Exploration, Choice, and Payoff (an examination of the phrase, “I’m good at helping others but I can’t help myself.”)

I’ll occasionally come across the phrase, “I’m good at helping others but I can’t help myself.”  I want to break this down a little bit and highlight a few concepts.

If we hold the first part of the phrase under a microscope, here’s how it looks: “I’m good at listening to a person’s situation, making an assessment of their available options, and then giving them advice about what they should do next.”

There is nothing wrong with that.  That’s what some therapists do.  And it helps some people.  The downside is the frustration in the second part: that they “can’t help themselves.”

Here’s how the frustration looks under a microscope: “When I examine my own situation, I usually come up with advice for myself about what I should do.  But then I run into some serious difficulty in following through with the plan.  I can’t get myself to do what I should do.”

So let’s check this out.

It’s a problem of exploration, choice, and payoff – and ultimately, like everything else, energy flow.  To put it another way, it’s an insight problem followed by a stalemate of energy and behavior.

Whenever we fully want to do something, we move into it with grace, ease, passion, interest, care, eagerness (and many other really positive sounding words).

Whenever we partially want to do something, the behavioral flow loses some of its power and force.  The more partial it is, the harder it is to follow through with the task.  If I partially want to get my paperwork done but I partially want to go to bed, it’s going to be pretty hard to get my paperwork done.  If going to bed ends up trumping the paperwork (51% bed, 49% paperwork) then I’m going to bed.  I might not be able to sleep because some of me still wants to have my paperwork done.  Makes sense, right?  It’s pretty straightforward: desires come in percentages.  Some desires compete.  The largest one wins.  Unfortunately (in this culture – for most people – and arguably even due to the human condition) the times when we have a desire that has 100% fullness are rare.  Desires spend most of their time in conflict with other ones.

There’s a big difference between a “should” and a “want.”  A “should” is an encryption.  It keeps you from knowing the exact number of the percentage of “want.”  It conceals/hides the valuable data.  That’s why we encrypt things… to conceal the actual data.

People become a lot sturdier and free-flowing once they explore their personalities, find the “shoulds,” and become hackers: unencrypting them and uncovering the valuable data of the actual percentages.  Some “shoulds” become high-percentage-wants and they’re so much easier to flow with.  Some “shoulds” become low-percentage-wants and they can be more easily disregarded.  The tougher ones are when the percentages are close (like my bed-to-paperwork example).  When the percentages are close, that’s where we’ll feel stuck because any movement will be the loss of a huge chunk of energy/desire.  If I choose the 51% winner, that’s 49% of myself that’s not on board.  That’s a big loss of fuel!

So let’s head back to the “I can’t help myself” example.  Let’s also define “advice” as a “should.”  When we ask someone for advice, we’re saying, “please assess my situation and tell me what I should do.”  The sticking point ends up being a less-than-full evaluation of the wants.  So whenever someone says, “I can’t help myself,” they’re saying, “I’ve assessed my situation and given myself advice (shoulds) but I can’t get myself to behaviorally follow it through.”  This makes sense now, right?  There are encryptions.  The behaviors won’t flow unless there’s enough “want juice” flowing into it.

So here’s where it gets more complex because, if we want to rearrange the stalemate and create movement, we would need to develop the insight into functions.

Every whole wants to preserve itself – whether it’s a whole culture, a whole nation, a whole business, a whole pattern, a whole family, a whole creature, whatever.  An animal will gnaw off its leg if it’s trapped and it can’t think of a better way to preserve the whole.  Each human being is a whole.  We seek to preserve ourselves.   Every choice has a function of self-preservation.

So when we run into a problem where we can’t quite get ourselves to do what we think we should, we’re battling against a self-preservation desire that’s larger than the encrypted should.  Rather than beat yourself up about why you’re not following through, it’s much healthier to try and move downwards into your personality and start to look for the payoffs to the choices.   Give yourself more credit.  At the roots of you, there’s a perfect reason why you’re doing what you’re doing.  If you can’t quite see it yet, give yourself some time to fully examine your desires, your hopes, your fears.  Try to move into the confusion/frustration (where the encryptions live) in order to map out those parts of you.  They are obviously strong enough to influence you, so you might as well spend some time there.  You might as well try to ally with those strengths rather than beat yourself up about not being able to overpower them.  All the parts of you have vitality.  All the parts of you are attempting to serve you for the greatest good.  The goal is to tap into all of your vitality so you can move as one beautiful whole.

