So, free from traumas, being aware of your needs, the capacity of the current environment and your ability to cover your need within this circumstance… So if I am hungry and there is a cherry tree with fruits, am I tall enough to reach them? If not, what could I do? Maybe use a ladder? If there is no solution, could I allow myself a moment of disappointment that I cannot have these cherries. So this gestalt between me and the cherry tree is completed. And now I can move on until I find another way to cover the hunger. Or should I get angry with that tree that doesn’t ‘let me’ enjoy it’s fruits? Or I could even take it personally and start crying, getting so disappointed that I’d never again try and get fruits from a tree? And so on and on... This is what we call “to act in the here and now” according to a past trauma.
Let’s apply that example to the whole spectrum of our life… How often don’t we block the completion of a present gestalt because of a past trauma coming to the surface? What gestalt helps us to do is to heal our traumas so we can go with the flow of our life! But what does it really mean to be a client in gestalt therapy ? Is it the therapist who has the magic power to heal you and you depend on his super-power ability?Or do you heal yourself? And if so how does it happen? And if that happens, why do you need a therapist then? Well here is my personal experience as client and therapist...
The only necessary process for a human being is to be present in each moment of the three levels of awareness. A feeling, a body sense (body awareness), a thought, an imagination, a memory (mind awareness) or information from the environment, weather condition, location, people, animals etc. (environment awareness). So by being present, every being has the inside-wisdom of what is best for them in every moment according to their needs and abilities in order to complete an experience and move to the next one and so on. This is what we call ‘go with he flow’! We choose therapy when we feel some block to this natural process of life, plus we are ready to talk about it to someone else.
This means we bring our awareness to whatever blocks us, while we are open to listen to new directions on how to use our awareness ability. Let’s make this clear:
1. Not all the people realize the block.
2. Not all of them who do, realize at the same time their own participation to it.
3. Even if they do, they do not necessarily consider it an option or feel ready to talk about it openly. Especially in front of someone unknown, who is a ‘specialist’ and he ‘knows well’ how to help.
So, asking for therapy is a step further in the awareness of the blocked flow of our life. This choice itself contains the will to expose your life story and to share your awareness with someone, letting him help you expand it in new places you haven’t try yet… So a major part of your therapy is happening when you share your awareness with someone who is there to listen to you with acceptance, non judgment and no interpretation; those are gestalt’s therapy and awareness practice basic rules.
The next level of working on yourself happens when the therapist is shining light to some parts you haven’t brought to your awareness yet. How do we do that? Gestalt is an experimental therapy apart from existential, meaning we create experiments for the expansion of our clients awareness from a simpler one, like noticing the movement of your hands, to a more advanced one like recreating the dream you had, putting the important roles to each chair and talk from each position… (open chair technique in dream work).
This way we bring the awareness of the client in new areas of his emotions, body sensations, memories, movements, body posture, faces, anything that could come to our attention and we consider it to be relative and helpful with the issue delivered at the moment. So yes, we are useful for this part of the process but it’s his-hers awareness process that really does the healing process.
An other useful part of having a therapist is that even when you’re able to bring your awareness where is needed each moment and you know you can get to the root of every issue you have, there’s still the human need for the presence of someone to listen to you in those moments of self-relevance. Some times it can be quite hard to accept, for example, that it was some parts of you that was resisting the actualization of your desire to eat those cherries. It’s those parts that told you that if you try to reach them, maybe you will get hurt, you will never make it or you are not tall enough anyway! In gestalt these kind of thoughts can be called introjections.
Many times we discover that inside us there exist many controversial parts at the same moment and of course it’s not easy to take the response-ability for the ones with unpleasant effect to our life (“you will never reach these cherries!”). Often though we don’t even take the response-ability for the parts that bring us a pleasant effect, and this is an other topic! (“I am so lucky I ate these cherries”) It is difficult, though extremely necessary to take this response-ability. This is an efficient way to go through the self-obstacle(s) and move onto the ‘goal’, bringing the awareness to that part that tries to stop you and listen to its point (ex. if you get hurt trying to get these cherries, no one will help you).
That usually comes from a traumatic experience, the memory of which gets triggered in here and now, and blocks the flow of your experience in the present moment. This can be overcome by the process of shining light, attention, awareness to that part by giving it a voice and listening to it. It’s more important that each part gets expressed and heard, than to act upon its need. So why do this process of self revealing with a therapist and not only with a friend?
In a natural world it would be enough to talk to each other and to ourselves through this process that now we’re ‘obliged’ to call gestalt. As F. Perls said ‘with gestalt I didn’t discover something new, I just brought together natural human processes and called them gestalt therapy’. The way we grow up and live, takes us far away from our natural abilities, being aware of what is our experience in every moment (feelings, senses, desires etc). As a result, it takes us away from acting the most adequate way to our real needs and desires. It also prevents us from developing the human qualities of solidarity and mutual support; from communicating through acceptance, non judgmental and present listening. Cultivating such qualities can be enough for helping each other to restore our natural abilities, since the human being has the ability to cure itself through awareness. So fortunately or not, in our days some of us need to be ‘trained’ in this way of communication in order to be able to transmit this basic human knowledge to other beings through therapy.
My goal as a therapist is to transmit that knowledge till the person in therapy owns this process and then he-she can offer it to him-herself and spread it to their surroundings. So humanity can be re-educated to lead a life of acceptance and non-judgmental support; what I would call in two words living with freedom and love of being who you are in every moment (this is the practice O'Neil followed with his students in summer hill). Of course though it is part of the awareness process to observe without judging all inner thoughts, feelings, desires this must not be taken as tolerance towards acting out violently.
An other reason being a therapist is a profession at the moment is that the traumatization people have due to this way of living can be high rated and sometimes not even our friends are ready or able to hear our traumatic experience. So an adequately trained therapist is supposed to do this social ‘dirty job’…
Also many people feel its too shameful to have a bad experience thinking it’s happened only to them and no-one else. This is basically a lie sold to us from this ‘well-polished’ way of life where everything should be ‘fine’ and if not its our personal deficiency…
In fewer words, we have not collectivized yet the suffering as a common human experience. Although we all see in every day news and life all this violence being acted out, we still perceive that its our personal problem or deficiency that brings the experience of suffering in our life. Wouldn’t the planet lives with peace and love if it was only your personal deficiency !? Until suffering feels socially acceptable we can share this part of us in the safe space created from a well trained therapist, and hopefully being helped to realize it’s not only us ...
So my purpose as a gestalt therapist is to educate people how to support themselves and each other with love and freedom that can occur with acceptance of how we are at the moment without critic and interpretation and help each other stay with one’s experience as it occurs at the moment. Do people need a therapist?
Many people that had less self-support could use therapy to develop the skill of supporting themselves. Since anyway we where all traumatized at some point one way or another, and it seems there is no way to avoid it, this is part of the nature. Yes, sometimes I cannot eat these cherries though I am really too hungry... So its not about the level of trauma or the amount of it, its more about the ability to support oneself in the process. And this is the main skill we need to develop through therapy, so we won’t depend on anyone, therapist or friend, for our self regulation after some disappointment or frustration etc, which are natural parts of life. It’s one condition to have the desire to share one’s experience with someone and an other to have the need for it. Of course through the path of this life many times we feel this need and it’s normal, even so, one must keep the awareness that our goal is to not depend on the other for this process.
Last but not least, we say ‘therapy is the relation’, meaning that the space we are given in a therapy process to re-learn how to relate to an other human being in a way that we can really express ourselves in the world and so re-relate to others with these new skills. To conclude, therapy is a pedagogical healing process far from dependance. At least I am offering gestalt therapy as such...