Improve your love life with this exclusive excerpt from Harville Hendrix.
REMOVING ALL NEGATIVITY
Once we removed the Container Exercise from Imago Therapy and added the Holding Exercise, couples began to make more rapid progress. Their conflicts became more muted and their mutual admiration grew. But there was yet more ground to gain. We discovered that couples had an even more joyful relationship when they abolished all forms of negativity.
This involved getting rid of blatant forms such as anger, shame, and criticism, but also eliminating more subtle forms as well, including such well-known ploys as “helpful” criticism, inattention, condescension, “the silent treatment,” and using a bored or weary tone of voice. Ideally, this ban would extend all the way to negative thoughts. We all have an internal radar that detects any signal—spoken or unspoken—that tells us that it is not ok to be ourselves, to be “different.” to do what we want to do.
The goal is not to repress the underlying feelings themselves—that would cause more pent-up emotions—but to bring them out into the open and see them for what they really are: a warning sign that some aspect of the relationship needs work. And as you have learned in earlier chapters, the best way to start solving a relationship problem is to look at your own contribution. “Here I am, having critical thoughts about my partner again. What does this say about me? What am I doing or not doing right now that is feeding my negative attitude?”
The task may seem daunting, but the rewards are great. As negativity recedes, goodwill rushes in to fill the void. Without conscious effort, you find yourself focusing on your partner’s admirable qualities, much as you did during courtship. Only this time, you will have the insights and tools you need to sustain your regard. Meanwhile, your partner will be seeing you in a much more positive light as well, and you will both thrive in the warm glow. Eventually, a sacred space will well up between you, one that both of you want to nurture and protect. With conflict removed, connection will deepen and passion will flow.