Once things are mapped out, they make perfect sense.  You make sense.  The world makes sense.  Give yourself some credit and some time.  Keep exploring.  Keep mapping.

Advertisements

Taking a Systemic Approach (to yourself)

There’s a phrase that gets used a lot in physical therapy:

“the symptom is the victim, not the criminal.”

This has incredible implications (truth) in our psychological functioning as well.  This post emphasizes and encourages a certain attitude you can take in order to boost your growth and create widespread change.  At the end of this post, I’m going to contrast a “systemic approach to yourself” versus “systemic therapy,” even though they’re definitely made of the same stuff.

So let’s examine “taking a systemic approach to yourself.”

It’s the idea there isn’t a singular thing going wrong.  The more you hunt for a singular thing –  the one root cause to your unhappiness – the one thing that needs to be found and fixed – the more time you’ll spend spinning your wheels and the less time you’ll spend enjoying living and reaping the benefits of your efforts. If you want to create change, the best approach is to try to turn over every rock. It will be rare to find a golden ticket under one of the rocks, but the landscape will look entirely different once you turn over enough of them.

This post is the encouragement to examine more aspects of your life… to get wider in your efforts.

How many minutes of your day are spent going through the motions? How much doesn’t get a second glance?  How many of your settings are set to default?

Here’s a range of examples:

How many steps a day do you take without feeling your feet on the ground? How many interpersonal interactions are completely routine (and lacking in satisfaction)? How many shallow breaths do you take a day?* More importantly, how many huge ones do you take on purpose? How much of your diet is habitual and hasn’t been adjusted in a while?  How many calories are in liquid form? When was the last time you changed your exercise routine? How long have you used the same mouthwash?   If you wear heels, do different pairs have different lengths?  When was the last time you made a really weird face? How do you normally sit? Which leg is the crossed-over one? When was the last time you crossed over your other leg? How much hazelnut creamer do you put in your coffee? How long have you done that? When was the last time you tried out some different pillows?  When was the last time you imitated your mom?  How different is your Monday morning from your Friday night?  Are you getting something auto-debited that you really don’t need / use?  Do you really like the tv shows you watch? What do you do during commercials?

Sure, your mouthwash isn’t causing your knee pain and your heels aren’t causing your depression, but how fast do you want change to happen?

Sometimes things stick around in our lives for far too long. The only thing that keeps them there is we’re not consciously choosing them anymore. They’ve become default. “Taking a systemic approach” to your self-improvement is taking the extra time to see what default motions could be adjusted. I deliberately put really big things and really small things on that list of questions. Your pillows probably aren’t killing you. But if you want to make some really significant change, the idea is to shake things up and get wider as opposed to having a magnifying glass on a ‘symptom’ and hoping a singular root cause will present itself. There are infinite causes. Things have been in motion for a very long time.  But we can only fully do one thing at a time. Taking a systemic approach to yourself takes thing-by-thing and examines it. It stops looking for the magical thing. It starts looking at moment-by-moment movements to see what can be examined – conscious choice by conscious choice.   This is hard.  It’s easier to wish for a magical thing.

The up-side:  this hard work is a safeguard against helplessness.  When we go directly at a symptom, we are agreeing to a losing battle. Everything else in the overall configuration supports that symptom and there’s truly no way to move it without reconfiguring the connections. We are webs. We are a “system of contacts” (PHG). If we go at a symptom and try to simply remove it from the field, we will eventually feel helpless – because we will lose.

