My work as an Imago Relationship Therapist underscores that one of the challenges that couples face as they move from the romantic love into the power struggle and continue on the journey to a conscious relationship is to be able to reframe tensions and what are perceived as disagreements as opportunities for growth.
Neuropsychological research underscored that being able to think positively allows people to use the resource of the neo-cortex as compared to thinking of situations as “problems” or “challenges” invites more of the old brain structures of the brain to be leading the way. The “old brain” is much more susceptible to reactivity and thus folks can go into “fight or flight” type responses.
Being able to shift to seeing any situation as something that can have a solution harnesses an expansive way of thinking. For couples this is particularly important as they move toward consciousness. Consciousness calls the couple to stay in connection and to learn to navigate moving from emotional symbiosis to differentiation which means accepting that their partner is different and the tension of the difference in the relationship is an opportunity go grow and expand one’s sense of self and access to core energy.
One of the key experiences that people report about the mulfliouness of romantic love is that there is a feeling of being so alive. That feeling of aliveness is about core energy. Chanigning the paradigm form “problems’ to “solutions” is about accessing core energy for growth and expansion and allows people to feel more alive. In an adult love relationship the shift from “problems” to “solutions” as a way of connecting and interacting allows the relationship to become a soure and resource for more of a sense of aliveness.
Given our desire to feel fully alive the paradigm shift of seeing opportunites in everything we do as a way of creating solutions–particularly solutions that promote safety and growth — is a critical path for couples to embrace and integrate into thier relatinship.
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National Accreditation Association of Psychoanalysis
A psychologist and counselor with more than four decades of experience, Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D., founded the Center for Effective Living in 1981, where he primarily practices relationship therapy. Dr. Herb Tannenbaum is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the National Accreditation Association of Psychoanalysis (NAAP).
Established in 1972, NAAP is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the psychoanalysis profession and is responsible for detailing the standards and guidelines required of all psychoanalysts.
To become a member of NAAP, an individual must have graduated from an institution that has been accredited by the American Board for Accreditation in Psychoanalysis, or an unaccredited university or college that offers equivalent training.
The applicant must have completed, at minimum, a master’s degree program and possess 450 hours of theory and technique. Also required is 1,500 hours of clinical experience, which includes individual analysis alongside a certified professional, supervision by at least three superiors, and continuing clinical education training.
Students who have not yet completed the requirements outlined above can apply to become a candidate member until their education is complete.
When couples call for an appointment, it is usually because of pain, rupture or despair in their relationship. Imago Therapists, are uniquely trained to help couples begin to sort through their issues in a way that is powerfully different from other forms of therapy. When couples enter into the couple’s dialogue, they are beginning to connect in a way that promotes differentiation as well as connection. The connection aspect of the dialogue reaches to the deepest core of attachment and provides an opportunity for couples to re-create a basis to change their neurobiology and to transform their right brain into a milieu that is less reactive. Allan Schore in his book The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy (2012) summarizes and expands his hypothesis and research that underscores the fact that emotion is regulated initially by others and that it becomes more self regulated as a result of neurophysiological development. He documents that “homeostatic regulation between members of a dyad is a stable aspect of all intimate relationships throughout life.”
Shore identifies that attunement, misattunement and reattunement as on-going in the mother-child dyad and we can extrapolate the same phenomenon to adult love relationships. It is couples who are stuck in the misattunement who often come for help.
In the dialogue, mirroring is central to the couple moving toward reconnection and reattunement. Sometimes couples resist because they feel the process is artificial or mechanical. According to Shore, the phenomenon of mirroring is multi-dimensional and in order for it to be experienced as meaningful it needs to include visual, verbal tonality, breathing, as well as body language. Underscoring the importance of the dialogue for couples Shore states, “psychotherapy is not the “talking cure”, but the “communication cure” According to Shore, “nonverbal affective and thereby mind-body communications are expressions of the right brain which allows the patient to become more conscious of communication from their own body.” We must be cognizant of the body experience as part of effective mirroring.
What are the implications for us as clinicians on the front line? Firstly, that we have been trained to help couples reattach with a profound skill—the dialogical process. For Imago Therapists, the dialogue’s goal is to promote safety and connections. Shore’s work provides scientific evidence of the importance of attachment in helping right brain function to promote safety on neuropsychological levels as well as conscious levels. We need to be cognizant that for mirroring to be most effective, we need to coach the receiver to be attuned to the sender beyond just tracking the words and to make attuned eye contact with the sender as well as to use voice tonality that resonates with the interior world the sender is communicating. The melding of these vectors not only creates a foundation of safety and a secure base for the couple to reconnect but also it is “the matrix for helping create a right brain self that can regulate its own internal state and external relationships.” It is a bio-psycho-social-cultural perspective that deepens mirroring to resonate with the earliest and most profound aspects of attachment.
Adult Love Relationships require that partners learn about the interior of each others psyche and what is needed for safety by each of them. Neuroscientist have shown that safety impacts brain chemistry and allows people to use the neo cortex part of their brain to guide their behavior rather than having the relationship driven by the “old brain” and reactivity.
Couples need to be conscious that their safety is contingent on how safe they make their partner feel! This is a profound paradox that needs to be reflected upon. We can only feel as safe as we make our partner feels means that we our being called into differentiation and consciousness by our relationship. We need to learn about the needs and vulnerabilities of our partner and behave in ways that honor our partner’s needs so that they can feel safe.
