At the Edge of Your World

You probably don’t believe that the world is flat. But what if your parents, teachers, and other influential figures had told you so? And warned you not to stray too far from the shore lest you fall off the edge?

Today, empirical evidence demonstrates otherwise. Yet consider those intangible beliefs that shape who you are, and how you live your life: your values, attitudes, obligations, and expectations.

Where do they come from? To whom do they really belong?  To what extent can you live with integrity and authenticity if your self is buried under generations of inherited material?

During a weekend at the Edinburgh Gestalt Institute, and in the safe hands of Jill McClure, our group explored introjections, or beliefs swallowed whole without discrimination (or digestion).

Stormy horizonIntrojections are, for many, unknown unknowns; and yet this undigested material influences our internal narrative, informs our behaviour, and even restricts our growth where it manifests as self-limiting beliefs.

Through identifying our ‘shoulds’ (I should [be]…) and our ‘oughts’ (I ought [to]…) we can begin to discern between what we choose to do (and have taken ownership of) and what we have introjected (and swallowed whole) over the years.

You might be surprised at what you find. You might choose to reject, or abandon, an unhelpful or even damaging introjection. Or you might recognise that transitional, and perhaps challenging, periods in your life were actually defined by this very process of discernment.

Tread gently, though. Our belief system runs deep, and as Bluckert (2006) reminds us, we might be strongly attached to an introjection and – critically – the individual(s) who shared this belief with us. In (re)defining our boundaries of self, we must tend also to our closest and most significant relationships.

…if they were truly dead, if there were no after-life, what should I care of their view of me? They would not know, they could not judge.

Then he made the great leap: They do not know, they cannot judge. 

John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman


Bluckert, P, Psychological Dimensions of Executive Coaching (2006), ps.136-7

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