Three Approaches to Doing Gestalt Therapy

I’m currently reading an excellent book, “Destiny Disrupted”, by the Afghan American scholar, Tamim Ansary. The book is a history of the civilized world as seen from a Muslim perspective. Ansary writes as if he is an honored guest in one’s living room. In other words, although the content is heavy the delivery is light and easy.

So what does that history (relevant to contemporary events as it may be) have to do with three approaches to doing Gestalt therapy?

Here’s the connection: Ansary states that during the Eleventh Century, leaders in the Moslem world were engaged in constructing three separate paths to support the underlying creed: “There is but one God – Allah”.

Conservative scholars were assembling all reputable commentaries and accounts related to the Qur’an, (the Holy Book revealed to Mohammed by Allah), so as to compile a comprehensive version that would reveal all that needed to be revealed about conducting one’s life in a manner at one with the will of Allah.

These scholars believed that the totality of useful knowledge resided in the words of the Qur’an. Thus to study it opened the path to Truth through Revelation.

Simultaneously, natural philosophers (precursors of scientists) were active and successful, laying the foundations of chemistry and creating algebra. The natural world, the way they perceived it, was an expression of the One God. Thus to investigate natural patterns was a way of uncovering Him.

In studying natural phenomena and discovering patterns they used reason, (including the principle of cause and effect) to guide them. Thus their valued means of revealing the underlying Oneness of Allah and his Universe was Reason.

Lastly, there were the Sufi mystics who chose ecstasy and trance states induced by dancing, poetry, and meditation in order to experience a heart and head connection to the oneness of All. Their path towards Truth was thru Direct Experience.

 Ansary, by describing those three categories as competing ways to uncover underlying truth, triggered my association to “how do we do Gestalt therapy”.

Revelation, in my mind, would be relying on Gestalt texts, aphorisms, and teachings to guide our work.

 Reason, would be a path of unfolding mental construction and deconstruction, based on one’s repeated experiences. Did this hypothesis work for me? That tactic? Reason and revelation would sometimes be in conflict.

 Direct Experience, might have to do with aiming for and highly valuing epiphanies and/or transcendent experiences in the work.

I assume that we use all three paths in varying amounts as part of our unique approach.

Personally, I am averse to revelation, and lean heavily on reason. I see direct experience as an important indicator of the efficacy of our work.

You could relate to this essay as a revelation; apply reason to it; and/or check out whether it catalyzed an “aha” experience for you.

Reflecting on your relation to these three paths may be of benefit to you.

And thanks to Tamim Ansary for so clearly describing how an important segment of humanity chose to engage in truth finding.

















And thanks to Tamim Ansary for so clearly describing how an important segment of humanity chose to engage in truth finding.