Self-Help Advice Books Gestalt Therapy Verbatim Part 1

About the self-help book Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Frederick Perls history and advice from the book.



The Head Man: The picture on the cover of the book shows a smiling old man (then 75, he died a year later), with a balding, wrinkled forehead, a curly white beard, and old, wise, pale eyes. He was Frederick "Fritz" Perls, a hero of the counterculture, many of whose members he worked with at Esalen Institute at Big Sur, Calif., where he was resident psychotherapist in the 1960s. Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1894, Perls was educated as a Freudian psychologist, but he became a member of the Gestalt school while assisting psychologist Kurt Goldstein at the Institute for Brain-Injured Soldiers. Before W.W. II, along with three other psychologists, he was considered for a post in South Africa, which he decided to take in spite of the risk. (The three who had refused the post were caught by the Nazis. Perls cites this as an object lesson in the positive aspects of risk taking.) In Africa he wrote Ego Hunger and Aggression, which contained "Concentration Therapy" exercises, a forerunner to his later work. After the war, he and his wife, Laura, also a psychologist, moved to the U.S., where he founded Gestalt-oriented institutes and was a major influence in encounter-group therapy.

Overview: The Gestalt school, which originated in Europe, was further developed by Perls and others in the U.S. Its tenets: that the whole equals more than the sum of its parts; that the parts are not put together to form a whole, but are derived from it. A person's life is a process, with naturally occurring attraction and repulsion (Perls uses the analogy of a beating heart); the healthy person moves back and forth from an inner to an outer life, and doesn't "loiter" (get stuck in introspection). But most people do "loiter," dealing in categories until they become fragmented and lose their oneness. Polarities--for example, top dog and underdog--develop. To Perls, life is "basically practically nothing but an infinite number of unfinished situations--incomplete gestalts." The therapist seeks to engage the client's polarities in dialog and often has the client play roles--for example, "be" the underdog, then switch (often changing chairs) and "be" the top dog. Encounters can also take place with other people, often in groups. Through such techniques, the polarities merge into a whole, freeing the "dammed-up psychological process" so that it flows naturally.

Neurosis, a compromise between psychosis and reality, comes, according to Perls, in five layers: (1) the cliche; (2) the as-if (games and roles); (3) the impasse (that which one is avoiding); (4) metaphorical death (implosive; a shrinking into oneself); and (5) explosion (coming to life through orgasm, emotion).

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