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Contact Process

Contacting Process

Contact with anything not novel - not different - does not require adjustment because the familiar, by definition, has been adjusted to (either by integration or rejection).

Contact is dynamic, is the awareness of, and behaviour toward, the assimilable . . (Perls et al, 1951 p230). Therefore what is assimilated is always novel; and primarily, contact is the awareness of, and behaviour toward, the assimilable novelty (ibid, p230). What is pervasive is not an object of contact, ie, not assimilable. Essentially, what is not different is not contacted. Contact is dynamic and Goodman, in Perls t al (1951) says all contact is creative and dynamic (p230

The contact cycle between person and person your sense of the unitary interfunctioning of you and your environment (Perls et al 1951 p73) was first forward by Perls in 1947 as the cycle of the interdependency of organism and environment (Perls 1947 p43) and builds on the natural cycle of change and growth. (Clarkson and Mackewn 1993 p54) This cycle of contact provides for a fundamental cornerstone for appreciating how contact and its interruptions are viewed in Gestalt therapy.

In its original format Perls, prior to the writing of Excitement and Growth, laid out the cycle as shown below:

The Contact EventInterfunctioning of You and Your Environment

This is the original interfunctioning description given by Perls

  1. The organism at rest.

  2. The disturbing factor, which may be

    An external disturber - a demand made upon us, or any interference that puts us on the defensive

    An internal disturbance - a need which has gathered enough momentum to strive for gratification and which requires:

  3. The creation of an image or reality (plus-minus function and figure-background phenomena).

  4. The answer to the situation aiming at:

  5. A decrease of tension - achievement of gratification or compliance with the demands resulting in:

  6. The return of the organism to balance

Perls, 1947 p43

Cycle of Gestalt Formation and Destruction

The contemporary model often cited is Clarkson (1989). This Cycle of Gestalt formation and destruction is usually referred to as the contact cycle, or Gestalt cycle.

In sensing a difference the person is bringing the novel into figure, and into awareness. The resulting assimilation, or rejection, is a creative response by the person; and in this process there is an adjustment, through refining and reintegration of the self. This is creative adjustment. (Perls et al 1951 p230)

The Dynamic Interchanges of Self and Environment

Wheeler (2003 pp163-178) suggests this (Clarkson / Zinker) simplistic model, and its usual accompaniment of biological needs being sensed and met, is insufficient in exploring deeply the nature of contact, and creativity, since unfortunately, little or nothing of [this] social relational ground of our being is evident (Wheeler 2003 p163)

He takes the contact boundary and examines much more closely the dynamic interchanges of self and environment; moving into a much more experience-near position. (Wheeler 2003 p166)

Wheeler has been able to provide the context of creativity in contact, and locate the zone for creativity in contact and contacting. This provides greater examination and locating the ingesting - whole or otherwise - across the contact boundary/zone

... more to follow ...


Lobb, M. S., (2000), The Theory of Self in Gestalt Therapy, in Gestalt Therapy. Hermenuetics and Clinical. (2000) Editor Lobb, M. S., Angeli Publishing House Milan

Lobb, M. S., (2007) Whats Gestalt Therapy. Accessed online April 2007.

McLeod, L., 1993, The Self in Gestalt Therapy Theory. The British Gestalt Journal, vol2 No1, pp25-40

Perls F, Hefferline, R, Goodman P. (1951:1984) Gestalt Therapy Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, Souvenir Press, New York.

Perls F, Hefferline, R, Goodman P. (1994) Gestalt Therapy Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, Gestalt Journal Press

Perls, F., 1957, Finding Self Through Gestalt Therapy. Available Accessed 2nd September 2005

Philippson, P., (2001) Self in Relation, Karnac Books, London