Our relationships have the potential to bring great joy, richness and fulfillment into our lives, and at the same time, they can be the source of deep pain and heartbreak. This striking dichotomy requires an explanation. After all, how is it possible that our intimate relationships and marriages have the power to both, hurt and heal our soul? Let’s take a closer look.
Think of all the times you have heard your friends jokingly say I married my mother/father. Have you noticed that some of your acquaintances on their journey through serial monogamy, despite the changing partners, manage to recreate the same relationship over and over again? Have you occasionally observed marriages and relationships of your friends “wondering “ What do they see in each other?” ... Do you recall “aha moments” regarding your own relationships when, all of a sudden, you noticed a re-occurring pattern you have been experiencing in your relationship? These important insights give us the clues into the very nature of our relationships, which, ironically, is not at all what we think it is.
Looking at our past significant relationships we often notice that our relationship choices were far less deliberate and intentional than we thought they were. It seems that we have never actually “chose” to be attracted to this specific person, or “decided” to fall in love with him or her. It just happened. Turns out, we are drawn to certain people, and this attraction emerges from the very depth of our psyche. Although we cannot control our attraction and our falling in love, we certainly can gain understanding of the nature of these forces within us. What makes us choose certain partners over others? What are the patterns we re-enact in our relationships? What are the origins of these relationship dynamics in which we find ourselves trapped? The answer to these questions holds the key to the secret of lasting, loving and fulfilling relationship and marriage.
To find this answer we have to journey back to our infancy and childhood. This is the time when our primary relationships were forged. Our parents/caregivers were the first people with whom we have experienced deep bond of attachment. These primary relationships created the attachment matrix within our psyche, which is the mold that structures the way we form attachments throughout our life. In other words, our early relationships will have great impact on the formation of our adult intimate relationships. If we had primarily harmonious relationships with our caregivers, our attachment matrix will support us in creating mostly harmonious intimate relationships in our adulthood. However, if our primary relationships were marked by abuse, rejection, neglect or abandonment, this emotional baggage will replicate the trauma and dysfunction in our later significant relationships. In other words, the childhood “baggage” will repeatedly re-emerge in our adult relationship, presenting itself for resolution.
Ironically, for us to be able to replicate the dysfunction of our primary attachment, we need a willing partner to play our game. For example, if our unconscious mind re-enacts the trauma of abandonment, we have to find a partner who will be able to abandon us in some way, in order to replay our childhood drama. On our search for a mate we will ultimately be drawn to one whose emotional baggage matches our own, and who will be a willing participant in our attachment game.
Now, there is one point I want to make crystal clear. None of these dynamics are conscious. We are never aware of the unconscious process that draws us toward our prospective mate. The attraction and falling in love remain a completely unconscious process. Regardless of whether we understand the underlying dynamic or not, we are never able to control the process. It is not until after the unfolding of our relationship that we are able to understand the elements that drew us together with our beloved. Nevertheless, all of our significant relationships are with the mates who are able to trigger our unresolved baggage. To put it differently – we are attracted to partners who are best equipped to push our unresolved buttons for us to resolve them and grow.
At this point you might wonder what would be the role of couples therapy or marriage counseling in helping your relationship. After all, the very nature of our attraction is to bring us together with a partner who can trigger all of our stuff. How can couples therapy and marriage counseling help us overcome relationship difficulties? What can couples expect in the process of couples work and what are the benefits that marriage counseling brings?
How can Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling help my relationship?
In the beginning of our conversation I posed a question of how can our relationship both hurt and heal us. We talked about the involuntary nature of our attraction and the process in which our attraction brings us together with partners who have the ability to trigger all of our unresolved baggage. The honeymoon period is sometimes jokingly referred to as the anesthesia stage. This stage precedes the more challenging later phases of our relationships in which all of our unresolved “stuff” comes to the surface. The magnitude of the challenges we encounter in our relationship corresponds to the magnitude of the emotional baggage we bring with us into the relationship. The greater the baggage, the greater the difficulties. The phase in which our past baggage is brought up for resolution is challenging and hurtful. This can be the time of crisis in which couples often seek couples counseling or marriage therapy, hoping to alleviate the hurt and turbulence in the relationship and establish harmony, connection and peace.
