Friday, July 18, 2014

Case #96 - Spiritual work with aggression

Brenda raised the topic of authenticity. But she named it as a spiritual practice that she wanted to be able to achieve, rather than just a psychological method.
I did not completely understand how she differentiated this, but was happy to work with her to find out.
She talked about a situation at work with a client, whom she felt she had to please, and not contradict, even though she knew his plans would not yield a benefit. Constrained by company pressure, notions of how to be with clients, and her own fear of confrontation and rejection, she found herself acting inauthentically with the client. It appeared that the issue underlying her lack of authenticity was fear.
Given the topic was spirituality, I wanted to find her practices on a spiritual level. She explained that she calmed herself, using a kind of meditation to do so, then she prayed for guidance.
I invited her into an experiment. Someone else in the group played the client, and Brenda supplied the words.
As I listened to what the 'client' said to her, I noted that this sounded like the client was pretty bossy and pushy - telling her that she had to do what they wanted.
I asked her feeling in response to this aggressive attitude. She reported 'not fair'. I pointed out this was a thought, not a feeling. Its important in therapy to differentiate thoughts and feelings, and in this case, her answer still did not tell me her feeling. With some help, she identified feeling frustrated.
So, the figure had shifted. In fact underneath the difficulty of being authentic was not just fear, but her own aggression. This is always useful to identify, as people tend to not identify with their aggression, identifying instead with a more victim type of position - in this case, her fear of rejection.
So its always valuable from a Gestalt point of view to locate aggression, as this represents useful energy for action, change.
In this case though, I took a cue from her - she did not want to work with the aggression psychologically, but spiritually. That suggested not directing her to 'feel and express' the anger, which would be the normal therapeutic formula. But instead, to find what it means to work with it spiritually.
So I asked her to use her spiritual practices, in the moment, to work with her frustration. She did this, silently. When she opened her eyes she said 'its gone'.
I believed this, and did not need to probe to 'make sure' that this wasn't a trick she was playing on herself. I had my own sense of her being right - the expression on her face was very open, and in contemporary Gestalt we generally do not want to 'confront' people, working instead with the subjectivity of their experience. I did not see anything to indicate a contradiction with what she reported, so I was happy to accept that.
If someone engages in a 'spiritual' process based on some kind of 'should', then it could certainly be possible that they would in fact use that to avoid feeling, or coming to terms with their feelings. But that did not seem to be the case here.
This represents a way of using a Gestalt process to work with an issue that is framed as spiritual.

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)