Remember this is just The Preface to the book, which continues for another 500 pages. I am going to quote Harville and Helen pretty extensively here because it might better help you understand their train of thought. It’s after the preface that they will explicate their thinking more fully. I believe what they are really doing is challenging the whole field of psychology as we presently know it.
Continuing their intellectual autobiography, they state:
One day we found ourselves thinking a previously unthinkable thought. The problems couples bring to our offices are not located inside themselves, where they have been since the founding of psychotherapy in the late nineteenth century. They are located in their interactions with each other, in the space between them.”(p.xiv)
The Space Between
Harry Stack Sullivan said something similar in the 1950s. He said “It does not matter so much what happens inside an individual. What matters is what happens between them.”
“Coming to the conclusion that what transforms couples’ relationships is not the depth of their internal explorations, nor historical exploration nor insight, but the quality of their interactions with each other led to the question of the necessary conditions for relationship transformation. It turned out to be simple: the requirement for all thriving organisms is Safety.” (p.xv)
The Roots of Psychology
“Then we came to another conclusion: the roots of psychology … is the separate self of western culture and was modeled after the atom – which Newton proclaimed was that out of which everything is made. Freud converted this separate self into the psychological self by endowing it with an interior world called subjectivity.
Couples, from that perspective, are two individuals, essentially separate, who are trying to live together without conflict and hopefully with satisfaction and, sometimes, joyful aliveness. To overcome their alienation, they were directed to explore their inner world of feelings and memories in order to acquire insight that would restore them to their pre-neurotic condition. This autonomous self eventually became the centerpiece of civilization, giving birth to the Individual Paradigm.
For us, the discovery of the centrality of relationship conflicted with this perspective, which was and is the orthodoxy of our profession” (p.xv)
The Relational Paradigm
The challenge then became to garner scientific grounds for “relationship as reality” and in chapter one they will explore a relational thread they discovered in the history of psychotherapy that led to the formulation of a new paradigm we call the “relational paradigm”.
“Essentially, this paradigm makes the relationship central and the individual peripheral; distinct from the individual paradigm which makes the self the center of reality and the relationship peripheral or optional. Therapy in the individual paradigm is understanding leading to insight and the release of internal constraints. In the relationship paradigm, therapy is a function of resonance and connecting made possible by safe exchanges in the Space-Between that lead to the experience of connecting, full aliveness, joy, and wonder.” (p.xvi)
Psychology and Relational Reality
“Since relational reality has no ground in psychology (since by definition, psychology is about the self – the logos of the psyche), we proceeded to ask the question: if the paradigm of the individual is grounded in the hardcore science of Newtonian atomism (and since that paradigm does not contain data of the foundational reality of relationship) is it possible to ground the relational paradigm in another hardcore science, quantum physics, that posits the interconnectivity of everything?” (p.xvi)
“Through the lens of quantum theory, we learned that reality is a connecting field of energy – information – consciousness in which all forms – including the universe itself – arise and dissolve. In quantum theory, this is called the particle-wave duality. This perspective posits the field as primary and the form as secondary, and interconnecting as the primary feature of nature. We began to language our thoughts that quantum physics is the ground of the relational paradigm and of Imago Relationship Therapy.” (p.xvi)
“With this understanding, our formulation of the Space-Between became less a metaphor and more an instance of “real space”, a manifestation of the quantum field containing the same energies that constituted the space between subatomic particles and galactic forms.” (p.xvii)
In other words, your little relationship is a microcosm of the vast macrocosm.
Negativity in The Space Between
By nature, you want to be connected but negativity causes a disconnect. You can’t keep putting negativity into the Space Between, it will destroy your relationship. They use the image of a river flowing between the two of you. You both drink from that river and wash in it. If either of you puts negativity into your river it affects you both. Another analogy is light. You can’t block light. If I put negativity into my relationship it will affect my partner. She can’t block it.
Conclusion to The Preface
Concluding my analysis of The Preface, “As contemporary psychotherapy and couples therapy was grounded in classical physics, we view the quantum field as the ground for the reinvention of our view of humanity as a whole and the person as a location in the whole. Looking at reality in general and humanity in particular through the lens of ontological connecting can lead not only to the reconstruction of all our disciplines, like psychology and therapy but to the reconstruction of all our philosophies and social institutions.” (p.xvii)
This is heavy stuff, I know, but hopefully, walking our way through The Preface, and as we work our way through Doing Imago Relationship Therapy in the Space-Between we can all come to a better understanding of what they are about and their importance for all our lives.