Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. is known for her work in women’s movement, which began in 1985. What most people don’t know is that before that, Helen had felt a calling to become a therapist. Before meeting Harville in 1977, she spent a month at The Goulding Institute being trained in T.A. & Gestalt by Bob and Mary Goulding, as a student therapist. By 1979, she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from SMU. Her thinking was influenced by Dr. Arthur Janov’s work on primal therapy, which taught Helen the importance of how childhood pain can be healed in adulthood.
She was pursuing her Ph.D. in Psychology from Fielding Institute, when she & her sisters realized one day they needed to become “responsible shareholders” in their family’s oil company. She helped create a movement of women’s philanthropy and needed to make her work on women’s and men’s equality her focus. But her heart was always in her efforts to support Harville behind the scenes, with the birth & growth of Imago.
My Search for My Life’s Calling
While many in the past have wondered how I’m related to Imago, since Harville has often been considered the sole creator, I have always had a definitive answer. For reasons I can’t explain, I have always felt Imago was deep in my heart, mind, and soul – like a seed inside of me, ready to be cultivated and grown. But I never knew quite how to explain this beautiful reality to others.
This past year, I serendipitously came upon various writings that documented certain facts, reminding me of my early days studying psychology. I was surprised by how many of the papers validated the early vision of Imago theory within me, as well as in Harville. Many of these writings were before Harville named the theory Imago. I am so grateful those seeds had been inside of me, ready to be birthed, blossomed, and offered as needed, as Imago was being developed throughout the years.
The purpose of this essay is to narrate my early interest in psychology, religion, and its importance in my heart throughout my life. For some strange reason, I seem to have disassociated from many of these details. Given the cultural gender expectations in my early adult years, I was shy about claiming my place. But overtime, it became painful to be left out. Today, I live each day with deep gratitude to Harville that, because of him, I’m living what my true calling is: which is synthesizing and sharing the wisest psychological/theological wisdom toward the healing of the brokenness in people’s lives. And also, this narrative is a journey of my own personal healing, my hope to be connected to parts of me I had unconsciously split off, thus exemplifying the Imago journey in many ways.
My Early Life
I’ll begin by stating an obvious fact. When people today go to college, they usually become credentialed for a work they want to do. But when I went to college, a woman like me from a wealthy family wasn’t supposed to do that. In the Southern Belle culture, I was raised in, men became doctors, or lawyers, and took charge of money, decision-making, and power. Women politely assumed supporting roles and helping professions such as secretaries, nurses, or teachers. But as a woman from a family with money, both my mom and the culture at the time said that I should focus on becoming a mother, wife, and homemaker; that my husband would be the expression of my work in the world. Therefore, I didn’t need to be bothered by cultivating my own public work.
I appreciated that my mom had sent us to First Baptist Church, where I learned to seek God’s calling for my life. This was an important part of becoming a Christian. I seemed to be drawn to working with people who were struggling or marginalized in the world, and wanted to help them find faith, hope, and love in their lives. So, I struggled with that contradictory message of 1) my finding God’s call, versus 2) the social expectations for females at the time. These two messages translated into my desire to one day become a preacher’s wife. Even though women were not supposed to assume ‘important’ professions, as a preacher’s wife, I could informally help the parishioners at the Church who were struggling with problems. I knew that deep inside of me I would be good at listening to other’s pains, conflicts, and sorrows. Maybe in listening to and counseling them, I could be of help and they wouldn’t feel so alone.
In 1967, I started college at SMU and over time realized that by getting a teacher’s certificate, I could teach English in the low-income part of Dallas, and hopefully help people who were struggling in my city. As my students would respond to reading literature, I could help them reflect on important issues, and find their voice and maybe their own life calling. This was a way to honor the calling inside of me to help strengthen others, while fulfilling my “gender expectation”.
In 1969, my sophomore year, Randy Kreiling, a good looking, extroverted law student, proposed to me, and while I was never ‘in love’ with him, I was like my mom in that I “didn’t know how to say ‘No’.” So, Randy and I got married. Dad asked him if he’d like to work at Hunt Oil Company. I then finished college and started teaching at South Oak Cliff High School in a low-income part of Dallas. When Kathryn was born two years later, I stopped teaching, but Randy was getting very busy at HOC. To fill some of the void I was feeling, my friend Karen had introduced me to Carl Jung and in reading him; I grew interested in psychology and religion. Growing up at First Baptist Church, I had been told that going to a therapist was a non-Christian thing to do, given that most of the therapists in the field at that time were secular. Psychology would take us away from God, whereas, people should instead “lean on the Lord” and pray about their difficulties. In fact, many therapists would say, “The Church is a crutch. You need to analyze your unconscious.” So, there was a great divide between psychology and religion at that time. And I fantasized that perhaps I could help build a bridge if I learned more about counseling, and then brought in the wisdom of my own faith to people I might counsel. The quiet voice for ‘my calling’ got a little louder, and with Karen’s encouragement, I decided to take a psychology course at SMU.
