we talk about suicide, affect of it,
hear about it yet, cannot fully understand
uniqueness of each cases, which
started from mild depression
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani
we talk about suicide, affect of it,
hear about it yet, cannot fully understand
uniqueness of each cases, which
started from mild depression
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani
If we think of Reason in its relation to the world, the question of
the definition of Reason in itself coincides with the question about
the final goal of the world. Implicit, in that latter term is the
suggestion that the goal is to be realized, made, actual. There are
two things to be considered here: the content of that goal
(i.e., the definition itself, as such), and its actualization.
At the outset we must note that our object-world history
takes place in the realm of Spirit. The term “world” includes
both physical and mental nature. Physical nature impinges on
world history as well, and from the very beginning we shall
have to draw attention to the fundamental relations
[ between the two natures] in the definition. But it is Spirit, and
the process of its development, that is the substance of history. Nature
in itself, which is likewise a rational system in its particular and
characteristic element, is not our concern here, except as related to Spirit.
Spirit is to be observed in the theater of world history, where it has
its most concert reality. In spite of this, however ( or rather in order
for us to grasp the universal aspect in this mode of Spirit’s concrete
reality), we must set forth, before all else, some abstract definitions
of the nature of Spirit. This is not the place to go into the Idea of
Spirit in a speculative fashion, for what can be said in an introduction
is simply to be taken historically – as a presupposition which ( as we said )
has either been worked out and proven elsewhere, or else is to
receive its verification only as the outcome of the science of history itself.
We have therefore to address the following topics:
I. The abstract characteristics of the nature of Spirit
II. The means Spirit uses in order to realize its Idea
III. The shape taken on by Spirit in its complete realization in the world-the State
Contributors: Robert W. Resnick
Editors: Edward S. Neukrug
Book Title: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Theory in Counseling and Psychotherapy
Chapter Title: “Gestalt Therapy”
Pub. Date: 2015
Access Date: June 16, 2015
Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc.
City: Thousand Oaks,
Gestalt therapy is an existentially based humanistic
therapy arising out of Fritz and Laura Perls’s discrimination
and integration of ideas from many traditions, philosophies,
narratives, disciplines, and theories beginning in Germany
in the 1920s. Born as a revision of Sigmund Freud’s theories,
it has evolved into a major contributor to mainstream
psychotherapy—from a psychoanalytical/biological/Aristotelian/
deterministic foundation to a humanistic/existential/experiential
psychotherapy wherein restoration and holism replace dissection
and fragmentation and phenomenology
(personal meaning making) replaces interpretation.
[p. 457 ↓] Gestalt is a German word that translates into
English as “a whole,” “a pattern,” “an organization,” or
“a configuration.” While the hallmark of Gestalt psychology is
finding shared ways by which people organize their perceptions
and phenomenology, the task of Gestalt therapy can be seen as
becoming aware of and understanding the idiosyncratic organizing
patterns of each individual.
Fritz Perls, M.D., codeveloper of Gestalt therapy with his wife,
Laura Posner Perls, Ph.D., was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.
In 1926, Perls became an assistant to Kurt Goldstein, M.D.,
at the Neuropsychiatric Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. Goldstein,
collaborating with the experimental Gestalt psychologist Adhémar Gelb,
worked with brain-injured World War I German soldiers.
Their organismic, holistic, and integrative approach to working with
and understanding these soldiers was in sharp contrast to the usual
approach of the times, which was attending to piecemeal body or brain parts.
Fritz took this holistic approach and integrated it into Gestalt therapy.
He was also heavily influenced by several of his own analysts, especially
Wilhelm Reich and Karen Horney.
At the same time, Laura Perls was a psychology doctoral student at
Frankfurt am Mein University, studying with luminaries such as
Adhémar Gelb, Max Werthheimer in Gestalt psychology
(including field theory), Martin Buber and Paul Tillich in philosophy, as well
as working in Goldstein’s laboratory. She also trained and became a psychoanalyst.
Later in New York City, Fritz Perls was heavily influenced by Paul Goodman (she
was his collaborator on his seminal 1951 book Gestalt Therapy), Erich Fromm, Clara
Thompson, and Harry Stack Sullivan.
Although Gestalt therapy today seems to be enjoying a renaissance in
the United States after some decades of losing popularity, it is burgeoning
in most of Europe, Australia, Mexico, and South America. In the United States,
much of what Gestalt therapy introduced to the world from the late 1930s
until today has been integrated into many contemporary psychotherapies—
for example, the importance and usefulness of the “real” relationship, not
just transference; the organismic/environmental field (ecology);
the importance of awareness; and the movement from interpretation to
Every serious approach to psychotherapy requires a worldview of human
nature and behavior if it is to provide an integrated approach to psychotherapy.
Without such a worldview, “therapy” is reduced to a collage or hodgepodge
of haphazard techniques, beliefs, traditions, and procedures used without
consideration of the context that produced them—eclectic rather than integrative.
