As we continue our series covering IMAGO therapy (taken from How to Get the Love You Want), we’ll hear again from one of my male patients to get a real-life guy’s perspective on his work and experience. This is a real couple going through real, sometimes very tough circumstances, just like you and me.
Our IMAGO series continues this month as we take a dive into one of the actual workbook exercises, and get a peek at what it looks like to do this work with a partner. It can feel vulnerable, it can feel uncomfortable and sometimes just feel plain awkward. But my encouragement to you is to keep an open mind, a light heart, and allow yourself to open up through this work.
How to Get the Love You Want: EXERCISE #5
This exercise is named the Parent-Child Dialogue, and according to the book it is designed to “help deepen your memory of your childhood and increase your empathy for each other.” Hmmmm… wait a minute. What if I don’t really want to “deepen” my memory of my childhood? I mean, some bad stuff happened back then and I’m quite happy moving further and further away from that stuff everyday, honestly. Now I can hear Becky’s voice in my head as the thoughts and hesitations start to swell… “Trust me, just do the work and you will see so much growth!”
OK. So this exercise requires me and my partner (wife) to sit face to face, knees so close they’re almost touching, and to gaze into each others’ eyes as we begin the dialogue. I play the role of myself as a young child and my wife plays the role of my parent (whichever one I choose to have the “dialogue” with). This exercise is somewhat scripted, and along with the close proximity to my wife, it felt a bit uncomfortable as we began. She opened up by asking me questions such as, “What is it like living with me?”, and “What is it like to be my child?”.
Although we were just sitting in our living room as 40-something year old adults as we talked, it was surprising to me just how much of a “flashback” I had to my early years. Feelings, images, people, events… all came washing through my mind as I responded (as a young me). Some of the memories were good, as I recalled playing games with my family and laughing. My parents were also intentional about engaging us in conversation and encouraged open-minded thinking and book reading. And there were plenty of ugly, stinky feelings which surfaced as the exercise and questions moved on. Feelings of tension, confusion, insecurity, abuse…. Not the fun stuff.
A Safe Place to Share
And surprisingly, in the safety of the outlined and scripted exercise I felt open enough to role-play the activity and to be open with my sharing. This was so good for me because it provided a safe place to share and Becky will tell me my “old brain” doesn’t know what year it is or how old we are – it just knows fear, pleasure, joy, sadness, loneliness, comfort. My wife, playing the role of my parent, simply listened, affirmed my thoughts, and asked for any clarity as we moved along. There was no feedback, no criticism, just safe space to talk and feel.
We swapped roles and my wife was the child as we repeated the exercise. And perhaps I gained more in this role as it really allowed me to hear and feel what she was feeling. This is the EMPATHY element which is one of the goals of the exercise, breaking down walls and allowing one to connect more deeply with the other.
We walked away from this exercise with a true, real sense of what the other one went through as a child. It helps me to see my wife as a young girl, with all the baggage and pain she was dealing with at the time. This is important because we BRING OUR CRAP INTO ADULTHOOD and must bring it to the top if we’re going to process in a healthy way and grow closer as a couple.
Interested in more? I would love to virtually meet to you! Email or call anytime to schedule a virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.