Those of us in long-term relationships with a commitment to do what it takes to learn how to love each other know what a high game that is. There's a lot that gets in the way of that. For therapists, our relationships are a rich playground for expanding our capacity to accept one another.
The imago dialogue is an intentional, refined approach to communicating. With practice, it can become a sweet effortless entry into real connection.
Yet, life intrudes and stuff gets in the way between us AND our clients' ability to engage in such intentional and kind conversation. The reactivity of the conditioned self gets in the way. When I asked our facebook group about some of the experiences that got in the way of empathy for them – all kinds of things inhibit empathy – fear, disappointment, anger, irritation, resentment, frustration, sorrow... there are so many ways we cut ourselves off from empathy.
Once we help our clients discover what's between them and empathy, we have the keys to the kingdom. Once our clients learn to engage in this kind of self investigation and have the means to bypass those obstacles with AAIT, they have more free access to real empathy.
Of course, we all can and do develop these skills without the help of integration, it just takes a little longer. In the meantime, our clients and their people prolong their suffering.
It's a worthy question, "What's between you and being able to empathize with your person?" It could be fear of their person's response, being shut down, or worse, abused. It could be a strong desire to be heard, anger, or frustration. Any number of internal wants and worries.
Kevin brooded through most of his days with his family. Meanwhile, his wife wandered through the marriage lost and angry. She was tired of his not listening and his temper. He agreed. He was tired of brooding and wanted to find a different way.
Investigating what was between him and his capacity to empathize was a little knot of pain and anger. Kevin embraced the idea that he could learn to not only MANAGE his anger, but he could be FREE of it.
Within a handful of weeks, Kevin broke free of his old irritability and learned to empathize with his wife and his children. The imago dialogue became more natural and easy for him.
I adore how AAIT can shorten the learning curve for our clients, how they can embody more of the truth of who they are, untangled from the wounds and reactivity that make up who they think they are. How do you shorten the learning curve for your clients?