Fritz Perls quotes are still a source of inspiration today. He also was the creator of Gestalt Therapy, along with his wife Laura Perls and sociologist Paul Goodman. Perls felt that, by using a creative approach, the recognition of our emotions and full attention, we could achieve well-being in the different areas of our lives.
Since Fritz Perls set out his therapeutic model back in the 50s through his New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy, this approach has evolved and become even more firmly established. We’re undoubtedly dealing with an integrative psychological model capable of helping many people focus on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to thereby stimulate sufficient self-awareness and broaden new perspectives so as to initiate more positive changes.
Those who practice Gestalt daily describe this therapeutic model as alive, spontaneous, and creative. Moreover, it manages to establish greater self-confidence in order to effectively and successfully deal with everyday problems. In addition, it helps people reach their maximum potential.
However, we shouldn’t confuse Gestalt psychology with Gestalt therapy. They aren’t exactly the same. The first emerged as a movement within psychology in the early twentieth century from theorists like Kurt Lewin, Max Wertheimer, and Kurt Koffka. Its purpose was to establish another approach as a reaction to the “elementarism” of structuralism by conceiving the human being as a whole.
For its part, Gestalt Therapy has its roots in humanistic psychology and it seeks to help people from the point of view of the present moment, making them see the full range of possibilities around them. One thing that Fritz Perls himself also managed to do was endow his therapeutic approach with an authentic philosophy of life, capable of improving the quality of our relationships, of education and even of providing the business world with new tools in order to invest in human potential in a better way.
THE GESTALT PRAYER
“I do my thing and you do your 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.“
The best quotations from Fritz Perls: wisdom to reflect upon
Many say that Fritz Perls’s quotes are like luminous strokes of human knowledge, theoretical essences that encourage our awakening. Whether we have an affinity with Gestalt therapy or not, books such as “Dreams and Existence” or “The Practical Approach to Gestalt Therapy” are part of the history of psychology. Therefore, it’s always interesting to immerse ourselves in them in order to reflect.
Without further ado, let’s look at some examples of those principles by way of the best Fritz Perls quotes.
1. Everything flows when you find mental well-being.
When we find that point of subtle balance in our existence where we stop seeing obstacles and instead can see the path clearly, we feel free and our existence flows. As we indicated above, Gestalt therapy goes beyond the limits of the space shared by the therapist and the client to give us a new life focus.
Fritz Perls placed Gestalt therapy within the existential dimension where every positive, receptive, and committed attitude allows us to flow and advance on our paths.
2. To be present now is to unite our attention and our consciousness.
This is one of the most familiar Fritz Perls quotes and one of the most important concepts of Gestalt therapy is derived from it: “awareness”. This is an awakening, where attention and consciousness come together in the present moment in order to further our personal growth.
3. The body knows everything. We know very little. Intuition is the body’s intelligence
The human being is the result of the union between our body, our conscious mind, and our interaction with the environment. However, we spend much of our lives “disconnected”, asleep, unable to establish this union. Therefore, those who don’t trust the clues provided by their senses, their heart, or their intuitions will not attain the wisdom that Fritz Perls talks about.
4. The therapist is constantly looking for ways to be in contact with the “how” of the events that occur in the present.
When the therapist asks the client how they feel, it’s common for them to respond “bad,” “confused,” “angry”… However, one of the specialist’s objectives is to discern what causes that sensation in the present by clarifying emotions and consistently aiming for communication in the first person focused on the present.
“The task of each person is to find out what is blocking a life situation.”
6. I’m not in this world to live up to others’ expectations, nor do I feel that the world should match mine.
Integrity, self-confidence, certainty and reflective awareness. These are cornerstones of Gestalt therapy. This is also one of the most popular Fritz Perls quotes.
7. To mature means to take responsibility for your life, to be alone.
This is another typical Fritz Perls quote for a fundamental reason. The Gestalt approach to therapy broke away from psychoanalysis by focusing all of its attention on the present and not on those events of the past or childhood for which the person could not still feel responsible.
