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Contacting Process of Gestalt Therapy Theory

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). What is pervasive is not an object of contact, ie, not assimilable. Essentially, what is not different is not contacted. Therefore what is assimilated is always novel;

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 et al (1951) says all contact is creative and dynamic (p230)

Contacting Process
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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).

The Novel

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). What is pervasive is not an object of contact, ie, not assimilable. Essentially, what is not different is not contacted. Therefore what is assimilated is always novel;

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 et al (1951) says all contact is creative and dynamic (p230)

Novelty

Perls et al 1951

P230: Primarily, contact is the awareness of, and behaviour toward, the assimilable novelty; and the rejection of the inassimilable novelty

P230 All contact is creative and dynamic . . . because it must cope with the novel . . . cannot passively accept or merely adjust to the novel, because the novel must be assimilated

P230: what is assimilated is always novel

P373: … materials and energy of growth are: the conservative attempt of the organism to remain as it has been, the novel environment, the destruction of previous partial equilibria, and the assimilation of something new.

P230: What the organism perceives as the same or indifferent is not contacted, nor contactable

Philippson 2001

P48: Novelty is an essential aspect of awareness, and novelty inevitably involves time (this is now, but wasn’t then).

Contact is dynamic,

… is the awareness of, and behaviour toward, the assimilable …. (Perls et al, 1951 p230).

CONTACT may be shown: C=f(A+B)n

Contact is a function of (varies with) the Awareness and Behaviour towards the novel

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

Another way of saying this is that an object of attention that is persistent and familiar is not an object of contact, ie, not assimilable. Therefore what is assimilated is always novel; and

“primarily, contact is the awareness of, and behaviour toward, the assimilable novelty” (Perls et al 1951 p230).

Essentially, what is not different is not contacted.

Mackewn notes that the self is an elusive and controversial concept. (Mackewn 1997 p73)

Rather than me/self being a structure, e.g., composed of id ego and super ego, Perls et al, the founders of Gestalt view Self as a process, and most importantly consider Self to be

the system of contacts at any moment. (Perls et al., 1951 p235)

“the self (is) the function of contacting the actual transient present”. ”. (Perls et al, 1951 p371)

This gives: S=f(C)t

S is Self, t is the transient present (the now moment of time); and C is Contact.

The Self varies with the Contact in the actual transient present

What is being said here is that with Self being the system of contacts, the process of Self shows itself in Contact; Self is visible; is seen.



Growth

Perls states

An organism preserves itself by growing. (Perls et al, 1951 p372)

Growth and preservation are a continuum; “self preserving and growing are polar”. (Perls et al, 1951 p372)



So there is a balance with more preserving, less growth; and less preserving, more growth. This fits with the personality manifesting the enduring qualities; and does not deny the potential for change.

This fitting with Beisser’s (1970) paradoxical theory of change that says, succinctly

that change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not.

So, the Self lives, and survives, in Contact; by

· making meaning,

· identifying

· and accepting or rejecting and alienating with

· all that it is not-self.

In noticing what presents as different the Self responds with assimilation or rejection, thus maintaining, and making, the self through this contact. This growth is the Self in contact in the moment and in this temporal sense then,

Contact is dynamic and Goodman, in Perls 1951 says “all contact is creative and dynamic” ( p230) Remembering this is Gestalt Contact and Gestalt Contact is Self, thus:

Self is creative and dynamic. As Wheeler puts it, we are hard-wired to be creative.

The contact boundary … is essentially the organ of a particular relation of the organism and the environment … this particular relation is growth. Perls et al (1951 p229)

The contact boundary is not a physical separation, rather it is a quality of depth and permeability of the Self – Not-Self; of what is you – not you. It is as much the degree of spontaneity available for the situation.