Seeking Counseling for Myself
Randy had begun to work with Herbert and Bunker Hunt. About 5 years into our marriage, they started investing in a way that became very controversial and potentially illegal. As Randy was increasingly focused on his work, I became more and more lonely as his wife. There was a chaplain at SMU named Claude Evans who was beloved on campus. I boldly got up my nerve to go see him to share my fear and sadness in my marriage. I hoped he could refer me to a marriage therapist in Dallas. Again, Southern Baptists weren’t really supposed to go to therapy, so this was scary for me. But I felt in desperate need and knew that there was a false dichotomy between psychology and religion. I knew I badly needed therapy. Reaching out to Reverend Evans would be a safe beginning for me. He walked around campus smiling and warmly greeted everyone he passed. He wore flowing white robes with a cross or two on his neck and around his waist. This would be a safe and secure first step to get the help I needed.
In my second session with Reverend Evans, he recommended a therapist. But he said he wanted to see me one more time. At the end of the third session, as we were nearing the end of our time, he came up to me where I was seated on a sofa, pushed me down sideways, threw up his chaplain’s robes, unzipped his trousers, and tried to have sex with me. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I was totally repulsed and raced out of the chaplain’s office. But at least I had the name of a therapist to go to. (In hindsight, I just dissociated from this event. Three years later, I told Harville about this. But he’s the only one I ever told.)
So, I called Dr. Harvey Davidson. He oversaw a clinic of therapists doing several kinds of therapy. I had an interview session with him. He asked me about my background and the reason for coming to therapy. I answered these background questions and explained that I was deeply lonely in my marriage, and also told him I was now taking my first psychology class, hoping I was smart enough to pass the class. He then recommended I see Dr. John Bowlby, who was on his staff, and who could give me good marriage counseling.
I started seeing Dr. Bowlby, but after three sessions, it wasn’t that helpful. I gave up and resigned myself to keep trying to handle my misery in my marriage by myself.
Learning to be a Counselor
The next day, I got a phone call from Dr. Davidson’s assistant who asked me to come in and to explain why I didn’t continue with Dr. Bowlby. When I went back, he asked me more questions about what I might want to learn at SMU. He told me he felt that upon meeting me, that I should not have any doubts that I would be an excellent therapist, being both empathic and intelligent. He offered to train me in the therapy he specialized in. Dr. Arthur Janov had written a book on Primal Therapy that had become well known at that time. Harvey had me come back to a session where he worked with clients with other clinical staff to show me how he used primal therapy with them.
In Harvey’s large office, about twenty people would come into the room. After a short personal check-in, Harvey asked the group to lie down on the floor, close their eyes, and regress into their childhood feelings. He instructed them to imagine their caregivers interacting with them. Five or six therapists walked around and sat by the people on the floor as they were imagining being young children. The clients were then instructed to deepen and emote their feelings, whether they were sad, angry, or hurt. The point of Primal Therapy was to cathartically feel and express painful childhood feelings, and then be nurtured in the current time by someone who could help heal their childhood wounding. What a tremendous gift to be invited to do this! I wasn’t an “official trainer,” since I didn’t have my degree, but Harvey invited me to just sit with his patients and make gentle comments to them. He said it was in my nature to be deeply empathic of others. In the weeks ahead, he assured me he would be an advocate of my counseling degree. He then also told me that his wife was wanting to divorce and leave him, and that he was very sad that he was going to be left alone. A romantic attraction emerged between us, but my deep passion was wanting to learn how to do primal therapy and imagine repairing the wounds of others by my own empathy for them. We could help give so many faith that they could heal their childhood wounds. I had never seen or imagined something happening like what happened in Harvey’s office.
I was suddenly transported into a whole new world that was allowing me to do exactly what I wanted to do with my life. For many months, I went to Harvey’s office twice a week to be a therapy assistant in his sessions with clients. Over time, I adopted 2 clients who I did long term “re-parenting” with informally on the phone outside the sessions. I worked with one woman for several years; it was deeply rewarding to see her slowly heal the trauma and anxiety from the past. I began to witness the power of healing within the relational paradigm.
Over time, Harvey’s wife changed her mind, and they decided to maintain their marriage. I accepted this change, as I was truly, deeply honoring of any couple that would fight to keep their marriage together. Marriage had always seemed holy to me. During this time, I asked Randy if he would reconsider our marriage, but he told me firmly he needed and wanted to start a new life away from the Hunt family.
