If I’m not asked a hundred times a week “What is Imago?!” ” What really is being “in love”?
“Love, in Imago, is a verb, not a noun. It is created or destroyed minute by minute by our actions. Love is an act that is accompanied by a feeling, but it is not a feeling itself. Love is the behavioral commitment to another's physical, emotional, mental and spiritual potential and welfare that is equal to if not greater than the same commitment to oneself......
...... Love is free from negative judgment; it is the full acceptance of another as they are, not as one wishes them to be. Love accepts and honors difference. It is the hyphen between the I and the Thou.”
Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt
Imago, may be defined as the image we have developed subconsciously of the other who may heal and complete us…. “the perfect other.”
To understand more deeply what happens in a relationship we must consider what implicit memory each of us develop through our lifetime. Given that our caretakers were connected to our needs as neonates, we come from our mother’s womb truly fed, warm and safe. We find ourselves in a relaxed, harmonious place. In a perfect world, if this would be a consistent experience through our development we could remain whole.
It is impossible however for our parents to be completely available, selfless and give us exactly what is needed to meet our every whim as we grow. Even if they try very hard to accomplish this, they too are developing through life. They too get exhausted, distracted, ill, afraid… It is an inescapable truth that we are not born to a life of sustained feelings of warmth, harmony and wholeness.
We are therefore naturally left with unmet needs, which cause fear and pain. We are innately driven to restore our feelings of safety and wholeness. Meanwhile, our brains are continually developing into adulthood and we are being socialized by our caretakers and community so that we adapt to our society. Children are very sharp in this way. We grow through childhood implicitly learning ways to conform to our family.It is human nature to naturally develop survival mechanisms. We do respond with primitive coping mechanisms that may vary from constant crying for attention or withdrawing inward pretending we don’t have any needs. Furthermore, to adapt, we learn what to do to gain love and acceptance. We repress disown parts of ourselves that society finds unacceptable or unlovable.
It is so true as Harville says…“Most of us had “good enough” caretakers; we do all right. Some of us didn’t fare so well, and our lives are handicapped by deep hurts. All of us were wounded in childhood to some extent. We are now coping as well as we can with the world and our relationships, but parts of our true nature were suppressed in the unconscious. We look grown up--we have jobs and responsibilities--but we are walking wounded, trying to live life fully while unconsciously hoping to somehow restore the sense of joyful aliveness we began with.
Then we meet our Imago. One who turns our brain chemistry upside down! We are sexier, funnier, kinder. We have an unbelievable sense of aliveness. Suddenly we are saying “I feel like I’ve known you all my life; I feel whole again, like myself. You complete me. I cannot live without you….. Everything will now be OK. I feel safe with you.” Yet our imago becomes so much more than the first experiences of infatuation.
What is it about this person that makes such a difference in our life? Why are they such a ‘good fit’? My next newsletter we will continue to explore why we develop specific relationships. How can we keep that intimate connection?