In sum, taking a systemic approach to your development is the effort to get wider. It’s the understanding that everything is interconnected. It’s a commitment to the details, to the smaller things, to the whole of your growth.  We really can’t make this wide commitment to rethink our defaults unless we have the belief (hope) that it will pay off – that it will only be short term suffering and hard work – that we will yield fruit after the labor. That’s the purpose of this post: the encouragement towards that belief – the hope – that hard work pays off.  We pay for it now or we pay for it later.

* There’s a pointed phrase in yoga: “most people breathe just enough to stay alive.”

As promised, some contrast.  More often than not in this blog, I’ll be referencing a “systemic approach to therapy” rather than a “systemic approach to yourself.”  They’re made of the same stuff but there is a contrast that’s warranted.  This post emphasizes an attitude you can take on a moment by moment basis in order to boost your own growth.  I am encouraging you to shake up and second-guess as much as you can handle, even if it doesn’t seem immediately connected to a symptom or a goal.  If a therapist took this hyper-diligent approach with clients, it would be exhausting for everyone.  I literally just laughed out loud.  “Hey, did you notice how we just shook hands?  Maybe we could do that better.  How did I just shut that door?  Was that the best way? How did you engage your hamstrings when you sat down on the couch?  Want to try that again?  How’s your water?  Do you think we should try turning the fridge temperature up or down a few degrees?” Lol.  So when I speak of ‘systemic therapy,’ I’m really talking about the beliefs about symptoms.  It’s the interconnectedness and the embedded-ness of supports/symptoms.  It’s the understanding that a direct attempt at removing a symptom is playing whack-a-mole.  Another mole pops up.

Despite the contrast, the common ground is this:  it’s best when clients take a systemic approach to their own self-improvement (with this wide hyper-diligence) in between meetings and then use their therapists to co-create some different frequencies and find where even newer rocks can be turned over, rocks that wouldn’t have shown up on the radar if someone else didn’t call attention to them.

 

The Other Side of Power – The Larger System at Play

My last post emphasized “the existential responsibility” side of the coin. I’d like to spend a little time on the other side of the coin in the service of the whole.

This also provides a nice segue to talk about psychological health in general. As I’ve said prior, the goal is response-ability. The growth of a human depends on its ability to respond effectively in its environment.  Abilities can fit nicely into sets of polarities or opposites, with a continuum running between.  Seeing abilities in sets of opposites is very useful in order to ascertain where one is stuck, off-balance, or has an INability.

Health (or even happiness?) can be summed up succinctly as the ability to perform both extremes of an ability-continuum coupled with the ability to recognize the situation and what it calls for.

1) Ability to reach the extreme ends of an ability-continuum
2) Ability to recognize what the situation calls for

Response-ability.

We become the most unhappy when we’re in situations where one of those two things is off.  We either (1) lack an ability that’s being called for or (2) we misinterpret the situation and respond “out of touch.”

At root, this is psychological digestion at the boundary of organism and environment.  Food and senses touch (see the mold, smell the milk gone bad, taste a chemical out-of-place taste).  Senses help to determine whether it’s worth putting it inside us. Teeth do the work at the entry.  In the end, it boils down (ha) to whether we have the full ability to take in and whether we have the full ability to keep outspit out.

If we’re not fully able in those polar skills, we’re in danger of swallowing something bad for us or rejecting something good for us.  Even if we have full abilities but then we misinterpret the situation, it’s the exact same danger.

I hope that makes sense.  It can be hard to see abilities as sets of opposites until you get used to it.

So back to the coin.

Existential responsibility:  “Yes, this is my situation.  Yes, I have created it.  Yes, I am responsible for what happens next.” Basically a God-like attitude, yes?  Is this good?

It’s an ability.

Polarity? Continuum?

“I am powerless against the forces much, much bigger than myself.  Forces other than myself will determine how things unfold from here on out.”

Is that good?

It’s an ability.

Rather than look at this particular polarity as beliefs (nouns), please try to look at them as verbs or abilities (in the sense of taking the stance or, more abstractly, being with the belief).  One could move to the far side of the continuum to touch the extreme pole and then one could move all the way to the other side to touch the opposite pole.  They’re polar abilities and they both have a perfect function…  depending on what the situation calls for.