So, to begin a new chapter of my life, I decided to attend a month-long training at The Goulding Institute for Transactional Analysis (T.A.) and Gestalt. Several people had recommended that I should go, and they wrote recommendations that I attend. I had never had people believe in me before, like I could be a competent professional adult. Imagine me, eventually becoming a professional therapist!
Randy and I were by now sadly divorced, and Kathryn and Kim were going to have a long stay with him in the summer. After their plane took off, I took a plane to The Goulding Institute in California, where I was taught how to use T.A. and Gestalt therapy on clients. There were about forty seasoned therapists attending the Institute and there were 2 “counselors in training”, a woman named Pat Pearson and me. We were both seeking our therapy degrees. A year ago, I accidentally found my notes from this month-long experience, and it’s amazing how competent I recorded feeling among these professional therapists and the positive feedback I received from Bob, Mary, and others. I learned a cutting-edge way to do therapy, which was to be much more directive with clients (as opposed to just listening to them explore their unconscious). Another wisdom learned came after dinner where we would enjoy our evenings, sometimes singing. One of the songs we would sing was, “I want a girl, just like the girl, that married dear, old Dad. (And you probably got her!)” This of course was an echo to Imago’s major thesis: that we’re attracted to someone like our caretakers. Transactional Analysis therapy that had similarities to what Imago became. Unlike many other therapies, Harville was very concrete and directive: having the clients use “sentence stems,” saying the words in an orderly and linear way (just like Imago now teaches). I loved learning how to teach and practice T.A. and Gestalt.
Going back to Dallas, while I remained sad about my divorce, our two little girls were so unbelievably wondrous and precious! I loved being able to cook and read for my daughters and play with them because I didn’t have memories of my mother doing this with me. I valued my friendship with Karen, her interest in psychology, and I was now taking one course a semester. A year or so later, I was invited to a party. Someone told me that I should go into the next room and meet Harville Hendrix who was recently divorced. Harville Hendrix?! Coming back from Goulding, I had signed up for a T.A. course taught by Harville. Harville, too, had been trained at the Goulding Institute a few years before me. There were about fifty students in the class. I had always entered the classroom through the back door and sat on the back row. Harville entered through the front door near where he taught. He was a dynamic teacher. He often referred to his two kids Josh and Mara so fondly. I was surprised to learn that he was now divorced. I went into the next room, and in spotting him, walked up to him, having never met him personally, and I introduced myself to him.
In introducing myself to Harville in 1977, I told him that I had taken his course on T.A.. He recalled my name and said, “Oh. I kept a paper of yours. I always keep the best paper in a class and yours was very well written. It’s in my filing cabinet.” I asked Harville to tell me about his dissertation, after learning it was on Freud and Tillich, I asked if he had ever read Paulus, the book on Rollo May’s relationship with Tillich (who was a mentor to May). The book was about the power of relationship in a person’s life. Harville hadn’t heard of it. So, then I invited him to call me and borrow my copy if he ever wanted to. I smiled, turned and left the party, to get home to my daughters. Harville did call, and our courtship began.
The bad news was that Harville was tired of thinking and talking about psychology. So, on dates, while I wanted to discuss depth psychology theory, he wanted to steer clear of psychology discussions. One evening I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said, “I’m tired of academe, and academic debates.” Perkins Seminary at SMU had given him a 3-year contract to phase out. “So, going forward, I have two thoughts: 1) I might like to sell Shaklee. I used to sell Fuller Brushes door to door, and I’m an excellent salesman. Or, 2) I’d like to write a popular book concerning ….. ‘Why do couples fight? Why does the dream become a nightmare?’”
When I asked him to elaborate, he began to tell me some of his fascinating ideas. As we continued to date, I loved listening to his thoughts and occasionally offered a few of my own. A charismatic public speaker, he was starting to lecture in Dallas about the stages of relationship. Stage 1 – romance. Stage 2 – power struggle. Stage 3 – real love. His practice was growing, and I attended (as a single) his first workshop for couples in Dallas. He was beginning to attract a following of people, who wanted to keep up with his emerging teachings about couplehood. It was exciting hearing Harville speak in public.
I so admired Karen. She was 2 years older than me and was getting her psychology degree with an interest in Carl Jung. Through her, I developed a growing interest in Jung. I took a course at the University of Dallas offered by James Hillman, a Jungian analyst who came to Dallas to teach on his book on archetypal psychology. Additionally, Harville’s friend, James Hall, was an established analyst in Dallas. James wanted to help Harville’s career as an established therapist in Dallas succeed. He and Harville purchased a small building together on Sherry Lane by Preston Center. As Harville was transitioning away from teaching at Perkins, he began doing both individual and group therapy in his beautiful new office.
