What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

imago therapy

Many of us assume that if we do not remember a specific event, there is no way it can profoundly effect us. Perhaps our parents divorced when we were too young to understand what was going on, or perhaps we underwent a potentially traumatic experience during infancy. We may have been told of this event later on in life, and explain it to others with the instinctive conclusion, “But it’s no big deal. I was so young; I don’t even remember it.” The truth is, however, that we are deeply affected and considerably shaped by our earliest interactions and experiences, regardless of whether or not we can clearly conjure distinctive memories. The fundamental belief behind Imago Relationship Therapy is that one of the primary, unconscious drives of the human brain is to repair damage done during childhood. Individuals subconsciously seek romantic partners who are capable of fulfilling needs that were not met by their primary caretakers.

What is Imago Relationship Therapy?

Imago therapists believe that a person’s brain will construct an image of both positive and negative traits from their primary caretakers, and that this is why the traits of our romantic partners often closely resemble the traits of our parents. Unconsciously, we are exceedingly motivated to resolve unresolved childhood wounds and seek healing in order to grow. We are attracted to what it was our caretakers failed to provide us with – but, as previously mentioned, we are also attracted to the negative traits that they may have possessed. Because of this, the wounds we received from our parents are often re-stimulated, and old, unresolved emotions are triggered. Of course, when issues arise within romantic partnerships, the last thing we think to ourselves is, “Oh, hey, I bet unresolved childhood trauma is being re-stimulated! Time to heal old wounds created by my parents.” Unfortunately, because the very root cause of interpersonal issues is often overlooked, many potentially harmonious relationships prematurely end.

Healing from Childhood Trauma

This specific form of trauma therapy was first developed roughly 25 years ago, by Dr. Harville Hendrix (author of the best-selling book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples). The term Imago is derived from the Latin word for image, and refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love”. Essentially, this means that many of the frustrations and difficulties we undergo in our adult relationships stem from negative childhood experiences. For example, if we felt emotionally neglected throughout childhood, we are likely to feel the same way in our romantic relationships later on in life. If we felt smothered by our parents, we are likely to feel smothered by our domestic partners. This is because we will be (however unconsciously) even more sensitive to neglectful or smothering behavior in any form or of any degree. These core issues may lay dormant for years, and resurface much later on in our adult lives. When core issues such as these do arise, they have the potential to overwhelm all of the good in a relationship. Fortunately, IRT allows both parties in a relationship to more empathetically understand deeper issues, and work towards a happy and harmonious partnership.

Our Family Program

Rather than take an individual approach, Imago Therapy takes a relationship approach to emotional healing. This specific modality focuses on collaboratively healing shared childhood wounds. We at Next Chapter believe strongly in the importance of family involvement, and we have developed a comprehensive family program that examines relational problems (and all underlying issues) through the lens of early attachment disorders and unresolved childhood trauma. We believe that many of the difficulties we face in our adult relationships stem from a lack of adequate nurturing in infancy and early adolescence. By delving into past experiences and healing our earliest wounds, we free ourselves up to develop and maintain healthy and functional adult relationships. For more information on our family program or on IRT, please feel free to contact us today.