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Updated: Feb 1

Cover Page for Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality

by Frederick S. Perls, Ralph Hefferline, and Paul Goodman in Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, CHAPTER X

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Self Ego Id and Personality Chapter X
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These notes have now been completed and represent my full notes of Self

Part 3: Theory of the Self  (p.148)


we consider the self as the function of contacting the actual transient present;   (p149)

three chief partial systems, ego, id, and personality,   (p149)

in special circumstances seem to be the self.   (p149)

we try to show why our notion has been overlooked   (p149)

the activity of the self as a temporal process,   (p149)

stages of fore-contact, contacting, final-contact, and post-contact;   (p149)

this is   (p150)

the nature of creative-adjustment growth.   (p150)

we explain the various neurotic configurations as various inhibitions of the process of contacting the present.   (p150)

2: Self is the System of Present Contacts and the Agent of Growth   (p150)

in any   (p150)

investigation, the concrete subject-matter is always an organism/environment field.   (p150)

There is no function of any animal that is definable except as a function of such a field.  (p150)

abstractions   (p151)

are meaningful only when referred back to interactions of the field.   (p151)

The field as a whole tends to complete itself,   (p151)

to reach the simplest equilibrium possible   (p151)

since the conditions are always changing, the partial equilibrium achieved is always novel;   (p151)

it must be grown to.   (p151)

An organism preserves itself only by growing.   (p151)

for it is only what preserves itself that can grow by assimilation,   (p151)

it is only what continually assimilates novelty that can   (p151)

not degenerate.   (p151)

Contacting is, in general, the growing of the organism.   (p151)

the growing of the organism.   (p151)

By contacting we mean food-getting and eating, loving   (p151)

contacting we mean food-getting and eating, loving and making love, aggressing, conflicting, communicating, perceiving, learning, locomotion, technique, and in general every function   (p151)

aggressing, conflicting, communicating, perceiving, learning, locomotion,   (p151)

in general every function   (p151)

considered as occurring at the boundary in an organism/environment field.   (p151)

occurring at the boundary in an organism/environment field.   (p151)

The complex system of contacts necessary for adjustment in the   (p151)

system of contacts necessary for adjustment in the   (p151)

field, we call “self.”   (p151)

Self may be regarded as   (p151)

belongs to both, environment and organism.   (p151)

The self   (p151)

exists wherever and whenever there is in fact a boundary interaction.   (p151)

Self, the system of contacts, always integrates perceptive-proprioceptive functions, motor-muscular functions, and organic needs.  (p152)

Note: the system of contacts,  (P152)

always integrates perceptive-proprioceptive functions, motor-muscular functions, and organic needs.   (p152)

It is aware and orients, aggresses and manipulates, and feels emotionally the appropriateness of environment and organism.   (p152)

feels emotionally the appropriateness of environment and organism.   (p152)

There is no good perception without involving muscularity and organic need;   (p152)

a perceived figure is not bright and sharp unless one is interested in it   (p152)

the sensory organ that perceives,   (p152)

the muscle that moves,   (p152)

the vegetative organ that suffers an excess or deficit;   (p152)

it is the organism-as-a-whole in contact with the environment that is aware, manipulates, feels.   (p152)

This integration is   (p152)

creative adjustment.   (p152)

self is the power that forms the gestalt in the field;   (p152)

the self is the figure/background process in contact-situations.   (p152)

The sense of this formative process,   (p152)

is excitement:   (p152)

excitement is the feeling of the forming of the figure-background in contact-situations,   (p152)

self exists not as a fixed institution   (p152)

when these situations are quiescent or approach equilibrium, the self is diminished. So it is   (p152)

in any growth as it approaches assimilation.   (p152)

the hunger, imagination, motion, selection, and eating are full of self;   (p152)

swallowing, digestion, and assimilation occur with less or no self.   (p152)

in conflicts: the destruction and annihilation are full of self,   (p153)

identification and alienation occur with diminished self.   (p153)

where there is most conflict, contact, and figure/background, there is most self; where there is “confluence” (flowing together), isolation, or equilibrium, there is diminished self.   (p153)

Self exists where there are the shifting boundaries of contact.   (p153)

3: Self as Actualization of the Potential   (p153)

The present is a passage out of the past toward the future,   (p153)

these are the stages of an act of self as it contacts the actuality.   (p153)

The past is what is unchanging and essentially unchangeable.[3]   (p153)

concentrating awareness on the actual situation,   (p153)

this pastness of the situation is   (p153)

the state of the organism and the environment;   (p153)

at the very instant of concentration,   (p153)

the unchanging given is dissolving into many possibilities and is seen to be a potentiality.   (p153)

these possibilities are reformed into a new figure emerging from the ground of the potentiality:   (p153)

the self experiences itself as identifying with some of the possibilities and alienating others.   (p153)

The future,   (p153)

is the directedness of this process out of the many possibilities toward a new single figure.   (p153)

the function of self is   (p154)

accepting of the possibilities;   (p154)

their identification and alienation,   (p154)

creative coming to a new figure;   (p154)

to differentiate between “obsolete responses” and the unique new behavior   (p154)

the self can be felt only as a potentiality;   (p154)

4: Properties of Self   (p154)

Self is spontaneous, middle in mode   (p154)

and engaged with its situation   (p154)

By “engaged with the situation,” we mean   (p155)

one’s experience of the situation.   (p155)

Note: there is no sense of oneself or of other things  (p155)

is immediate, concrete, and present and integrally involves perception, muscularity, and excitation.   (p155)

with regard to every part of the process there is a well-rounded but ongoing satisfaction:   (p156)

spontaneously engaged in a present concern and accepting it as it develops, the self is not aware of itself abstractly, but is aware of itself as contacting something.   (p156)