June Singer, a Jungian analyst who wrote Boundaries for the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology, came to Dallas to promote her book, and I attended the book gathering in someone’s home. Although Singer was totally detached and unemotional in person, I was moved by Singer’s wisdom, and her writing was passionately alive with the energy of the depth psychology of Jungian theory.
I resonated to the way Singer described “the archetypal need for a conjunction of opposites in our lives, experienced through the natural biological opposition between men and women, which generates the spring in all creativeness.” She emphasized that the polarity between the sexes is also experienced as a polarity within the individual. Every man has a feminine side to his being (the anima) and every woman has a masculine side (the animus).
“The unconscious feminine side of a man leads him on a search to discover what is unknown and strange to him…. He seeks his opposite in projected form, in a woman who will embody for him, what he cannot be for himself (page 234).…Animus is for a woman that masculine drive that enables her to break through the limitations, …the psychological ‘other’ who is able to think coolly while following the natural synthetic pattern of nurturing…the aspect which tends toward clarifying the facts, gaining authority…” (page 242). Internal “couple’s therapy” was already happening!
I was fascinated by the male/female dyadic way Jungian psychology was constructed that helps a person achieve true consciousness and individuation. So many dualities of contradictions to be held in tension, in order to be ultimately synthesized and transcended. All of which is so similar to Harville’s statement that “the grounds for a successful marriage is incompatibility.” This ‘incompatibility’, or duality if you will, is expressed in the dynamic between the minimizer and maximizer, the turtle and hailstorm which surfaces in every relationship. Every couple recognizes their ‘incompatibility’ in phase 2, the power struggle, of their marriage!
My Degree and Meeting Dr. Edward Edinger
At this point, while raising Kathryn and Kim, I continued to slowly take courses toward my psychology degree, learning to administer psychological tests like the Rorschach and the MMPI, studying Rogerian therapy which used empathy as a healing agent in psychoanalysis, therapy, etc. To fulfill my internship requirements, in 1978 I served as a student co-therapist for 3 months in one of Harville’s group therapy groups. On May 19, 1979, I wore my cap and gown to receive my Master’s degree. I was now no longer destined to be the appendage of a male. I was finally learning how to become who I was, and to continue to follow my own calling.
James Hall invited Dr. Edward Edinger, a Jungian analyst NYC, to come to Dallas to talk about his book, Ego and Archetype. I offered to host the book party in my home. Dr. Edinger was both a Jungian and a Christian. His book suggests that the true Christian life parallels Jung’s process of achieving individuation. The crucifixion and resurrection were ways a person could relate to the brokenness or tragedies in their own lives. We should not run from problems. If we hold the contradictory, opposing energies within us, even if it feels like they are pulling us apart, we too can experience a new transcendent reality within the psyche (a “resurrection”). I saw how much this great wisdom might have helped me if I had learned it years earlier.
Moving to NY and Marrying Harville
While in Dallas, Harville and I had been continuing to date, and I was fascinated by Harville’s intellectual ideas and the book he wanted to write. I treasured being with Josh and Mara, and the three of them grew to adore Kathryn and Kim. But Harville and I argued a lot and I worried we would not have a successful marriage. So sadly, it didn’t seem we had future together. I was also tired of being a Hunt in a city with so many Hunts. I was still seeking to discover who I really was.
I called Dr. Edinger in New York, and I asked him, if I were to move to NYC, would he take me into his practice. I explained that I was deeply confused and needed professional help: but after that, maybe I could also begin training in Jungian analysis? Dr. Edinger said yes, and that I could also attend lectures at the Jung Center all of which would put me on the trajectory to slowly becoming a Jungian analyst. This plan would help me first embrace all my sorrow and brokenness toward my own healing, and also allow me to be present for Kathryn and Kim as they grew. I could be both a mother and slowly at my own pace, continue to study psychology.
So, Kathryn, Kimberly, and I got on a plane that took us to NYC. I had rented an apartment at 36 East 72nd. Soon after enrolling Kathryn and Kimmy in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, and the girls had an organized, well-functioning routine, I called Dr. Edinger and made my first appointment. I was filled with excitement when I arrived at his office. I had found someone who would be safe and reliable for me as I confronted my own faults and problems and began to rebuild my life. I wanted to be a better mother and also marriage partner to someone in the future. I waited in a waiting room, and eventually Dr. Edinger opened his door and invited me into his office. He then said, “I’m so sorry. I’ve just had a family tragedy and I have decided to move back to San Francisco.” What a shock to hear this. I was absolutely crushed. Dr. Edinger referred me to a Jungian analyst, that I didn’t find affective and after 6 months, I terminated the relationship.
