Tag Archives: Imago Relationship Therapists

The Other Side of the Couch – What’s The Story You Are Making Up?

what is your story questionSomething that I encounter almost every day in working with couples is the problem caused by internal story-telling.  We all make up stories.  We make up stories about ourselves, about others, about why people do what they do, why we do what we do.  We are tremendously effective at this process, and we do it constantly.  The problems with doing this arise when we take action based on the story that we have told ourselves without questioning whether that story is based on more than our own perceptions.

Here is an example:  A husband won’t start driving until his wife has put on her seatbelt.  The story he tells himself is that he is making sure everyone is safe.  The story his wife tells herself is that he is treating her like a child and that she knows about putting on seat belts and will do it, but not because he makes her.  Because she tells herself this story, she is huffy with her husband; he doesn’t know why, and the day starts poorly.

Here is another example:  A woman has a need for what she calls a positive environment, which for her means no complaining or negative comments.  Her husband is a bit sarcastic and likes to complain about traffic, the weather, whatever.  When her husband makes these comments, the wife tells herself that he is doing this on purpose to annoy her, that he has no consideration, he clearly won’t listen to her, that he doesn’t love her, and maybe they should get a divorce.  The husband, on the other hand, is telling himself that he can say what he wants to say, he won’t be controlled and attacked, she doesn’t understand him at all, and maybe they should get a divorce.

Internal story-telling results in chasms and canyons in relationships!  The way to manage these problems is to make the stories external – say out loud your thoughts and intentions.  For example:  I am worried about your safety and because of that I would appreciate it if you would put on your seat belt before we start driving.  This is so that I will be comfortable.  It is not about you.  Or – when you won’t leave the driveway before I put on my seatbelt, I am uncomfortable because I feel controlled. Is there another way we could work on this?  Could you help me understand your thinking?

Making the internal story external saps its power and helps everyone clarify perceptions.  Give it a try!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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The Other Side of the Couch – Loss, Again

girl and sky

She called this afternoon.

I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. For days now I have been having a sense of something being wrong – some disturbance in the Force, in the energy that surrounds us all. I had laid it to the time of year, always a challenging one for me. As soon as the cherries bloom, every year, I am back in those unquiet days before my mother’s death, driving back and forth to the hospital, and seeing the most beautiful and radiant of springs unfolding throughout the poignant April days.

I have been aware of being sad, of missing my mother this year in a more particular way. Perhaps as I approach her age at her death, and realize how much more life I wished for her, and how much more life I hope for myself, I am shaken by the gossamer threads that hold us to this planet, this plane of existence. The unexpected lurks, and there is much that we cannot control.

The call telling me that a dear friend, younger than I, had lost his battle with cancer, a cancer that metastasized in the same way that my mother’s had, and that ended in a similar, brutal way, recapitulates all losses. The weight is the same, the heavy leadenness, the what-does-it-matter feeling, the tears always ready to be shed, the questions to which there are no answers.

I grieve for his wife, for his daughters, for my husband, who treasured him as a close friend. I grieve for the circle of lives that he touched, which are myriad. He was a giver. I grieve for the life he didn’t get to live. And yet, I know that he lived life with gusto, with joy, with presence. He appreciated the life he had. He knew that it wasn’t guaranteed. He knew that before the cancer ever came.

So today I am doing my best, in the midst of sadness, to celebrate the life of a special man, who gave much to the world, to his family, to his wife, to his community. He gave the best hugs. His life philosophy upheld and lifted. May all of us be so mourned. His was a life well lived. He will be missed.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

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The Other Side of the Couch – What Makes a Relationship Last?  Kindness and Generosity

CoupleHow do we know that we have found the “right” mate?  How do we know, once we have found that person, that we will not be part of the 50% of new marriages that end in divorce?  Emily Esfahani Smith has written an excellent article in The Atlantic that appeared on June 12, 2014.  It is well worth reading.

“Science says lasting relationships come down to — you guessed it — kindness and generosity.”

“Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say, ‘I do,’ committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth,” says Smith. “Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people.”

Click on this link to read the article. You will be glad you did!

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3JeWDq5ml

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.” Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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The Other Side of the Couch –Listening

Listening

I recently had the pleasure of attending an unusual conference in our nation’s capital. NO, the conference had nothing to do with politics (although we did have a surprise visit from “President Obama” – for split seconds the audience really did think this very talented impersonator was the real thing!)  The theme of the conference was Joyful Aliveness, and the hotel was rocked by shouts of “You are Amazing!” from the presenters, the participants, and anyone else who was brought in for any purpose.

I was attending the annual conference of Imago Relationship Therapists. IRI is an international organization that brings together Imago therapists from all over the world.  This year there were participants from 21 different countries, including 8 from Estonia, 17 from South Korea, and 4 from South Africa.

Imago Relationship Therapy, first developed by Harville Hendricks and his wife, Helen LeKelly Hunt, is a way of healing relationships through the use of a variety of processes, most importantly through the use of Dialogical processes.  First developed nearly 25 years ago, Imago is used by over 1000 therapists around the world, changing the world, as we say “one couple at a time.”  (For more information, check out www.gettingtheloveyouwant.com, or just google it on Youtube.)

Imago processes are based on very precise and attuned listening, a skill that most people have never been taught.  What more often than not happens when two people are talking about a subject that brings up any feeling of conflict is that while one person is talking and the other is ostensibly listening, what is really going on is that the supposed listener is actually listening to what is going on inside his or her own head, so as to effectively challenge or contradict the other.  The same thing goes on when the other person is called upon to listen.  WE DON’T LISTEN, and we, therefore, often base our behavior on erroneous information.

What was beautiful about this conference was that I was in a community of trained and respectful listeners who, even in the midst of disagreement (and there were disagreements), were able to listen, take in new information, even change their positions based on new information.  I enjoyed it so much!

Below is a poem that was shared after the conference.  It sums up my thoughts about listening.  Enjoy!

 

“Reduced to Joy” by Mark Nepo

We can grow by simply listening, the way the tree on

 that ridge listens its branches to the sky,

 the way blood listens its flow to the site

 of a wound, the way you listen like a basin when

 my head so full of grief can’t look you in the eye.

 We can listen our way out of anger, if we let the heart

 soften the wolf we keep inside.

 We can last by listening deeply,

 the way roots reach for the next inch of earth,

 the way an old turtle listens all he hears into the pattern of his shell.

 

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Self Savvy