This is a question I’ve been pondering since beginning my forays into gestalt a few years ago. During my meanderings through reading and attending gestalt conferences and gatherings, I’ve found as many types of gestalt practitioner as there are shades in the colour spectrum.
I’ve found some who hold tight and true to the original work of the gestalt therapy pioneers such as Perls, Hefferline and Goodman.
Some who lean heavily into Kurt Lewins’s field theory, and others into systems theory through the work of Bateson and Luhmann.
Then there are those who are drawn more to the field of dialogue and the work of Isaacs, and yet others with more focus on Beisser’s ideas of the paradoxical change theory. And of course there’s many whose focus is phenomenology through the work of Merleau-Ponty.
I could go on, but you’ll be relieved to hear I won’t!
So as I sit back in my chair, watching the birds go to and from the bird feeders, I wonder what it is that makes many of these wonderfully talented people I’ve met ‘gestaltist’? I don’t think it’s what gestalt qualification they’ve got or how much theory they know; I think it’s how they use their knowledge and who they are. I’ve come across many gestalt-trained folks I wouldn’t describe as gestaltist!
My wonderings have led me to summarise a gestaltist as someone who…
- Listens attentively to their body, spirit and mind, and encourages others to do the same;
- Is aware of, and plays, their part in the systems they work in, they are not a detached, clinical observer;
- Is patient and waits to see what emerges from the whole field before choosing which figures to attend to first;
- Notices their own judgments and biases, and can choose to use them positively, or bracket them;
- Is flexible and responsive to the situation as it arises, knowing they are made up of many parts that they responsively stretch, flex or hold moment by moment;
- Is aware that they and the people they work with are always in relation to others and their situation, no person is an island;
- Is constantly curious and open-minded, fuelled by life-long learning;
- Is playful and makes it safe for others to experiment and be playful.
Of course, this is the result of my musings and you may have a very different perspective, which I’d love to hear – please comment below!
Written by Maggie Marriott | photo credit
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Author: Maggie Marriott
Maggie is a leadership coach and business consultant, working in the public, private and charity sectors. She combines her background in gestalt, systems architecture, business transformation, coaching and consultancy to bring holistic and creative solutions to the way organisations and leaders approach and implement organisational transformations to deliver their outcomes with humanity. Read more on her website.