Savouring the Situation – Presence and Inclusion in Gestalt Psychotherapy

Here are some thoughts in progress…

All mental disorders are characterised by experiential avoidance and heightened self-focus. These processes both heighten distress and ensure a more rigid, less adaptive or creative relationship with life. They all involve a narrowing of the scope of attention within the field of awareness. This means that new stimuli-data-information is ignored and familiar gestalts, schemas or beliefs are reinforced. This is not the openness necessary for creativity.

Gestalt Psychotherapy is the encouragement to relate creatively with our experience.

Essentially Gestalt is a specific way of using our attention, and an attitude in its use.

Simply put this is an appreciative openness to our awareness, a savouring the situation.

Gestalt addresses these processes by encouraging presence, inclusion and contact with experience with an I-thou attitude. These processes are exercised through experiment. The practice of both this use of attention and the appreciative attitude allows space (in Gestalt known as the creative void) for the novel to emerge and the energy to address it. This space is the broadened attention that includes both the internal and external. This panoramic inclusiveness lessens the dramatic emphasis on I.

Usually these attentional approaches have been suggested primary for the therapist. However, I think these uses of attention are ones that as therapists we can practice and implicitly and explicitly model, evoke and teach our clients.

The appreciative stance (I-thou) leans into the present moment as an end in itself. This leads to a sense of fulfilment. Our stance towards our experience, even negative experience  is one of appreciation rather than being-at-odds. Tasting closer the texture and quality of what we feel rather than acting out or categorising and turning into further fodder for our self-narrative.

This is different from a problem solving approach (I-it) where we seek to solve or resolve “issues”. This kind of approach can lead us endlessly out of the present moment. This attitude cultivates a sense of lack, as though this moment is incomplete.

To be continued…

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