After publishing last week's edition of mar's Desk, a former student e-mailed me the following note:
Can you tell me more about Gestalt workshops?
I realized that others might have the same question, so why not answer here in a follow-up on my desk?
Here goes ...
I spent the weekend of January 2 - 4th, 2015 at the Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA where I attended a Contemporary Gestalt Training Workshop that was led by Mariah Fenton Gladis, MSS, QCSW.
This was the second Gestalt workshop I had ever attended. While I am by far an expert on this kind of mind-body-spirit therapy, I can say that both weekends have made an impact with lasting personal healing and professional enrichment for me.
Everyone participating in a Gestalt experience, whether a weekend workshop or an exercise lasting an hour or so, has the capability of having an opportunity for self-awareness and healing. For me, I had countless situations of universal comparison, where I could exercise my compassion and feel the compassion of others expressed onto me.
Gestalt Therapy is permission to be creative.
In a passage we read together, by Joseph C. Zinker, in a large group exercise, I learned that:
"Gestalt therapy is really permission to be creative. Our basic methodological tool is the experiment. The experiment moves to the heart of resistance, it changes and transforms rigidity into an elastic support system for the person.
"The experiment is a behaviorist approach of moving into novel functioning. It may be used to help a person reach his blind polarities, his shadow, or to exaggerate his crazy behavior. The experiment does not have to be heavy, serious or even precisely fitting - it can be theatrical, hilarious, crazy, transcendent, meta-physical, humorous. The experiment gives us permission to be a priest, whore, holy man, wise witch, magician and all the things, beings and notions hidden within us. Experiments don't grow out of concepts - experiments may move from simple playfulness into profound conceptual revelations."
In one group, a simple Christmas carol was transformed into what felt like a Bachian choral work. Its immediate impact was not even clearly appreciated by the therapist - participants but somehow they knew that they created something beautiful and transcendent of their own personal limitations.
Gestalt therapy is permission to be exuberant, to have grandness, to play with the nicest possibilities for ourselves within our short lives. Experiment is powerfully effective in groups because it is supported by the varied creativeness of a total community. No one person gets depleted and everyone is nourished.
Gestalt therapy is not the routine repetition of stale prayers of sundown. It stands for all that is in front of me, for all that promises completeness of experiencing, for all things to come which are awesome, frightening, tearful, moving, unfamiliar, archetypal, growth-ful. It means the full embrace of life - the savouring of all its subtle tastes."
For me, I carried the grief of Mom's death into this recent workshop - not realizing others had the grief of parents and other loved ones they had lost with them as well.
I experienced. I felt. I witnessed brave men and women who were called to the Hot Seat with Mariah, just as I had been in June of 2013. There were two situations that dealt with grief surrounding the death of one's parent.
Both were different in circumstances - the age and manner in which loved ones had left, yet feelings of grief, sadness, even anger were shared by many of us.
As others experienced healing and catharsis, I found myself having similar feelings - coupled with gratitude that I was not alone in my feelings. And after these Hot Seat experiences, we were able to process / discuss as a group, learning and gaining benefit from each other.
Mariah led a discussion where she spoke about the void that is left in us, no matter what age our parents leave us. There is a natural tendency to replace this void over time -- to create our own internal mother and father for ourselves. This is where we have the power and the self - expression... We can create the kind of parents that we want to be for ourselves. And we have the ability to seek out other figures in our life that can serve roles (parts of the roles) of a parent for us.
This discussion hit home for me. I took so much into my heart from it. I acknowledge that my internal mother is my very own Miss Sammie. I know that Mom has never truly left me. How could she really... her lessons and influences on me are hard core. If I listen closely, I can even hear Miss Sammie's words coming out of my mouth...and I feel her strength when I need it most.
The other day I got some gut wrenching news about a friend who is in her final days. I tried my best to remain strong while I was on the phone, because my heart is breaking for sj's friend as well. My radio was playing quietly in the background as it always does while I'm working ...
After hanging up, all my emotions surfaced and I started bawling like a little girl who had lost her teddy bear. The radio started playing Georgia on My Mind...
My daily inspirational quote on this day was,
You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can be grateful that thorn bushes have roses.
Miss Sammie, my beautiful Georgia peach, loved roses best of all flowers. I felt surrounded by Mom's love, comfort and strength by these signs of her presence - thus making my internal mother even more able to support and love those who are important to me.
So, in answer to your excellent question, J, I believe that everyone who attends a Gestalt workshop will leave with different impressions. These are some of my reflections.
Over the weeks to come, I will share even more as thoughts, questions or possibilities for discussion cross my desk.
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