So what are the nonnegotiable conditions for restoring and sustaining connecting?
First, “The basic tenet of Imago is: Being present and connecting through relationship is ultimately what transforms both partners, not attempting to change themselves or their partner as separate individuals.” (p.10) This statement sums up the shift in therapy from the Newtonian worldview to the quantum worldview. The rest of the book explicates the ideas brought forth in the Introduction.
Ultimately, “All Imago tools and techniques have the establishment of safety as their stated outcome or their intended effect. The partners have to know that they will never be attacked, discounted or dismissed. Their safety has to be absolutely reliable and predictable.” (p.10)
I can’t stress this enough. After 30 or so years of doing Imago therapy, I just know, that if you don’t feel safe, you will defend yourself. Would you not say the same thing?
The 3 Safety Practices of Connecting
3 practices that create and sustain safety include:
1. Imago Dialogue
The Imago dialogue process (now called Safe Conversations) consists of: mirroring, validating and empathizing. It takes things out of the power struggle – which tends to be I am right, and you are wrong. The mirroring makes sure each partner hears the other accurately. The validation step simply confirms that this is what went on for me. The empathy step helps partners get in touch with the feelings surrounding the intellectual issue that has been brought up.
2. The Zero Negativity Process
“Going Zero Negative is the central challenge in establishing safety and restoring connection.”(p.11) This piece of the puzzle seems to be the hardest for couples to manage because to some extent the negativity can be unconscious. The challenge is to find a way to communicate to your partner that what just occurred didn’t work for you without them getting defensive. The caveat, of course, is that it is the person on the receiving end who determines whether it is negative or not.
3. The Affirmations Process:
“Since the brain has a negativity bias because of the millions of years we humans lived in unsafe environments, it is not enough just to banish all negativity. That leaves the brain without its primary defense. When the affirmations process replaces negativity, and the brain experiences safety and assurance of survival as a consequence, the brain eventually replaces negativity with positive social engagement as a lifestyle.” (p.11)
4 Parts Imago Metatheory
The rest of the Introduction explains how the book is set up into four parts and what each of the four parts contains. Part I, which I will look at next week, expands on the Imago metatheory in which the clinical theory is grounded.
The Introduction’s Conclusion:
“Humans cannot exist joyfully without connecting. It is our nature. It is the substance of our being, and without it the world seems empty and dark, like a vast ocean. Universally, couples desire to have the relationship of their dreams. No matter what their complaint or symptom or the details of their vision, embedded in every couple’s vision of their dream relationship will be the desire to experience connecting.” (P.14)
In working my way through the book with you, my goal is to assure you that, as my business card states: “The tools are available in today’s world to have the relationship of your dreams.” See you next week and contact me if you have any questions.