I will often say to parents, “we want to teach your kids there are powers much bigger than themselves.”  I usually feel the need to clarify with, “I’m not talking about God or the police.”  This isn’t about following societal laws or being religious.  It’s about the realization there are powerful laws (natural laws) and how, if we don’t follow them, things don’t go well.

This belief (or the lack thereof) seems to be buried so deep down there sometimes.

It has a couple of fuzzy twins like “being an exception” or “I shouldn’t have to.” Those are very, very close to what I’m talking about in this post but they’re not exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m talking very simply about the realization that we’re not God.  We didn’t create these rules.  And when we don’t play by the rules, things don’t go well.  We can’t deprive ourselves of sleep for a period of time and then expect things to go well.  We can’t put junk in our bodies and then expect to feel good.  We can’t sit in a chair 99% of the time and then expect not to get a nasty case of Chair Pain Syndrome.  We can’t be selfish in our relationships and then expect to have warm, deeply satisfying relationships.

I’m talking about the genuine surprise within a person after they go on a 30 year drug binge and then can’t understand why their system is misfiring.  I’m using an extreme example (albeit a true one I’ve seen time and time again) to illustrate a concept that can be very subtle and buried but can still be very destructive.  My hope in writing this piece is it emphasizes this belief (the “I am not God and I didn’t create these rules so I really can’t bend them” belief) and it supports people to refrain from doing destructive things.

I love the word-play with being “care-full” – not “careful” in the sense of hyper-cautious, scared, mistrusting, but care-full in the sense of trying to be fully in touch with these powers that are much greater than ourselves and then taking-full-care to move with them, not against them, because we will lose every time.

So back to the coin.

The polar abilities.  The whole coin.

The ability to be open to the possibility I have created my situations and I am fully responsible for what happens next and the ability to acknowledge, respect, and move in harmony with powers much, much greater than myself…  followed by the ability to recognize what the situation calls for.

We’re back to the serenity prayer.  The courage to change the things you can.  The serenity to accept the things you can’t change.  And the wisdom to know the difference.

Please be care-full and play by the rules.

Full (Physical and Psychological) Makeover

I am extremely excited to finally offer this service to the public. My long term career goal to be a part of a facility that seamlessly integrates physical and psychological fitness is coming to fruition and I’m so excited to be turning the corner towards that goal.

I’ve trained a handful of people (friends and family) and have experienced immense joy from witnessing progress. There is nothing like achieving something today that you could not have done before. I am so excited to open this up for other people.

What I’m offering is a formal strength-training program (weight-training) coupled with gestalt consultations.  You can skip to the bottom of this post to see a quick outline if you don’t want to read the details.

Formal strength-training is probably different than any type of exercise you have ever tried. I became obsessed with it years ago when I started realizing the Central Nervous System adaptations and the psychological effects involved. I was an athlete through college and lifting weights in the off season was a regular part of the process. Once sports were done, I started learning about strength and weight-training from a very different perspective and, in conjunction with the health and psychological growth aspects of my formal education, began realizing what an amazing impact strength-training has.

I want to do a quick contrast between “training” and “exercising.” When you “exercise,” you do whatever fits for that day. Maybe you feel like going for a run, or doing some yoga, or jumping rope, or doing lunges. “Training,” on the other hand, has a very specific result in mind and it formulates a clear plan to get there. In this case, the result is functional strength. You literally get stronger.   And you KNOW you got stronger because pounds are an objective measurement.  One day, you won’t be able to move X pounds.  A couple weeks later, you move X pounds. You become able to do things that would have been laughable before. It’s very different than exercise.  There’s nothing wrong with exercise. I just get sad when I hear people who try exercising and then they get frustrated about the lack of results.

I also want to contrast strength-training with “body building.” Body building is a sport in which you train in order to go on stage and be judged for how you look. That’s not what this is. Yes, you will look better from strength-training.   Yes, you’ll be more comfortable in a bathing suit.  But that’s not the direct aim.  Understandably, a big component of exercise for a lot of people is the desire to look better.  I have no beef with body builders or people who exercise to look better. I’m just saying that’s not what this is about. You will feel better. You will BE better. And, as an additional bonus, you’ll look better.