THUS, the Contact Boundary is the organ of GROWTH (and this is relational – growth of organism/environment)

Growth is a function of the contact boundary: G = f(β)d

where G = Growth, β = Contact Boundary, d = field

Growth varies with Contact βoundary of the given field

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 Event: Interfunctioning 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, 1947:1969, p. 43)

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)



Contact Cycle Based on Zinker ‘wave’



2. Sensation

At the point where the self is balanced, between cycles, after completion and prior to the next fore-contact there is either internal or external disturbances will impinge upon the self heralding the start of the figure/background formation process.

The self feels, senses, (a) disturbance, a change of status and so (a) figure forms to the fore front. The person is ready to notice, to be aware

Awareness

Gradually or suddenly we become aware of events impinging via our senses, or our feelings, or mentally onto our consciousness. As a form of experience, there is a fresh Gestalten. A need arises and the need is known - you recognise that you have a need; this is not the same as knowing what the need is.

_______________________

3. Mobilisation:

Usually follows awareness in that the person becomes aroused or emotional of the opportunities leading to satisfaction of the need. The healthy person is alive to the senses, to the surroundings, is open to information.



Action: A punctuation - or figure formation - in the process of contact. The person chooses or rejects possibilities. Behaviours are relevant to the effective fulfillment of needs in the here and now. Action occurs at the boundaries of self and environment. Occurring within dialogue and within the contact with others. The healthy self is able to take from and give to the inter action and to experience its fullness

___________________________

4. Contact:

Having healthily mobilised and acted there will follow full and vibrant contact, termed final contact by Goodman (Perls et al, 1951 p403)

it is not the act of thinking or remembering that provides the contact but the quality of thought, seeing, remembering, hearing etc, and the summation of these.

Contact occurs at the boundary of our self and the environment. within the moment of contact all else merges to the background; as seeing your loved one in a crowd, everyone and everything else blurs and melts with your loved one in the fore-ground. The full and final contact marks the closure of a particular Gestalt. Contact is a basic need of human beings, providing and opening to the possibility for change.

___________________________

5. Integration and Assimilation: Satisfaction.

Perls et al(1951/1969) refer to this as post-contact. This is the after glow, the satisfaction following the full and complete experience. This is the quiet after the storm prior to separation or withdrawal. In a full and vibrant contact-cycle the individual is able to savour the completion and is ready to move on with satisfaction and readiness of the next sensation




Withdrawal:



Following the satisfaction experienced in the post contact phase the person is able to withdraw to the balanced fore- and back- ground stasis. Another way of viewing this is moving into the resting void; where sensation has yet / is awaiting to be felt.





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, p. 163)

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, p. 166)

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.




Bibliography

Latner, Joel. PhD, "The Theory of Gestalt Therapy". in Nevis, Edwin C., PhD, Ed: Gestalt Therapy Perspectives and Applications. Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (GIC) Press, 1992. Available at http://www.aagt.org/html/the_self.html Accessed 18 June 2007

Lobb, M. S. and Amendt-Lyon, N., (2003) Creative Licence The Art of Gestalt Therapy. Springer Wien, New York

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) What’s Gestalt Therapy. Accessed online April 2007. http://www.gestalt.it/inglese/get-e.htm

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

Perls F, Hefferline, R, Goodman P. (1951) 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. 1947:1969. Ego, Hunger and Aggression: A Revision of Freud's Theory and Method. Kindle ed. New York: The Gestalt Journal Press.

Perls, F., 1957, Finding Self Through Gestalt Therapy. Available at www.gestalt.org/self.htm Accessed 2nd September 2005

Perls, F., 1957, Finding Self Through Gestalt Therapy. Available atwww.gestalt.org/self.htm Accessed 2nd September 2005

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

Wheeler, G., (2000) Beyond Individualism: Toward a New Understanding of Self, Relationship, & Experience. The Analytic Press New Jersey

Wheeler, G., 2003. Contact and Creativity: The Gestalt Cycle in Context. In: M. Spagnuolo Lobb & N. Amendt-Lyon, eds. Creative Licence: The Art of Gestalt Therapy. New York: Springer, pp. 163-178.

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