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Gestalt Therapy I: Observation and mindfulness

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I have been thinking about how to clarify the underpinnings of mindfulness and therapy.

My first thoughts are to Existentialism, Phenomenology, and then to Gestalt therapy – Fritz Perls.

Secondarily, Carl Rogers’ person centered therapy and Jung’s archetypal psychology.

Finally, early in my career I was introduced to Reichian therapy with its emphasis on pushing through the stuck energy by focusing on bodily sensations and breathwork.

These together have the psychological underpinnings of Mind, Spirit and Body.

For me strong spiritual development through Judeo-Christian principles, energy medicine, and Zen Buddhism this moves Spirit to the lead and the integration of the three through breathwork and mindfulness.

Existentialism is a philosophy that focuses on how all actions are choices, even no action, and that an individual has power as she has responsibility for her choices in the world, and through this responsibility is free.   Jean-Paul Sartre best describes this philosophy; I like many of his literary works but my favorite is Being and Nothingness.

Phenomenology incorporates the effect of the interface of energy, spirit, mind, and physical components in the development of self and meaning.  Georg Hegel:  The Phenomenology of Spirit and Martin Heidegger:  On the Way to Language and The Question of Being were strong contributors to this philosophy.

Today I thought I would talk about the connection of mindfulness and therapy through observation, focus, and awareness.

Throughout the last few months I have addressed this and that of meditation to get to the stillness and neutrality needed for observing the figure/ground, habit reaction patterns, and the application of mindfulness.

Fritz Perls had an uncanny ability to follow and develop upon  a thread of information from a number of different theorists. From my perspective he focused on applying that information especially from  a phenomenological point of view and in conjunction with what I view as Zen Buddhists traditions.

Perls expanded upon some of Freud’s work with a focus on Freud’s penetrating insights and techniques to develop the Gestalt process.  These and one’s outlook serves as a centering focus that connects several psychological approaches with Zen Buddhism.

As a discovery and exploration oriented model it is at the opposite extreme from the cognitive behaviorist’s programming techniques yet it incorporates elements of desensitization and the development and practice of new behavioral patterns.

This is true probably because of how he integrated Zen practices and Reichian techniques with his focus of mindful living or what he called living fully.

There is a nice interplay and relationship between Gestalt theory and with Jung’s powerful work on imagination.  Especially with its focus on using inner creation models for focus.  Also Gestalt therapy incorporates Karen Horney and her focus on should introjects which are patterns of being in the world.   This is what I identify as either survivor scenarios or habit reaction patterns.

I view Perls’ and Rogers’ approaches as an active phenomenology which assists a person in discovering his or her existential reality.   Gestalt focuses on a whole-body sensing, dynamic approach rather than a straight talking approach like Rogers.

The Person-centered approach of Rogers and the Gestalt therapy of Perls developed therapeutically first,  then the theory grew out of the practice.

Perls’ Gestalt therapy is centered in the psychological gestalt of a person’s present moment.  The key in Gestalt Therapy is the facilitator’s underlying attitude of neutrality, openness, compassion and acceptance – focused on the present moment and discovery without interpretation or judgment.   This is more important than any specific technique used.

This is the key, present moment focus, observation and mindfulness, and the connection to Zen Buddhist meditation and practice.

In the gestalt process model Anxiety is seen as not being in the present moment.  Anxiety will be relieved by attending to and getting into the present moment through observation and mindfulness, with a focus on neutrality.

To get to the authentic self, the real self in the present moment, the focus is on the resistance or stuck energy or inauthenticity in the present moment through observation and mindfulness; viewing the figure in relation to the ground or background of the situation, using observation and mindfulness.

Self-confidence is paramount to developing resilience and anxiety works against that.

So this information applies to our own development and parenting as an equation of maintaining focus on staying in the present moment and using the techniques of paradigm shifting and mindfulness, breathwork  and neutrality to help develop our and our children’s self-confidence and inner strength.

See you tomorrow.


Author: instinctivehealthparenting4u

Author, Integrative medicine practitioner, psychotherapist. Albuquerque, NM practice, focus on return to balance and the integration of spirit, mind, and body through meditation and mindfulness. Monthly trainings, & professional and personal development coaching. Find more on my website Read my books, Turning NO to ON: The Art of Parenting with Mindfulness, Turning ME to WE: The Art of Partnering with Mindfulness (, for increased internal wellness and alignment with your spiritual purpose, and to activate joyous love and light, bg

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