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Identifying and Alienating

In the work of contacting, we may now define the function of the ego, identifying and alienating and determining the boundaries or context. “Accepting an impulse as one’s own” means, in the sequence, to have it as part of the ground in which the next figure will develop. (This is what Freud meant to say by “the ego is part of the id.”) Such identifying is often deliberate; and the ego will function well — in its orientations and manipulations — if it is identified with grounds that in fact will develop good figures, provided the grounds have energy and likelihood. (So Freud says, “The ego as part of the id is strong, the ego cut off from the id is weak.”)

Book Notes For:

Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality

Frederick S. Perls, Ralph Hefferline, and Paul Goodman

Chapter 14



8: Identifying and Alienating (Loc: 3,613)

I: Conflict (Loc: 3,614)

  • identifying with an impulse, (Loc: 3,628)

  • spontaneous and obvious, (Loc: 3,628)

  • there is no point in distinguishing self, id, and ego. (Loc: 3,629)

  • accepted by the ego is an aware conflict and the exercise of aggression. (Loc: 3,629)

  • Conflict is a disturbance of the homogeneity of the ground (Loc: 3,630)

  • prevents the emergence of a sharp and lively next figure. (Loc: 3,630)

  • conflicting excitements bring alternative figures into dominance. (Loc: 3,631)

  • attempt to unify a single figure when the ground is busy, (Loc: 3,631)

  • must result in a weak gestalt, lacking in energy. (Loc: 3,633)

  • on the contrary, if what is chosen is the conflict itself, then the figure will be exciting and energetic, (Loc: 3,633)

  • full of destruction and suffering. (Loc: 3,634)

  • Every conflict is fundamentally a conflict in the grounds of action, (Loc: 3,635)

  • of needs, desires, fascinations, pictures of oneself, goals hallucinated; (Loc: 3,635)

  • the function of the self is to live it through, to suffer loss and change and alter the given. (Loc: 3,636)

  • When the grounds are harmonious, there is rarely a true conflict in the choice of foreground objects, (Loc: 3,637)

  • A strong conflict in the foreground is a sign that the true conflict in the background is alienated and concealed, as in obsessive doubt. (Loc: 3,640)

  • The source of the danger is that a large part of the self is already apparently invested in some weak figure, (Loc: 3,643)

  • If a new excitation is accepted (Loc: 3,644)

  • the conflict will destroy this weak “self” (Loc: 3,645)

  • But in fact the self is only apparently invested in the weak figure, (Loc: 3,646)

  • the self is (Loc: 3,646)

  • the creating of the figure: (Loc: 3,646)

  • self is the dynamic relation of ground and figure. (Loc: 3,647)

  • the therapeutic method, (Loc: 3,647)

  • self, is to insist on relating the foreground weak-figure (Loc: 3,648)

  • to its ground, (Loc: 3,648)

  • bring the ground more fully into awareness. (Loc: 3,648)

  • Suppose, for instance, the foreground is a verbal rationalization that is clung to. (Loc: 3,649)

  • what is the motive for this use of words? (Loc: 3,650)

  • is it a manipulation? of whom? is it an attack? against whom? is it an appeasement? a concealment, of what, from whom? (Loc: 3,651)

  • when the figure is related to its motive, new excitations suddenly appear, (Loc: 3,654)

  • the self loses its “security” and suffers. Yet this suffering is not a weakening of the self, but a painful transitional excitement of creativity. (Loc: 3,655)

  • Anxiety is unpleasurable, static, breathless. (Loc: 3,657)

  • A conflict of grounds is attended by destruction and suffering; a false conflict of objects, expedients, or ideas freezes in a dilemma attended by anxiety. (Loc: 3,657)

  • anxiety as an emotion is the dread of one’s own daring. (Loc: 3,659)

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