Integrating methods of Couples Counseling / Communication with ADD

Only within the past 2 months have I gotten up with Dr. Hallowell's writings and I have begun trying to incorperate some of the ideas and concepts that he presents about my ADD into a method of communication my wife and I have adopted through going to couples counseling. I have read and re-read all 3 of Dr. Hallowell's books multiple times, which is amazing since I'm not a voracious reader. Each book tells me more and more about myself and certain pitfalls I've encountered over the course of my life. About 90% of his books applies to my life experiences, and his insights into how to live my day to day life have shown promise. My wife and I attended couples counselling for a while during which we learned a communication method called IMAGO, and the structure of it is outlined by Dr. Harville Hendrix in his book "Getting The Love You Want". Most of the method is sound and I agree with it, there's a few details of it which seem far-fetched, but in practice it has worked miracles in our relationship. Some of the things I like about it are 1)There simply is no blame from person to person in the relationship. Rather it is simply that the offending person simply reminds the victim of a traumatic childhood memory in which emotional pain was caused. In this way its kind of Freudian. For example, my wife doesnt get upset AT ME because I forget to empty our cat's litter box, rather when the litter box is not emptied she feels uncared about in a way which reminds her of a way that her father showed indifference to her when she was young. In doing the IMAGO excersize with her, we place the blame where it belongs--with her father, by role playing (her as a little girl, me as her father). Getting to this raw emotion from her supplies me with the motivation I need to keep the task concrete in my mind and I don't forget. It also frees me from the trappings of blame and guilt which I find paralyzing. 2) In the initial stage of IMAGO (the "sending stage") The offended person can say whatever they want! If I am sending to my wife, for example, about how I hate it when she interrogates me, I can show the anger and rage that I'm feeling without fear of interruption, or hurting her (I never ever ever want to cause emotional harm to her even when I'm at my angriest and most vindictive). In the past before we discovered this method, when I "let the beast out of its cage" I always knew I'd have a lot of mopping up to do even before I got the issue that I needed to feel resolved about resolved. And the best part about this is she has to repeat it too. If I say, "Jesus, You are completely unreasonable sometimes and you make me want to drive my car off a bridge when you talk to me like that." she has to say "I am completely unreasonable sometimes and I make you want to drive your car off a bridge when I talk to you like that." Few things in the world are as validating as direct repitition. That way I know that she knows the gravity of what I'm saying. 3)The results really work. I feel like I really have a partner who backs me up and understands a lot about what makes me tick. For example, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve--when something bothers me, my facial expression completely alters without my knowledge. Many times I won't even realize that something has bothered me, buy my wife will see it written on my face. When I feel angry, I identified that I feel tension building in my shoulders and arms. During the "gift giving" part of one IMAGO session, I asked her if she could just briefly massage my shoulders and calm me down before trying to talk to me about how I might be feeling. This was quite possibly the best thing in the world. She is able to diffuse me before I go off, and after I am diffused, I can dispose of my "explosives" by talking out my feelings...all this happens usually before I realize that I'm getting upset about something. Another success story of this is that when she cries about something, she needs to be held about 90% of the time. This was initially a very hard thing for me to do because usually when she is crying its because I've messed up and wounded her, and I was fearful of some sort of retribution. Also, I don't like crying. It makes me uncomfortable. I used to not be able to do it for several years, and only recently have I found that ability again, but I still don't like it. I have found though that by hugging her when she cries, I have no reprisal to fear, I make her feel extremely cared about (because she knows its hard for me), and Issues that used to take days or weeks to resolve now only take an hour or two. The system isn't perfect. She takes twice as long to complete her "turn" addressing an issue as me. She also "sends" to me more often, but I realize that my non-confrontational nature is due largely to my ADD, so the answer lies in me sending more often, not her sending less often. Also, when I'm mirroring what she says, its hard for me to remember the order of her exact words. Some artistic lisence is given and understood, but when I mess it up more than twice about something particularly important, it is a source of major frustration. Lastly, IMAGO is always deeply involved. No issue is a quick fix and almost always it requires a big emotional investment. When IMAGO sessions are held several days consecutively I feel too emotionally drained to get into things. That's actually the situation I find myself in today. 2 days ago, the system broke down because I was emotionally spent, and she's been cold to me since. I told her that this was simply a hiatus until I recharged my batteries, but she's been cold as hell to me in the meantime which does not help the recharging process. Ah well. Does it show that I have ADD? The whole point of that was really to ask the questions: Are there other methods out there which are similar to IMAGO which are better suited to couples with 1 or both members having ADD? If you are familiar with IMAGO, are there techniques I can use which will make our sessions go more efficiently and smoothly? Although it seems to be working for us, Is the IMAGO program suited for most couples with ADD?

IMAGO

I am not personally aware of this method, though if it is really working for you, then that's a good thing.  Using the method does not demonstrate that you have ADD, though.  That needs to be determined through a full evaluation of your past and present behavior and experiences.  Dr. H's books talk about the diagnosis process.

As you describe it, the IMAGO approach sounds very intense and time-consuming.  Do they have evidence that couples can sustain this effort over the long term?  Also, I would wonder if there is something else you could add to complement your approach - for things that are smaller in scale?  That might help you be less drained.

The other thing I wonder about is fully releasing the full force of your anger on someone.  It sounds as if this is part of the process, but it also sounds very hard.  When your wife releases her anger towards you, is there lingering effect from this, or do you fully resolve everything and feel cleansed and refreshed afterwards?

Melissa Orlov