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Dr. Hendrix led Louie and Shannon through Imago therapy sessions by using Intentional Dialogue exercises to help them discover and deal with the unfulfilled childhood origins of their violent relationship.

The first step is mirroring, in which one person acts as a stand-in for their partner's guardian. "You listen to your partner talk and you make every effort you can to accurately hear what they're saying without criticizing it, without judging it," Dr. Hendrix says.

At Dr. Hendrix's prompting, Shannon asks Louie to explain what living with his parents was like. "The only thing that you've ever cared about is yourself," Louie says. "You had kids because you thought they would make you happy, not because you wanted to take care of them or because you cared about them."

With Dr. Hendrix's help, Louie went even further with mirroring. "It's not fair that you take away my childhood and take out everything that you've done wrong in your life on us. ... I'm learning from you how to hurt people so when I grow up then I can hurt the ones I love," Louie says.

"So living with us is like being in hell—never feeling loved, never feeling wanted, never feeling taken care of," Shannon says, as she mirrors Louie's parents.

Dr. Hendrix believes that mirroring is an important first step because it allows someone like Louie to re-experience and then release his pain. "You don't get it all out in one session or with one deep experience of sobbing, but you begin to open up," Dr. Hendrix says. "When you start acting out in adulthood with hurtful behavior, you're actually acting out of that pain. If you release the pain, then you remove the power [that pain holds]."
FROM: An Abusive Husband's Desperate Plea for Help
Published on April 19, 2006