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There are two bedrock assertions at the heart of gestalt therapy. Whereas other schools of psychology focus on the hidden, imagined or unknown, gestalt therapy focuses at what we have before us – the present moment – what is most visceral and real. And secondly: no man is an island. All people are interconnected. To understand ourselves, we must realize our connection with all that surrounds us. Known as "present state" and "relational theory" respectively, these principles of gestalt therapy inform us that a person is the product of one's environment and social relations.
Individuals solve problems by engaging in "self-regulation", which allows navigating through the opportunities for growth and development that are permitted by the external environment.
The hallmark of psychological health is the ability to self-regulate in the process of compensating for life's changes. The healthy individual perceives the mind and body as a harmonious whole.
Gestalt therapy core principles
Here and Now
Gestalt therapy proposes that we stay grounded in the present and what is real. Instead of assuming or imagining the unknown, we must concentrate on facts, emotions, and feelings as they really are. By separating fact from interpretation, the client can pinpoint the underlying patterns and issues. This is the impetus for positive change.
Wholeness and Integration
"Wholeness" is the state of bridging the mind and body, viewing them as a harmonious whole. "Integration" is how the mind and body combine and how the individual fits in to the surrounding environment. A lack of wholeness and integration is a common issue in patients seeking therapy. Gestalt therapy helps them to approach themselves as whole people who are well integrated into their surroundings.
Awareness is another goal state for the healthy individual, who thanks to awareness can self-regulate in their environment. Awareness can be lost in two ways: by unhealthy preoccupation with past or future events, or by self-critique, which causes a distorted perspective. Low self-image can hurt awareness as well.
The principles of gestalt therapy help to regain awareness
By reconnecting with the environment and engaging all of the senses, the individual grows in the environment and reacts to the stimuli around.
By living in the here and now, anxieties about the past or future are replaced with awareness of what is actually happening at this moment.
By taking responsibility for one's own life, the individual stops assigning blame to others.
The oneness of mind and body tell us of the importance of energy in the body. Indeed, blocked energy is a figurative weight that can manifest as tension in a part of the body, reluctance to make eye contact, or shallow breathing. Removing these energy blocks allows regaining awareness.
A lack of awareness may be accompanied by growth disorders, which stunt emotional development and prevent interaction with the environment. Growth disorders prevent self-regulation in the face of life's changes and incite counterproductive (defensive) responses. Growth disorders can be related to "unfinished business". People who do not complete tasks or things in their lives become past-focused and unable to focus on the here and now. By finishing "unfinished business" through gestalt therapy, patients can achieve closure and live more fulfilling lives.