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About Me

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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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Case #201 - The dizzy woman

Abagail said she felt a pain in her heart. She wanted to know why it was there, and what she could do about it.
I explained to her that the Gestalt approach neither attempted to answer 'why', nor was I going to give her some sage advice. I would however work with her to go into the experience to understand it more deeply.
So I asked her to pay attention to the pain, and describe it to me. She said she felt a movement, and indicated with her hands in an upwards spiralling direction.
I asked how she felt, and she said 'dizzy'.
Now, knowing something about Abagail, I had encountered previously her tendency to get dizzy. I remarked on this, and asked what would happen if the spiralling kept moving up. She told me she would faint.
Now, given this was a familiar tendency of hers, it indicated a basic 'creative adjustment' - her way of coping with a difficult situation. Clearly, this had historical antecedents, but I did not want to go into those on this occasion. I was more interested in staying close to the process.
I remarked on this, her way of 'coping' with whatever the pain was, by distancing/dissociating.
Rather than try to bring her closer to the pain, the Gestalt way is to 'go with' what the person is doing, but with awareness.
So I asked Abagail how far away she would need to be from the pain to be able to look at it.
She said 'well it could be on the moon'.
I invited her to look at it on the moon then. But she said it was too public, others could see it.
So then she looked at a little arrangement of flowers, with a snowman in the middle. It was about 3 metres away. She said she could look at it there.
I remarked that was relatively close, and a lot closer than the moon.
Abagail said - 'its hard to face it on my own'.
So I told her I would accompany her, sitting next to her and supporting her so she didnt have to do it on her own.
Going *with* the distancing, then finding the right distance so she could look at it (rather than spiral off and faint), allowed her to consider the possibility of safely being in the proximity of the pain. Offering to sit with her provided the support to be able to take the next step.
So I sat next to her, and then asked her to pick something in the arrangement of flowers, to represent the pain. She chose the snowman. I invited her to talk to the pain.
She said 'I can see you'.
This of course was a very big step.
I aksed her to imagine she was the snowman/pain, and to describe her experience. She said 'I need to be released'.
I asked her to come back to herself, while she looked at the pain, and asked what she felt. She touched her throat, and said she felt pain and constriction. I asked what else she wanted to say to the pain.
Abagail started burping, and continued to do so for several minutes. This is a very good sign, and I encouraged her to continue to allow this to happen. Its an incation that the body is releasing, deep on an emotional level, things that have been held back.
Abagail felt very calm and centred, fully came into her body, and was able to be much more present in the connection. This was a new experience for her - to be able to feel internally, and stay with that experience, in relationship.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Case #200 - An ordinary pair of jeans reveals all

Aaron, a young man in the audience,  asked me to describe the phenomenological approach of Gestalt. I explained to him that its based on the use of awareness, involves attending to the obvious, and bracketing preconceptions. But this sounds theoretical, whereas the practice is always focused on direct experience.
So I invited him to come up and I would demonstrate it to him.
I suggested that I woudl start with something he was wearing - and I would purposely pick the item of clothing that seemed to have the least meaning - give the least clues, and be the most ordinary.
So I settled on his jeans. They were standard blue jeans, looking identical to the blue jeans that many young people wear. People would hardly think that this would reveal, in a short space of time, something unique and deeply personal.
So I simply commented on what I say - blue jeans, a seam visible on the inside, the seam on the outside with an invisible seam.
Aaron looked at me expectantly -and asked 'so what does that mean'. I replied 'I dont know, and dont want to try to make meaning. I am interested in you, your uniqueness, your individual experience'.
Aaron commented, 'I like slim jeans, and I like them simple, not having to choose everyday'.  
I said, 'Ok, so I have learned something about you already - you are a person who likes things simple.'
Aaron added, 'yes, when I focus on something I want to achieve, I dont want to be distracted, so I dont want to have to think about what to wear'.  
I told him that I could relate to that - I was less interested in what I wore, and more focused on what was of interest to me. This was a relational statement - connecting with him by bringing who I am into the contact.
I said, 'so I also know this about you'.  
Aaron then shared, 'I am focused on my own world, and not so outgoing'. I shared with him that I was different - more extroverted. Again, this provides a point of contact to his sharing.
I think asked him a feeling question - 'how do you feel about being about being more inwardly focused?'. He replied, 'I am a quiet person, and I am happy with being that way'.
So, I have learned some key things about him.  
I then asked him a contextual question - 'tell me about who in your family is quiet, and who is not'.
Aaron described his mother as quiet also, and his father as outgoing. He felt much more comfortable with his mother, and quite uncomfortable with his father, who would pressure him to be more expressive and louder. Aaron also spoke in a quiet voice.
I told him that I actually enjoyed his slow pace, and quiet thoughtful manner - another relational statement, so that his self relevantions did not just occur in a vacuum.
I think invited him into  an awareness experiment - to imagine I was his father, and see what he would like to say to me about being quiet.
He said 'You are always criticising me and the way I am'.
I pointed out this was a critical statement on Aaron's part, and did not really share who he was as a personal statement.
He tried again and said, 'You should be more tolerant of other ways of expression'. I pointed out this was a 'God' statement - telling his father how he should behave, what was correct. Again, I invited him to make a personal statement. Aaron was blank.
I explained this involved the word 'I' and the statement of a feeling.
For instance, 'I feel hurt when you dont accept my quietness'.
Aaron was at first reluctant - he said 'but that will hurt him'. I explained to him the difference between a personal, boundaried statement, which described his own experience and was therefore not 'hurtful' in terms of stepping over a boundary, and a critical or 'God' statement, such as he first made, that might. If we make such clear personal statements, then we are minimising our harm - and any reaction is then truly the other persons 'stuff', and indicates that they are not really interested in who we are or what we feel.
So Aaron said, 'I feel uncomfortable when you push me, and tell me I should be different'.  
I checked how he felt - he said, more comfortable - but he said 'I would find it difficult to say this to my father'. I explained that he may need more practice, or more support in a variety of ways before he might be ready to do so. However, what had shifted was his awareness, his skill in make an authentic statement, and his clarity about how he really liked being a quiet person.  
If we were to continue therapy, these would be very valuable themes to explore. We arrived at quite a core place, from an ordinary pair of jeans!

© Lifeworks 2012

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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)