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Communication runs in the Kamm family

It’s been almost nine years since Herb Kamm — former editor of the New York World Journal Tribune and Cleveland Press, Cal Poly journalism instructor and editorial writer for The Tribune — passed away.

I was fortunate to work with Herb for a couple of years, and from what his contemporaries have said about him, he was superb in all the aforementioned roles he played as a lifelong, ink-stained wretch.

Yet he and wife Phyllis’ consummate achievement in their 80-plus years on the planet was producing three remarkable sons, all involved in communications in one form or another.

Larry was a well-known television producer prior to his death in 2004; Lew, a professor at the University of Massachusetts; and Bob, an organizational consultant and author.

Bob and I have been in sporadic contact over the years since Herb passed. So when he sent me his latest book, a work of collected poems called, “Love over 60 — later the hour, sweeter the moment,” he added an invite to meet him and wife Andrea at their San Luis Relationship Institute in the renovated Soda Works building on San Luis Obispo Creek across from The Creamery.

Their institute is large, airy and light. Calming colors, Peruvian artworks and comfortable chairs give it a feel of someone’s relaxing living room.

It’s here that certified therapists Bob and Andrea host weekend seminars guiding couples in Imago workshops. Latin for image, Imago therapy is something couples of any age can use to jettison lousy baggage while deepening their relationships with each other.

Here’s the premise: Partners pair up and face each other; Bob and Andrea facilitate a dialogue and then let the pair talk about what may be a source of irritation.

OK, no big deal; it sounds like verbal sparring with a referee standing by. It may sound like that, but here’s the deal (and although the premise may seem simple, results can be profound): You’re taught a technique called “mirroring.”

A premise of Imago is that most of us carry baggage from our childhood. If our mother or father was aloof, for example, we unconsciously — or maybe consciously — find a mate with similar characteristics whom we try to shape into a warm and accepting person.

The aloof partner may feel manipulated, with arguments ensuing over the most trivial of issues, masking the really deep-seeded issue that never gets an airing. And because no one wants to be on the receiving end of a gripe, defensiveness rears its head and volleys of vitriol are off to the races.

In mirroring, a partner will air a complaint. The other partner repeats the complaint and asks if there’s more. That question, oddly, can lead to calming rather than increasing the volume. After all, who doesn’t want to be sincerely listened to when something bugs us?

Mirroring turns down the heat, which can lead to drilling down to the sources of childhood resentments and baggage, which can lead to a more fulfilling relationship. And isn’t that what we all want?

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