Saturday, January 11, 2014

Case #51 - Confronting a ghost

Leanne spoke about being very fearful. She was scared of cockroaches, could easily be startled, and at night sometimes found it hard to sleep, fearing theives coming in the window, or ghosts, or ‘monstors’. She also feared monstors when she went out in a boat.

Apart from anything else, this sounded like quite a child state, so I asked what happened to make her fearful when she was a child.

She immediately related an incident when she was 6. A boy, one of her very good friends, died by drowning. It was hours until he was discovered. He was brought back to her house, and his family insisted that her father, a doctor, try to revive him. He was unsuccessful.

It was storming that night, and she went to sleep very frightened. She then had a nighmare, that she had to save him but couldnt. She thought about him a lot when she was growing up, and still had a great deal of sadness about it.

So, this made it clear who the ‘ghost’ was that she was scared of.

I suggested a confronting but necessary experiment - using the drama of the moment, the intensity of her fear, and the present opporutnity to deal with it directly, for once and for all.

So I proposed that I stand next to her, facing the open window, and the group stand behind her for support. She would then invite the ghost of her young friend who died,  to come into the room in front of her. 

She did so, but she was trembling like a leaf. I let her lean against me, holding her tightly, and had the group close behind. I directed her to talk to the ‘ghost’, telling him what she felt, what she had been through, and how much she had missed him.

She did so, though it was difficult. She reported wanting to be with him, on the other side. 

I asked her how he replied to that, and she said he didnt want that. This was important for her to take in; even so there was still a residual longing on her part for death and to be close to him.

So I supported her to have more dialogue with him, really telling him how she felt, and really listening to his response.

I had to support her through her fear, and then grief. I directed her to breathe into her stomach, and down into her legs. 

In Gestalt we work with grounding and with breathing, to help the person stay present with their experience and with the intensity of emotion. Often there was not support at the time to do so, especially when young, so this allows them to get in touch with the experience which had previously been overwhelming, in a way which can now be digested.

It was very diffulct for her to stay present - she had spent the last 30 years living with fear, and breathing in a shallow way...which would then also reinforce the fear. So it was hard for her to breathe so deeply, and required a lot of support and instruction from me.

After some time she became very calm, was able to let the ghost go, and come fully back to herself, She felt more in her body than she ever remembered, and all traces of fear were gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© Lifeworks 2012


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.

Because this is aimed at a professional audience, the blog is available by subscription. Please enter your email address to receive free blog updates every time a new entry is added.

Gestalt therapy sessions

For personal therapy with me:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

© Lifeworks 2012




Informed Consent & Rates


Gestalt Therapy Defined





Book:Advice for Men about Women


• English






Greek ελληνικά

Hindi हिंदी








Russian Русский

Serbian српски

Chinese 中文

Japanese 日本語

Arabic العربية

English Bahasa České Deutsch Español Filipino Français ελληνικά हिंदी Magyar Melayu Italiano 한국의 Polski Português Română Русский српски 中文 日本語 العربية

If you are interested in following my travels/adventures in the course of my teaching work around the world, feel free to follow my Facebook Page!


This Gestalt therapy blog is translated into multiple languages. You are welcome to subscribe


Interested in Gestalt Therapy training?

Contact Us


Career Decision Coaching


and here


Gestalt training and much more

For Men

Here is a dedicated site for my book Understanding the Woman in Your Life

The Unvirtues

A site dedicated to this novel approach to the dynamics of self interest in relationship

Learn Gestalt

A site with Gestalt training professional development videos, available for CE points

We help people live more authentically

Want more? See the Archives column here

Gestalt therapy demonstration sessions

Touching pain and anger: (40m)

Permission to feel: (54m)

Marriage after 50: (1h 17m)

Serafina - Angel wings: (45m)

Barb Wire Tattoo: (37m)

A natural empath; vibrating with joy: (39m)

Dealing with a metal spider: (51m)

Interactive group: (1h 57m)