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I teach and practice Gestalt therapy, Career decision coaching, and Family Constellations work. As well as Australia, I teach workshops and training in China, Japan, Korea, the USA & Mexico. I am author of Understanding The Woman In Your Life, a book of advice for men about relationships with women. In my work as director of Lifeworks I provide therapy,  training and supervision. I am a Phd candidate, studying the interpersonal dynamics of power, and am currently director of an MA in Spiritual Psychology for Ryokan College, an accredited online institution based in LA.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Case #152 - Everyday abandonment

Felice said she was afraid of abandonment.
This is of course a fairly common theme.
I had worked with Felice, and new that she could be somewhat dramatic, and childlike at times. She was young - in her mid 20's.
So rather than go into her 'abandoned' position, I went to a responsibility position.
I told her I was interested in those aspects of this that were out of her awareness -  where and how she did the abandoning.
She had never considered this question before.
This is often the case when people identify with one end of a polarity.
So I invited her into a Gestalt experiment. I would pull at her sleeve, and say 'I need you'. She would pull away…in other words, abandon me.
We then did another experiment - she would act as if her mobile phone was ringing when she was talking to me, and break our conversation to answer it….
We swapped roles, and I did the same.
This brought her to the awareness that abandonment happens often, in all relationships, in small ways. In this sense, the issue became not so much a global one, but a very specific one, rooted in small everyday awarenesses.
This gave her a whole new way to see abandonment - it was not something in the future, to be feared, but something in her present, to be addressed.
In Gestalt we break down global issues - anxiety, anger, depression - into the here and now experience, which people can do something about. There are choices available in the present, that often people are not aware of. By focusing awareness on the present, they start to see those choices, and in that way find empowerment in the face of issues that previously seemed overwhelming.
So then I pointed out that the issue was not so much abandonment, but the repair necessary when abandonment occurred. Given that its part of the fabric of life, its a skill to be learned.
So we practiced - she acknowledged: 'yes, I did that' (e.g., looked away, pulled away), and then she said 'sorry'.
The Gestalt experiment allows us to explore, in very practical ways, the issues that someone raises…to find new outcomes, to try out new ways of being. The result is always new awareness - not just cerebral, but embodied and connected with the emotions.
This brings a sense of integration and completion, even though issues such as this are never 'resolved' in some kind of final way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Case #151 - Digestion - the cure for talking too much.

Odetta said that she talked too much, then felt depleted.
I noted to myself that characterlogicaly, this suggested issues to do with orality, and unmet needs.
She said that she had problems with two different women.
I asked her to pick one of them, and have a dialogue with her, by imagining she was on the other chair.
My instruction was to start with her feelings. Odetta described them as being like a rubber ball in her guts.
I asked her to imagine pulling the rubber band out of her guts, putting it her hand, and the expressing those feelings to the other women.
I did this because I wanted her to be present with her trauma, but not get bogged down in it. From my past work with Odetta, I knew she could easily get lost in her feelings. By pulling the feelings out, she actually could get more in touch with them.
Her expression was then 'I want to throw the ball at you'. This suggested aggression, but in Gestalt we never assume, so I enquired, as she still had not shared her feeling. People often do this, find ways to avoid being in touch with their feelings, or avoid expressing them directly.
So I focused her awareness on this 'emerging figure' as we say in Gestalt. Then she said to the woman 'I like your groundedness'.
I then invited Odetta to say what it was that she wanted, in the present, from the other woman.
Asking her to say this in the present is very important, otherwise people easily get lost in their feelings.
Odetta told the woman 'I want to know how you stay so grounded'.I got her to swap chairs, and reply as the woman - she said 'its because I have positive beliefs'.
I asked her to swap chairs again. Odetta, speaking as herself, said '..but I can't do that'.
This is an important juncture. It means that Odetta is caught in the experience of her powerlessness, likely a historical feeling, as she was a perfectly capable woman, in her current life. But in her 'talking too much', she couldn't take in an instruction or a suggestion - I had found this previously in therapy..that she really didn't take much in.
So I asked Odetta to pause for a moment, and really digest what she had heard. This interrupted her pattern of 'I don't know what I want or what I feel'. Her talking too much was skating on the surface. Yet, to go deeper required not just Gestalt experiments, but taking time slow down, and integrate the nourishment she had been given.
So I left her with this, as homework.
Facilitating process can be supportive, but its also important to know when to allow someone space to integrate. Too much activity is exciting, but not so useful in the long run. And with someone with oral issues, they need to find the place where they are 'full', as otherwise they will keep on talking, and keep on asking. So the therapist has to draw a boundary line.










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Who is this blog for?

These case examples are for therapists, students and those working in the helping professions. The purpose is to show how the Gestalt approach works in practice, linking theory with clinical challenges.

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Gestalt therapy demonstration sessions

Touching pain and anger: https://youtu.be/3r-lsBhfzqY (40m)

Permission to feel: https://youtu.be/2rSNpLBAqj0 (54m)

Marriage after 50: https://youtu.be/JRb1mhmtIVQ (1h 17m)

Serafina - Angel wings: https://youtu.be/iY_FeviFRGQ (45m)

Barb Wire Tattoo: https://youtu.be/WlA9Xfgv6NM (37m)

A natural empath; vibrating with joy: https://youtu.be/tZCHRUrjJ7Y (39m)

Dealing with a metal spider: https://youtu.be/3Z9905IhYBA (51m)

Interactive group: https://youtu.be/G0DVb81X2tY (1h 57m)