Being a holistic therapist, the psychological and philosophical parts are where I find the deep worth and fascination. There’s a specific moment in strength-training when you feel yourself wanting to negate your responsibility.  You confront the realization that it’s you who needs to do the work in front of you. This realization starts to generalize to other areas of your life, your struggles, your challenges, your goals.  If there is any laziness down in the depths of you, strength-training will find it and give you the opportunity to clean it out.

Form and technique are crucial, for both safety and performance.  You learn how your body works as a whole.  You learn the correct structure of your parts in order to confront possibly the most difficult (physical) thing you’ve ever done – and to come out of the challenge unharmed. Focus and determination get developed. This, again, carries over: the confidence and focus from successfully overcoming legitimate challenges to your structure. You learn stabilization, groundedness, and centrality while taking on challenges to your range of motion. See how that phrase could be talking about the physical or the psychological? I love it.

In addition to the formal strength-training, you’ll learn two types of yoga.  I teach the opening portion of Ashtanga Yoga for the warm up.  It takes about ten minutes and this, alone, can change your life.  I was just talking to an experienced yogi the other day and she said, “if people would just take a few minutes everyday and do the first several Ashtanga movements, it will really clear up so much of what’s going on with them.”  Agreed.  That’s our warm up.  The other type of yoga you’ll learn is Yin Yoga.  Ashtanga and Yin are polar.  Ashtanga is active and powerful. Yin is passive. Yin is the “let go” yoga.  It is equally crucial to helping your body recover from the strength movements we’ll be doing.  The psychological and overall health benefits of both types of yoga are extensive and beyond the scope of this post.  If you decide not to utilize this service but you still would like to invest in yourself, learn Ashtanga and Yin.  In the Harrisburg / Camp Hill area, you can find Ashtanga at Befit Yoga and Yin at Om My Yoga.  I have no affiliation with either of them other than having gone to (and approved of) both.

Lastly, within this service, you’ll also receive two Gestalt Consultations a month.  In these, you’ll learn the functional flow of your awareness and techniques on how to clear your mind, free up space, and have more direction and control.  I’m not going to write too much about Gestalt in this post because it’s available elsewhere.

The training includes three weight-training days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6.30am – 7.30am.   Yes, you only train 3 days a week.  Yes, you’ll get serious results from only 3 days.  But I do HIGHLY recommend you do the Ashtanga and  Yin portions on the other days as well, preferably Ashtanga in the morning and Yin in the evening before bed.  You just need a few minutes.

The price is $530 a month, due at the first Monday of the month.  I can’t imagine working with you for more than 8 or 9 months.  By then, you should have a firm grasp of how your body works, the correct form and technique to keep you safe, understand how strength-training works (concepts of adaptation / over-training / over-reaching / linear progression / deloading / supercompensating), and what the other variables are (active recovery, sleep, hydration, nutrition) in order to carry on by yourself and continue having a blast with it.  You’ll have an Excel Spreadsheet with your lifting logs and you’ll know how to use it to keep making progress.

A great example for anecdotal purposes is my wife, to whom I introduced strength-training a couple of years ago.  She’s now having so much fun doing it on her own and she comes home and is proud to tell me about the “PR” (Personal Record) she set on a specific lift on that day.  You become excited about getting your body to do something that it couldn’t do before.  It also changes your relationship with those “other variables,” like hydration, nutrition and sleep.  Those things start to fall into place with ease because you quickly realize if you’re not fueling your body correctly, it’ll show up in your performance.  This is largely why I’m calling this program a “Makeover.”  And if you’re willing to track those other variables, I can help you stay accountable in that area as well.  Apps like Myfitnesspal allow you to track your food/water intake and easily email it to me.

Last but certainly not least, we can have up to 5 people in one training group.  It’s very valuable to watch others train in order to learn proper form.  To encourage you to find someone else to take this journey with you, I’ll drop the price to $600 a month ($300 a person) if you find a partner.  The only caveat:  the partner needs to be a similar height as you.  We will be squatting and it’s impractical to change the squat rack height for each lifter.   It doesn’t matter if you start at different levels of fitness.  Height is the only thing that matters.  If we have someone who is 4’10”, they can’t lift with someone who is 6’2″.

