Archives for Gestalt
I came across a little piece of eternity the other day (there it is in the photo, above). Or, more precisely, it came across me. Tumbling towards me on the footpath. Blowin’ in the wind*. Ok, so it was also just a loose page of a newspaper, blowing around the street, with an advertisement on it featuring a stone angel pointing towards a single word: “Eternity.” Just a banal moment of dodging some floating flotsam on my way home. And a bit of a wake-up call. What do you do when eternity comes barreling right down the street at you? I picked it up. And could suddenly feel my heart beating. I took it with me. What will you do with yours? (Your eternity). (Your heart).
Why is this photo of a beach scene here, you might wonder. What’s that got to do with addictions? It’s a good question. (And the answer is even better). For at a recent therapy workshop, Australian psychotherapist and addictions specialist Peter Harris noted that in his experience: “The best solution for any addiction is a rich life.” It’s pretty profound… So when he’s working with people who have addictions like gambling, he might suggest running a kind of experiment (in the tradition of Gestalt therapy). When the craving hits, what happens if you, say, go to the beach instead of going to the poker machines? What happens if you reintroduce elements of nature or other dimensions of your life at that moment? What might it feel like to go in search of something even richer than the craving? What else might you find? (About your life? About yourself?) So come with me for a virtual stroll along the shore for a moment and let’s find out…
It’s amazing where a sense of wisdom or insight can be found sometimes. This sentence in the photograph above appears as the ‘fine print’ on a billboard advertising credit cards: “Any advice given is general. You should consider whether it is right for you.” It sounds uncannily like it’s talking about more than just financial advice here… So when it comes to you and your life, how are you with advice? Do you seek it out or tend to reject it? Do you follow that ad’s advice and ‘consider whether it’s right for you’ before taking it? And what does it even mean to do that? Sometimes therapy itself is thought to be an arena for advice. Somewhere along the lines, it seems to have been misconstrued with a hope for finding ‘the answer’ to our problems. (And wouldn’t it be great if it could deliver that?)
This photo was taken several years ago, and it’s always had a haunting quality about it for me. For having taken a stance many decades before, and not having the chance to change its position, this statue is gradually being overgrown. Subsumed. Lost. It’s like some kind of fable, warning about what can happen if you stand still for too long… And it reminds me of the many other ways we can perhaps stand too still or take a particular stance and refuse to change our position sometimes – intellectually, politically, emotionally, relationally. The lure of becoming an ‘expert’ seems to fit here, too. You know the stuff I mean: inhabiting only a very small, very known (and very safe) part of our particular universe. Not exposing ourselves quite so much to the vulnerability of change or newness. Feeling we have more answers than questions; more facts than curiosity. Perhaps thinking that a certain way of doing things is the best one, or maybe even the only one – and that that one way just happens to be our own… (how handy). Do you sometimes find yourself stuck in stuff like this? Caught in the vines that have grown at your feet? Unable to sense new movement in your life? Automatically only feeling or thinking or talking about the things you already know? Have you lost your sense of wonder or curiosity about the world? (And do you want it back?) If so, how can you begin to change all that?
“Be yourself,” implored Oscar Wilde. “Everyone else is taken.” It sounds so logical when you put it like that. So straightforward and simple. And deceptively easy. But how often do you find yourself actually doing this seemingly simple thing? Just being who you are. Feeling what you feel. Or does it seem more habitual to suppress or censor that? To will yourself to be different somehow. To be how you ‘should’ be. Feel how you ‘should’ feel. (Or at the very least, to feel bad about not being these things). To resist. To wish for something else. (Someone else). To belittle or doubt or question yourself in some way. And so, is it possible that trying to be the person you want to be comes at the expense of the person that you are?