Imago: The All-In-One Relational Toolbox

By Bonnie Brinkman - February 2015

You know those all-in-one gadgets, like the knives that have corkscrews, scissors, toothpicks, screwdrivers, and lots of other useful tools on them?  When something needs repair, we often go to that portable, handy and efficient set of solutions. I’ve always been attracted to these things because, when I use them, I feel competent and successful, as I use the tool that best fits the challenge of the moment, take care of the need right on the spot, and get back to whatever I had been doing. Tidy and neat. No mess.

So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that as a therapist, I was drawn to the skills and tools of Imago Relationship Coaching to use in my practice with couples. After glancing through the best seller, “Getting The Love You Want, I found that everything was laid out for me. It seemed like a paint-by-the-numbers approach to developing the relationship of a couple’s dream. Just follow the 4 R’s:

  • Re-Image myself and my partner as allies learning to grow and love
  • Re-Structure our frustrations into opportunities for healing
  • Re-Romanticize the relationship with pleasurable, intentional behaviors
  • Re-Vision the relationship we really want for the two of us 

Keeping intimate relationships in tip top shape and fixing loose screws are hardly in the same ballpark, yet early on, I thought the groundbreaking tools and skills I found in Imago (Latin for “image”) Relationship Coaching could be looked at in a similar way: assess what the relationship needs at the moment, open the portable tool box of Imago tools, pick the one that fits the moment, efficiently and successfully take care of the need right on the spot, and get back to being in conscious connection. Tidy and neat. No mess.

I was in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Drs. Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, creators of Imago Theory, have been on that adventure for over 35 years. As a result of years of using their own relationship as a laboratory, applying recent findings in brain research, quantum physics, and advances in attachment theory, Harville and Helen, and now many in the field of spiritual healing, believe that the relationship of our dreams is right under our noses…the one we’re in now.  All we have to do is change almost everything we once thought about ourselves in intimate relationships.

After 3 intense years of training with Dr. Hendrix, and Imago master trainers, years of ongoing continuing education, and 25 years of practice with my partner, I have come to see that creating a great relationship is, indeed simple, like using my favorite gadgets, but it is NOT tidy and neat with no mess.  When I began studying with Dr. Hendrix in 1992, I had no idea what a relational paradigm was.  I had no idea the road to relational heaven is paved with enormous opportunities and challenges with a partner I sometimes wished would just go away and let me go back to tidy, neat and no mess. And I certainly did not know that this adventure always includes what some friends call ‘’Imago meltdowns”. 

These emotional ruptures occur when one of us, or both of us gets triggered by the other and loses our lovely adult consciousness.  Unkind words and deeds follow, opening the door for each of us to go to the toolbox and own our part in of the mess, make amends, heal old emotional wounds, reconnect, and increase our intimacy a bit more each time. I had no idea that finding the right toolbox for us, and facing life head-on in all its mess and untidiness, would so deepen our capacity to laugh, listen, touch, love and live.

We humans appear to have a deep longing to become a distinct person, and yet remain connected to an intimate “Other”.  Imago skills help us feel successful in realizing that longing.  As a couple stretches and learns new way to live with each other, our capacity to connect increases. We learn to quickly repair ruptures using processes that keep us in connection while doing so.

To learn to live in a relational way, we have to surrender most of what we have been thinking and doing, and venture on an unfamiliar journey without our familiar tools. We have to let go of the much-loved notion of a “soul mate”.  In fact, we will always be attracted to partners who will trigger our old wounds so we can achieve psychic wholeness.  There are hundreds of thousands of folks who can fit that bill. Instead of continuing to believe we must have picked the wrong person again and starting over with the next one, we need to respond to that inner voice that told us there had to be something better than letting a love that started out so good end so badly, and repeating the cycle over and over. We need to begin to see the challenges in our relationship differently.

And when the lens through which we have looked at our relationship is changed, we will realize an astonishing amount of spiritual growth and healing has been trying to occur.  We just didn’t have the instruction manual or the tools to put it together. I’ll pick that over tidy and neat everyday.

“Getting The Love You Want” a workshop for couples, developed by Drs. Hendrix and Hunt, is a 20 hour educational experience, and is presented in Cincinnati by Bonnie Brinkman, MA, certified Imago workshop presenter, and her partner Darcy Jack, MA, MC, also well trained in the Imago processes. They have delighted in presenting this workshop since 1996, and in sharing some of the ups and downs of their own relational loving with fellow couples on the journey to greater intimacy and spiritual growth.

The workshop is offered through the Conscious Living Center, February 13-15th, and introduces couples to a systematic, emotionally safe, and fun way to learn a new way to love. All work is done privately between each couple.

For more information, or to sign up for the February workshop, visit:

Bonnie Brinkman, a Cincinnati native who lived in Arizona for 37 years, has recently returned to her hometown due to precious family relationships. She has been an Imago Coach since 1993, and is grateful to be a new staff member with Darcy at CLC.

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