Case #75 - Shedding Shoulds

Brigitte brought forward a conflict she had with her husband of 18 years. She wanted her parents to live with them, and he didn't.

So I invited her into the classic Gestalt dialogue, using two pillows, one for her, and one for her husband.

In the course of the ‘conversation’, she made two statements. The first was feeling guilty about them being in a happy family situation, but not having the parents there. The second was that they should be considering her parents needs.

I picked the guilt - as it generally disguises a ‘should’. Sure enough, the should was, “I should not be happier than my parents.”

So I asked her to put the should on the pillow, and then a conversation ensued. The should lecturing her about being good to her parents. Her reply was an angry one - “don't tell me how to live.”

I asked her to move back and forth in the conversation. At one point, she sort of collapsed - said “okay" to the should. But this was not a real capitulation, so we identified that, and I encouraged her to keep going.

Then she got a flash - when she was 5 and her mother was feeding her, her mother told her, one day you will look after me when you are older.

So I asked her to talk to that statement of her mother’s, but from her position now, as a 43 year old woman. She said - “I am your daughter, not your mother. It’s not that I need to look after you, that's not quite right.”

She was very clear on this. Something settled in her, what we call ‘integration’ - where insight and an embodied experience and a shift in energy all come together.

This clarified the ‘should’ in a way which led to what we call ‘digestion’, that is, taking what's nourishing, and leaving the rest.

Shoulds are indigestible beliefs we carry with us from society or parents. They may have truth and value in them, but they need to be processed to find what fits for each person. Otherwise, they continue to rule - consciously or unconsciously, in a tyrannical way. No longer do we hear the messages externally - we have internalised - introjected - them. So in Gestalt we re-examine them, to bring them up to date.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther