Creativity needs a loving space
I love the work I do, because I get to have amazing, intimate, deep discussions with precious souls every single day. One of my beautiful clients told me this, “Creativity needs a loving space” and it immediately struck to my heart. I have kept it close for many years waiting for the perfect opportunity to expand and explore it. You see, Gestalt theory rests on four pillars, and this phrase encapsulates two of them, experimentation and dialogue. When I came to Gestalt to do my own work, I was invited into an experiment that is probably the greatest piece of creativity any of us can do in this lifetime, the creative exploration of a new way of being in the world. This creativity of the self requires enormous courage, trust, and yes, a loving space.
Hans Buber wrote of the I-Thou encounter between man and God. Most of our lives is spent in more mundane relationship with others, where we use each other as objects in our personal world. The barista, the bus driver, the doctor, the man in the corner shop, and even, my spouse. The I-Thou meeting is a rare thing, an opportunity to really dwell in the astonishing uniqueness of the other person, treasuring and learning from them about their world, and the therapy space is one of the few privileged arenas where this authentic meeting can occur. When I sit with a client, I come with an attitude of openness and interest, ready to explore what and how they bring themselves to me and to their story. There is need for acceptance, curiosity, warmth and confirmation in this meeting…and when it is present my client will feel received, a glorious and rare thing!
Gestalt therapy truly provides a loving space for this phenomenal work of self re-creation. Unlike other therapies which aim to fix, analyse or problem solve, in Gestalt I aim to bring myself to the therapeutic encounter purely with interest and curiosity about how my client perceives and behaves in his or her world. There is no fixed agenda for change. I am listening for unspoken emotions, encouraging them to be outed, listening for the key words of meaning making to be further explored and understood. My radar is for anything which obstructs clear contact with the world, how do you do that now, here with me?This non-judging, collaborative and reflective process is key to Gestalt. It allows a beautiful unfolding for the client, coupled with an increase in awareness. By embarking on this delicate journey we can enter a world together which includes both of us, in the service of my clients growth. Held by the warmth and trust of the therapeutic relationship we can find transformation for my client, and for me also!
Gentle dawning of awareness brings so many gifts. Primarily the gifts of choice and freedom, which allow for a re-imagining of the self. What would I be without this belief I have unconsciously carried with me for years?How might I behave in this situation if my current way is frustrating and inadequate? How can I express this need of which I have just become aware?
Experiment with your Self
And so We arrive at the ultimate act of creativity, with the aid of another exciting piece of Gestalt method, experimentation. This is probably the bit I like best in my practice. It’s enlivening and fun, uses the present moment and often, the relationship between us, as the crucible for change. Now that we have raised awareness and established the safety of a loving space, how would you like to do life? Gestalt theory postulates the self as being fluid and constantly emerging at the Contact boundary, dependant on the field, not fixed and rigid. I can invite my client into an experiment designed to trial their newly found awareness and develop new ways of being in the world. How might you express that need to me? What is another way you might bring yourself to this situation? What would you like to say to this person?
The famous empty chair of Gestalt is one type of experiment. Often it involves putting an absent person in the chair so the situation can be explored in the present moment…a very enlivening and enriching experience. Sometimes I will invite my client to put an aspect of themselves in the chair…the perfectionist or the control freak or the sloth, and dialogue with this part of themselves. Learnings are often profound when we engage in this immediate way with issues that are brought. It brings the story into the reach and knowledge of immediate experience. What happens as we invite your mother into the room? How far away would you like to put her from you? What feels comfortable?
Live more fully, vibrantly and engaged in the world
Creative process of all kinds is exciting, none more so than the creation of possibilities for being in the world. As I step into a more complete version of myself, with all cylinders engaged and firing, I have more energy and vitality to react to what I encounter. I become energetically available and responsive to the world, emerging in each moment as the need arises. Just as in Dan Siegal’s beautiful metaphor of the self as a river, constantly flowing, changing and emerging as it encounters rocks, banks, dams and lakes. We are like that river, needing to grow, flow, change and redevelop constantly. It’s painful being stuck in a stagnant pond! Push your raft out and ride the rapids!