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Field Theory

Simply put, a field theoretical approach sees behaviour as a function of the person-environment field. Everything has a context and the meaning of a behaviour cannot be understood separately. Laughter at a funeral will have a different meaning to laughter a a comedy club. One student's B grade could have a drastically different meaning to another's depending on their chosen university's threshold, their parental expectations etc.

Anything that exists in the present may be part of a person's phemonenal field - their culture, beliefs, biology, goals, traumas, sexuality, unfinished business etc. In the therapy room the therapist also becomes part of their field. Acknowledging this, a gestalt therapist must also consider how their field shapes their experience of their client. If a therapist has been cheated on by a romantic partner, how will this influence their response to a client having an extra-marital affair? Therapists can and will bring their own traumas, unfinished business, shame and values into the therapy room. This is unavoidable, but through awareness and dialogue there is potential to learn and grow.

Another aspect of field theory that I like is the principle of changing process - we never step into the same river twice. Just because something held true at one point, doesn't mean it will next time. My son gives me ample opportunities to realise this. When I am trying to get his nappy on and resists furiously, I remind myself of this principle. I give it some time and try again. More often that not the field has changed in some way and what seemed impossible without force one moment, becomes possible another. This may seem obvious, but as we grow up, things tend to become fixed in our minds and bodies. We tell ourselves that something is not possible for us any more or that I am this kind of person, I can do this and I can't do that. But all we really know is that such was the case in the past. Now things are different and we don't know until we try. It may be fear perpetuating this fixed belief or pattern. In session with my clients we may experiment with this, look at the fear, consider what might support the new experience.

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