Thursday, September 22, 2016

Case #189 - The skillful blast

Cynthia wanted to do some therapy work, but was not clear on just what to choose. I asked about her background - she was a social worker. She had been divorced for some time; she wanted a family in the future, but was not ready at this point.
Her issue as it emerged, was a current problem at work, to do with problems 'managing the team'. I asked a series of questions, focusing her on questions such as - 'what exactly, who exactly, when exactly', before we arrived clearly at the problem.
One of her employees was not pulling his weight. She and others in the team were compensating by increasing their own workload.
It was clear to me - she was avoiding conflict. I asked about whether this was also the case in her previous marriage, she agreed.
I asked if she had ever had a good fight. She thought for some time, and replied that once she was so frustrated with her mother, so many things had built up, that she blasted her, told her all her opinions. It had been 'refreshing', and had not seemed to damage her relationship with her mother.
This was an important template for me to work with.
So I invited her into a thought experiment first - to imagine 'blasting' the employee at work. She smiled, and was happy to imagine that.
I then proposed a more challenging experiment - to put a chair in front of her for the employee, and to imagine he was in front of her, and 'blast' him.
She agreed.
When she did so, it hardly seemed like a blast to me.
But she was shaking. So I moved closer to her, put my hand on her back (after checking with her) to support her. She said she had a violent feeling in her chest, but was trying to calm herself.
Instead, I invited her to be with that violent feeling.
I told her that I would rate her blast at 10%; she told me for her it was more like 50%.
I then showed  her what I would do if I played her role - I did a little demonstration blast, where I spoke strongly and did not mince my words.
Cynthia's response was a fearful one -  that she did not want to be a bad person - putting others down, or being mean.
This was a self belief, or introject, but I didnt want to go into that in the moment.
So I outlined to her the theory of separating out person from behaviour.
I put out two pillows on either side of the chair. One I said was the person, the other the behaviour.
I invited Cynthia to talk to them alternately. She easily did so - acknolwedging the personhood of the employee, then in a powerful voice and powerful words, outlining the unacceptable behaviour.
She felt calm, and pleased that she had been able to 'blast', without being destrutive of the other person.
Aggression is a topic of interest in Gestalt. It is not seen in negative terms. It is life energy - which usulally becomes overly suppressed according to social norms and rules - or introjects - that a person 'swallows'. This increases passivity, reduces assertion, and leads to a loss of life energy. The person doesnt really know who they are, what they want, and they dont bring themselves fully into relationship.
In this case, Cynthia's avoidance of conflict was an avoidance of her own aggressive energy. Whilst there is no doubt, aggressive energy can be destructive, its also destructive to turn it inwards, or to fail to express it when appropriate. This was the problem at work - her accepting a higher workload rather than holding someone accountable - and was likely to be a large part of the failure of the marriage.
But Cynthia needed a great deal of support to be able to get in touch with and express the full extent of her feelings. Ultimately, she needed to find a way to do so, and reconcile her values. This was provided the through process of the Gestalt experiment, finally culminating in the skill of separating behaviour and person. Without the actual experiment, this would remain simply a 'good idea', or just become a kind of skill to practice. What was significant here is that her understanding represented an integration, resulting from the combination of the challenge of the experiment, her own risk taking in the process, and then being taught the skill. These come together in our goal in Gestalt - the integration of new way of being and understanding, into the person's being.

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)