Last week we touched on how our perception colors our world. This week we will look at how a Gestalt therapist would use all the parts I’ve discussed to help you create a space in which you can heal and grow beyond your past.
There are several tools available in Gestalt therapy. One involves talking to an empty chair, and yes, it feels very strange at first. What I learned as I worked through things though, was that it worked. The most useful part, for me, was to develop the skills that separated my past and present. I will not go into detail, but I was badly abused as a child and even as a young adult. Growing up in a constant state of feeling threatened made it nearly impossible to have a day where I didn’t feel like one wrong move would result in disaster. I was not a functioning adult when I started therapy. I was a train wreck, on fire, and about to explode. (And no, I don’t mind saying that about myself. It is true, and is not a reflection of who I am now. Being like that wasn’t my choice, changing was.)
I began Gestalt therapy and the first thing we started working on was getting me to recognize patterns, both within myself and in the world around me. We looked at things that raised my anxiety levels, and things that made me feel safe. For some very simple examples:
- When in proximity to my home, I felt safer than when in proximity to the home of one of the people who harmed me.
- When I heard someone shouting and saying things that bore similarity to things said by someone who hurt me, I became fearful.
From recognizing the pieces I then learned to separate the past and present. Was the shouting voice the same person shouting at me, or was it someone halfway across the store who didn’t even know of my existence?
Step by step I learned to pull my brain away from those things that triggered alarms in the past and see the present. I didn’t need to remember that large cats waited in the trees for a tasty human-size meal – which is where these anxiety levels came from – a time when our survival depended on remembering and reacting to the past in the present. I needed to recognize and absorb that just as our position as a species has changed, so had my position in life.
So, if you find yourself consistently responding to your present through the filter of your past, and you want to be free of what you were forced to go through, try looking into Gestalt therapy and see what kind of life you can have if you get the room to grow.
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