You might ask: What does quantum theory or quantum physics have to do with couples therapy? Good question! In their book Doing Imago Relationship Therapy in the Space-Between, Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt answer:
“We have attempted to base Imago Relationship Therapy, as a theory and a therapy of couplehood, on the principles that govern the workings of the universe. Just as the model of the separate self and the practice of psychotherapy (living in a universe of separate objects with implications for suffering and therapy) was based on Newtonian physics, Imago theory and therapy is a model of the self, suffering and resolution that we are grounding in the quantum field of interconnectivity.” (p.48)
The key words here being “the principles that govern the workings of the universe” and “interconnectivity”.
Psychology was born in the late 19th century when Newtonian physics was the prevailing understanding of the “workings of the universe”. Newtonian physics, classical physics, held that matter was made up of atoms which were isolated and individual; the image I think of is a billiard ball – a distinct entity in and of itself. If it is hit by another billiard ball it moves in the direction and with the force of the striking ball (Newton’s law of motion). Psychology, developing in the midst of that world view, was influenced by the concept of the universe of separate entities. It tended to see the person, the self, as similar to the billiard ball. A distinct entity in and of itself.
The individual self was seen as separate. The focus of psychotherapy was to figure out what was going on in the internal workings of the billiard ball – the Space Within. Classical physics continues to be a good approximation for replicating most circumstances in our physical world, Where it falters is in explaining activity at the atomic and sub atomic levels. Psychology (with exceptions), for the last 150 years has tended to focus on the Space Within. This is very helpful; however, like classical physics it falters in explaining everything.
Another Theory in Relation to Quantum Theory
Family systems theory, for example, developed in the 80’s suggesting that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another. Rather they are understood as a part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. Other disciplines also widened their focus. For example, an eco-system, which is a geographic area where plants, animals and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life. A more global example would be the effects of climate change today. Quantum theory extends this understanding of interconnectivity to the whole of reality. Everything affects everything.
The Focus on the Space Between
The shift in Imago theory then, is a focus on the Space Between rather than on the Space Within of the partners in a relationship. Insight into why I developed the way I did can be helpful (the Space Within), but more important, is the way I interact with my partner in the present moment. The Space Between is a real energy field, a microcosm of the larger macrocosm, where according to quantum physics, everything is connected to everything else and everything is in motion.
How partners treat each other in the Space Between can heal the past. This is because, as we know from the advances in the neurosciences, our neural pathways are more malleable than we previously thought. We can create new neural pathways.
The Quickest Way Forward
I believe now, the quickest way forward for any couple, is to pay more attention to the Space Between. It is sacred space, holy ground and we must protect it from any negativity. In a conscious relationship there can be no negativity in the Space Between. Negativity causes disconnect and the quantum universe is all about connection.
An analogy might be a very still pond of water. If I throw a rock into that pond it sends ripples out in all directions. You can’t block them. One rock probably won’t do much but 50 rocks will seriously agitate the pond. Similarly, whatever I put out into the Space Between will affect my partner. They can’t block it. One negative interaction might not be too serious but 50 will harm the relationship.
My goal as a relationship coach is to help couples become more conscious of the energy field of the Space Between. Family systems theory teaches us that whatever one person in that family does, affects all the others – it forms them. What we do with our partner forms them as well.
The Space Between in Imago Relationship Therapy is only the on ramp to their (Harville and Helen’s) vision of “something beyond our imagination, which we can dimly but not clearly see” (p.36) for all of human kind. They go on to intuit:
“For, just as western civilization was built on the model of the autonomous and separate self as foundational reality, a new relational civilization will be modeled on the quantum view of reality as a network of relationships, an interconnecting whole.
At the cultural level, we see this as transitioning from an individualistic civilization focused on the “self” as a discrete entity, separate from and in competition with all other selves, to a relational civilization which will support our experiencing our true nature as relational creatures by collaborating, co-creating and cooperating with others.
The Quantum View
At this point, when the quantum view of an interconnecting universe is transcending and including the Newtonian view of a universe of separate objects, our model for the reconstruction of all our social institutions will transcend, transform and include those built on the individual paradigm, ushering in a new value system, as primary personal and cultural values for human civilization that will be housed and expressed in those institutions that include: universal equality, celebration of difference and total inclusiveness, the value system of a relational rather than an individualistic civilization.”pp.37-38.
Pretty exciting stuff!!