Imago Exercise #1: Create Safety
The number one priority in Imago Relationship Therapy is to create safety in the relationship. This is so that couples can communicate effectively. What I know for sure, (as Oprah would say), after working with couples for the last 25 years, is that if a person doesn’t feel safe in a relationship he/she will defend him/herself.
Let me take you back to the year 2001 – to 9/11. Shortly after that event, I attended the International Imago Convention being held in Atlanta, Georgia. As the Imago Institute was then in New York and many of the therapists had assisted at ground zero, everyone was affected by what had happened. It was a significant topic of conversation. Something very interesting happened, however, as the week wore on and therapists from all over the world shared their experiences working with couples. By the end of the week, someone expressed what we all intuitively understood. When couples attack each other in a significant relationship it has the same devastating effect as the attack on the Twin Towers.
It is much easier to look at the destruction in New York and express how horrifying it was. When couples attack each other, it is emotionally no different, and yet for some reason, our culture turns a blind eye. Check the movies, TV, the magazines at the checkout counter – we see people criticizing each other or otherwise in an attack mode everywhere. This just doesn’t work. If you attack me or criticize me, what can I do except defend myself? We need to find a better way to communicate.
For this month I would encourage you to ask yourself when you have felt the safest with your partner. Identify those times, then take some time to describe them to your partner. Together work at creating more of these safe spaces together. And remember … a relationship can only thrive if both of you feel safe.