Gestalt psychotherapy is a powerful modality that helps us focus on our present life. It encourages a journey of self-realisation, to embrace our freedom in a way that harmoniously meets our needs.
Every person has the right to build a life that suits our deepest sense of who we are in the world. Gestalt therapy seeks to make that process clearer and more transparent.
Fritz Perls, one of the founders of Gestalt therapy, said that our main suffering is the gap we create, often without awareness, between the present and the future. Our mind gets stuck in the heaviness of the past or anxieties for the future, without taking the time to rest in this present moment.
Perls described this process in a few simple words, saying, “Do not push the river, it flows by itself”.
Gestalt is an invitation to take a new look at the past and our ideas of the future, by reminding us that what is most real and most true is happening here and now. For this reason, gestalt techniques encourage personal growth in a direct and practical way.
How can we encourage this sense of creativity in the present moment? Fritz Perls called his approach experimental, made up of “games”. These are dynamic and original interventions that provoke us to become more aware of the world. Through gestalt therapy, we overcome our resistances and nurture growth and healing.
One common concern encountered during therapy is the unfinished business that builds up throughout our lives. The pending issues that buzz around us are unmanaged emotions, painful impasses and blocked feelings, which hold us back from living fully and confidently.
According to Gestalt, we must not avoid these unfinished and difficult moments. To transform these emotions, we can give ourselves the permission to remember our past struggles and express what we need in order to finally move on. This process of reuniting, confronting, and saying goodbye to the past is a powerful way to let go of the baggage we drag behind us.
Another popular Gestalt technique is called the ‘empty chair’. In this dialogue, an individual is encouraged to meet imaginary projections of other people. The goal is to trigger a resolution of complex emotions or to bring hidden traumas to the surface.
It can also be used as a way to enter into inner dialogue with ourselves, creating a calm space inside us where we act out as “our opposites”. Using this, we can dialogue with the shadow side of our personality to gain new wisdom about who we are.
One of the best Gestalt techniques is the “taking responsibility” game. Its purpose is to help us be more aware of what is happening inside us, without running away from difficult or painful truths. We can start to perceive, accept, and even change our behaviours by simply admitting them with honesty and care.
One way that Gestalt proposes to do this is by turning our inner questions into self-affirmations. For example, instead of asking myself “Why do I always feel so lonely?” I can transform this question into a statement. “I feel lonely today. I’m going to make it possible to transform this feeling, and tomorrow, will be a new opportunity for change.”
Another example could be, “Why do I feel like my boyfriend is distant and cold?” Turning this into a statement gives us, “I feel distant from my boyfriend. I’m going to ask him if there is a problem between us.” In this simple way, the Gestalt principle of taking responsibility for ourselves and our experiences comes to the fore.
Gestalt techniques are as original as they are functional. These brief examples are a springboard for the kind of work that goes on during Gestalt therapy and by individuals who practice a Gestalt way of life. Not only are we invited to take responsibility but also, to explore our creativity in response to the world, thereby connecting to our needs and celebrating our limitless potential.
Pete Farrugia is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist. In his profession he explores the intersection of psychosocial wellbeing, spiritual development, and creative expression.