Emily Maroutian, the writer, poet and philosopher whose quote I use on my website has concisely reflected how Imago Couples Relationship Therapy thinks about what we bring to our adult relationships. It can certainly feel like we're stuck when we can't seem to effect change in our relationship with our most intimate other and continue to feel frustrated, angry, and unheard despite our best attempts to tell them what they need to do differently. It's like "Groundhog Day", just going round the same old actions and getting the same old results.
Emily notes how we have "...committed to certain patterns of behaviour because they helped you in the past". When we look at the latest research into how our brain works we can see that this commitment to a pattern that helped in the past is a survival strategy the brain is putting into operation as a means of protecting us from harm and keeping us safe. Unfortunately, this part of the brain is not very good at keeping up with the times and is instigating a fear response when it looks like we might do something a bit different to what we did before. However, the "what we did before" might actually have been when we were 5 years old or 8 years old or a teenager and the trauma of the event has imprinted on our brain so strongly it feels dangerous when a similar pattern (doesn't have to be an exact match) shows up in a relationship in the here and now. In the adult relationship it might be quite safe to do something different, but the part of the brain responsible for our survival is having none of it. Through Imago Couples Relationship Therapy we can explore, with our partner, the old patterns and the places in our history where these were formed. Then we can make conscious decisions about whether this reaction/pattern is still relevant or whether it is time to face the fear and move into learning new ways of being in relationship that bring us deeper intimacy and fulfilment, and less conflict. As Emily notes "Change the formula and get a different result"
Making change in our relationships is hard when we are not sure what we are dealing with. It can also feel like it is unfair if we have to make the changes first, but what we know is all personal change begins with the self. Using Imago Couples Relationship Therapy techniques such as mirroring, validation and empathy with our partner we learn how to notice our own triggers and create a new response to them. Equally our partner learns how to listen to us in a way we decide is accurate and through being heard properly we can show vulnerability and make an opportunity for growth together.