Personal responsibility lies in the present moment. Also, taking that step entails maturing. It entails giving us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves while becoming reacquainted with solitude at the same time.
8. Learning is discovering that something is possible.
Moving forward, growing, and developing sufficient self-awareness involves realizing our full potential as human beings.
“Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.”
10. The person most in control is the person who can give up control.
Sometimes, people develop such a high level of self-control that the only thing they achieve is repression of their real needs. An example of this is when we bury our sorrows, disappointments, and the frustration that others cause us.
None of these behaviors are healthy. However, in Gestalt therapy, healthier control is when the person is well aware of how to react in every moment. I can control my anger in order to vent my frustration or my indignation in an intelligent, constructive way.
11. Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you’re a good person is the same as expecting a bull not to attack you because you’re vegetarian.
The person who is ultimately responsible for taking care of you, respecting you, and valuing you for what you are, is you. It’s not your co-workers, it’s not society, nor even your family. Instead, you’re the only one responsible for yourself. Not accepting or not seeing this is an unending source of suffering.
12. Friend, don’t be a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a curse.
Perfectionism isn’t good for our emotional health. It relates to a great extent to that need for iron-clad self-control which we mentioned above and which sometimes leads us to create unrealistic expectations.
13. It’s very rare for people to be able to talk and listen. Very few listen without speaking.
All Gestalt psychotherapists are looking for something essential during therapy: to bring to the surface all those emotional processes that people hide under their distorted behaviours, habits, fears, and approaches.
In order to calm and center the distorting mind, the professional first invites the patient to listen to themselves, to become aware of how they are in that present moment. They can then describe their emotions out loud, knowing that the therapist is there, listening carefully.
Fritz Perls himself pointed out something that appears quite simple: listening to oneself, communicating and being listened to in silence, is a dynamic that we have lost in our society. We have lost the ability to listen to ourselves and to listen to others.
14. Anxiety is excitement without breathing.
Life creates uncertainty within us; anxiety and fear take hold of us because we fear the future, because emotions overcome us and we don’t grasp their magnitude and let them take a hold within us until we can’t breathe.
If we want to move forward without pressures, limitations, and fears, Gestalt Therapy, first of all, proposes that we be able to clarify our emotions. Knowing what is happening to us in a given moment always helps us calm anxiety.
15. Be yourself, express yourself freely and without fear. After all, those who truly love you won’t mind what you say or do.
Unconditional acceptance and honesty with oneself are the two most important bases for Gestalt therapy. If someone doesn’t accept what we are or what we say, it’s because they don’t appreciate us, they’re not in tune with our essences.
16. Don’t think so much… Feel.
“Everything is worthwhile if it makes you feel”. This Fritz Perls quote provides us with an important pointer. Feeling is what makes us alive and so, instead of lapsing into excessive worrying, we must give ourselves permission to feel a lot more, regardless of whether the emotions are positive or negative. Allowing them to come to us is also a way of understanding them.
“Pain is meant to wake us up… Pain is something to be carried around, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It all depends on how you carry it.”
18. We must learn to tolerate the truth, even if it wounds our pride.
Truth is part of awareness, of that very complex capacity with which we learn to “realize” to favor an inner awakening in which to make explicit the implicit or to accept a truth even if it hurts because it helps us progress.
19. Nothing has meaning without its context. Meaning doesn’t exist.
Meaning doesn’t exist as an isolated entity, but rather it’s bound to something that gives it sense. We need to understand that nobody feels fear, anger, or happiness for no reason; our emotions always begin with a context, a particular situation.
20. The fact that we live our lives using such a low percentage of our potentialities is because we’re not willing to accept ourselves as we are.
Fritz Perls places human potential and its development as one of the key objectives within Gestalt therapy.
