Therapy Tuesday: Gestalt Therapy – Part 2 – Proximity

Gestalt therapy rests on five principles based on how people perceive the world around them. The idea is that the mind recognizes patterns, and these patterns fall into groups, or principles. The five patterns are: proximity, similarity, continuity, closure, and connectedness. Proximity is one way we group things together to make sense of the world around us. For example, in a kitchen, we generally know we can expect to find appliances, a sink, and dishes. In short, things that are in physical proximity tend to be perceived as part of a group.

A few additional examples:

  • cars in a parking lot
  • children in a school
  • food in a grocery store
  • pets in a pet store

Proximity is important because it tells us, based on our patterns and experiences, what to expect. If someone opens my fridge and notices that there are no eggs and no milk, they generally find it odd enough to ask why. (I’m horribly allergic to both so I don’t buy them.)

How do they know what’s missing from my food stores? Well, because most people keep some similar items in a refrigerator. When something is missing, or in the wrong surrounding we don’t have to use a great deal of conscious effort to recognize something is wrong – provided we didn’t grow up in a home where the eggs were stored in the hall closet.

If you pay attention to things in proximity over the next day or two, I’m sure you’ll start to realize all the bits of information you don’t actively process every day.

As for how this work into an entire branch of therapy, you’ll just have to wait for the rest of the posts to find out.

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