Please email me at kip@gestaltdevelopmentcenter.com in order to get things started.  The first person to respond will set the height requirement.  :-p

And since I’m so excited to get this service off the ground, I’ll throw in a free Withings Scale (“Smart-Body-Analyzer”) ($149 Value) no strings attached, yours to keep, to the first person who starts up.  I also have one. I love it.  It tracks your weight and your body composition (how much muscle / how much fat) and wirelessly syncs it with your PC and phone so you can see your progress.   It would be really neat to start tracking those things as soon as you get started and then watch the numbers change as you go.

This blog is still really new and there’s not a lot of traffic to it yet, so I’m not sure how long it will take to get the training group formed.  Please check with me via email to see where we’re at.  We might have gotten several groups formed or we might have different times and days for the training groups.  We’ll see.

 

Here’s the outline as promised above:

 

Price:   For one person, $530 a month.  For two people, $600 a month ($300 a piece).

Training schedule:   Monday, Wednesday, Friday.   6:30am – 7.30am.

What you get:

– Formal, linear-progression strength-training.

– The beginning portions of Ashtanga Yoga (active yoga).

– Yin Yoga (passive yoga).

– Two Gestalt Consultations per month.

– Optional: Other Variable Tracking (Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep, etc.)

– To the first person who begins the program: a free Withings Scale to keep ($149 Value)

Timeline:  The first month and a half will feel pointlessly easy.  The next month and a half will feel pointlessly hard.  After 3 or 4 months, you should be noticing some serious differences as your system adapts.  After 8 or 9 months, you should be ready to take over on your own and not need me anymore.  The timeline will vary slightly for everyone, depending on what your status is when you start, but it’ll be very close to those markers.

How to get started:  Email me ( kip@gestaltdevelopmentcenter.com ) to see if those times/prices are still available.

 

 

 

Systems, Judgment, and Experimentation (Oceans and Inverted Twister)

I find the following analogy very helpful to explain some concepts. And I’d like to connect some analogous dots.

Systemic vision and judgment are mutually exclusive.  It is impossible to judge something (or someone) when you can see the way it fits into the larger picture, embedded within connections that make any other configuration impossible or, at best, improbable.  When student counselors are taught the Rogerian foundations (Counseling 101) of positive regard, nonjudgment, unconditional acceptance, etc.,  it’s often a stretch.  The counselor has to *try* to be nonjudgmental.  They have to disconnect from their judgment (vision) in order to *try* to connect with their client in a nonjudgmental way.  If the counselor continues to study systems, this [need to] disconnect begins to disintegrate.  Things just make more sense.  The counselor doesn’t have to *try* to be nonjudgmental because there’s nothing left to judge.  PHG talk about this in describing contact.  In contact, things just seem “inevitable” or “just right,” they say.  The more we are in true contact with our clients (and with life in general) judgment actually becomes impossible – or, rather, loses its function / becomes useless.

So here’s the analogy I want to use to describe systemic vision: if you look at the waves in the ocean, there is no way to locate a beginning point or an ending point, a cause or an effect, a do-er or a do-ee, an isolated part from the rest of the parts.  It is simply in flow.  It is completely connected.  All of the parts are moving in relation to all of the other parts.  One can’t ‘judge’ a singular wave and say ‘it shouldn’t have happened that way’.  When you see the whole: of course that wave is going to happen exactly the way it did.  It is simply just happening.  (The ocean also lends itself wonderfully for an analogy of ‘figure and ground’ – wave and nonwave – being made up of the same stuff (“self”) – and also in flow, inseparable, and inverse-able/relative. But that’s another post.)

Now let’s shuttle back to the application of therapy…  and let’s continue with analogies.