A few months later, I socially met a psychiatrist, Dr. Ken Altshuler. I thought he might be the man to marry. I was still determined to marry someone with compatible interests to mine. He had a great resume as a psychiatrist at Columbia and had a great personality. We didn’t argue! He was very interested in marrying me. But that’s when I realized that Harville was the one that I wanted to marry, if he was still willing! I proposed to Harville, and he agreed to move to New York with Josh, and the rest is history.
During those years, I was still hoping that one day I might become a Jungian analyst. And I also loved talking with Harville about developing Imago. There was so much in common between the two! The duality of life, of the psyche, of nature, of couple hood. I occasionally attended a day time lecture at the Jung Institute, but also matriculated Into the Fielding Institute, “a university without walls,” where I could slowly, throughout the years ahead, obtain a PhD. Bob and Mary Goulding had promoted this University. Only recently did I accidentally uncover notes of courses I took at Fielding Institute, such as “Biological Basis of Behavior”, where I learned about how the brain is impacted by the psychotropic medications that are administered to people who have anxiety or depression (taught by Dr. Elaine Keplar). During my pregnancy with Leah and her early months as a newborn, I wrote a 132 page paper: “The Reflective Process as Evident in the Writings of Margaret Mahler and Jean Piaget Demonstrating the Function of the Reflective Process in the Formation of the Self-Self Identity with an Emphasis on the first 6 months.” This gave me new eyes as a mother and helped me be more attuned to little Leah. My course work at Fielding was between 1980-1984. (I thought all these psychology papers had gotten lost over the years.)
And during all that, I was excited about my commitment to Harville. He is a brilliant theoretician. He’s also a brilliant speaker. Yet, when I met him, he had not yet published an article or a book. So I had vowed to find the best support to surround him, to help actualize the writing of his very important book. I hired a woman named Holly to be in our office who knew the publishing world. She was tasked with finding an experienced writer to help create the manuscript based on audiotapes Harville had of his teaching and speaking in public. (His theory often evolved when he lectured.) I hired Catherine to transcribe the audiotapes, and Jo Robinson to help as a writer. As Harville and I continued to be in dialogue, the manuscript slowly evolved. Holly found a great agent. And at the end of the writing, Jo insisted her name be on the cover. I paid her $10,000 extra, insisting she be acknowledged inside, but NOT on the cover. I wanted any reader to see Harville’s brilliance at theory development for transforming marriages. Getting the Love You Want was published in 1988 with Harville as the SOLE author.
I also created a strategic planning weekend at the circle K Ranch, and brought leader of the Samaritan Institute Center, and Reed Whittle and a few other business, psychology minds, to help Harville and me create the plan for how to “birth the book and hold the eventual spread of Imago.” Several years later, after the book was written, I also eventually did another strategic planning gathering in NYC to further plan the best way to build a structure to hold the spread of Imago globally. I had Ann Roberts (Nelson Rockefeller) and her husband in that group too.
Discovering Wealth and Some Kind of Worth
In 1984, I received a phone call from my sister, Swanee, telling me that she and I were listed in Forbes Magazine, and that we were extremely wealthy. Swanee’s call became such a challenging thing to add onto my already very full life. First, isn’t discovering you might be rich supposed to be a positive thing for someone to discover? On one hand, I wanted to commit to Swanee that we needed to find where this money was that was in our name! I told her I would do all I could to support her. But it took several years of hiring lawyers who negotiated with the leadership at Hunt Oil before my family and I could become entitled to what was legally ours in the way of dividends from the Company. On the other hand, the main challenge I was facing was that Harville and I were trying to blend a family of wonderful kids, but we continued to fail, year after year, successfully blending our 2 families. Both Harville and I were deeply devoted to each of the kids, but we had different approaches to parenting. All of these challenges caused me to eventually abandon my doctoral studies.
My first priority was to help our family become a healthy and congealed family. My second was, now that I was receiving annual dividends from our family owned business, to learn to manage responsibly a whole new world. I wanted to be responsible and thoughtful, because the funding was left to me and eventually also to my children and grandchildren. And I knew my kids, when adults, would judge whether or not I had handled my role in the Company well. I eventually felt that women learning and knowing about money (because I had known nothing about the money in my family) was extremely important. With the dividends my sisters and I fought for and began to receive, I became a ‘donor’ (I hated the word ‘philanthropist’ – this is Not who I am) and began to help fund the creation of a global network of women’s funds. While it helped countless women to shift from ignorance and anxiety about their money, to taking ownership of their funds, agency and power, it was not really my calling. It took me away from the longing I had in my heart, to become a therapist and prioritize our own family, as well as help strengthen other people’s families. Learning how to have a close family and being a therapist is the DNA of who I really was and am. I knew, however, that if I could help women ‘find their voices’ that this would ultimately create healthier marriages with greater equality, and also help men and women grow into a greater partnership in our culture.
