“Lose your mind and come to your senses.”
Fritz Perls was a German psychologist who later immigrated to the United States. He was the originator of the term “Gestalt therapy,” meaning a specific type of psychotherapy that he invented in conjunction with Laura, his wife. Perls spent several years living at the Esalen Institute toward the end of his life.
His view of psychotherapy involves an enhanced sense of perception, emotion, and physical behavior and feelings. Perls is fairly well-known in the wider community for his “Gestalt prayer,” an individualistic quotation which was particularly popular in the 1960s (Perls 1969). Perls was born into a Jewish family in Berlin on July 8, 1893. Although he received a fairly conventional education and childhood, he spent a considerable amount of time indulging in the city’s booming bohemian life. He made artistic experiments with new movements of the time, especially Dadaism and Expressionism (Goodman 1972). When World War One broke out in 1914, Perls signed up to serve in the German Army. He found it a traumatic experience, especially during the period he served in the trenches at the front line. Nevertheless, he survived the war and obtained his degree to qualify as a doctor.
What I learned from Fritz Perls
“To suffer one’s death and to be reborn is not easy”
Fritz Perls and Gestalt Therapy both offer great insight into guilt. In Gestalt Therapy Verbatim - a book of collected transcripts- Perls says, "We see guilt as projected resentment. Whenever you feel guilty, find out what you resent and the guilt will vanish and you will try to make the other person feel guilty." The key to resolving resentment, according to Perls, was expressing one's anger.
His first book, Ego, Hunger, and Aggression, explains more of his idea of guilt as projected resentment. Projection, Perls explains that parents, in his system of understanding, often reappear as a patients' conscience. Fritz Perls’s quotes are like luminous strokes of human knowledge, theoretical essences that encourage our awakening. Whether we have an affinity with Gestalt Therapy or not, books such as “Dreams and Existence” or “The Practical Approach to Gestalt Therapy” are part of the history of psychology. Therefore, it’s always interesting to immerse ourselves in them in order to reflect.
Fritz pearl journey
Perls was impressed by the idea of character analysis that informed much of Reich’s work. in 1930 And he married his wife laura and they had a son and daughter. Perls also set up an institute for the training of psychoanalysts and when World War Two began in 1939 Perls published Ego, Hunger, and Aggression, his first book.
He wrote a second book with Paul Goodman, which was published in 1951. This book, Gestalt Therapy, is generally considered to have been his most important work.
Fritz Perls co-founded the first Gestalt Institute in New York City in 1952. It was a small underground group of radical therapists, going against the grain of American psychiatry and society. In the 1960s Perls became infamous for his public workshops at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. When Fritz Perls left New York City for California, there began to be a split between those who saw Gestalt Therapy as a therapeutic approach with great potential and those who saw Gestalt Therapy not just as a therapeutic modality but as a way of life. The East Coast, New York-Cleveland axis was often appalled by the notion of Gestalt Therapy leaving the consulting room and becoming a way-of-life in the West Coast of the 1960s.
“The only difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man knows he's playing.”
Collaboration of Perls and Goodman led to the compilation of a basic text for the theory and method of Gestalt Therapy. This significant work gives the basic groundwork for a revolutionary new method of therapy. The idea of gestalt therapy is to cure the problems that are hampering the growth and productivity that is coming in the success and prosperity of an individual’s life. Everyone has a right to live a fulfilled and satisfied life and gestalt therapy is the way of adopting the lifestyle and reforming the lives of individuals to make them ambitious and prosperous in order to get more out of their lives and due to this factor gestalt therapy is also known as a humanistic type of psychotherapy.
Gestalt approach has evolved and become even more firmly established. We’re undoubtedly dealing with an integrative psychological model capable of helping many people who focus on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to thereby stimulate sufficient self-awareness and broaden new perspectives so as to initiate more positive changes.
Principles on Gestalt Concepts
Without further ado, let’s look at some examples of those principles by way of the best Fritz Perls concepts which I can say what I have learnt from Fritz Perls.
1. Everything flows when you find mental well-being.
When we find that point of subtle balance in our existence where we stop seeing obstacles and instead can see the path clearly, we feel free and our existence flows. As we indicated above, Gestalt Therapy goes beyond the limits of the space shared by the therapist and the client to give us a new life focus.
2. To be present now is to unite our attention and our consciousness.
This is one of the most familiar Fritz Perls quotes and one of the most important concepts of Gestalt therapy is derived from it: “awareness”. This is an awakening, where attention and consciousness come together in the present moment in order to further our personal growth.
3. The body knows everything. We know very little. Intuition is the body’s intelligence.
The human being is the result of the union between our body, our conscious mind, and our interaction with the environment. However, we spend much of our lives “disconnected”, asleep, unable to establish this union. Therefore, those who don’t trust the clues provided by their senses, their heart, or their intuitions will not attain the wisdom that Fritz Perls talks about.
4. The therapist is constantly looking for ways to be in contact with the “how” of the events that occur in the present.
When the therapist asks the client how they feel, it’s common for them to respond “bad,” “confused,” “angry”… However, one of the specialist’s objectives is to discern what causes that sensation in the present by clarifying emotions and consistently aiming for communication in the first person focused on the present.
5. I’m not in this world to live up to others’ expectations, nor do I feel that the world should match mine.
Integrity, self-confidence, certainty and reflective awareness. These are cornerstones of Gestalt therapy. One of the most important concepts given by Fritz perls.
6. To mature means to take responsibility for your life, to be alone.
This is another typical Fritz Perls quote for a fundamental reason. The Gestalt approach to therapy broke away from psychoanalysis by focusing all of its attention on the present and not on those events of the past or childhood for which the person could not still feel responsible. Personal responsibility lies in the present moment. Also, taking that step entails maturing. It entails giving us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves while becoming reacquainted with solitude at the same time.