Are you familiar with the game of Twister?  Please imagine ‘inverted twister’.  Imagine a playground: monkey bars and other hanging apparatuses.  I’m picturing something like a rock-climbing-wall in a gym, only it’s parallel to the ground so you’re actually hanging parallel, belly up, with your feet, knees, elbows and hands holding and weaving onto certain pieces according to the colors of the inverted twister.  Very uncomfortable.  It’s this discomfort that brings a person to therapy – and the “stuck-ness!”  Inverted twister may have been going ok for a while (and the person is, without a doubt, performing with their best effort) but then a certain combination of color patterns presents itself, knees wrapped over this, ankle tucked under that, arm across one bar to grab onto the other bar, etc.  The configuration started to make any subsequent movement impossible / improbable.  The person is stuck and uncomfortable to say the least.  If we wanted to say more, we could certainly add ‘scared’ and ‘losing hope,’ I’m sure.  Again, this is when a person might choose to enter therapy to get some outside assistance.

I would hope no one would judge this person.  They have been giving their best efforts, responding to the color configurations presented (aka life), and moving along until they got stuck.  To return to the ocean analogy, we see how all of the movements up until now make sense.  We can’t look at any one piece of the picture and say ‘it shouldn’t have happened that way.’  The same with the wave: ‘yeah, of course it happened exactly the way it did.’  Without systemic vision in place, a counselor might think, ‘look at his arm! It’s wrapped under his knee, turned backwards and then only holding on with two fingers! Of course that’s not going to work,’ (with judgment) not seeing the larger picture of the interconnectedness.  Without systemic vision, a person/counselor also can’t see how the arm going under the knee actually supports the leg to keep the ankle wrapped around a different bar.  The counselor says, “just take that arm out and grab onto this bar over here!  You’ll be much more comfortable!”  The client tries and either falls off or simply can’t.  Counselor gets frustrated. Client gets frustrated/confused/shamed.  Client drops out of therapy. Counselor rationalizes, “that person just wasn’t ready for therapy.”

This is largely where the ‘gestalt experiment’ comes into play.  In gestalt therapy, we value (we understand the power of) the interconnectedness and we are interested in the ‘whole’ and in the ‘configuration’.  We want to see how parts relate to other parts to determine the whole of the functioning.  This is the gestalt approach to the unfortunate stuck individual on the inverted twister:

“Hmm.  Yes, you are stuck indeed.” “I am going to stand right here with my arm right here so that you can’t fall and we can take a look at things together.” (There is a fundamental supportiveness within gestalt therapy.) “Now you feel more secure, right?  Good.  Now, what happens if you try to wiggle this finger, does it move?” “Ok. I also see your shoulder is able to rotate a little bit, what’s it like for you to do that?” “Great.  Where do you feel the most range now? That knee? Ok, great, go for it.. what happens when you shift it?” “Are you happy with how your wrist is positioned? Or is it worth playing with that as well?”

There is an understanding that the configuration is paramount and that the work is investigative and experimental, both in the service of learning and developing, opening new options, harnessing creativity.  We value full range of motion and aware choice.  We don’t like stuck.  We want twister to be fun and meaningful.

Lastly, this term will probably show up a lot in this blog but I’ll make the first mention now: “response-ability.”  Gestalt is an existential therapy and in existential philosophy there’s the idea of “responsibility,” the acknowledgment of the authorship/ownership of one’s existence.  Gestaltists (Fritz first, I believe) have played with that term and broke it up into “response-ability.”  This works very well with the inverted twister analogy (life).  We can’t always choose the colors that are presented.  We choose our responses.  Earlier when I said, ‘we value full range of motion and aware choice,’ another way of saying that is, ‘we want people to have full abilities.’  The greater our abilities, the more apt we are at responding to the color configurations that life presents.  Sometimes the color configurations are ugly.  But we can be response-able.

I Am

I am Gestalt Development Center.  I am a gestalt therapy facility in Harrisburg, PA, offering gestalt training (philosophy and application), clinical supervision, group therapy and individual/couples/family therapy. I was founded on the growth principles of holism and integration.  I want people to function gracefully and to enjoy being alive. You can visit my online home for more information or email info@gestaltdevelopmentcenter.com .