Al, How do we use what we learn about our Imago match help us to better see our partner and to grow ourselves?
Big topic here. I have been pondering and discussion and checking out the concept of Imago Match for, oh, about 20 years. In my men's group we chat of it a bit every week. In the office I see it as well as seeing in my family, and in those that I meet. Lots of ways it has become useful. Where do I start?
The most obvious place is with that flood of feelings that ushers in Romantic Love. If those feelings last for days and weeks, and hits both people, then Imago Matching is most probably going on strongly. At that point what use is knowing about it? Nada. The phenomena of Romantic Love, of dreaming the Biological Dream, is so powerful, I don't even think of messing with it.
You might get a kick out of this, but the next place where I think of the Imago Match working is in horrid relationships between people who won't get away from each other. I have individual who come in all the time who seem to be in an ongoing terrible pattern with another, but who doesn't want to leave or be left by this "horrible" person. I think of this a a kind of "super sticky" relationship.
Often they will tell me that everyone in their life is telling them to get away from that other, and I just validate their profound need to be with them. I am often alone in doing this.
The Imago Match is quite a discussion piece for people who have been married or coupled many times. Makes comparing and contrasting those relationships quite a fun project.
The idea that your Imago Match (current one) will be your worst nightmare by about 20 to 50 times worse than anyone else in your life, is useful. If you learn how to be friends with this person, everyone else is much easier. This also provides a lot of empathy for couples who are "battling" and some wonderful wisdom for the Christian teaching about learning to "love your enemy."
I see how the lizard gets triggered quickly by the old hurts and the need for better coping skills. There is also value in applying those lessons outside of our marriage.
Well, yeah but your partner is paradoxically chosen to provide those triggers at an awesomely high rate. Therefore the coping skills you will develop will be industrial strength coping skills. This seems to be particularly true as in childhood the best skills are often to run away or to wait until you can leave home, but in an Imago Match relationship you have to develop skills that will handle/deal with those triggers maybe forever. No escape.
I often think that if I could take a couple in the Power Struggle phase, drop them in a spaceship to Mars, they would be the best of lovers by the time they came back partially cuz they could not get away from each other and the solutions to all their problems had to be that good.
The word heal is an often misread one. In my website I have a story about a Water Buffalo that I think contains the best image for me of healing. I heal you by helping you find your wounds, working with you to find what action you need to heal each wound, practicing the triggering and the healing actions until the reactivity is gone - till the wound is healed. And you me. Water Buffalo story.
I think part of my question is does our partner really help heal us from those old wounds or are we doing a better job of healthy self-soothing? How do you quiet those "snakes on a brain" (my term for lizard) once and for all?
Couple of additional thoughts. The snakes are healed when the same trigger behavior has no effect of so little effect that you are not even bothered anymore. Avoiding the triggering situation doesn't heal the wound. I think this is partly why divorce profoundly doesn't work.
The original wound (wounding situation) is in your past, often way far in the past. Once that wounding was done, it will never be gone simply because we cannot forget. Not designed to. While you can trigger yourself (in your thinking) what really brings the wound to the surface is a)someone mimicking the original wounding situation who is b) in significant ways like unto the original person who did the wounding.
In b) we see our Imago Match - a person who our unconscious selects as a reasonable facsimile of the wounding parts of our caretakers. (This is called a transference relationship, one where I transfer onto the person near me the attributes of someone else - in this case the pain causing caretaker.)
In a) we see the triggering.
The healing of the wounds involves adding new memories on top of the old. Now the "caretaker" is doing what I needed them to do in the past. And the new experiences help us expect new reactions/behaviors and we get to consign the reactive trauma to our old history.
How I see it. And I am just scratching the surface here.