21. We don’t allow ourselves – or we’re not allowed by others – to be entirely ourselves.
This is another Fritz Perls quote that summarises his legacy well. Accepting ourselves as we are is undoubtedly the first step towards well-being. Thus, far from attributing responsibility for this discomfort to those around us, we must be able to open our eyes, to wake up to our own personal responsibility, clarifying who we are and what we want.
22. If you refuse to recall your dreams, what you’re really doing is denying your own existence.
Our intentions, goals, and desires are part of who we are. Denying them means defragmenting that whole, that luminous unity of our being that we cannot deny or abandon.
23. Change is an opportunity.
Few things scare us as much as changes of direction, uncertainties, shifts in our destiny. We need to be able to flow in order to allow ourselves to move forward along our paths, detecting opportunities for improvements.
“A truly whole person has to have good guidance and also the ability to act.”
25. Everyone is responsible for directing their life towards what they want.
Fritz Perls offered us a very practical perspective on humanism, where each individual has the ultimate responsibility for directing their life towards their own goals.
26. We cannot escape from the worries and discomforts of the present,
Accepting ourselves as we are involves first of all managing the worries that are disturbing us in the present, in the here and now where Gestalt therapy focuses all its interest.
27. The past hijacks our present.
In Gestalt therapy, the past, an essential dimension for psychoanalysis, is less important than the present moment, where everything occurs and where our best opportunity to find answers, to heal ourselves, and to grow, lies.
28. Improving our lives entails knowing how to prioritize.
This is something else that we tend to neglect on a daily basis: our priorities. Knowing what is important, what it is that we need, and being clear as to what shouldn’t be left unticked on our to-do lists is crucial for our well-being.
29. Solitude is actually the place where you can connect with the feeling of belonging.
Those who fear solitude are afraid to rediscover themselves, as well as their essences, needs, and thoughts. Few things help us become strong people as much as looking from time to time for those private spaces in order to connect with our inner voice.
30. Getting reacquainted with our emotions and learning to embrace them is healing.
All our emotions fulfill an adaptive purpose in Gestalt therapy. Therefore, knowing how to recognize and understand them is key in the therapeutic process itself.
31. Distractions are also part of our life journey.
For Fritz Perls, “distracting oneself” doesn’t mean losing our capacity for attention. It’s rather something as fundamental as allowing ourselves to feel, to rest, to flow, to let ourselves be carried away by calmness, enjoyment, and those peaceful little corners that also increase our well-being.
“Trying is lying. I’ll try means you have no serious intention of doing it. If you’re really planning to do it, say: “I’ll do it”; and if not, say: “I won’t do it”. You have to speak clearly in order to think clearly and act clearly.”
33. There’s a lot of potential in people, but knowing how to detect it also requires talent.
All of us have great potential, but we don’t always know how to detect it, perceive it, or take advantage of it. Thus, for Fritz Perls, the real talent lies also in knowing how to awaken those dormant capabilities.
34. Fear of death means fear of life.
Living with fear prevents us from living fully and this is undoubtedly the true purpose of Gestalt therapy: to enable us to be happy in the way we choose.
35. Let the best plan for you arise from within yourself.
It’s ourselves and nobody else who have the ultimate responsibility for designing our own life plan. Something like this arises by becoming aware of our ideals, of our dreams, of our values… Because it’s undoubtedly from those beautiful roots that the best flowers emerge, the ones that we must know how to care for and tend to them daily.
In conclusion, we’ve seen how these Fritz Perls quotes come from an awakened and sensitive mind. Perls was a key figure in the history of psychology who provided new therapeutic tools for promoting personal growth. However, it’s up to us how we strive to achieve the principles of his legacy to best fit our needs and shape new paths towards happiness.
Perls, Fritz (2001). Enfoque gestalt y testigos de la Gestalt. Madrid: Cuatro Vientos
Perls, Fritz (2002). Sueños y existencia: terapia Gestalt. Madrid: Cuatro Vientos
Perls, Fritz (1947). Ego, hunger and agression. Gestalt Journal Press
Perls, Fritz (1969). Dentro y fuera del tarro de la basura: autobiografía. Paidós