Imago dialog instructions for playing

This is how Imago Therapy works

The image of love. The partner is always the one who can hurt us most deeply. But also healing, so say Imago therapists.
on December 4th, 2017, 11:39 a.m.

There are teacups and pastries on the table. The man across the street looks me in the eye and says, "You are a bad mother." A horror phrase. But I mustn't fight him. I'm only allowed to say, "I hear you say I'm a bad mother." And then: "Tell me more about it." Now the man is smiling. "Do you feel," he says, "what does that do to you?" Yes I do. When he attacked, something inside became very tight and hard. But when I say: "Tell me more about it", I get my breath back. Interesting what happened there. These sentences were only a small part of a certain conversation technique. Namely the "conscious couple dialogue". This technique is designed to teach couples to walk across a bridge. To the country of the other. In his emotional world, his reality, his perception.

The power of problems

The man opposite is called Erwin Jaeggle and is a psychotherapist specializing in couples. His specialty: Imago Therapy, from which this form of dialogue originates. What is therapy about? To put it simply: about healing through relationship. "People often complain: 'I always meet the wrong person'. But that's not true," says Jaeggle. "They have exactly the right partner. The method is the wrong one. The way they deal with problems." Because: You can make gold out of dung, so the credo of the Imago therapists. The crap, these are the injuries that one partner always inflicts on the other at exactly the point where they are most sensitive. And the gold, that is the ultimate healing of these injuries, which in the end still come from childhood. The image of love. Imago Therapy was developed in the USA by a therapist named Harville Hendrix, and since 1997 there have also been workshops and training courses in Austria.

It is called Imago Therapy because its focal point is the so-called Imago - that, according to Erwin Jaeggle, "the first picture that people make of people". Take all the positive and negative characteristics of the key characters of childhood, then highlight those characteristics that are most clearly visible, add repressed or denied parts of your personality - and voilĂ , you have the profile of who you are in one day will fall head over heels in love Those people who you have the feeling that you have "always known" or that they are the "lost half through which you finally feel whole".

So falling in love is actually a recognition - but one in which one is blind in one eye. The lover's consciousness, clouded by the body's own drugs, simply hides the negative qualities of the dream man, because otherwise, according to expert Jaeggle, "we would probably run away screaming". If we were to see right at the beginning that the newcomer is just as critical or suffocating as our mother or just as violent or distant as our father, the relationship would have no chance. But neither does our healing, so the opinion of the Imago therapists.

We only become happy when someone, out of love for us, wrestles exactly what is hardest for them.
by Erwin Jaeggle, Imago therapist

Because only if we repeat our childish dramas can we one day overcome them: "We only become happy when someone, out of love for us, wrestles exactly what is hardest for them." When the distant partner approaches us, when the critic shows us respect, when the chaotic finally puts away its socks. But why is it often the hardest thing for the partner to do exactly what we need most from him? Because he was injured in the same development phase as we were. And because he reacted to it with the opposite protective mechanism. Harville Hendrix writes, "We minimize or maximize our affect. Regardless of the frustration, some people exaggerate their reaction to it, others downplay their reaction." In response to a lack of care during the attachment phase (0 to 18 months), for example, a child either adapts by clinging to its mother - or by distancing itself from her and appearing without needs. Once it has grown up, it becomes a staple or avoider - and they in turn fall in love with one another with a dreamlike certainty. After falling in love, however, the power struggle begins. Hyperemotional one, hyperrational the other - and both angry because their needs are not being met by the other. "You are never there for me" is diametrically opposed to "You never leave me alone".

Imago's goal: unconditional love

In conventional couples therapies, negotiation techniques are usually used in such a stalemate situation. The partners are encouraged to negotiate agreements or contracts. Something like, "If you get home early in the evening, you can go sailing alone at the weekend." Imago founder Hendrix says: "This haggling only prolongs the phase of the power struggle without recognizing or addressing the unresolved childhood problems hidden therein. For most couples, bargaining only leads to resignation and despair." Because what every person longs for a lifetime - unconditional love - is further away than ever.

However, the aim of Imago Therapy is that couples learn to give love unconditionally. That everyone becomes the father or mother to the inner child of the partner they have always longed for. First of all, it requires an honest examination of your own childhood. Where am i hurt? What needs have I not been met? Which parts of myself am I denying or suppressing? What is my inner picture of relationship? Having dealt with these questions, one has to close the escape routes from the relationship. These are all those behaviors that drain energy with the purpose of avoiding conflict - whether it's work, hobbies, affairs or addictions of any kind.

With the help of structured dialogues and other exercises, the partners in Imago Therapy train to interrupt the "dance of protective patterns". Not immediately defending yourself when the other wants something from you. But to stretch yourself internally. Going beyond your usual behavior and doing exactly what seems very strange and strange to you. Why? - Because that is exactly what makes the other happy.

Continue reading on page 2: The most important techniques of Imago Therapy

We understand each other!

One of the most important techniques of Imago Therapy is this couple dialogue with clear rules.

The agreement.

In the conscious dialogue between couples, there is always a sender and a receiver. The person who wants to raise a frustration or concern is the sender and thus the person asking for a dialogue. If there is not enough time for it immediately, you make a binding deadline, and the recipient (!) Is responsible for keeping it.

The mirroring.

The two partners sit across from each other. The broadcaster expresses its frustration in a few sentences. For example: "It annoys me if you just come late without calling first." The recipient repeats this statement with: "I hear you say that it annoys you when I ... Did I hear that well?" If he has mirrored everything correctly, the recipient continues with: "Is there anything else about that? Tell me more about it!" This mirroring is repeated until the sender says that there is nothing more to say about the problem.

Sum up.

The recipient says, "So, let me see if I've really heard everything ..." and summarizes the most important things. At the end, he confirms with the transmitter again with "Did I hear everything?" Warning: Don't start with justifications now!


The receiver shows respect for the sender's reality by saying, "I understand what you are saying. And it makes sense to me because ... (e.g. it is annoying to wait without getting information about the reason ). " Such confirmation sentences convey to the sender that his subjective experience is permissible and has its own logic. It does NOT mean, however, that you inevitably agree with the partner's point of view or that it is your own.


Now the recipient has to try to acknowledge the feelings of the sending partner, to get involved and to experience them to a certain extent. So he says, "I imagine / I can empathize with what you might be feeling ... if I'm just late, it's anger. Maybe you're also afraid, you are not important to me. Or you are afraid, me At some point I just don't come anymore - and that must be a terrible feeling. " If he's wrong, let the sender say what he's really feeling. After this is mirrored again, the recipient asks again: "Is there anything else about it?"

To deceive.

When there is nothing more to say about the station's frustration, a short break should be taken. Then the recipient asks: "Can we swap?" If this is answered in the affirmative, he now takes on the role of the sender and brings his problem or point of view to the table.