Love Travels at the Speed of Light
There is a book titled Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. I found it useful during a tumultuous relationship I couldn’t seem to end in a healthy way for either of us. Initially, I thought, “if only we could communicate better, then all would be well.” HA! Only a few flips through the book, and it was clear ours was a relationship that leaned heavily toward “too bad to stay,” and needed to end.
For some, however, communication truly is the stumbling block. Learning how to listen, how to share honestly, and how to love fully is transformative, and ultimately the key to a lasting, loving, caring relationship. Enter Imago!
I first attended one of Maya Kollman’s Imago workshops in the 90s in Washington DC. I was in graduate school pursuing my master’s degree in social work, and over the next decade I attended every workshop I could.
When Maya, who holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology, was first introduced to Imago, she was prohibited from having her partner, Barbara Bingham, join her. Now 33 years later, she is one of five Master Trainers of Imago Relationship Therapy, trained and certified by Dr. Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Therapy. She has since travelled around the world with Barbara, teaching the ideas and skills of Imago in 15 countries and 26 states, counting Delaware.
The daughter of holocaust survivors, Maya is a spirit of love and light. Together for over 40 years, she and Barbara, a yoga teacher, believe yoga to be the key in waking the body and letting go of emotional stress. “The principles of Imago and yoga are similar: letting go, taking responsibility for yourself, growing your container to manage reactivity, being loving and open, etc.,” says Maya, who practices yoga daily.
Maya’s exploration of relationships has shown her that key elements in healing—both the self and the relationship—include self-love, curiosity, openness, connection, and compassion. Her questions for those in relationship strife might include:
• How do you keep the relational field open, i.e., how do you communicate meaningfully and with positive impact?
• How do you create partnership?
• What is the power in relationship?
Conflict is growth trying to happen. Says Maya, “Imago uses sentence stems rather than questions to get underneath the content into what the issue is really about. Intentional dialogue and the many tools used in Imago enhance the positive, which is different from traditional relationship therapy.”
A few key phrases she finds useful for self-reflection and exploration include:
• Spot it/Got it—We can only see in others what lives in us.
• If hysterical/it’s historical—Our childhood experiences deeply affect our reactivity today.
• Taking Inventory—Focusing on another person’s shortcomings rather than taking responsibility for ourselves.
She notes that, “Surrendering to love forces us to face our deepest fears. When we surrender to loving someone, we are always vulnerable to deep hurt because they may leave us or die.”
Through Maya and Barbara’s “exquisite capacity to connect,” participants in their workshops learn to create a sense of belonging in all aspects of their lives.
Maya, Barbara, and their Havanese companions, Lou and Mo, will be at CAMP Rehoboth in late September. The singles workshop is on September 28, and the couples’ weekend is September 29-October 1, 2023. To register, visit mayakollman.com. ▼
Aspen and Reyes: One Couple’s Imago Experience
What was different or better about Imago?
We have been in couples therapy with multiple therapists trained in emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) methodologies. Our first exposure to Imago was absolutely life changing.
Which tools or skills were the most transformative for you?
Learning how to unpack conflicts remains the most powerful for us. Imago provides a framework to share hurts in a way that shares accountability (the person who feels hurt also shares what unproductive things they do in response at the outset), fosters empathy (explore what big feelings, fears, and childhood traumas are at play), and facilitates actual communication (the “receiver” actively mirrors and summarizes and synthesizes what the “sender” has said) and makes it impossible to “listen to talk” which is a dynamic we had in our relationship.
What helps bring you back to connection when you want to shut down or run away?
One of the things we worked on is thinking about our partner as they were as a child, with unmet needs. It is immediately grounding and empathy-building. It was powerful to experience Maya and Barbara model the Imago tools and compassion for each other throughout the weekend. Imago changed the course of our marriage, and our lives.”
Tara Sheldon is the Health & Wellness Manager at CAMP Rehoboth.