5 Gestalt Techniques For Personal Growth

5 Gestalt Techniques For Personal Growth
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Gestalt techniques help us focus on our present life to encourage self-realization and make better decision, as well as grow on a personal level in a freer way more consistent with our needs.

We all have the right to build the kind of life we want, and this approach — with clear humanist influences — invites us to do so.

Fritz Perls, the forerunner of Gestalt therapy, said that our main suffering as human beings is the gap we open up between the present and the future. Sometimes, our mind goes faster than life itself and we anticipate things.

We get obsessed with things that haven’t happened yet. And almost without realizing it we fill ourselves with fear, anxiety and other things that cause us pain.

“Do not push the river, it flows by itself”

-Fritz Perls-

So, one of the aims of the Gestalt techniques is to help us understand our problems in a global, more unified way. In parts, but as a whole.

In this way, rather than worrying about why something happened or what caused it, this viewpoint suggests focusing on understanding how this set of circumstances affects us.

Let’s understand that the idea we may have of the past or the future is due to how we’re living in the present. Gestalt techniques have this and other aims to encourage personal growth. 

They help us to also become aware of who we are, what we feel and need, and help us put it into practice responsibly.

Gestalt techniques

Gestalt techniques for encouraging personal growth

Gestalt psychotherapy techniques basically revolve around what Fritz Perls called “rules and games”. These are strategies — dynamic, very original and varied in essence — that try to make us more aware of the world around us in order to overcome resistance and facilitate our growth.

Let’s see some examples…

1. Pending issues

Pending issues refer to past events that affect our present. They are unmanaged emotions, blocked feelings, personal knots that keep us from living life fully now.

According to Gestalt, we all have outstanding issues with friends, relatives, ex’s, and loved ones who have passed away.

  • We must not avoid them. Instead, we must be able to shed light on these emotions in order to stop clinging to suffering, loss or even resentment.
  • To do this we can carry out a simulation, a mental process of reunion, confrontation and farewell.
  • We can mentally evoke the person and express what we need to say. We will uncover the pain, air our grief, guilt or bitterness. Once we’ve exposed and recognized them, we’ll let them go. We will then close the circle and move forward.

2. Dialogue technique: the empty chair

Many will be familiar with this technique. It is well-known, often useful and represents the essence of Gestalt very well.

Sometimes it’s used to as a way of meeting imaginary projections of other people. The goal is to trigger the mourning process or resolve traumas.

However, for personal growth it has another purpose: to start an internal dialogue where we act out “our opposites”. Using this, we can dialogue with ourselves.

On the one hand we put whatever is producing discomfort. On the other, that part that wants to face it to live a more productive, free and open life. Here is a way of doing it:

  • I am getting so tired, I don’t have any strength.
  • You are taking my strength again, you’re taking up too much space in my life. Tell me what’s wrong with you.
  • I don’t like myself. And I don’t like the life I’m living.
  • Fine, instead of complaining, tell me what you would do to feel better.
Empty Chair of Gestalt

3. I’m responsible

One of the best Gestalt techniques is the”taking responsibility” game. It looks simple, but it takes a great deal of commitment. Its purpose is to help us be more aware of what is happening inside us. To perceive it, accept it and then encourage more active behavior using these changes.

Here’s a brief example.

“My head hurts and my stomach hurts too. I know I overthink things and that I’m stressed. I’m responsible for that and I accept I have to change things.

“I realize I have voice. I’m responsible for making sure I speak honestly, without fear, and that I respect myself and others.”

4. Practice the continuum of consciousness

In Gestalt therapy, the therapist is to work on the “how” of the person’s experience. Not the “why”. They want to understand how the patient faces problems and how he lives with them. How he feels them and internalizes them.

To do so, we must make space to identify what his emotions and current sensations are. We elicit this information by saying things like, “tell me what you are feeling”,”tell me where you are feeling it”,”explain to me what you can see in right now”.

And we can also carry out this technique personally. We can practice the continuum of consciousness, making every sensation, thought and feeling come into being.

It’s not about overlooking or internalizing them. It’s about shining light on them and keeping them present in our thoughts.

“If you feel convinced of something, say so. Expose your true self. Feel what you say “

-Fritz Perls-

a woman freeing herself in the sunlight

5. Turn your questions into affirmations

This is another Gestalt technique that may seem very simple at first glance. But it is very valuable therapy. It helps us declare internal realities and mobilize resources.

How can we do it? It’s easy. We’ve all had one of those days when we say to ourselves: “Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel so hopeless and powerless?”

Gestalt proposes the following: turn questions into self-affirmations. Let’s see some examples.

  • Why do I feel so bad today? Today I feel bad. I’m going to make it possible to change this feeling and make tomorrow better.
  • Why do I feel like my boyfriend is getting distant? My boyfriend is distant. I’m going to ask him if there is a problem.

To conclude, Gestalt techniques are as original as they are functional when it comes to helping us connect with our needs. They also invite us to take responsibility. To be brave with what we feel. And to act accordingly in order to grow.

Why not put these strategies into practice? They work.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pearls, Fritz (1976) El enfoque Gestalt. Madrid: Cuatro Vientos

  • Naranjo, Claudio (2011) La vieja y novísima Gestalt. Madrid: Cuatro Vientos

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.