Gestalt therapy’s worldview sees human beings as self-regulating organisms of
the field who create meaning via their phenomenological organization (meaning
Self-regulation involves human beings going toward (aggressing) need
satisfaction in interaction with their world at the boundary, discriminating
what to take in and assimilating and what to reject in the service of survival
and to allow higher order needs to flourish. To rephrase, children are born
self-regulating in a contextual world and are usually able to survive by the
meaning they make of what they experience.
They are able to respond appropriately enough for them and the
environment to survive. Especially in complex societies, this is
not done without creating some character problems (personality issues)
for later living in the world.
Thus, Gestalt therapy’s process goal is to restore self-regulation within
the person’s environment and not to “fix” people in any particular way.
Given this basic assumption, some of the theoretical givens of Gestalt therapy
include its reliance on existentialism, field theory, phenomenology, and dialogue.
Gestalt therapy was heavily influenced by the existentialists (and Buddhists).
The existential themes that had the most meaning for Fritz Perls were
authenticity (being true to oneself despite external pressures); freedom
(the power to act or think as one chooses without restraint but within limits);
responsibility for our choices, the meanings we make, and the actions we take;
and anxiety that is created by being authentic in a world that has no meaning
except that which we create. Thus, existential anxiety is to a large part
normalized as part of being human.
Field theory was established by Gestalt perceptual psychology, particularly
the work of [p. 458 ↓] Kurt Levin (borrowing from quantum field theory).
It maintains that everything is related to everything else and is in constant
movement and flux.
An individual person is affected not just by his or her psyche but also by
genetics, hormones, biochemicals, family, ethnicity, religion, class, race,
nationality, politics, economics, history, geography, weather, and so on.
The person is not “in” the field but rather “of”
the field, interacting, effecting and being affected.
Phenomenology is the process by which human beings make meaning
of their sensorial experience— what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.
Meaning is the relationship between figure (what stands out) and ground
In other words, meaning is not in the figure and not in the ground;
rather it is in the relationship between the two. How individuals choose,
organize, and contribute to the construction of what becomes figural for
them and what background they bring to bear are critical. Thus,
figure organizes ground, and ground gives meaning to the figure.
Depending on the ground and the need that a person brings to the
figure of a wooden baseball bat, the meaning could be anticipation of a
fun game, a weapon, firewood to keep warm, a wedge to hold a cover open,
an instrument to break open a car window, a museum piece, a collector’s
item, a childhood dream, and so on.
Gestalt therapy borrows heavily from Buber’s concept of
I–It and I–Thou dialogic relating.
While much of life is I–It (strategic relating), primary relationships,
close friends, and, hopefully, therapeutic relationships have more
of an I–Thou quality—not managed and without attempts to
control the outcome.
The “freshest fish” (most “experience near”) for Gestalt therapy is
the relationship between the therapist and the client. While much of
what the client brings into therapy is his or her phenomenological
narrative of things happening in his or her outside life
(which is as it should be to begin), it is only in the relationship between
the client and the therapist that both people have access to the “same”
transactions. Thus, each person, client and therapist, has the opportunity
to share and engage in a real relationship—a sharing of their two
phenomenologies— wherein differences occur that may lead to awareness.
Frequently, the inevitable and inadvertent ruptures of connection and
the subsequent repair, with humility, authenticity, and responsibility,
can be some of the most important therapeutic interactions.
To put it another way, when the potential value of the relationship is in
the outcome, I– It (strategic relating) is appropriate to the situation;
when the potential value of the relationship is in the relating,
I–Thou (authentic relating) is appropriate to the situation.
Most relationships are in some kind of balance of both domains.
What makes Gestalt therapy so deliciously difficult to define is exactly
what makes it so exquisitely creative, vital, and procreative.
With the three major pillars as a foundation
(field theory, phenomenology, and dialogue), each Gestalt theorist or
therapist organizes the various other elements within the domain
of Gestalt therapy differently.
Gestalt therapy is based on the metatheory that there is no
single and fixed Gestalt therapy theory. Rather, each Gestalt therapy
theorist or therapist organizes, prioritizes, and integrates many
of the same ideas and concepts in different orders of priority
and integrations. Each theorist and therapist within Gestalt therapy
is doing at the microlevel what Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and
Paul Goodman did in the larger (macro) field—choosing,
organizing, and integrating from all of what was in the larger
field at those times, including the history of the field.
Fritz Perls was emphatic that there was nothing new in Gestalt therapy,
that it was the organization (Gestalt) of all of these elements that was new.
The Chilean biologists and philosophers Humberto Maturana and
Francisco Varela remind us that we are always looking through a lens,
which is why we need multiple lenses to maintain perspective
and to keep “objective reality” in “parentheses.” Thus,
perspective and awareness are born out of difference.
The lens you use both determines and limits what you see.
If you only use a telescope, you will never see an ant, and
if you use only a microscope, you will never see an elephant.
