Integration and Growth
Integration and growth. The magic strength of the Gestalt therapy approach is hidden in these two vast words. One of my clients beautifully expressed this in the following lines:
I wanted to grow, to be strong
I was so alone in this big world
Small and in pieces
Afraid of being alive
And mostly of myself.
But I wanted to grow, to be strong
I first took a look at myself from a corner, hesitating
Then from another corner, shyly
The more I looked, the more I wanted to look
And I gathered whatever there is
I got rid of all that clutter
And I did put myself together, integrated.
I wanted to grow, to be strong
Then I looked at my loved ones
At the world which scared me
Looked at life and every living thing
The more I looked, the more I approached them
I saw them, they saw me
First we greeted each other, but it took a while
But then we hugged, oh so warmly
I gathered them and put them inside me
We are integrated
And suddenly I saw that what I wished for was now true…
I had grown.
This book is written with two important goals in mind. One of the aims of the book is to introduce the Gestalt therapy approach and, while introducing it, to help readers to understand themselves better. The second purpose of the book is to help those therapists in therapy training by presenting the theory and methods of the Gestalt approach with examples, and thus contribute to the raising of their therapeutic knowledge and skill levels. In order to achieve these goals I put this book together by going over the literature of Fritz Perls, the founder of the Gestalt therapy approach, by reviewing the contributions of his followers and those of contemporary Gestalt therapists and adding my own views and experiences.
I organized and explained the information according to my own “gestalt”, born from the training I have had over a long period at various Gestalt Institutes in the USA and Europe. In other words, the theoretical and methodical information included in this book reflects how I understand the Gestalt approach and how I practice it. In almost all sections of the book, the information given is supported by examples from daily life, from my clients, and from technical practices. However, the Gestalt therapy approach has such a rich technical repertoire that it was not possible to cover it all in this book. Furthermore, a detailed investigation of all methods and techniques is not the purpose of this book. The examples given regarding therapeutic interventions are based on work I have carried out with my clients over the years. However, with due respect for confidentiality, which is of upmost importance in psychotherapy work, and in accord with ethical rules, all names and all identifying characteristics of the sample cases have been changed. On the other hand, as the Gestalt therapy approach is focused on what is experienced in the ”here and now”, it was rather difficult to fully convey in words what really was experienced during therapy, and in particular the non-verbal and bodily reactions. Furthermore, since Gestalt therapy approach is based on a people-to-people dialogue, the written narrative of a dialogic relationship also emerged as another difficulty.
The book is in three parts. The first, the introduction, includes sections such as the development and basic perspectives of the Gestalt Theory Approach, psychological health, therapeutic relations and the Gestalt therapist. The section on the development and basic perspectives covers how it has integrated various opinions within itself and how it regards the human from existentialist, phenomenological and holistic points of view. According to the Gestalt perspective, healthy people can take their own responsibilities, can actualize themselves, and are authentic and mature. Moving on from these characteristics, the ultimate goal of the therapy is to create people who are able to meet their own needs and who are in harmony with their environment without obstructing their growth and development. In the later part of the psychological health section, information is given on how the Gestalt approach can be used for almost all psychological problems that may come to mind, as well as for personal development within individual, couple, family or group therapy. In the section on therapeutic relations and the Gestalt therapist, the importance of a dialogue relationship during therapy, that is a deep person-to-person relationship, is emphasized. Within this relationship, the Gestalt therapist reflects his/her own personality, creativity, knowledge and existence onto the therapy and works with and for the client without judging, interpreting or labeling them.
In the second part of the book, the basic concepts of the Gestalt approach and how these are used in therapy are covered. The first concept given in this part is awareness, which is like an inland sea a person can reach for whenever in trouble, and where he/she can access the source of those troubles. This can be very hard at times, but every voyage taken on this sea has a cooling and invigorating effect. The most important thing to be aware of during such a journey is one’s needs. The more a person is aware of his/her needs, meets them as soon as possible and through the most appropriate means, the more he/she will feel happy, at peace, adequate and safe. In the section entitled Needs, the factors which prevent the satisfaction of needs and problems caused by the difficulties faced at different phases of the need satisfaction cycle are discussed. One of the factors which prevent need satisfaction is unfinished business, which not only obstructs the meeting of a person’s current and new needs, but also leads to a number of psychological problems due to the failure to satisfy past needs. Unfinished business which is related to deep unmet needs causes the formation of fixed gestalts and affects the current existence of the person not only emotionally and mentally, but also physically.
