Saturday 12 November 2022

More Thoughts on Gestalt and the Thinking Environment

 I blogged recently on Gestalt and the Thinking Environment. That post attracted quite a lot of interest and comments on Linked In, and I have been thinking further about the subject.

One of my lines of thought is that the concepts of contact in Gestalt, and Attention, in the Thinking Environment, are clearly closely related. 

In Gestalt, the practitioner both encourages individuals to stay in contact with themselves, and with the figure which they are addressing; and also strives to establish and maintain contact between the practitioner and the individual.

In the Thinking Environment, it is axiomatic that the practitioner gives complete and unqualified attention to the thinker.

Which led me to reflect that the classic blocks to contact, in Gestalt, may also be at least some of the things that a Thinking Partner needs to avoid, in order to sustain that extraordinary quality of attention that is the core of this approach.

Those blocks are:

Desensitisation: blocks sensation - often a result of trauma.

Deflection:  eg rather than acknowledging one's true sensation, one makes a little joke…

Introjection: all the shoulds and shouldn'ts one has swallowed over the years.

Projection:  where one guesses what others might be thinking or feeling based on one's own thoughts or feelings.

Retroflection: where one avoids taking action for fear of (eg) failure  - and suffers worse consequences.

Confluence: acting on someone else's needs or desires rather than one's own. 

Egotism: (self-explanatory).

William Coulson

And even as I type them out, I am aware (in a very Gestalty way) of a sensation of unease around Introjection. I think that we have to be very careful here. According to William Coulson, who was Carl Rogers' right-hand man for many years, one of the problems Carl had when training others in his work, was that many of them bathed in the heady warmth of unconditional positive regard so luxuriously, and treated all moral injunctions as introjections, with the result that many ended up having casual sexual relationships with multiple clients.

In conversation with a colleague recently, I noticed an aversion in her to any sense of 'rules' about this work. Yet when I mentioned the need for 'boundaries' she was in whole-hearted agreement.

And of course, most professional coaches consider themselves bound by the global code of ethics drawn up by the EMCC  and AC (or a similar professional code). 

So whether you consider them boundaries, ethics, or rules, don't be misled by the idea of Introjection to consider yourself free of them.  Introjection really applies to the kinds of rules that we may have learned as children and be bound by out of our conscious awareness. In Gestalt terms, the key issue is to become aware of them, and then to evaluate them and their applicability (or not) to the issue at hand - not simply to discard them!

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