The transformative power of Intentional Dialogue

Recently Tim Atkinson, the Executive Director of Imago Relationships International, shared the following personal reflections on his experience with Intentional Dialogue in moments of conflict.  I share his insights with his permission…

“I’ve realized that 5 years into attempting to practice dialogue in my life, I still get reactive in some situations, and it doesn’t feel like that’s ever going away.

But what I do notice is that there are two things that happen when I get triggered:

1.       I think about how wrong the other person is, and feel angry with them

2.       I notice my own reaction and become curious about it

Before I came across Imago, the anger was 100% of my experience, and all my effort went into working out why the other person was wrong.  Therefore conflict was exhausting, frustrating, and sapped my energy, and I would become unavailable to the other person because I was consumed in my reaction, which might even last for days as I worked out the many ways in which the other person was wrong, wrong, wrong, and which words I might choose to tell them that.

Over the past week or so I have been dealing with some very frustrating situations, but it gave me an opportunity to notice a difference. I did find myself thinking about the situation, but there were some new  thoughts around “Why am I reacting?”

Then it came into my mind that there’s a point that sometimes (when I’m not too triggered) I feel close to when the amount of anger and the amount of curiosity are equally balanced.

So I wondered whether  if I went further, the amount of curiosity about my own reaction would exceed my anger, and the result of any situation of conflict would primarily be that I get a new opportunity to understand my own reactions, and to understand myself more deeply, and through that become more available.  In such a situation, conflict would always be an experience of growth, and my contribution could always being one of giving.  Conflict might even be something I seek out, because then I would truly be able to be powerful at bringing together different perspectives, and through the differences find a deeper meaning underneath.  (This is something the Imago Board has been doing over the last few days, in a way I found deeply inspiring)

What do you think?  Does this critical balance point exist, beyond which all situations which anger us make us stronger rather than weaker?    Is it an experience some of you have after more time at this than me?  If that point exists, does something profound happen when you get there, in which the path of self-growth accelerates, and our life changes for ever as a result?”    Tim (Atkinson)

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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