Another significant concept in terms of the Gestalt approach is contact. Its importance comes from the belief that a person can only integrate and grow through contact, by meeting him/herself and the environment. The most important barriers which prevent the integration and growth of the person are the contact styles used in this meeting. Each of the styles of contact, which are called in the Gestalt approach introjection, desensitization, deflection, projection, retroflection, egotism and confluence, is taken up in detail in separate sections, which cover the definition, the advantages and disadvantages, the basis of each contact style as well as the personality characteristics of people who use them frequently and how to work with them in therapy. Introjection, which forms the basis of the other styles of contact, is a way of contact which depends on the messages a person has taken from the environment while growing up, that is on what information he/she has introjected. Introjects determine how the person regards the world and him/herself. Desensitization, which is generally developed to enable the person to cope with highly traumatic experiences, leads to numbness in a person, preventing him/her from enjoying life, being happy and joyful. The next style of contact, deflection, by causing a person to reject positive or negative external reactions, while protecting him/her against negative reactions, also prevents that person from hearing and assimilating the positive ones. Projection means attributing the person’s unique characteristics, thoughts and feelings, whether or not he/she is aware of them, onto his/her environment. How we perceive the people and the environment around us is defined by our projections. In this sense, the people and the world around us are a projection screen which we have created according to our perceptions. A person who uses retroflection as a style of contact, does not go to the environment to meet his/her needs and appears to have condemned him/herself to doing this alone. While this in a way makes the person feel strong, when used chronically it could make him/her feel lonely and eventually psychologically weakened as contact with the environment is blocked. In the style of contact known as egotism, instead of living his/her life as if watching a film based on that life and where he/she has the leading role, a person focuses solely on the leading actor – him/herself. Hence, people who use egotism frequently can find it very hard to get over themselves and contact others. People who try to contact through confluence do not behave like themselves. Since they greatly fear being alone, criticized or excluded, they cannot put forward their own wishes and ideas, cannot say “no” to anybody and do not own their needs. Since they lack the power for self-support, they continuously need the approval and support of others.
Integration of polarities is one of the primary goals of the Gestalt approach. In the section on polarities, it is mentioned that personality traits are located on a line with opposite traits at the different ends. The evaluation of these polarities, or personality traits, as positive or negative is not determined according to the values of society but according to the needs of the person and his/her environmental conditions. For this reason, the person has to claim the personality characteristics at both poles. Disclaimed poles lead to the emergence of inner conflicts which lead to neurotic symptoms.
The third part of the book emphasizes what should be taken into consideration in understanding humans and their integration and growth according to the Gestalt approach. In this part, which includes practice oriented information, firstly the concept of resistance which obstructs growth and development is discussed. According to the Gestalt approach, resistance is not a situation which should be hastily and forcefully eliminated during therapy. On the contrary, it is a case which should be understood, investigated and experienced. In the Gestalt approach, in order for the clients to be ready for growth and integration, they first of all need a therapist who accepts them as they are, including their resistances, and who respects them. Work on bodily reactions, physical complaints, body structure and posture – in short, work on body language – is very useful in recognizing impasses, unfinished business, creative adjustment, dysfunctional contact styles and polarities as well as resistances. The section on body language gives examples of methods which may be used during therapy and shows how integration of body, mind and soul can be achieved.
According to the Gestalt approach, one of the paths to integration is dreams. Dream work is very important in therapy since dreams serve a purpose in the recognition of the rejected and disowned parts of the personality and their integration, the recognition of needs and the determination of existential messages, and the recognition and changing of unhealthy styles of contact in inter-personal relations. Hence, Gestalt therapy offers a wealth of methods for working with dreams. In a case presentation, which is the last sub-section of the book, and whose maps could be used while diagnosing according to the Gestalt approach, the points which should be taken into consideration during therapy and the therapy process are explained through a real-life case.
The Gestalt therapy approach enables the achievement of highly impressive results in cases of numerous psychological problems. In the achievement of these successful results, the role of the various and creative methods it offers is significant. However, it should never be forgotten that the success of the Gestalt therapy approach is not merely dependant on the methods it offers. For the therapy to be successful, the therapist must have integrated the points of view and theoretical bases of the Gestalt approach into him/herself. Therefore, unless the reader has completed Gestalt therapy training, gone through therapy him/herself and had supervision for a sufficient period from a qualified Gestalt therapist, practicing these methods would be both extremely harmful and unethical.
Lastly, I hope that this book has contributed to your being more aware of yourself and those around you, to your integration with yourself and the world without judging or accusing; without feeling ashamed, scared or worried, and to exist as fully-grown in a big world and as you are.
Prof. Dr. Ceylan Daş
THE BACK COVER OF THE BOOK
The Gestalt approach is both a life philosophy and a therapy school. The Gestalt approach with its humanistic point of view gives the opportunity to the person to be aware of him/herself and those around him/her, to integrate both within him/herself and with the world without judging or accusing; without feeling ashamed, scared or worried, and to exist as fully-grown in the way he/she really is.
This book is written with two important goals in mind. One of the aims of the book is to introduce the Gestalt therapy approach and, while introducing it, to help the readers to be aware of their needs, wishes, the styles of contact they use in their relations, their unfinished businesses, their impasses and their resistances to change. The second purpose of the book is to help those therapists in therapy training by presenting the theory and methods of the Gestalt approach with examples, and thus contribute to the raising of their therapeutic knowledge and skill levels.
ABOUT THE AUTHER
Prof. Dr. Ceylan Das is clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. She is both giving lectures in the psychology departments of Universities since years and she also has her private practice. She works with individuals, couples as well as with the groups. She started her Gestalt Therapy training with Metanoia, England and continued with different Gestalt Institutes in Europe and USA. She is the president of Turkish Gestalt Therapy Association and the editor of Contact: Gestalt Therapy Journal.