The “Energetics” of Couples Therapy

Hands holding the sunrise
The Energy of Relationships

By Garet Bedrosian, LCSW, CIRT, CBT, CET

This article can be found in the May/June, 2013 issue of Awareness Magazine. 

The nonverbal energetics between partners is akin to a siren song; alluring, irresistible, yet destructive. They become compelled to engage with one another as if they are fighting for their deepest desires or maybe even their lives.

Imago Relationship Therapy and Bioenergetic Analysis offer a structure as well as communication tools to help couples navigate those turbulent waters and ignore the siren call to respond to triggering events. Each modality is developmentally based and correlates the connection between childhood experiences with adult character traits and relationship styles.

Imago Theory states that individuals develop unconscious templates of love in their families of origin. All the positive and negative characteristics of their parents or primary caretakers form their energetic love-map. Not only do they possess those traits but they will only choose and fall in love with people who also possess those same traits. They will not fall in love with anyone else. They choose their Imago or mirror image. The Imago partner with whom they fall in love cannot give them what they need. In their most recent book, “Marriage Made Simple”, Imago Relationship founders Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt say, “Incompatibility is grounds for marriage.” I add… for any romantic relationship.

To heal childhood mis-attunements and wounds people need to be with someone who is willing to grow into their ability to provide what the other needs to heal. Each partner possesses what the other needs to grow into their fullest, most alive self. They will not be interested in someone who meets their needs too easily. To protect themselves from the inevitable disappointments they engage the protective barriers adapted at an early age in the form of beliefs, behaviors and bodily contractions.

Bioenergetic Analysis as a field of study addresses the issue of bodily contractions. One of the premises of bioenergetics is that people protect themselves from their childhood wounds on a bodily level as well as on a mental/emotional level. Since these wounds are embedded in the cells of the body, the age and chronicity of the wounding determines the characteristics of those contractions and resulting adaptations. Mis-attunement occurs in a wide spectrum of possible woundings. The synapses that are enforced correlate to a higher degree of mental, emotional and physical protection, lowers levels of self worth, self hatred or possibly sociopathy. The will to live conflicts with the need to be safe resulting in restricted life energy on multiple dimensions.

Neuroscientific research reveals that loving attunement in childhood strengthens the neurons and synapses in the brain that correlate to higher levels of self esteem or self worth as well as to the ability to be compassionate and empathic to others.

To be healthy and happy, the individual must release the mental, emotional and somatic holding to allow energy to flow freely through them as well as between them and others.  Living in a defended body attracts others who are equally guarded. In contrast, when the ability to give and receive love flows easily, the individual attracts others with similar dispositions.

Returning to Imago theory, it addresses another facet of developmental defensives. The theory discloses that partners are wounded at the same developmental level but defended in an opposite way. In other words one might attempt to get their needs met by pursuing while the other withdraws when needs are not met. Neither defense is better than the other. They are both restrictive and reactive postures adapted as protection. The attraction to someone possessing the opposite stance is an attempt to reclaim some fluidity in response and a less defended style of need gratification.

When unable to trust the relationships with childhood caregivers, individuals characteristically defend their expressions of love as well as their receptivity to love. However, defending against authentic expression creates a multitude of physical, emotional and relational problems. Humans are born fully alive, joyful, and connected and want to reclaim that birthright. Individuals long for the give and take of love yet unconsciously defend against it or the possibility of heartbreak. It is the unconscious, energetic expression that stirs the siren’s call.

Energetic transformation happens in the ‘Getting the Love You Want’ couples’ workshop, the ‘Recovering Our Connection’ workshop for couples with addictions and the ‘Keeping the Love You Find’ workshop for individuals interested in having more successful relationships. Each participant learns how and why they chose their partner and how the relational struggles are opportunities to heal and grow into a deeper love.