Discovering Feminist Psychology
Even before becoming part of the feminist world, while studying at Fielding for my doctorate, I learned about women who were blending feminism and psychology. In 1976, Jean Baker Miller had written a book, Toward a New Psychology of Women. She proposed that “growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity: and that disconnections are the source of psychological problems.” She and other colleagues that gathered around her formed The Stone Center at Wellesley College. These women emphasized that isolation and loneliness are two of the most damaging human experiences. The treatment is relational healing. Another important thesis promoted at the Stone Center is “that it is in caring for the relational unit, that the needs of the ‘self’ are met.” Several other authors, including Judith Jordan, co-authored with Miller, Women’s Growth in Connection in 1991. In 1982, Carol Gilligan wrote In a Different Voice, a book which “started a revolution”, making it important for women to ‘find voice’ and be heard. In this book, she observed a relational crisis experienced by adolescent girls. Before adolescence, young girls and boys had similar mental health and grades at schools, and at other places. But after reaching their teens, girls do less well in their studies, say “I don’t know” a lot, and begin to act more withdrawn or giggly than boys their ages. Teen girls dissociate and submit to the patriarchal culture.
Both The Stone Center and Gilligan made the following points:
The mental health field had been based on the studies of men for decades: it did not use women in their research. And some prominent mental health theorists had languaged that the goal of mental health was to shift from the dependency a baby has at birth toward self-sufficiency, autonomy, and independence. Thus, independence, self-reliance, and autonomy were the stated goals of optimum mental health. Feminist psychologists challenged this, saying, “Women distance when psychological development is measured primarily in terms of separation and autonomy.” Miller pointed out that “few men ever attain self-sufficiency, as every woman knows. They are supported by wives, mothers, secretaries, mistresses, daughters, and other women.” They proposed that “the goal of most people in later life is to be interrelated in a healthy way in their context; and thus, the true goal being, having healthy relationships.” And thus, relational health should be the apex, the goal of the mental health field.
Jean Baker Miller said, “The definition of ‘self’ in western psychology emphasizes separation and individuation but neglects the intricacies of human interaction.” The Stone Center claimed there is no such thing as a ‘self’: there is only a “self-in-relation.”
A co-authored epistemological book, Women’s Way of Knowing, posited there are two kinds of knowing: “separate knowing” where you distance to know well, and “connected knowing” where you intuitively connect to it, to know it. This latter kind of epistemology challenges the Descartian concept, “I think therefore I am,” which valorizes the rational left brain: it owns also the importance of the right brain hemisphere of intuitive knowing and even not-knowing. In reading this book, I eventually realized a decade later that Dan Siegel’s reference to “tolerating ambiguity” as healthy for neural integration also led to ‘wondering’ about the thing to be known, which often results in healthier relatedness.
I always appreciated how Gilligan emphasized not just our individual human desires, but also the morality and the value system by which we devote our lives. “Women’s sense of self and morality revolves around issues of responsibility for, care of, and inclusion of other people. It is embedded in a compelling appreciation of context….” This is so similar to Harville having such clarity about our task in the mental health field being the transformation of the value system of the culture. Harville has never read their opus but was always so resonate with what these women were saying.
Women’s psychology talks about the importance of “echo” in a person’s life. When a woman speaks and there is no “echo”, her voice dies. I’m so honored that I’ve been able to be such a thoughtful echo for Harville. I never would have created the Imago system, but I feel I’ve been the ideal ‘echo’ for Harville, as Imago Theory and Therapy has been birthed into the world.
Given that the feminine psychologists had “a definition of the self”, I encouraged Harville to consider that Imago needed a “definition of the self”. Fifteen years ago, I said to Harville, “I just thought of Imago’s definition of the self! I think it’s a “wavicle”. In every couple, there’s someone more like a turtle (the particle), and their partner is often more like the hailstorm (the wave). But “the self” is these two people interacting, and thus the definition of the self is ‘the particle-wave duality’.” Both Harville and I had read The Tao of Physics and the early books on Quantum Theory for the lay public in the mid 1970s. We both feel passionate about the wisdom of Quantum.
Sadly, however, at the end of the 1990s, Harville and I were still struggling in our marriage, particularly around parenting styles. But the joy was the success of Getting the Love You Want. It was now translated into 60 different languages and therapists were coming from all over the world for training. I was thrilled for Harville about the book, but our blended family was still extremely dysfunctional. So, it was hard for me to show up publicly in Imago contexts, or couples’ contexts, because people assumed we had a successful marriage, and I pretended we did.
