The essence of Gestalt therapy is that people are damaged by experience and, thus, heal through experience. In Gestalt, we see it as a reaching out for health — the organism’s attempt to place us in the same scene in order to create the opportunity for change, i.e., to get it right this time. Every positive healing moment we have along the way counterpoints all the negative moments of our lives that lie at the root of our dysfunction. Clearly, if we are going to heal we needed something very specific that up to now had not been satisfied by any amount of support, talking, emotional release or problem solving strategies. These moments, still deeply imbedded in our beings, must be selectively addressed and transformed. They must be relived, rectified, and new memories must be etched into our cells and souls.
We must re-write history. It’s never too late to go back to any moment in our life to re-live, re-write or re-create it in the exact way we want it to be in the present. In fact, we must go back to do this, because when we have a memory, problem or need that goes unfulfilled, it sticks in our gut with the strength of a bear. We can’t wish it away, deny it, or muscle our way through it. We need to set up a scenario that allows clients to experience their trauma as if for the first time. The only difference, and a major one at that, is that this time we would change the ending and deliver what each person needed to be complete. Being listened to by a sympathetic other certainly is a necessary part of the recovery process. However, it’s never enough to truly reach and remedy the deep, dark places within ourselves. Traditional therapy doesn’t take the client that extra mile that provides what’s needed.
When we re-live our moments in this active way, they no longer control us. They never again have the same toxic power in our lives, because they no longer will be remembered only as an agony. Now there’s a painful memory AND a healing memory side-by-side. Once people experience this totality, their organisms contain all the parts necessary to bring completion and to feel whole. They now have now within themselves the capacity to be what they felt they missed. New wiring has been connected. Without that initial experience, there are no pathways to make the connection. Exact moments — auditory, kinesthetic, and visual — embrace the senses and enter on levels. They facilitate healing from inside out, saturating the person on all levels like a heavy rain on dry ground.
Mariah Fenton Gladis