Harville Hendrix, Ph. D., a Clinical Pastoral Counselor who is known internationally for his work with couples, and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. co-created Imago (Latin for "image") Relationship Therapy and developed the concept of “conscious partnership” based on nurturing intimate relationships and parenting. The first of their several books, Getting the Love You Want, was originally published in 1988 and has helped millions of couples attain more loving, supportive and deeply satisfying relationships. Imago is effective as a way to create stronger relationships, because it helps us become more aware of the way that we are all deeply interconnected. It offers insights into the unconscious agenda we bring to our relationships, encouraging us to grow together in a creative, non-controlling, and healing way. Hendrix's Getting the Love You Want has gained international acclaim, and even grabbed Oprah's attention (she's said to have employed the Imago theory to revitalize her own relationships).
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Chapter 11: CREATING A SACRED SPACE
Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence? —Shirdi Sai Baba
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Throughout this book, I have been talking about the vital role that safety plays in creating lasting love. Two people cannot be passionate friends unless they feel safe in each other’s company. Couples need to feel physically safe, to be sure, but they also need to feel emotionally safe. Without safety, they cannot say what’s on their minds, express their full range of feelings, or be who they really are. They cannot lay down their armor and connect, even if they wanted to. People are built that way. Danger activates our defenses.
During my early work, I designed four exercises to help couples create a climate of safety. I discussed them in earlier chapters. To refresh your memory, the exercises are: 1) closing down the exits that prevent intimacy, 2) returning to the caring behaviors of romantic love, 3) using the Imago Dialogue to deepen understanding and compassion, and 4) defusing anger and frustration by transforming criticisms into respectful requests. These exercises help couples develop trust and goodwill and experience more joy in their daily lives. In addition to developing these basic exercises, Helen and I also spent many years searching for ways to help couples manage their intense feelings of anger and rage, those outbursts that are typically fueled by childhood pain and disappointment. When people spew this archaic anger onto their partners, the relationship can become a war zone. But when they repress their anger, they can also jeopardize the relationship. When people deny this critical part of their being, they dampen their enthusiasm for life and their capacity to love. To make the relationship a safe haven, couples need to find a way to manage their anger that brings them closer together and sustains a feeling of connection.