Gestalt therapy is a very deep and important part of my personal and professional identity. I won’t present Gestalt therapy in a scientific way here, as there are plenty of books and websites that provide an overview of the theory and practice (see links). However, there are some tenets of Gestalt therapy I would like to point out.
Firstly, Gestalt therapy developed from within the framework of psychoanalysis, which I value. The two background theories are similar (aside from a few key elements), but this shared background takes on different and is used differently in the practice of therapy. Conversely, Gestalt therapy utilizes significantly more human warmth and empathetic understanding, don´t use an asymmetric power relationship (as in classical interpretation). A central concept of Gestalt therapy is to keep oneself open to the unexpected, and to refrain from imposing a normative idea of how an healthy person should look like. My role is to be a catalyst for others to find a new dynamic equilibrium; I emphasize the dynamic aspect because it is discovered and reshaped anew at every moment. To me, the idea that a person can become their “true self” is too static a notion, as every second we become something new in relation to ourselves and the world around us. Rather, it is essential that we learn how to accept our emergent selves, finding ways to thrive as we grow.
In my work, I notice more and more how important it is to move between the poles of regression and grounding. Regression expllies in the exploration of the depth of the soul, the imagination, the place from which both creativity and fears arise. It is important because it gives life meaning, but there is a danger of losing oneself in it. Grounding is the process of seeing and accepting our actions with full consciousness and responsibility, acknowledging the decisions that we have made (and continue to make) even in situations where it may feel like we have no agency. It makes us take over responsibility for how we act.
For me, therapy is the creative movement that we do together between these two positions. The embodied “being there” (Dasein) is also very central to Gestalt therapy, and to my work. For example, psychological conflicts express themselves in muscular tensions, such as the shallowness of breath. Paying attention to our physical perception helps us focus on the how and through what actions we repeat dysfunctional patterns. Understanding the how and what in these situations is a fundamental part of taking responsibility for what we do with ourselves and with our world. By following this path toward understanding our drives, impulses, and patterns, we can be liberated to act more deliberately in both our internal and external worlds.