Dorothy Charles
Photo: Bridget Ahern

Photo: Bridget Ahern

Relational Gestalt Practice

The focus of Gestalt* work is what is happening now (process) rather than on what is being discussed (content), emphasizing what is being thought and felt in the moment. Gestalt practice is the act of coming to present-centered awareness, noticing my experience here and the now.

The intention of this practice is to be able to respond to what is happening in my life, rather than simply react to it. When I’m present, I’m grounded and centered. I recognize that I can choose how to respond to the situations, people and events that I’m presented with.

We all need to plan for the future, and it is helpful to remember the past, yet if I’m always planning for the future or living in the past, I miss the moment and much of my life goes by without being here to experience it.

Photo: Ian Momsen

Photo: Ian Momsen

The practice of being present is simple and not easy. We call it a practice because that’s what it takes – returning to the moment whenever I notice that I’m not present.

It’s a question of balance. I need to rehearse or plan for my life; some of my memories are precious to me – and – some of my history I’d rather not repeat. Coming to the present moment is a way to feel a sense of connection and balance. Then, whatever life throws at me I can meet with more equanimity, acceptance, compassion and creative possibilities.

Meaning, especially emotional meaning, can be revealed, uncovered or discovered by paying attention to the relationship between the figure and the ground. Humans are meaning making beings; it’s how we integrate our experience and make sense of our world.

Meaning is uncovered by using the Gestalt concept of figure/ground. This concept can be explained by – whatever is foreground in my present-centered awareness is the figure; everything else is the ground, even that which I’m not currently aware of.

Especially important are those meanings and patterns formed by trauma: losses, deprivations, repeated neglect, injuries, violations and the like. Pain does not necessarily create pathology; it is the absence of attuned responsiveness to painful emotion that determines whether or not an experience results in ongoing suffering.

Photo: Bridget Ahern

What can be felt or known in any relationship is highly dependent on whether emotional experience is felt to be supported, welcomed, and/or attuned with – or not.  An attitude of openness and acceptance to all experience is an important factor in the gestalt approach.

Relational Gestalt Practice aims to increase awareness of our emotional patterns by providing new healthy relational experiences; to support, energy, aliveness and contact. In this practice we have the opportunity to experience attuned relationships in groups that will provide a context in which we can learn to become attuned to our self and others, and to be a part of a healing and supportive community.

Working in this way involves the awareness of body, breath, sensation, mood, emotions, thoughts, memories, and images.

*The word, Gestalt, (German) means both the whole (as being more than the sum of its parts), and the pattern. This approach draws on both of these meanings, and sees people as an integral part of their environments, both affecting and affected by people and events surrounding them.