Let’s continue our discussion with the Imago Match, from last’s week’s blog.
Here is an interesting question for you. “What leads us to choose that one person (or maybe two or three or four) to spend our lives with out of the countless others we could have chosen?” (p.129) Not a bad question really! Why am I with my partner? Why is anybody with anyone?
“In Imago theory, we posit that the major reason we seek out this kind of partner is because of the assumption that lies at the very center of what Imago theory and therapy are all about An Imago-Match gives us a golden opportunity to restore the original experience of connecting we lost during childhood.”(p.129)
Reality from a Quantum Perspective
Remember we are looking at reality from a quantum perspective. From that angle, we came into existence with a primal memory of our original nature – “cosmic connecting experienced through resonance with our caretakers” (p.129)
Our parents were not perfect which is the reason we experience a ruptured connection. Thus, we are not perfect. Our unconscious has the memory, not only of our original connection, but also of rupture, and of the unconscious. This is about survival.
This notion of survival is a key point but as we said last week, “this elusive force operates outside our awareness and without our permission”. (pp. 126-127). “The Imago can be seen as the memory of the context in which the survival directive was activated because of a caretaker’s failure to be present and supportive of our developmental needs, and it is an attempt to recreate that context with a similar person (an Imago-Match) to try to turn off the survival signal that was activated in childhood.”(p.130)
5 Occurrences with an Imago Match
Let’s take a look at our Imago Match and specifically what tends to happen:
- Partners trigger each other’s feelings and memories
- Partners have parallel and equal challenges.
- Partners use complementary defensive styles.
- Partners have similar maturity levels.
- Partners have opposite or complementary blocks in the four human functions
Imago Match Partners Trigger Feelings & Memories
Good or bad, Partners trigger each other’s feelings and memories, that are associated with their childhood caretakers. Conventional wisdom suggests men are attracted to women resembling their mothers. It also suggests women are attracted to men reminding them of their fathers. An Imago match is gender-neutral.
“The Imago lives outside the realm of logic and reality, so it does not split hairs over whether our caretakers were male or female.” (p.131) As the memories of childhood are always the subjective perception of the child, “even persons who are not a precise match can come close enough to hitting the bull’s eye, which means we could end up falling in love with them. But, they have to be a reasonable facsimile.” (p.131)
Partners have parallel and equal challenges
Our partners have parallel and equal challenges. “Despite the fact the partners seem to be coming from opposite sides of the planet, they actually sound quite alike; they may use different words, but they often are describing the same kind of pain. Partner A might say, ‘You never listen to me.’ Partner B answers, ‘Well, you never talk to me.’ Or one says, ‘Why don’t you ever want to get close to me?’ while the other responds ‘Why can’t you ever just leave me alone?’
These are signs of parallel challenges of equal severity and of the common universal theme that relational stress is behind every individual complaint.” (pp.131-132)
Partners use complementary defensive styles.
Our partners use complementary defensive styles. Typically our response to stress or danger is by either maximizing or minimizing our defenses.
The “Minimizers constrict their energy when feeling threatened or unsafe, pulling it inward, shutting it down, downplaying its importance or denying its existence.”
The Maximizers use the opposite strategy: when upset, they expand their energy, discharging it outward by talking, exaggerating, yelling, crying, or other similar tactics. Note that neither defensive style is desirable nor undesirable; neither is superior to the other … both are typical human defensive tactics, knee-jerk behaviours, which we use when feelings of safety and disconnection begin to loom large.” P.132)
In children’s subjective perception, one child may feel their caretakers applied too much structure and were too involved. The other child may have felt neglected with too little structure. In response to their caretakers’ imperfections, “Children develop one of two defensive styles: minimizing or maximizing, withdrawal or pursuit, deceleration or escalation” (p.133), and that defensive style follows them into adulthood.
Then in an intimate relationship, if there is a charge on an issue, one partner tends to be on the side of “talk to me, talk to me, talk to me.” While the other tends to be on the side of “leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone.”
Match Partners have similar maturity levels
Imago match partners have similar maturity levels, typically when partners feel on the defensive they will use words like ‘you never’ & ‘you always’. As adults, most issues are not black or white, always or never, but for those of you who have a three or four-year-old, that tends to be the way they see the world.
“Whether they cope with their temporary state of insanity by exploding (maximizing) or imploding (minimizing), partners are usually operating at approximately the same maturity level, meaning they were arrested around roughly the same developmental stage.” (p.133)
Partners have opposite or complementary blocks
Our partners have opposite or complementary blocks in the four human functions. “This final ‘matching’ factor brings up a related axiom of Imago theory: What is dominant in one partner is recessive in the other.”(p.134) The four human functions are thinking, feeling, acting or moving, and sensing. Because our parents weren’t perfect, as we are not perfect, some of a child’s needs around those 4 functions weren’t met very well.
Suppose as a child I was pretty rambunctious but that was judged as inappropriate by my caretakers; my reaction might be to shut that part of me down, the acting or moving function, effectively repressing an organic part of myself. “However, the function does not disappear, just its expression; but for all practical purposes it is missing or lost.”(p.134) In Imago we refer to that as the lost self.
The authors go on to say:
“In our experience of observing complementarity in couples, we have discovered that most partners have shut down two of their functions, say thinking and feeling, but they give full expression to their other two functions, sensing and acting.
What is interesting about all this is that partners criticize the functions in the other that are shut down in themselves. It takes two people to have the four functions in the relationship and since all four are needed to navigate life successfully, nature has paired us with someone we desperately need to provide those that are missing although we criticize them for having what is missing in ourselves.” (p.135)
Imago Match: A Recipe for Disaster?
If it remains unconscious, the reality of an Imago Match seems like a recipe for disaster. The divorce rate in Canada is around 40%. The other 60% could represent couples in hot marriages (fighting) or cold relationships, where the passion is gone.
As we reframe the reality of our Imago Match, we realize we have in fact married our healer. But you can see why it is so important to be aware, to be conscious. “An Imago Match gives us a golden opportunity to restore the original experience of connecting we lost during childhood.”(p.129)