‘Resolutionary’ Optimism

The beginning of any new year brings a host of possibilities, plus the nagging memories of bygone resolutions. Whatever happened to last year’s promises of change that somehow never happened? In the Washington Post, evolutionary biologist Lionel Tiger, explains that people continue to make promises about changes they won’t keep because of our hunter-gatherer beginnings (“The Making and Breaking of Resolutions is only Human,” Jan. 1, 2008). He writes: “We had to wake up each day and say, Boy it’s a better day than usual to catch an antelope. We had to say that each day even when we had only eaten grass for 3 weeks.” Optimism was necessary to counter our intelligence. If we didn’t overestimate our chances, we wouldn’t have bothered to get out of the cave in the morning.

We make goals because they keep us alive and we can’t afford to be too cynical about our own behavior. The dilemmas regarding change do not just apply to individual human behaviors, but to our relational behaviors as well. Change involving couples and relationships can be just as hard – maybe even harder – as sometimes we get the feeling that they are not within our control when change involves another person.

Imago Relationship Therapy can be the needed impetus to change. Imago employs a mechanism called the “Behavior Change Request,” which focuses on both the “how” and “why” of change. The tool applies several of the necessary rules for behavioral change – choice, and specific change that is measurable, attainable, relevant, and time limited. But more importantly, it offers the all important ingredient of hope, which permits us the belief that change is possible, not just necessary. So, the next time you stumble out the door for your antelope, remember there is hope that you might find something even more important in terms of your life – a deeper connection in your relationship.