Gestalt Therapy Doesn't Seem to be Enough For Me

by DeeDee
(US)

I have a wonderful therapist and some of the Gestalt therapies have helped somewhat. However, in reading a "self help" book, recommended by my psychiatrist, talks about how no one, no matter how young you are (even as a newborn)... no one has ever had the power hurt you unless you let them.

Many ideas along this line and Gestalt theory states, "It's not the event that upsets a person, it's their reaction to the event." I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that the people in Haiti are crying and scared and in shock only because of how they view what the earthquake did to them.

I believe shoving this "theory" down people's throats can be very damaging to we who have suffered countless tortures. Encouraging self-blame for your view or feelings about an event beyond your control, such as the earthquake, rape, having been abused as a child. etc. is absolutely ridiculous.

Does am amoeba think "wow, that hurts when I bump into that spiney thing, but it only hurts because that's how I feel about it". Stimuli and reaction are still very, very ingrained in the primal part of the human brain.

This reminds me of the book called "The Secret" which is based on that thinking as well, in my opinion. For me, when I read this kind of junk I feel unbelievably insulted. Being told "I want to feel bad about my abusive childhood when even when I was nearly murdered" is hurtful and ignorant beyond belief.

In one paragraph of this book, one of the contributors says "The most important thing to know is that it is impossible to feel bad and at the same time having good thoughts". Apparently this contributor has never suffered for years with chronic clinical depression. I remember that almost all of the time I've had fun or a good time, the depression could still be felt in my gut, and yes I did have negative thoughts and positive thoughts at the same time.

Society has never been comfortable about mental and/or emotional illnesses. I think this is just another way for "normal" people to play "blame the victim" game. If anyone knows the truth about the "blame the victim" thing, then you know it's really about an unharmed person who blames victims because it is comforting and insulating them from their own fears, and pacifying themselves with that "couldn't happen to me".

Thanks for listening.

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May 18, 2017
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Pro and Against Gestalt Therapy
by: Anonymous

It is the therapist that makes it or breaks it. A Gestalt therapist (any therapist) who is not a good human being first is not going to be a good therapist either.

Perlz was a MD, an officer in two wars, a Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst and then he "invented " GT in a time of great changes in Europe and, later, in the US.

Most of the North American Gestalt therapists (that I know) never suffered war/s, hunger, genocide. They understand the world and the humans in it looking trough special type of glasses that I call "entitlement glasses".

Much changed since the time when Perlz roamed Esalen... The Gloria experiment that anyone can see on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it0j6FIxIog is an embarrassing think to watch today. Back in the time when this was recorded - it was a new, big think in the world of Psychotherapy.

"How Fritz supported the client?" my Gestalt therapy teacher asked rhetorically recently when my group was forced to watch the video as it was manna that we were invited to share in the "sacred space" of the Gestalt group. The same teacher asked once the group to split in two - men and women. When a colleague with alternative sexual orientation asked "How about the members of the group with alternative sexual orientation?"

The teacher replied: "People with penises in one group, people with vaginas in the other". Guess how the person who asked the question felt "there and then"...

Gestalt therapy (any therapy), if used for good by a good human is not supposed to harm. The rest is "rat shit" a Perls put it. We all know what bad humans can do to other humans, beings, nature, planet...

May 02, 2012
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Gestalt therapy is a one kind of psychotherapy
by: Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is a one kind of psychotherapy. It is a learning consciousness Instead of simply taking things for granted, and doing the routine job, gestalt therapy helps people to do same things but with a new experience, new feelings, and new perspective. It emphasizes on focusing on the very present moment, rather than being a victim of subconsciously mind-talking or repetitive thinking while doing anything.

Jan 19, 2010
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Thanks
by: Evan

Glad it helped Deedee.

Jan 18, 2010
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Better Understanding Now
by: DeeDee

Thank you all for your comments. It has helped open my mind up more. I believe I wasn't looking at the Gestalt theories in the correct frame of mind (or books?). Perhaps some of the books I've read took "creative license" to work it into their own ideas and the true Gestalt theories perhaps got distorted in the process, perhaps?

I am beginning to see that Gestalt theories can give me options to think about before and/or after I react and recognize that I DO have a choice in some or most cases. It was so hard for me to understand since I tend to be overly analytical. I believe I may have mistaken "simplicity" of Gestalt theories to mean "ineffective", which is not necessarily so.

Years of insight and purging the excrutiating pain of a horribly toxic childhood through talk therapy and the right medications, I believe, was necessary for me personally before I could grasp the Gestalt theories. In the past I contained so much grief, anger, rage, and other emotions that were so volatile that I didn't have the tools to open my eyes and see I had any choices.

