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Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Most of you probably have an idea of what awareness means, particularly those who do some sort of meditation practice - whether sitting on a cushion at home or walking mindfully in the woods. This kind of self-awareness is interested in our present moment experience - what is happening and how it feels. This includes thoughts, feelings and sensations. In typical meditation these "figures" are simply observed, without judgement, and allowed to pass. Gestalt awareness is like this - and may at times be exactly the same - but it can also differs in two subtle ways.

Firstly, in gestalt we do not simply notice these figures from a detached place, but we often expand and enliven them. A figure such as grief (which may be a mix of emotion and sensations) may have been long kept out of awareness because historically it has been too much for the person to face. But in a more supportive environment, that figure may be brought into awareness so the client can feel their feelings, integrate this experience, and let go.

Secondly, gestalt is a relational psychotherapy. It does not believe that people are independent, detached entities but rather intrinsically social beings who need each other for our own sense of identity and ongoing autonomic regulation. Even on a celluar level there is an incredible level of co-operation and contact between micro-organisms and viruses. Embracing this, gestalt therapists often ask questions like: "How does it feel to be here with me?" "How are we doing?" "How is it to be seen my me?" Much of our suffering and pathologies are relational in nature. The shame we feel about parts of ourselves only makes sense from a relational perspective. Therefore, it also makes sense that the healing work must have a relational element also. Unlike other modalities, this lies at the heart of gestalt therapy.

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