Dr. Fritz Perls, a Psychiatrist from Berlin is considered as the father of Gestalt therapy. Early in his career, Dr Perls discovered that, for people to be whole or balanced, they needed to recognize bodily yearnings and impulses instead of disguising them.
Gestalt is a German word that refers to a pattern of parts making up a whole and the underlying principle of Gestalt psychology is that and analysis of parts does not lead to an understanding of the whole.
Dr. Perls was a curt and blunt therapist. He devised stage demonstrations of Gestalt therapy, where he would invite members of the audience to participate with him in ‘role play’. He used to have two chairs beside him. One was the ‘hot seat’ in which the participant sat in, engaging in a dialogue with Dr. Perls. The other chair was there to help persons to switch roles and enact different parts, engage in self-questioning processes. Frequently this method showed the participants their weaknesses and their limitations and how to set themselves free.
The Gestalt Therapy prayer:
Essentially Dr. Perls believed that each person lived in his own universe and had to take responsibility for his own behavior and growth. The well-known Gestalt prayer goes in this fashion:
I do my thing, and you do your own thing,
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
Gestalt therapy is all about Self-awareness and experience. The guiding principle is: Be aware of what you experience, how you experience your existence now and pay attention to how you sabotage ways by which you can attain awareness. Dr. Perls also lay a lot of emphasis on dreams because he considered them as messages, which help people understand unfinished situations in life.
In 1960, Dr. Fritz Perls set up the Gestalt Institute at Canada but did not live long enough to see it prosper.