7. Learning is discovering that something is possible.
Moving forward, growing, and developing sufficient self-awareness involves realizing our full potential as human beings.
8. The person most in control is the person who can give up control.
Sometimes, people develop such a high level of self-control that the only thing they achieve is repression of their real needs. An example of this is when we bury our sorrows, disappointments, and the frustration that others cause us. None of these behaviors are healthy. However, in Gestalt Therapy, healthier control is when the person is well aware of how to react in every moment. I can control my anger in order to vent my frustration or my indignation in an intelligent, constructive way.
9. Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you’re a good person is the same as expecting a bull not to attack you because you’re vegetarian.
The person who is ultimately responsible for taking care of you, respecting you, and valuing you for what you are, is you. It’s not your co-workers; it’s not society, nor even your family. Instead, you’re the only one responsible for yourself. Not accepting or not seeing this is an unending source of suffering.
10. Friend, don’t be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a curse.
Perfectionism isn’t good for our emotional health. It relates to a great extent to that need for iron-clad self-control which we mentioned above and which sometimes leads us to create unrealistic expectations.
11. It’s very rare for people to be able to talk and listen. Very few listen without speaking.
All Gestalt psychotherapists are looking for something essential during therapy: to bring to the surface all those emotional processes that people hide under their distorted behaviours, habits, fears, and approaches. In order to calm and center the distorting mind, the professional first invites the patient to listen to themselves, to become aware of how they are in that present moment. They can then describe their emotions out loud, knowing that the therapist is there, listening carefully.
Fritz Perls himself pointed out something that appears quite simple: listening to oneself, communicating and being listened to in silence, is a dynamic that we have lost in our society. We have lost the ability to listen to ourselves and to listen to others.
12. Anxiety is excitement without breathing.
Life creates uncertainty within us; anxiety and fear take hold of us because we fear the future, because emotions overcome us and we don’t grasp their magnitude and let them take a hold within us until we can’t breathe. If we want to move forward without pressures, limitations, and fears, Gestalt Therapy, first of all, proposes that we be able to clarify our emotions. Knowing what is happening to us in a given moment always helps us calm anxiety.
13. Be yourself, express yourself freely and without fear. After all, those who truly love you won’t mind what you say or do.
Unconditional acceptance and honesty with oneself are the two most important bases for Gestalt Therapy. If someone doesn’t accept what we are or what we say, it’s because they don’t appreciate us, they’re not in tune with our essences.
14. Don’t think so much… Feel.
“Everything is worthwhile if it makes you feel”. This Fritz Perls quote provides us with an important pointer. Feeling is what makes us alive and so, instead of lapsing into excessive worrying, we must give ourselves permission to feel a lot more, regardless of whether the emotions are positive or negative. Allowing them to come to us is also a way of understanding them.
15. We must learn to tolerate the truth, even if it wounds our pride.
Truth is part of awareness, of that very complex capacity with which we learn to “realize” to favor an inner awakening in which to make explicit the implicit or to accept a truth even if it hurts because it helps us progress.
16. Nothing has meaning without its context. Meaning doesn’t exist.
Meaning doesn’t exist as an isolated entity, but rather it’s bound to something that gives it sense. We need to understand that nobody feels fear, anger, or happiness for no reason; our emotions always begin with a context, a particular situation.
17. The fact that we live our lives using such a low percentage of our potentialities is because we’re not willing to accept ourselves as we are.
Fritz Perls places human potential and its development as one of the key objectives within Gestalt Therapy.
18. We don’t allow ourselves – or we’re not allowed by others – to be entirely ourselves.
This is another Fritz Perls quote that summarizes his legacy well. Accepting ourselves as we are is undoubtedly the first step towards well-being. Thus, far from attributing responsibility for this discomfort to those around us, we must be able to open our eyes, to wake up to our own personal responsibility, clarifying who we are and what we want.
19. If you refuse to recall your dreams, what you’re really doing is denying your own existence.
Our intentions, goals, and desires are part of who we are. Denying them means defragmenting that whole, that luminous unity of our being that we cannot deny or abandon.
20. Change is an opportunity.
Few things scare us as much as changes of direction, uncertainties, shifts in our destiny. We need to be able to flow in order to allow ourselves to move forward along our paths, detecting opportunities for improvements.
21. Solitude is actually the place where you can connect with the feeling of belonging.
Those who fear solitude are afraid to rediscover themselves, as well as their essences, needs, and thoughts. Few things help us become strong people as much as looking from time to time for those private spaces in order to connect with our inner voice.
22. Getting reacquainted with our emotions and learning to embrace them is healing.
All our emotions fulfill an adaptive purpose in Gestalt Therapy. Therefore, knowing how to recognize and understand them is key in the therapeutic process itself.
23. Distractions are also part of our life journey.
For Fritz Perls, “distracting oneself” doesn’t mean losing our capacity for attention. It’s rather something as fundamental as allowing ourselves to feel, to rest, to flow, to let ourselves be carried away by calmness, enjoyment, and those peaceful little corners that also increase our well-being.
According to Perls, it is essential for every human being to develop his or her potential. Creating a bridge between the unconscious and the conscious - what Freud tried to achieve - is not enough. You have to discover what your personality is lacking and fill the voids so that you are a more complete person. Perls was a key figure in the history of psychology that provided new therapeutic tools for promoting personal growth. However, it’s up to us how we strive to achieve the principles of his legacy to best fit our needs and shape new paths towards happiness.