by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 7th 2005
Listening to this Audio Companion
to Getting the Love You Want makes me both wistful and wondering. The basic assumptions of its authors are simple. It is for couples that are having deep
troubles in their relationships. They
explain that people were hurt in their childhoods because their parents or
caregivers fail them in significant ways.
As we grow up and start looking for partners, we consciously look for
someone quite different from our parents.
However, unconsciously we yearn to solve the problems of our childhood
and seek out people who duplicate the personalities of our parents, and thus we
end up experiencing the same difficulties with our partners as we did with our
parents. Thus relationships are bound
to run into difficulty. They are for
carrying out the unfinished business of childhood.
Furthermore, Hendrix and Hunt
believe that couples can solve problems by dialog with each other. In their formal dialogs, one person takes
the role of sender and the other takes the role of receiver. One person aims to understand and
communicate his or her understanding of what the other is saying. This helps to ensure accurate communication
and allows each partner to feel understood.
As couples go through the different sessions week by week, they examine
the past and learn about each other.
They come to see how the other was wounded as a child, and this helps
them to understand why they act as they do.
This should help them to become less angry when their partner acts in
ways that fail to meet their needs.
The authors recommend a process of
understanding and coming to communicate better so that each individual in a
couple can come to get what he or she wants out of the relationship. One of the greatest problems for couples is
that their dialogs become negative and unproductive, so the exercises spend a
great deal of time helping people to express their desires in positive rather
than critical ways, and to express feelings as personal emotions rather than as
hurtful judgments. These can be useful
skills that would benefit many couples.
The program is organized into 12
sessions, with one week between each session.
There are between-session assignments and couples must do work in order
to keep the program. Each session
should last about 2 hours. So this is
an intensive piece of work, and will last 3 months or so. Any couple that is committed enough to carry
out this program must be strongly motivated, and it is easy to imagine that
many couples will benefit from this process.
Personally, listening to this
audiobook takes me back quite a few years, to the time when I first started to
learn about psychodynamic thinking and read such like-minded books such as
Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child. Much of their discussion of "childhood wounds" now
seems rather dated, given that much research seems to indicate that children
are generally quite resilient and parents have relatively little effect on the
emotional lives of their children. Of
course, this sort of research is controversial and presumably therapists such
as Hendrix and Hunt would argue that there is good evidence for their methodological
assumptions. But it is pretty clear
that the tide has turned against simplistic psychodynamic models, and now
therapists tend to focus on cognitive behavioral models that are more concerned
with the present than delving into the past and looking to understand how
parental failures have caused our emotional problems in adult lives.
Despite their readiness to talk
about unconscious influences on our conscious choices and the importance of the
past, many of the exercises the authors give are in fact centered on the
present relationship, and encourage ways of giving positive feedback and
reinforcing pleasing behavior as much as voicing dissatisfactions, so it would
be misleading to say that the authors' approach is incompatible with more
modern cognitive-behavioral methods.
They call their view "Imago Therapy" which as a name has a
slightly cultish feel to it, but the basic approach of the audiobook is
probably not very different from that of most couple's therapists.
As with individual psychotherapy,
it helps very much to be highly motivated to work on a relationship, and it is
difficult to get both people to be motivated at the same time. I find it hard to imagine that a couple with
serious troubles is going to be able to sit down and use this audiobook alone
to sort out their difficulties. Presumably they would do best to find a good couple's therapist to
work on their issues, but it can be difficult to find a good therapist, and
often these days health insurance and other third party payers will not pay for
couple's therapy. So for couples facing
a lack of intimacy, especially when this is not linked to separate mental
illness of one or both of them, this audiobook could be a useful resource, if
used in conjunction with other books and workbooks aimed at couples. I wonder how many users of the program
actually complete it, but so long as it is helpful, it may not matter too much
if not every single session and
exercise is followed.
© 2005 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long
Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His
main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and