The role of couples counseling and marriage therapy is to help both partners work through and resolve their baggage in a focused and controlled manner, preventing the unresolved negative emotions, past traumas and limiting beliefs from creating further hurt and damaging the relationship. The role of therapy is also to help the couple to rebuild intimacy, trust, connection and harmony. Once the couple is able to recognize and resolve the unconscious emotional patterns stemming from their primary relationships and past traumas, the healing process begins. Harmonious and loving intimate relationships are a powerful tool of healing and growth. Through a loving relationship we are able to align with our nature and purpose, to have the courage to be present in our life, to be able to explore what life has to offer and enjoy the security of the loving nest waiting for us in the end of each day. Our relationships have the potential to bring up our old hurts, but they also are incredibly powerful tools for growth and healing.
How does therapy with Dr. Harel work?
In my Los-Angeles based couples therapy practice I have developed a 3 Power-step approach to help my clients restore loving connection and wellbeing - the A-R-C approach:
A wareness – During the first Power-Step we will meet together to discuss what brings you in, what is your current experience in your relationship or marriage, and what is it that you want to experience instead. Here we will talk about the history of your current relationship, as well as your developmental histories and prior relationships. This background information will provide rich foundation for our work together. Here we will uncover the recurrent patterns in each of your life experiences and identify both the problem and the solution.
R elease – In the second Power-Step in the counseling process I will meet individually with each partner to address the personal emotional baggage that each partner brought into the relationship. Here we use advanced mind-technology of Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) and elements of light hypnotherapy to create rapid and profound shift in your experience. Both NLP and hypnotherapy are tools to release the old emotional baggage of unresolved negative emotions and limiting beliefs, and clear the path toward your desires and dreams. The Power-Step of Release is geared toward releasing the personal baggage that each partner brought into the relationship.
C o-Creation – The third Power-Step of psychotherapy is experienced by the couple together and here we resolve the differences and challenges that were created within the relationship itself. It is designed to provide new tools and resources to solidify couple’s gains and establish relationship trajectory toward all the things that the couple desires to experience in their togetherness. During this step we create a vision of your ideal relationship and set you on the path of joy, purpose and fulfillment.
I see the role of a psychotherapist to be similar to that of a guide. When you hire a guide to navigate an unfamiliar terrain, you expect the guide to take you to your destination in the shortest and safest route, while you agree to follow the guide and to do the walking. I can help you find your path and support you in achieving your heart desires, under one condition – you will have to do the walking.
Is psychotherapy for me?
My Los-Angeles clinic serves large and diverse clientele and sometimes I am asked whether as a therapist I can guarantee my clients’ results. This is an important question to answer. Our time, energy and money are important resources and we want to make sure we allocate our resources wisely. When we talk about guarantee, there are two key elements to consider – You and me. As a therapist I can absolutely guarantee that my couples receive 100% of my knowledge, expertise, experience, attention and support. I can also guarantee that if my 100% commitment to your success is met with 100% commitment to your relationship or marriage, there is a 100% guarantee both of you will achieve your goals and our work together will have a transformative impact on your life.
My 100% success guarantee comes with 3 necessary attitudes on the part of my clients:
Ownership of full responsibility for our life. Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, we are 100% responsible and our life, including our relationship, is our making.
Willingness to let go of the old baggage, including resentments, anger, grief, beliefs etc.
Full commitment to making all changes necessary to achieve our goals.
This single-minded commitment to your success and wellbeing is the key component of our work. From my clinical experience at my Los-Angeles psychotherapy clinic I can attest that 100% of my clients who showed up with 100% commitment to themselves, achieved remarkable life-changing results during our work together.
So what if you are not quite at 100% commitment yet? What if, let’s say, right now you are at 75% commitment to your relationship? Perhaps, despite the pain both of you are enduring, you are struggling to fully commit to rebuilding your relationship. If this is the case, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us bring our intent and motivation into a single-minded laser-sharp focus. Consider how a trusting loving intimate connection with your partner could change your life? What it would be like to wake up in the morning to a warm loving embrace? How would it feel to come home to a warm welcome by your spouse? What would time together without arguments be like? How rekindled intimacy would contribute to your wellbeing, career and health? If these pictures create curiosity or even excitement within you, pick up the phone and give me a call. Transformation, empowerment and growth are just a phone call away.