One of the many effects on me from my father's rage was the belief he held that the entire universe was truly and undeniably against him, personally. For example, if a driver in front of him was going so slow it would cause him to be late, he believed it was part of the so-called "grand scheme" or "conspiracy theory". The slow driver had been put there purposely for no other possible reason than to make him miserable and late. Every situation was like this to him.

Growing up with this mindset being such a dominant theme in everything he said, ate spoke, and slept led me to a life where I believed the same thing was happening to me. I had no other adult demonstrations showing me facts that it was any different. What made things worse is that my mother enabled, supported and sympathized with his "beliefs"!

One day in my late 20s or early 30s, I realized how ridiculous and false his thinking was! When my father would get a bone in his fish, he would throw his fork down on the plate like a sulking child and complain that he was the only one who ever gets the bone!

When I realized what a load this was, I pointed out to my mother that he was not the only one to get bones in his fish. She still maintained, "Oh, no it really was that way." I countered and said "I got fish bones too, but he was the only one who ever said anything about it and made such a fuss!"

I apologize if this seems rambling, but I believe your comments have made me think and consider things in a different light and I thank you for that!

Jan 18, 2010
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There's usually more to that concept than meets the eye
by: mxkx

I know where you're coming from. I've been doing some reading which also stresses the importance of one having control over their own reaction to various stimuli. For those of us that have been abused such reading can be a hard pill to swallow, especially when we are trying to learn the whole "it's not my fault" concept.

As a rule of thumb, if I feel a concept I'm reading is doing more damage than good to my recovery process, I throw it out for the time being. I don't assume that it's wrong but I do think that perhaps it's not the right fit for me for the time being. I also avoid thinking that every other concept provided by that author is useless as well and will continue reading unless it is actually proven to me that most of the concepts are going to prove fruitless.

This particular concept was hard on me too when I came across it. I threw it out for the time being and kept on with my reading. Fortunately the book I was reading at the time went in to an in depth explanation of the concept that helped me to realize what the author was really saying. In this particular case, the blame was not being laid on anyone and the author disputed the concept of blame by comparing us with late blooming flowers (no one blames a flower for blooming late). Instead, the author was trying to point out that we have the ability to control what we take away from a situation and how we react to that situation. This is separate from what we feel about that situation - obviously no one is going to walk away from a natural disaster without some grief, as you pointed out. However, we do have control over what we think and do while feeling that emotion and after wards. Grasping this kind of concept has helped me a lot with both preventing relapses in and in working with my relapses when they occur so the severity is reduced.

I think this is what the book you're reading may have been trying to convey. No book can shove a concept down your throat and I'm sure it was not your therapist's intention either. The therapist and that book are simply there to present new ideas to you. It is completely up to you as to whether or not you accept them and no one is going to have any problem with you rejecting a concept.

Jan 17, 2010
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Gestalt
by: godbear

Dear DeeDee, thank you for writing. I too suffered with depression for many years. I know what a living hell it is. Fortunately for me, Prozac helped lift me up enough that I had enough energy to begin to work on my core issues.

Of course you can be hurt. And especially as children. Many of us have been severely wounded. What I have come to understand in my struggle for recovery is that there still lives within me a scared, wounded, neglected and abused little boy. I am the only who can help him. The adult me helps him by re-parenting him. I consciously show love, affection, and interest in his being healed and nurtured. Many times I have said to him, "I am sorry I could not be there for you then, but I AM here for you now. Together we have grown and matured into a peaceful and happy human being.

It seems that when I was abused as a child, some part of me began to believe that I was a worthless burden to my family. These thoughts are embedded in my subconscious. Not only embedded but seared, burned, carved, embossed, and engraved. They do not yield easily. But with patience and perseverance, I can give the little boy in me positive words, loving affection, encouragement and permission to play. Gradually these thoughts have replaced the horrible messages of my childhood.

For me, self-esteem is just that. It is esteem I give to myself. I feel the pain in your letter. If you would like to talk more about your situation, please meet me back here whenever you like.

Thanks, Peace and Light to you.

Jan 16, 2010
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Theory
by: Evan

Whoever suggested that idea was Gestalt hasn't read Gestalt Therapy by Perls, Hefferline and Goodman.

Much of the book is devoted to the insight that awareness is the meeting of the organism and its environment (the person and the situation). Neither is reduced to the other. The person is not produced only by their environment (behaviourism, genetic determinism and so on) nor is the environment simply produced by the person (the secret and so on).

This reinforces my belief that Perls, Hefferline and Goodman's book remains far ahead of most gestalt practitioners. If you read it and do the exercises it could change your life - it did mine.

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