by caregivers.  (Most parents don’t do this on purpose.)
  • We have in our unconscious an image of all the positive and negative traits of our caregivers.  This is the Imago.  This image gives us the blueprint for whom we should marry in order to have our needs met.
  • We then marry someone who is an Imago match.  This is someone who matches the composite of our early caregivers.  Since our parents (caregivers) are the ones who wounded us, they are the ones who must heal us in the form of our primary love partner.
  • We choose our romantic partner using a selection process based on who will be able to heal us and help us grow.
  • At some point after the “honeymoon” is over a power struggle ensues.  Both partners are seeking healing and growth.
  • The conscious mind doesn’t choose this struggle.  It’s the unconscious mind seeking healing.
  • With conscious effort and dialogue, the Imago love mate is the one most compatible with us and the one most capable of helping us to resolve unfinished business with our caregivers.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about all this now.  I wonder a little myself but I think I know the answer.  Back before D and I physically separated and he was still living at home with me, and after I had seen Dr. A a few times, I asked him if he would consider going to a couples weekend of Imago Therapy.  I explained it to him as Dr. A had explained it to me.  It’s a good way to get to the heart of who you are and why you’re attracted to certain people.  Whether or not he and I decided to stay together, we both would have learned some important things about ourselves and our relationships.  I became very hopeful.  D had to go on a business trip and took a copy of “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix with him.  He came home and told me he had read the book and some woman on the plane asked him about it and he just gave it to her.  (Can’t help wondering who the woman was.)  This I learned from that experience:  Something in the reading touched a chord.  D had a meltdown.  He cried and cried.  I’m still not sure what all the crying should have told me.  I do know that he decided a few days later that he didn’t think he would be able to go for a weekend with me.  And he moved out and the rest is history.  I know now that his girlfriend had given him an ultimatum, he had promised her that he would leave me and he did.

“Thank God and Greyhound” he’s gone–a very funny song by Roy Clark.  I don’t mean that to be ugly.  I simply realize I’m better off and maybe he is, too.  And life is good.


18 thoughts on “Imago therapy according to Pat.

  1. Thanks for your comment, E. Not everybody buys into Hendrix’s theories. At first I didn’t. One line from D the whole time I was learning about Imago kept threading its way in and out of my consciousness, “I’m a lot more like your dad than you realize.” As you’ve probably noticed in my writing, my family or origin had a lot of shortcomings, especially my dad. So maybe that is why I found D. He and I were supposed to fix each other and if we’d found this type of counseling earlier, maybe we would have. And maybe not. It’s a moot point now.

    You’re young and you’re working on these issues and that’s a good thing. You will learn what choices not to make in future relationships. I’ve been married twice and I made the same wrong choices for the same wrong reasons both times. You are learning the lessons I so wish I’d had earlier. Keep it up!


  2. Dear Pat,
    I found this post fascinating…And will probably have to mull over it before I get to the bottom of what this theory may mean for me.
    But it definitely echoes what I have discovered through counselling: That my current struggle with the end of a relationship has reactivated fears, pains acquired in infancy…Possibly/probbaly a fear of being replaced, a feeling of abandonment, that sort of stuff. And yes, I have so far been going through life looking for someone who can help me heal. And the fact that I have failed in this quest just keeps compounding the initial wounds.
    Thank you for sharing your experience on this,it’s such an interesting perspective, and like Caroline, seeing how far you’ve gotten and hearing you say Life is good give sme hope.


  3. Thank you Coralf. As soon as I complete this project I’m working on I will talk some time to check him out. I appreciate the links. Can you, if you have time, explain to me (very simply) how you add a link in the comments section. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m a bit techno-challenged. 🙂


    • I just copied the url from the browser and pasted it. There should be an option if you right click in the comment area, but you can also use the paste shortcut, which is control+v once you’ve put the mouse cursor where you want it. Hope that helps!


  4. Thanks for your comment, coralf. I’m not familiar with Al Turtle. I’ll look him up.

    I went to my Imago therapist for several sessions but I didn’t go for the weekend since it was actually for couples.


  5. I like the way Al Turtle builds on top of Harville Hendrix’s work. It makes so much sense to me.

    I was unable to get wasband to attend IMAGO. I went on my own anyway, for my own personal growth.


  6. Thank you, Ducks, I thought it was heartbreaking too. Only he can say what it meant.

    It’s been a hard struggle (almost 5 years now) but I’m definitely out of the tunnel and into the light.


  7. That was a heartbreaking part about D’s reaction to the book. We often hardly know what emotions are trapped within us and waiting for release. The main thing is you have come out of it so well. or so it seems to me.


  8. : ■We choose our romantic partner using a selection process based on who will be able to heal us and help us grow.***
    Pat–As I read this line, I couldn’t help thinking about Kay. The man that killed her didn’t help her grow or heal….he took EVERYTHING. everything. ….Until there was nothing left.

    How is your journey going? How long have you been divorced? Xxx


    • It’s so sad, isn’t it? Kay must have had such high hopes early in the relationship. How could it have gone so wrong. I’m so sorry for your loss. Keep pounding your message against domestic abuse. I used to volunteer as a Guardian ad litem for the court system. (I think you may call it something else in your state.) I was a voice in the court for children who lived with domestic violence. I call it living in hell.
      My personal journey is moving along fairly well now. I’ve been officially divorced for about 3 years. I still have sad moments about it but not so many nowadays. Mostly I stay busy and am happy.
      Keep writing. I look forward to your posts. Tell your dear mother Saint Shirley the F word is here to stay. I’ve adapted a sort of acceptance. I’m guessing your mom is about my age.


  9. There are parts of this which I’ve learned from Stephen (my Life Coach). I got Alex to go to see him and he too had a break down moment. The outcome has been the same as yours!

    I shall read more on this approach though.

    You are doing so brilliantly. I’m still several stages behind you. I can’t yet say Life is Good

    But I intend to!!!


    • Hi Caroline. It’s an interesting approach for me since I carry a lot of childhood baggage. I guess we all do in one way or the other.

      As I said to B above, I still have little “blips” that I have to think about, write about. I can truly say that life is good for me now. D was so much a part of me that my goal now is to be grateful for the good parts and let the rest slide away with the tide.

      As one who has followed your progress, I can say that you are doing great. knowyou still hurt.


  10. I am so glad that this therapy helped you (along with “bloging therapy.”) I’m not sure that I buy in to Dr. Hendrix’s philosophy, but it must be good so I will check it out. You have come such a long way …


    • Thanks, B. If you are interested you can borrow my book(s). I don’t think about it much these days but once in a while something tweaks in my feeble brain and I write it out in an attempt to sort it out. Sometimes it helps.


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