This paradigm shifts that calls us to be aware of and honor our partner is transformational for people to understand that they live someone who is different than they are and who has different needs in order to feel safe. This is powerful! It means that by knowing more about our partner and honoring their needs, we will feel safer. That is because by allowing our partner to feel safer they can be more intentional and open to our world.
Imago Relationship Therapy developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Hunt, Ph.D. stresses the importance of differentiation as a key component to developing a conscious relationship. Intentionality about our partners needs and psyche injuries are pivotal in allowing partners to create safety and therefore enjoy the benefits of a conscious relationship.
For more information, please go to my website:herbtannenbaumphd.com.
For over 40 years, Herb Tannenbaum, PhD, has been practicing as a psychologist. Dr. Herb Tannenbaum serves as a certified Imago therapist, Executive Director of the Center for Effective Living, and a psychotherapist. In these roles, Herb Tannenbaum, PhD, provides psychotherapy on individual and couples bases and teaches several workshops and courses on relationship matters.
Toxic relationships can be extremely damaging to one’s sense of self and confidence. The effects of such a relationship can last for months or years after the relationship has ended. Following are just a few signs that you might be in a toxic relationship:
– You walk on eggshells: a toxic relationship is often characterized by an intensely controlling partner. The controlling partner may use either physical or emotional methods to keep you under their thumb, but the result is that you are scared to share your opinions or go against your partner. These circumstances can cause you to become worried that anything you say may anger your partner.
– You aren’t yourself: healthy relationships encourage you to be yourself. In contrast, toxic ones leave you feeling that you can’t. You may feel that you can’t act in certain ways and you may lose confidence. As the relationship continues, you may even find that the “new” you is unrecognizable–and your friends and family will likely also notice these changes.
– You’re always to blame: partners who are toxic often will not take the blame for the things that are wrong in your relationship. Instead, they may place the blame solely on your shoulders and spout empty apologies without actually owning up to anything. Over time, you may start internalizing this notion and come to believe that you are always at fault.
The Gottman Institute
New Jersey resident Dr. Herbert (Herb) Tannenbaum is a licensed psychologist practicing in New Jersey. A member of the American Institute for Psychotherapy, Dr. Herb Tannenbaum helps couples work through issues at his private practice.
Couples counseling serves as a valuable tool for building a solid relationship. In fact, up to 80 percent of marriages are more successful with the aid of a qualified therapist. However, according to Dr. Michael McNulty who trains couples counselors at The Gottman Institute, many partners do not seek guidance until they have dealt with an issue on their own for six years. The long wait adds to the growing pressure and stress of managing a relationship filled with turmoil.
Couples taking advantage of professional assistance learn problem-solving tools that can reduce conflict as well as open up lines of communication. Depending on the severity of the case, a therapist may suggest up to 12 sessions. Couples should expect to invest ample time with their counselor to achieve desired results. In many cases, clients do not recognize positive changes until they have completed their fifth session. Signs that therapy is working include the deliberate use of effective communication between partners to lessen the potential for argument.
Over the years, my work with couples has clarified that relationships change and evolve overtime. Although every couple is unique and face their own set challenges, O have observed, nonetheless, predictable sequences in a relationship’s evolution and development. There are at least four key stages: Romantic Love, The Power Struggle, Stability and Commitment and Co-created Consciousness. Each stage has its own illusions, slippery slopes and potentialities. By recognizing the illusions couples are better able to navigate the slippery slopes and fulfill the potentialities that were sensed in the early stages of the relationship.
The ROMANTIC LOVE stage typically initiates the relationship and allows two people to bond. In this initial stage of the relationship, partners believe that they have discovered someone special and that the delicious elixir of romance will last forever. As a culture, we still idealize Romantic Love and hold onto the dream of finding the right person and living happily ever after with very little effort or attention to the relationship. However, as everyday reality chips away at these hopes and dreams, the POWER STRUGGLE eclipses Romantic Love and pain and disillusionment inevitably arise.
The erosion of Romantic Love leads to a disappointment that fuels the Power Struggle. Like Romantic Love, the Power Struggle is defined by illusion. The illusion creates a mindset that if only the other person would change or be fixed, we could restore Romantic Love, feel fulfilled and have the relationship of our dreams. Holding onto the illusion, we fail to find a way for the relationship to grow and expand beyond the Power Struggle. What is needed for the relationship to grow is vision and intention. It is then possible for each partner to shift from a position of self-absorption to empathy; from blame to ownership and from being a source of pain to creating reliable safety, comfort and dignity for the other. These skills of VISION AND INTENTION sare part of a larger skill set that enable couples to forge a relationship that cecomes a venue for mutual healing and lifelong growth.
Without a compass or a roadmap, it is difficult for couples to find their way through these inevitable stages of relationship evolution and to see beyond the illusions. Overtime, no matter how well intended, couples cannot do this alone. A set of principles, skills and attitudes that can be learned, practiced and incorporated into everyday life providing a sense of path and directions. Couples need a lifeline.
The Getting The Love You ant workshop developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen La Kelly Hunt, Ph.D. offers a lifeline through a curriculum that educates and inspires couples to fine-tune and expand their skills so they can effectively and intentionally navigate the challengers of adult love relationships. I invite you to participate in my next GETTING THE LOVE YOU WANT workshop that will be held in Amagansett, New York on September 17-18. For further information go to my website herbtannenbaumphd.com or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.