5: Ego, Id, and Personality as Aspects of Self   (p156)

actualizing the potential — and   (p156)

— spontaneity, middle mode, etc.   (p156)

belong to self engaged in a kind of generalized present;   (p156)

but of course there is no such moment   (p156)

For the most part the self creates special structures for special purposes,   (p156)

in natural observations,   (p156)

of a formal psychology would be the exhaustive classification, description, and analysis of the possible structures of the self.   (p156)

As aspects of the self in a simple spontaneous act, Id, Ego, and Personality are the major stages of creative adjustment:   (p156)

the Id is the given background dissolving into its possibilities,   (p156)

The Ego is the progressive identification with and alienation of the possibilities,   (p157)

The Personality is the created figure that the self becomes and assimilates to the organism,   (p157)

all this is just the figure/background process itself,   (p157)

6: The Ego   (p157)

following: One is relaxed, there are many possible concerns,   (p157)

the self is a “weak gestalt.”   (p157)

an interest assumes dominance and the forces spontaneously mobilize themselves,   (p157)

there are also required certain deliberate exclusions and choices   (p157)

It is necessary to pay attention as well as to be attentive,   (p157)

deliberate limitations are imposed in the total functioning of the self,   (p157)

identification and alienation proceed according to these limits.   (p157)

spontaneity is pervasive,   (p157)

in the background and in the creative act of deliberateness   (p157)

in the mounting excitement in the foreground.   (p157)

finally,   (p157)

the deliberateness is relaxed and the satisfaction is again spontaneous.   (p157)

what is the self-awareness of the ego,   (p157)

It is deliberate, active in mode,   (p157)

sensorically alert and motorically aggressive,   (p157)

and conscious of itself as isolated from its situation.   (p157)

restricting of certain interests, perceptions, and motions in order to concentrate   (p157)

elsewhere.   (p157)

Perception and proprioception are restricted by “not noticing,”   (p157)

Excitations may be inhibited by isolating them,   (p157)

these mechanisms necessarily produce a sense of being “active,” of doing the experiencing,   (p158)

the self is identified with the lively chosen interest,   (p158)

The approach in the environment is felt as an active aggression rather than as a growing into,   (p158)

One has the sense of making the situation.   (p158)

one then has the sense of using and mastering rather than of discovering-and-inventing.   (p158)

The senses are on the alert,   (p158)

an important abstraction that is felt as real in the situation of deliberateness is the ego itself:   (p158)

organic need is restricted   (p158)

perception is controlled,   (p158)

the environment is   (p158)

held at a distance   (p158)

What is felt as close is the unity of goal, orientation, means, control, etc.,   (p158)

and that is   (p158)

the ego.   (p158)

in a paradisal world of spontaneous identifications and alienations without deliberate restriction,   (p159)

the ego would be merely a stage of the function of the self.   (p159)

But in any introspective theory it necessarily looms large;   (p159)

where the subject is neurotic, nothing else exists in consciousness but the deliberate ego.   (p159)

7: The Id   (p159)

consider,   (p159)

the structure of the self in common aware relaxation.   (p159)

in order to rest, the self suspends sensory readiness and loosens the muscles from the middle tone.   (p159)

The Id then appears as passive,   (p159)

The sense of passivity comes from the act of accepting without engagement.   (p159)

if the organic unfinished situations are urgent, then rest is impossible:   (p159)

the attempt to enforce it results in insomnia, restlessness,   (p159)

The self   (p160)

is actualized, by contacting.   (p160)

8: The Personality   (p160)

personality as a structure of the self   (p160)

discovered-and-invented in the analytic procedure   (p160)

when the method is the interpretation and correction of the interpersonal relations.   (p160)

Personality is the system of attitudes assumed in interpersonal relations,   (p160)

is the assumption of what one is,   (p160)

on which one could explain one’s behavior,   (p160)

When the interpersonal behavior is neurotic, the personality consists of a number of mistaken concepts   (p160)

introjects, ego-ideals, masks, etc.   (p160)

when the therapy is concluded   (p160)

Personality is a kind of framework of attitudes, understood by oneself, that can be used for every kind of interpersonal behavior.   (p160)

Personality is essentially a verbal replica of the self;   (p160)

the self-awareness of the Personality,   (p162)

is autonomous, responsible, and self-known through and through as plying a definite role in the actual situation.   (p162)

one commits oneself according to what one is, that is, has become.   (p162)

one is engaged and carried along,   (p162)

beyond oneself.   (p162)

free personality is thought to be spontaneous and middle in mode.  (p162)

Note:middle mode, neither active nor passive, but accepting the conditions, attending to the job, and growing toward the solution.Perls, Frederick S. ; Hefferline, Ralph; Goodman, Paul. Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (p. 22). The Gestalt Journal Press. Kindle Edition.  (P162)

But in spontaneous behavior,   (p162)

is novel and progressively made one’s own;   (p162)

in autonomy the behavior is one’s own because   (p162)

it has already been achieved and assimilated.  (p162)

Note:so, since spontaneity is novel and progressive, free personality is, rather, autonomous and middle mode since free personality is thought to be spontaneous and middle in mode.  (P162)

The “actual situation”   (p162)

is known to be one’s own and one is secure.   (p162)

The Personality is “transparent,”   (p162)

because it is the system of what has been recognized   (p162)

The Self is not at all transparent   (p162)

for its consciousness of self is in terms of the other in the actual situation.   (p162)

Personality is the responsible structure of the self.  (p162)


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