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CHAPTER TWENTY: The experience of shame

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

Writing and presenting on shame has been appearing very often in the recent Gestalt world, mostly with a subtext that dismisses all previous ways of working as shame-inducing. The emphasis then comes on to support and away from challenge. The client is seen as inherently fragile and needing protection, and the original Gestalt emphasis on therapy as an act of courage is lost, or seen as inherently shaming. Yet, there is a real issue: I have seen ways of doing Gestalt therapy that is oppressive, leading to many clients and trainees hiding their fear and anger and becoming what the therapist or trainer wants them to be, often loud and challenging from an uncontactful place. I thought that if I was going to criticise the writing on shame, I should also put forward my own view.

There has been much writing on the theme of “shame” recently (see, in particular, British Gestalt Journal, 4(2), 1995, and the Gestalt Review, 1(3), 1997). This chapter is an attempt to put a slightly different emphasis on the topic.

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Chapter Two

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

2.1 Theory Setting the scene

My sense of myself is as one who engages in the world, making choices within a range of possibilities afforded by that world and by my capacities in the situation I find myself in. I can both act spontaneously and without self-consciousness as an embodied self, and I can also observe my body as if from outside it, and adjust it by anything from holding my breath to diet to surgery.

And yet my actions occur in a world of matter, governed by scientific laws on all levels from physics and chemistry to quantum physics, at which level any sense of a body or person separate from the whole field breaks down. Does choice have any real meaning or is it an illusion? For if I am, in any real sense of the word, making choices, this implies an unpredictability at some fundamental level in the universe. The image I have is of moments of standing at a crossroads, seeing a choice of paths and being clear that my life would turn out differently depending on which path I take. Furthermore, as in the film Sliding Doors, I have no way to predict what lies further down each path, but I can have a sense of making a choice that seems to move in the direction I want. My intuition is that I am not in reality constrained to take the path I take because that is what fits with what the universe determines. My choosing does make a difference, and of course not just to me.

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CHAPTER ONE: The world according to Gestalt therapy

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

It was a joy to rediscover this piece, and its questioning of what we take for granted. Looking at this now, when we know about the banditry of the financial institutions, and the use of the Internet by people in rebellion against their governments in Egypt and other places, as well as by criminals, I feel somewhat smug in my predicting.

Afew centuries ago, much of Europe consisted of small villages or towns, with open country in between. There were various lords and rulers who owned the villages, and made rules for the inhabitants. There were usually walls involved. Some towns had walls all round them. Villages were more likely to be overlooked by a castle, where the lord lived, and whose walls they could shelter behind in case of attack.

In open country, there were “outlaws” and bandits. There were wild animals. The law was based on survival rather than the law of the land, or the law of the lord of the manor.

Between the village and the open country there was a relationship. People from the village went out through the countryside to hunt, or to go into the next village, or to join the outlaws. The outlaws in the countryside often had family links with people in the village, although they risked their lives if they came visiting.

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Pseudo-introjection

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

Already, in 1993, I was concerned about the emphasis on introjection as a simple process of “taking in” something alien. Often, with real clients it seemed far more complex than that. See also my chapter “Introjection revisited” in this volume (pp. 145–153).

In this chapter, I am going to look at a common stance that clients take, which looks like introjection, but which actually involves a quite different process: deflection. Attempts to work with this process in ways appropriate for introjection meet with resistance and anxiety.

In terms of the DSM-III-R classification, this process would manifest as obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and possibly in the proposed category of self-defeating personality disorder.

The kind of “introject” I am talking about is: “I’ve got to do better, work harder, I’m not good enough.” Since it is usually immediately obvious to the client which parent said these statements, this looks like a classic example of introjection. However, my experience is that if I try to work with this in ways which would normally help a client to gain his/her own perspective on these statements, something like this develops:

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CHAPTER NINE: Gestalt and drive theory

Philippson, Peter Karnac Books ePub

This article reflects two of my ongoing concerns. First of all, to acknowledge our roots in, and commonalities with, the psychoanalytic community. Here, I point to the lack of acknowledgement that our founders used the language of drive theory within the Gestalt approach. Second, I raise a concern that the very popular language of dialogue has been used in a way that disembodies us, and takes away from a sense that, on a bodily level, we have needs and desires that are not focused on a specific relationship. Such an approach to dialogue seems to me to import a mind–body dualism that is antithetical to the Gestalt approach.

My thesis in this paper is that the uncritical rejection Gestaltists of Freudian drive theory is part of the ground of the historical neglect of the body and sexuality in much therapeutic thinking. This neglect has more recently been written about in a number of articles in the British Gestalt Journal and elsewhere (see, particularly, Latner, 1998; O’Shea, 2000; Roberts, 1999, and responses in the same issue; Kepner, 2003, and other papers in the same issue; Cornell, 2003, and responses in the same issue).

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