Having Doubts About Getting Married & Finding the ‘Voice of Faith'

Having Doubts About Getting Married & Finding the ‘Voice of Faith'

Trevor was engaged to be married but also had his doubts. How did I help him discover a new voice?

Trevor was in a relationship with a woman, and had even proposed marriage to her. But he was still not completely certain that she was the ‘right one’. He felt more comfortable with his decision to get married as we went through the therapy, but some doubt remained. He felt that their values were aligned, that they loved each other, and that they could have a good life together. But his doubts kept undermining him - was there someone out there who might in fact be an even better match?

He kept trying to overcome his doubt - telling himself that his uncertainty was not rational, reasonable, or helpful. He tried to think about the positive things about her. But the doubts kept surfacing, and undermining their relationship.

Here’s what I did to help Trevor. 

Firstly, we looked at context - the larger picture of where and how his doubt originally came from. His father had a lifelong affair  with another woman. Trevor grew up with the the love triangle of  his father, his mother, and the mistress. So when it came to committing to marriage, he found himself doubting if in fact there may be ‘another woman’ out there, who would ‘steal’ his attention.

I invited him to play out having an imaginary conversation with his father and his father’s lover, in the therapy room. I suggested to Trevor that he tell them how their relationship affected him as a child, and how it continues to haunt him. I invited him to notice his feelings - sadness and anger - as he spoke to them.

This conversation helped to finish the ‘unfinished business’ from his family. By inviting him to notice his experience in the present, it allowed him to get some support in the therapy, and to move the energy in his body. Unfinished business is stored in the body, and to move through and past it, we need to feel the feelings first; then letting go is a natural next step.

But there was more to be done. We needed to address the polarities of confidence/commitment, and doubt/uncertainty. As a Gestalt therapist, I work a lot with the integration of opposites and splits in our personality.

So I invited Trevor into another Gestalt experiment:  imagine talking to a friend, really embodying being a doubting kind of a person; for instance  making negative statements such as ‘that won’t work’, and introducing uncertainty, such as ‘are you sure that’s a good idea?’.

What happened next was interesting. Trevor started doing the opposite - telling the friend how they should in fact have more faith. He found it hard to keep in the ‘doubting Thomas’ role.

I recognised this and pointed out that he was now speaking with ‘the voice of faith’. This gave him a direct recognition of another, alternative voice with which he could speak.

So in the future, when he starts hearing ‘the voice of doubt’, he will be able to also listen to ‘the voice of faith’, which will counter the undermining effect of doubt.

This was achieved, not by giving him advice of what to do, but through creating the circumstances for a new experience: this is the emphasis I use in Gestalt therapy: experiential learning. Its much better than using my authority or insight to ‘enlighten’ the person. We learn best through making sense of our own experiences.

This article was originally published at Blogspot. Reprinted with permission from the author.