My encounter with Gestalt Therapy.
I have been searching for my purpose in life for many years, needing to feel useful, to be able to contribute in some way, but not knowing how. Along this path I trained in different somatic therapeutic techniques, both body and energetic, with the continuous feeling that I was still missing something. I constantly felt that the issues my clients were coming with to my practice, were more somatic than real physical difficulties. Most of my clients presented physical pain caused by emotional tensions, such as stress, burnout, life blockages, or traumas. My feeling of inadequacy in not knowing how to accompany them in their emotional pain made me want to learn how.
I had heard a lot about Gestalt Therapy and was very curious about it. Hence when my mother died in a very sudden and unexpected way I decided to look for a Gestalt therapist to help me in my grieving and at the same time get to know “first hand” what this therapy was about.
My first session was love at first sight! I felt that not only had I found the right therapy for me as a client, but I had also found the professional umbrella under which I could unite the physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual work in which I had been trained until then.
So, what is Gestalt therapy?
It is a humanistic, phenomenological therapy that considers the person as a whole and in its present moment.
Created by the psychiatrist Fritz Perls, the psychologist Laura Perls, and the sociologist Paul Goodman, it is also called Relational Therapy, as it aims not only to facilitate awareness about how one relates and gets into contact with oneself, with one’s own emotions, sensations, and thoughts, but also with how we relate to others and our environment, and particularly what in Gestalt is called the contact boundary (located between our inner and outer world).
More than a form of therapy, Gestalt becomes almost a way of conceiving the world, an existential philosophy that focuses on the awareness of how problems have come to be and are organized in the “here and now”, rather than focusing on the origins of the problem. Gestalt aims at discovering the “how” and the “what for” of the present situation, rather than understanding the “why”.
This means that a large part of the therapeutic work focuses on helping the client to become aware of his relational strategies (or patterns) and how these support or hinder contacting with himself, with others, or with his environment.
During the therapy sessions, people discover how they relate to themselves and/or their environment, the “what fore” they have developed this form of relating at certain point of their lives, and how this interaction with themselves and/or their environment takes shape in the present. Conflicts and difficulties are understood in the wider context.
Gestalt therapy is therefore based on awareness of one’s own actions, emotions, and beliefs, thus fostering self-acceptance and self-esteem.
To achieve this level of awareness, the therapist helps the client to fine-tune his or her attention and awareness skills.
Strongly influenced by Eastern philosophies such as Zen or Tao, Gestalt uses resources such as meditation or visualization to facilitate “reconnection with oneself” and is based on the concept of the “here and now”.
It is a journey of introspection to discover the adjustments developed at specific moments in life to relate to oneself or the environment, and to find new solutions by identifying and recognizing how these adjustments make us feel in our present.
Gestalt therapy teaches to discern between what belongs to fantasy (imaginary), anticipation, and the concrete/real (the obvious) of the present. Therefore, it is a non-interpretative therapy, where the person (client) is the expert in his/her discomfort and learns through a fine observation of his/her here and now, to understand, self-support, and let go.
Gestalt has taught me to realize how I relate to myself and to others, to be aware of my inner critic and judge, how demanding I can be with myself and consequently with others, My need to fit in and feel loved, my fear of rejection, and the little respite I give myself. I have learned acceptance, how to love me and be able to laugh at some of my “neurotic mind paths”. Gestalt has also helped me to realize how I relate to others, how I show myself, how much of what I show is the real me and what I do to get in contact with others and/or what I don’t do…
So, I wonder, what about you? How much are you aware of how you show or don’t show yourself? How do you relate to others? What are your contact mechanisms?