The following is a list of core Gestalt concepts and behavior, The content largely derived, with my additions, from the catalogue of the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet, Mass. with all thanks.
A configuration, pattern, or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts; a unified whole. A perceptual pattern or structure possessing qualities as a whole that cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.
Or, the simple principle that the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
For practitioners of Gestalt psychology or coaching it is a well developed theory of how people take in and organize information, and how they use it in relating to one another. Gestalt is an approach to how people learn and grow.
Gestalt theory has inspired the development of practices that enable people to become more intentional in their choices and more effective in the world. When applied, these learned behaviors offer one an effective mix of interpersonal, strategic and tactical experiences.
My work is based upon Gestalt theory and practice. There are many components to the practice and application. Among them are the following:
Everything begins with awareness, it is the center of the Gestalt perspective. With increased self-awareness one sees and notices more. As a result more options and a greater range of motion becomes available. Raising awareness highlights new courses of action and new possibilities. Greater self-awareness heightens personal responsibility, individuals and teams can then make the changes that are most appropriate and in their interests.
Contact is a term used to define the nature and qualities of human interaction. We are always in contact with our environment and often with other people. The extent to which an individual is aware, present and engaged reflects their level of contact. We often experience a “connection” with another person or have “good conversations” where we feel the communication is honest and real. People who are able to make connections, communicate effectively and relate well to others, or have high “emotional intelligence,” are people who are able to make contact with others.
Cycle of Experience
Gestalt is focused on building skill in the process of perceiving, deciding, acting, learning and improving. This process is called the Cycle of Experience. The Cycle of Experience is an interactive cycle that moves from awareness through contact, action, integration, and closure. It provides a framework and a template to notice competence and areas that need further development.
When an individual or organization operates without awareness, they operate without intention. Unexpected and disappointing consequences often emerge when decisions and actions are taken without an intention. As an individual or organization becomes more aware, they are better able to make decisions and take actions from a point of clear intention. This often results in an individual’s or organization’s needs being met more fully. An important corollary to raising awareness is helping individuals and organizations develop clarity around their intentions.
Level of System
Things are happening everywhere, all the time. An individual experiences anxiety, two people have an argument, a group decides to take action, an organization experiences a trauma. When working with a system, we need to increase our awareness of what is happening and at what level, determine how we want to impact the system and at what level. Do we help by talking to a senior leader in a key function or with a group of field people? Do we need to have broad communication across a group or will a personal discussion with an individual make a difference? Understanding how people and organizations work allows us to see how best to influence and impact success.
Gestalt emphasizes the concept of multiple realities and acknowledges that we each bring our unique experiences and perceptions to a situation – that there are always multiple ways of making meaning out of a given moment, all of which are real to each individual. We learn how to manage differences.
Gestalt takes a realistic view of the present and an optimistic view of the possible, preferring to work in the development of the potential within an individual or system rather than correcting them. Learn More
Polarities are the natural process of opposites. Sad / Happy - Hot / Cold -Generous / Stingy. There is a tendency to move to one side and call it a good thing and to call the other side bad. Gestalt’s stance is that both ends of every polarity are important, depending on the circumstance. Growth and development create the stretch to incorporate the entire spectrum.
Who we are as individuals and how we present ourselves when with others is at the core of our presence. In Gestalt, we believe that an individual’s presence has the ability to impact another person, group or organization. Becoming more aware of our presence and acting with intention as to how we use our presence is a discipline of Gestalt. Learn More
It is a force that slows or stops movement. It is a natural and expected part of change. Understanding the resistance, learning to work with it and being able to lean into it releases energy to move forward. It is a paradox.
Gestalt firmly believes in the responsibility of the individual or system for itself. It is only by taking responsibility for our decisions and actions that we are able to change and improve our experience and interaction in the world. It is up to the individual or the system to change itself.
Strategic and Intimate Systems©
Behaviors that create trust and safety and balance strategic and intimate interactions, producing a seamless braid, result in the best possible outcome. Learn More
Theory of Change
Only an individual, group or organization can change itself. The challenge of the Gestalt practitioner is to raise the awareness of the individual, group or organization so that it decides to change itself. The paradox is that the more a system attempts to be who or what it is not, the more it remains the same. Conversely, when people identify with their current experience, the conditions of wholeness and growth support change.