“Imago Theory” is about attraction, about chemistry. It’s a theory about why we’re attracted to one person and not another. It was developed and popularized by Harville Hendrix in his book, “Keeping The Love You Find.” The theory asserts that we all form something like a “snapshot” in the guts of our original attachments (usually mother and father). We go through our lives carrying that profile of our original attachments and we are attracted to others based on how well they match our “snapshot.” We see this playing out all around us. For instance, if I grew up being physically abused, I am attracted naturally (have chemistry with) men who have the tendency to hit, even though in my conscious mind, that is not what I want to repeat. If I grew up with alcoholic parents, I have chemistry with other addicts and I tend to have no chemistry at all, no attraction, to people who are free of addictive tendencies. This is not a rule but a generality.
The secular psychology community chalks this pattern up to familiarity. They suggest that human beings would rather have what’s familiar than what’s healthy. But I disagree. I do not think we repeat painful childhood patterns in adult life because we prefer familiar over healthy. I think it’s because we are hardwired for redemption. I believe we are naturally attracted to replay painful patterns because we are attempting a “do-over.” The soul knows that if it can set up the same relational struggle again, there is a chance to fix it this time, a chance to make it work or heal it. I wanted to in childhood but couldn’t. Maybe I can resolve it this time with try #2. If I can, there is a retroactive effect. It helps heal the original wound.
If my original attachments (usually mom and dad) were fairly healthy, then my chances are good that I’ll be naturally attracted to more healthy people. But if my original attachments were deeply broken, the chances are good that I’ll be attracted once again to that level of brokenness. Obviously, if my attraction is to a lower functioning level, my chances of redemption through that relationship are not very good.
As a Splankna Practitioner, one of my favorite things to do is work with a single twenty-something client who’s “chooser is busted,” meaning they’re natural attraction is destructive (i.e. always attracted to liars, or cheaters, etc.) God will take us to the original destructive attachment (mom or dad) where the wound began. Once that original relationship wound is healed, their attraction naturally changes. They find that they no longer feel that chemistry with the liar or the addict, and instead, they’re now able to feel chemistry/attraction to someone more whole.