Our Decision to Divorce or Stay Married
Finally, we went to several therapists. We didn’t find the help we needed. My issue was, with Harville being so well known and everyone thinking we had a wonderful marriage and family, I felt I was being a hypocrite. There was a discrepancy, a dissociation between my public and private self. My mother also disassociated like this, and I wanted to heal that dissociation in me. I hated the thought I would be like my mother and pretend all was normal, when it wasn’t. Harville eventually also agreed that we should get a divorce.
We slowly moved in this direction, keeping it private for a while. I went back to graduate school and in getting my doctorate; I focused one of my field exams on the field of women’s psychology. I did this degree to prayerfully try to reflect on my relationship with Harville. I was so sad to be a part of yet another divorce. But finally, we announced to our family and the Imago community, that we were on the way to divorcing.
But one day, we both accidentally found new ideas and new techniques of relating that gave our marriage hope, and these ideas were not just shifts in us and how we treated each other. I was surprised when Harville put some of these in the center of Imago therapy.
One had to do with my reading of Martin Buber decades earlier. I had been impacted by Buber’s discussion of “the space between.” Harville and I realized that both of us were experiencing negativity in our relationship and we began to language it as “the negativity in the space between”. We began a nightly regime of identifying ways negativity crept into our “space between” and doing ‘a repair’ before going to sleep, so we could end our day feeling connected. And during this process, our relationship began to transform. The second shift in consciousness occurred while reading a feminist epistemology book on separate and connected knowing, and realizing Harville was a separate knower, and me a connected knower made us both realize we needed to learn to know from both our right and our left-brain hemispheres. Harville brought both of these awarenesses into Imago theory and therapy. And we then announced to everyone that we had developed a better relationship and we celebrated a recommitment ceremony on New Year’s Eve, 2000. Harville tells everyone that the fireworks that exploded over the Hudson River that night were in honor of our Recommitment of our Marriage. To this day, we celebrate New Year’s Eve as our true anniversary.
Being Able To Be Who I Really Am – Healing the Disassociation
In her book, In a Different Voice, Carol Gilligan identifies the dissociation that occurs in both men and women in a patriarchy. Men dissociate from their feelings because they are the ones called to war and bear the burden at ‘being the best,’ and need to be dominant over women. Girls typically start saying “I don’t know”, which Gillian identifies as disassociation from what they know. She says, “Girls and women ‘don’t know what they know’. To become whole, women have to eventually remember what they “don’t know.” I see now that growing up, I was dissociated from my authentic voice and personal agency. I looked nice and pretty on the surface, but I’m ashamed to admit I was so weak throughout my twenties and thirties (even though I was very popular, and people didn’t see me as weak. But I was.). In my forties, I began trying to find my own voice and began to speak firmly, but I was pretty mechanical and heartless in trying to find it. (I am so grateful to those who have loved me with all my faults.) Much like Imago theory, I was drawn to what I had unconsciously disassociated from and was longing to be connected to.
Thus, in writing this paper, there is much I’ve never articulated before. I’d actually forgotten much of what is written here. A year ago, going through boxes that had been in storage, I discovered my Goulding Institute notes: both a daily diary that I kept, plus my notebook of Bob and Mary teaching us/me the T.A. gestalt process (we worked in triads and ‘did therapy’ on each other during our month together). I didn’t even remember that I had these notes or that they were in storage! I didn’t realize I had saved my course work from the Fielding Institute, or in my graduation photo wearing my cap and gown when I received my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Carol Gilligan talks about how the healing of one’s disassociation is association. This paper has helped me acknowledge and associate parts of me that I hadn’t really languaged before.
Why I Wrote this Document.
It was when Leah was here the days after Christmas that a small booklet caught my eye, lying on a table in our office. It was short essays of various Jungian thinkers. I had never seen this booklet before, but I turned to the page summarizing an article written by Edward Edinger. In his article, “The Creation of Consciousness: Jung’s Myth for Modern Man” (written in 1984), Edinger says that the experience of consciousness is made up of two factors: 1) knowing, and 2) “witness” – being present to another. And I was reminded of how relational Jungian theory was and is. He emphasized that two people will often have areas that they feel opposite about, and that two people need to realize that consciousness is somehow born out of the experience of opposites. The process of individuation happens when one experiences the encounter of opposites. For example, the ego and the unconsciousness, the I and the not-I, the subject and object, myself and the other. “Thus, we can say that whenever a person is experiencing the conflict between contrary attitudes, or when a personal desire or being is contested by another, either from the inside or the outside, the possibility of creating a new increment of consciousness exists.” Edinger emphasizes the “union of opposites” in the vessel of the ego, which is an essential feature of the creation of consciousness. When there is a conflict between twoness, a new consciousness has the possibility of emerging out of this conflict, “Out of the ego as subject, versus the ego as object, out of ego is active agent versus the ego as passive victim, out of the ego is praise worthy and good versus the ego as bad…out of all such paralyzing conflicts can emerge the third, transcendent function which is a new quantum of consciousness.”
