“Awareness is therapy per se”
Since reading this quote from one of my daily calendars on February 23, 2012, it has stayed with me. Volumes are spoken in these five words. These words brought me back to a temporary office job where I was the receptionist and would occasionally type up a document or two. I didn’t like the job for many reasons, but I needed to work and it was the best the temporary agency had at the time. I was much younger, in my twenties. I had to dress up for this one with nice shoes, skirts or slacks, and blouses. I couldn’t look as though I had just rolled out of bed. I also didn’t enjoy being isolated up front, architects and engineers coming and going. I did like the idea that I worked with folks that designed and executed the machinery for mass production. I imagined the process that cereal would go through before it reached my bowl. I still can’t imagine how you get this process with all of the pipes and tubes and in betweens onto paper and then build it. I also liked that it was fine for me to bring a book to read when the phones weren’t ringing and I didn’t have much else to do.
I might have had a psychology book one day and this is when I first remember really hearing Fritz Perls’s name. The engineer saw my book and told me that his wife was a therapist and she liked Fritz Perls. When I saw the quote that day in February, it rang true for me on many levels and it brought me back to this engineer and the first time I remembered hearing Perls’s name. I searched the library for any books by him and found one: Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1969). Shortly after beginning the introduction, I immediately felt a kindred spirit and I recognized a way of being that already ran through my blood—that of wholeness, growth, and self-responsibility. I also responded to his words, his almost aggressive candor in pulling the wool from our eyes.
In reading a little bit from Wikipedia, we learn that he also had Zen influences and “incorporated the idea of mini-satori (a brief awakening) into his practice.” Wikipedia also notes that he also traveled to Japan, where he stayed in a Zen monastery, eventually settling at Esalen (Esalen Institute), later leaving Esalen to start a Gestalt community in Canada.
An oversized photo of Perls adorns the cover of his book. It’s an older Perls, white beard growing into a white moustache, forming one; white hair, handsome wrinkles; eyes looking away, but gentle and knowing, even playful. He looks as though he is about to speak to his readers from the cover of his book. His fingers look graceful and strong.
In his introduction he states, “In Gestalt Therapy, we are working for something else. We are here to promote the growth process and develop the human potential. We do not talk of instant joy, instant sensory awareness, instant cure. The growth process is a process that takes time.”
There are many theories and ideas from which to draw upon in life and often times there is intersection. For this moment, right now, Perls resonates with me. I’m also brought to a memory of a student therapist who was my therapist for a short time back also during my twenties. She and I were not a good fit, this became apparent quickly. I felt as though she was too eager to practice what she was learning and did not herself experience enough growth and maturation at the time to be effective—at least with me. And she was too bubbly in her personality for my low mood at the time. Without realizing it, she was treating me as though I should be more like her and she was not respecting who I was as an individual and was trying to provide me with a quick mental fix. She could not grasp that I was who I was and not more like her on a social level. I hung in there a few more sessions and then had to terminate the relationship for my own well being.
I appreciate Frederick (Fritz) S. Perls’s Gestalt prayer:
I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
What do I believe? “What we believe is what we see.” I’m sure that various people in different books have said this, but I remember first coming across it in an astrology book. I don’t usually talk directly about what I believe and I don’t think I’m going to start—at least not in this moment. This question and other questions are always alive in me. Right now, I am thinking out loud and right now the question holds for me more a curiosity for how each moment that I interact with life, there is a clue for how I feel inside and for my state of mood depending on how I interpret my situation—my body, my emotions, the exterior world, interior world— at any given moment. To some degree, it seems that humans are mostly out of control, yet maintain a semblance of control. We are a continuum of emotions where anger can turn to excitement and the other way around; and where joy can fast become sorrow.
It’s difficult to observe our growth when we’re still growing. One of the reasons I enjoy writing is that it’s one small way—to happen upon an old journal entry, musing, or scribble, I can see—I can be reminded of the slow wonderful trickle of growth—the never ending process of growth, learning, sharing, and discovery.