Many come to Gestalt work be it therapy or coaching motivated by a strong wish for change, and objects being varied and sometimes several. Their thoughts, emotions, actions, habits, work, career, home life, relationships, the future (sometimes even the past), the others, themselves. And likely with numerous and unsuccessful attempts leading up to our first conversation.
Their reaction, when we tell them that we are not in the ‘change business’, is at best one of puzzlement. And understandably so, coming from places of frustration, disappointment, stress and pain, often over long periods of time, their longing for something else, somewhere, is genuine and deep; “get me out of here!”
In Gestalt work, the primary aim is not change per se, although it may be an outcome at some stage. It is awareness, plain and simple – which is also the means by which the work is done. For those keen on acquiring ‘new tools’ to help handling challenges, this is it. Awareness and attention, exploring “what is happening in a situation; how does it affect me; how do I respond (or not); and what meaning do I make of it all?” Discovering what is, rather that what should be, what could have been, or the ideal of what may be. Learning to trust oneself and develop self-support.
Arnold Beisser (1970) in his ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change‘ describes our approach:
“change occurs when you become what you are; not when you try to become what you are not”
It may at first sound a little convoluted and even unhelpful. Here are a few other ways of sayint it:
“change occurs, naturally and organically, when sufficient awareness and support exist around what-is’ not when we are pre-occupied with what-isn’t” (Frew, 2017)
“to acquire a different habit, one must first feel what one is actually doing, and then you can experiment with doing something else” (Perls, 2017)
In other words, before taking a next step or even a leap, it helps first finding a firm footing on the ground where you stand now.
With awareness comes comes freedom, responsibility (response-ability) and choice. It enables knowing and owning a situation, making decisions and creatively responding to its needs and demands, own and others.
From there change may follow, or not, as you choose…