These few lines of Edinger’s writing reminded me so much of Imago therapy, and how Harville is striving to ground all of Imago therapy in quantum theory these days. 1) Edinger’s reference of Jungian analysis reminded me of the dyadic nature of couple hood. That in “the holding of the tension of the opposites” [like the turtle and the hailstorm] that then “a new reality emerges, transcending the constellation of the opposites.” 2) Inside every person is both the ‘anima and the animus’, the male and the female energies. And it is important that these two energies learn to express themselves and to reconcile with each other. 3) Nature is Dyadic, and it is important to hold together these dyadic tendencies. 4) Much of this is being studied in the quantum world. June Singer, in her book Boundaries of the Soul (written in 1972), also mentions the quantum reality as being resonant and applicable to Jungian theory. (FN1)
So basically, in seeing Edward Edinger words that summarized his writing, I saw such an overlay of my own deep passion, even before I married Harville, for the wisdom that resides in Imago therapy. And it felt like ‘evidence’ that could explain why I’ve always known that Imago is an energy residing in Harville, and also residing in me.
It has been a journey of wonder and adventure for me to remember the details within this document. I hope it helps explain why I’ve called myself ‘the ideal dialogue partner for Harville since we started dating,’ and why I proposed. And how early and deeply Imago theory was residing in my own soul.
When Harville requested that I help him birth our Safe Conversations and Relationships First in Dallas I was happy to. It’s far more gratifying for me to focus more on healing couples and families than being a feminist donor, because this is an expression of my soul. Harville has been giving me much credit for my role beside him. Getting The Love You Want is now updated for its 30th Anniversary. And with the first publication, as I noted, I was very happy that Harville’s name alone was on the cover. My Hunt name was well known, and his was not. I was very surprised when Harville suggested my name be on the new edition. That was totally Harville’s idea, and it means so much to me.
But the biggest feeling I have in my heart is that because of Harville in my life, I get to be who I truly am. Who I am is not at all being a philanthropist. It’s not being a feminist. All of that is what I call my “head work”. My “heart work” is getting to be beside Harville and work to help prevent divorce. To help alleviate so much unnecessary suffering in marriages and families all around the world is the calling God made for me to follow. “God is the potter. I am the clay.” And I thank God every day that I get to be Harville’s wife. I always say, “I’m his “#2”. Harville is a brilliant theoretician! I have no ‘theory building gene’ in my body. He figures out ‘what’ couples need to do, and ‘how and when.’ Nor am I a charismatic speaker. But I’ve treasured the role that I’ve had in his life.
We are both honored to be associated with the field of the relational sciences today, that have such important insights and tools needed by cultures everywhere. The visionary therapists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and others that are creating the relational sciences are facilitating a shift away from the primacy of the individual to the primacy of the relationship. Both Harville and I will passionately continue to help illuminate the importance of the relational paradigm for the world. My closing statement is that I feel that the brokenness and dissociation that was once in my life has been healed. My closing prayer is that my healing might be part of all the future healing to come, as Imago and Safe Conversations continues to spread throughout the world.
Here are a few other passages from June Singer showing the parallel between Jungian thought and our 35-year-old interest in Quantum which Harville is making much more primary in recent years. We both have been rereading more about Max Plank this past year.
In the Introduction of June singer’s book, Boundaries of the Soul, The Practice of Jung’s Psychology, she writes:
“Jung was making discoveries about the nature of psychological reality at just about the same time, important and unrelated discoveries in the physical world were being formulated. It was in the summer of 1900 when the physicist Max Plank entered into the intense theological work that lead to the results so different from anything known is classical physics that Plank himself hardly believed his own findings…He told his son, he had possibly made a discovery of first rank comparable to the discovery of Newton” because they had touched the foundations of our descriptions of nature. And that these foundations would soon move from their traditional locations to a new and yet unknown position of stability.”
“In December of 1900, Plank published his quantum hypothesis. Werner Heisenberg said of Plank’s work in classical physics that science started from the belief, (or should we say illusion?) that we could describe the world or at least parts of the world without any reference to ourselves. It may be said that classical physics is just the idealization in which we can speak about parts of the world without any reference to ourselves…certainly quantum theory does not contain genuine subjective features… but it starts from the division in to the world into object and the rest of the world…this division is arbitrary… it is a reference to ourselves and in so far as a description is not completely objected”. She then says, that “Jungian phycology’s work was very quantum” in that it can’t be classified in the medical model, but “is seen more through a labyrinthine maze of the human psyche and Jung refers only to archetypes and symbols through which people learn who they really are.” This is akin to how both Harville and I see Imago today being grounded in Quantum physics.