Bend Counselor asks: Why use the Imago Dialogue?

November 14, 2012 by

When couples learn the Imago Dialogue process I often hear comments like, “it’s not the way we talk”, or it’s too “wooden”(i.e. stiff, structured) or “why do I have to repeat back what they said? I know what they said”. Over the years I’ve come up with different explanations in an attempt to assist couples and convince them to use the process. Some of these have been:

1. We don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply. We interpret what our partner is saying through our own story and often misunderstand our their message

2. We criticize, blame or shame our partner in an attempt to get them to be who we want them to be, not who they are

3. We “case build” and judge or partners instead of being curious about our own frustration and then learn to ask for what we need

4. We need to slow things down so we keep our ears and hearts open and keep from becoming defensive. All of these explanations are about calming down our reactivity and maintaining connection.

Having just returned from the Imago International Relationship Conference in Vancouver BC this Bend Oregon Marriage Counselor learned more about how our brains work from a keynote address given by the acclaimed neuroscientist, Dr. Paul Early. It seems our brain is not a smooth running machine but is more of a “Gerry rig” of competing parts. In the emotional part of our brain (the limbic area) we have a part called the amygdala. Its job is to protect us from danger. It connects with our emotional memory. Whenever it senses danger it acts as if there is an enemy in the house and we react to protect ourselves. Whether we raise our voice, nag, shut down, withdraw, criticize, roll our eyes or any other of the myriad protective behaviors we humans can do, misunderstandings and conflict become inevitable.

Have you ever had an argument over something petty or small? That’s your amygdala going off. So the notion that we all marry or partner with someone who isn’t us, is instructive. There are two brains in our marriage. Each developed differently based on unique experiences growing up that wired us, in part, to protect ourselves. So the parts of the Imago Dialogue—mirroring, validation and empathy—calm the amygdala down to create the safety needed to maintain our connection. Harville Hendrix, PhD says, “the Imago Dialogue is a necessity for couples seeking to grow real love.”

At Bend Oregon Marriage Counseling we help couples learn about their own pesky amygdalas and how to keep them from setting off conflicts. Also, since none of us are perfect, we can repair ruptures in our connection. The best way we have found to do this is couples learning the Imago Dialogue. Contact us and let us teach you this amazing skill or take the tools to create lasting love. Need a tune-up? Let us coach you. Your relationship will thank you!