Gestalt Psychotherapy has always been a mindfulness-based therapy. Not in the “sitting quietly – doing nothing” sense but in the “living now, in this moment, experiencing, feeling and being in your life” sense. Gestalt Therapy’s main goal is to help raise your awareness, and it does this by helping you to engage with your present.
I say ‘your’ present because your life is unique to you. No-one else can experience what you experience, feel what you feel or respond the way you do. How you relate to the world around you, how you react to it and what you get from it are all things only you can know.
So many people find it difficult to engage with their lives in a ‘right here, right now’ sense. For a start, all the ‘Lifestuff’ gets in the way. We all have things to think about, do and plan for every day. But sometimes it goes much deeper than that. Sadness over the past or fears about the future can constantly distract or trouble us and it can be difficult, even impossible, to stay focused on the present moment.
So why is Mindful Awareness so important in Gestalt Therapy? Well, let’s take a look at what ‘Awareness’ is about first.
Awareness is about ‘getting it’. About seeing all the parts – environmental influences, emotional processes, childhood formations etc – and understanding how this affects you in this moment.
Awareness is what lets you see why you keep making the same mistakes. It is the insight helping you to realise what you need to change.
And when you are in the darkest of places, when things are falling apart and nothing is going right, Awareness is what lets you discover who you really are among the rubble of who you were trying to be.
This matters because the present, right here and now, is the only place you actually live. And when you clutter it up with fears and worries from ‘there and then’, you have no room for yourself to engage, develop and grow.
Mindful Awareness begins with managing your attention so you can engage with the ‘now’ instead of becoming lost in thoughts and worries of ‘then’.
When you can manage your attention, you can manage your life.
Being present matters when dealing with the practical, everyday stuff in our lives. But it matters even more when we are trying to deal with complex emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and many more.
There are also physical consequences of these emotional conditions. The bodily symptoms of disorders such as Fibromyalgia, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (famously dismissed for years as ‘Yuppie Flu’) and many other physical illnesses are exacerbated by our emotional state.
The irony is that we suffer with these conditions in the present, but very few of us are equipped to deal with them as we experience them, right here and right now as they are happening. We mistake the symptom for the cause and, by treating that in isolation, miss the opportunity to discover what we really need and treat ourselves in the whole.
As a Gestalt Psychotherapist, I believe these are ‘whole body’ conditions. They are neither purely physical nor purely mental but affect our bodies as a whole. And this is where we come back to you. How you experience your life and how you respond to it. Raising awareness may sound tame but until you know what’s going on for you, both physically and mentally, you cannot respond appropriately to what is going on around you.
We all have to take responsibility for our selves, but first we need the “response-ability” to do so. Gestalt Therapy, with its focus on a mindfully aware approach to living, is intended to help you do that.