Augusto Boal was a revolutionary theatre director in Brazil whose work spread throughout South and Central America. He helped oppressed peoples fight injustice, oppression and gain agency in the world through theatre.
When Boal came to the United States, he found his techniques didn’t work quite the same way. Oppression here he discovered is largely internalized. As such he created exercises he shared in The Rainbow of Desire: The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy. In it, he outlines experiential and experimental methods for getting rid of ‘the cops in your head’. Or, as I sing in my recording below – the thought police.
How do we keep people in line?
Truncheons and rubber bullets don’t keep North Americans in line. Shame and exclusion are the biggest tools of the oppressive thought police these days. Their presence is found everywhere. In yesterday’s post, where I described the gentleman who was concerned that I watch what I say lest I get in trouble, was well aware of the power of the unawares, unquestioned cultural rules that dictate behavior. Funny enough, these thought police are at work ever place you look
The tyranny of the shoulds
Everytime you say to yourself: “I should…” you may be falling prey to the thought police, the cops in your head. Instead, ask yourself: What do I want right now? Under every should there might be a want. If not, the should might not be a valid one for you.
Recently I was talking to someone who felt they should go out with a group of friends, but they were not feeling up to it. She was quite worked up. She hadn’t seen these people in a while. She feared she might be excluded going forward. What would people think? When questioned about what she wanted, she replied that she wanted specific people in the group to know she cared about them and that they were important to her.
Did she need to do what she felt she ‘should do’ or was their another way?
She didn’t. She did what she wanted. She stayed home. She rested. And as she wanted these people to know she cared about them, she called them up and spoke to them briefly: I care about you. You’re important to me. And tonight? I’m staying home. Thanks for understanding. It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as she imagined.
A Gestalt approach
The thing we forget about these undigested introjects, these rule we follow without question, is that the consequences we imagine are seldom that bad. We forget that, though we police our own behavior, we’re also the police chief. We’re in charge. We can make choices. When live by choice, we remove the power of the thought police and are truly free.