Some of the major concepts that underlie Gestalt theory include
the following: the whole is different from (sometimes more than)
the sum of its parts, organismic/environmental field as an ecosystem,
self-regulation, character, awareness and insight, difference,
process, ecology, and body and voice.
The Whole Is Different From (Sometimes More Than) the Sum of
Its Parts All the parts of a car laid out on the ground give you many
metal, rubber, ceramic, liquid, and plastic bits and pieces.
However, organize them in a very particular relationship to one another
and you have a car in which you can now drive away— certainly different
from and, in this instance, more than the sum of its parts. Organize
them randomly and you may have an art project—or a pile of junk.
Organismic/Environmental Field as an Ecosystem
In contrast to classical psychoanalysis at the time, Fritz Perls
maintained that to understand any living organism, you must
understand it in its interaction with its environment, a living system
of the larger field. Classical psychoanalysis was interested
in the individual psyche and not particularly in the person’s
interaction with his or her environment.
This concept has been slowly assimilated into most current
The biological imperative for any living organism is survival.
Given this, Gestalt therapy assumes that human beings are
born self-regulating within their environment. Their interactions
with the field (their world), in the service of survival, accumulate
clusters of habits and ways of perceiving and acting—originally
healthy—that sometimes become fixed and habitual
(below awareness) and continue acontextually, sometimes
interrupting self-regulation in the present.
The relevant past is the past that interrupts healthy
functioning in the present, where it is accessible, palpable,
experiential, experimentable, and verifiable.
Character is made up of fixed clusters or patterns of perceptual
organization (meaning making) and behaviors from historical or
background influences, which are below awareness, recurring,
These are the matrices that make up character. Children make
the best creative adjustment they are capable of in the service of
survival. When a child is born into a crazy, explosive, alcoholic,
wartorn, erratic, or controlling family, she may learn to keep
her mouth shut, stay back, and scan until the world looks safe
again. This is healthy. When, however, this style of being in the
world becomes fixed, habitual, and goes below the awareness
threshold (procedural memory), this is the birth of character.
Character, then, is the freeze-framing of what was once a creative,
adaptive, and usually healthy perception and/or response and is
now acontextual, anachronistic, and obsolete.
Character is made up of actual experiences and introjects, which
are rules and “shoulds” that are crammed down the child’s
throat by parents, culture, church, government, and so on—
and swallowed whole by the child—before the child has the
ability to discriminate. Concurrently, contact boundary history,
traumas, attachment history, vicarious learning, media,
and culture all contribute to character formation.
Through the prism of Gestalt therapy’s character, transference
can be seen as “character in motion”—the transferring of ways
of perceiving others that have become fixed and below
awareness and are triggered in the present. Again, the
methodology of awareness through difference becomes
important for the client to learn how to discriminate between
the dialogic relationship in the room and the transferred
relationship. Discrimination can only happen experientially
if there are two relationships to compare and access difference.
For this, the therapist must “show up.” Again, difference
precedes and is required for awareness.
Awareness and Insight
Awareness is both the methodology and part of the goal of
Gestalt therapy—an integral requirement for the restoration of
self-regulation within the person’s environment.
One of the defining characteristics of awareness
(cognitive, affective, and sensorial) is being in contact with
what you are doing when you are actually doing it. Insight, as
compared with awareness, is something you believe you know
about yourself, and often based on noticing, interpreting or
speculating, and extrapolating. Insight is primarily a cognitive
analysis of a real or alleged pattern of what one does or why
one does what one does Difference.
How people deal with differences is at the root of most difficulties
in relationships —especially intimate relationships.
Difference is typically seen in a negative way, according to
most Western phenomenology. Having a bad reputation, difference is
seen as dangerous, a threat to connection or autonomy, critical, disloyal,
betrayal, and/ or leading to conflict and therefore frequently avoided.
Difference, which requires two individuals (needing a boundary
to separate and connect), is absolutely necessary for awareness.
There can be no awareness without difference. Here, physics and
psychology are very similar: Change (movement) is needed for
difference, difference is needed for awareness, and awareness is
needed for choice.
The distilled and fundamental task of therapy is awareness—
requiring the welcoming and engaging of difference rather
than trying to get rid of it. Trying to get rid of difference ultimately
leads to deferring (confluence or fusion, with accompanying loss of self),
withdrawal or isolation (with accompanying loss of other), or conflict
(trying to eradicate difference by making the other like me).
Conflict typically escalates to eventual explosion and then
Process refers to the repetitive patterns, sequences of perceptions,
and contacts and behaviors, unique to each individual, that organize
and structure one’s meaning making and behavior.
When below the awareness threshold, these repetitive patterns
or processes (character) organize what one sees, hears, touches,
smells, and tastes — contouring the meaning of these as well as
the behavior one responds with.
These characterological processes interrupt self-regulation in
the present, and the task of therapy is to interrupt those
interruptions by bringing them into awareness. Differences
in phenomenology between the client and the therapist frequently
serve as the catalyst to highlight these processes—the “fresh fish.”
Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the relationship
of living organisms to their environment, including other organisms.
The similarity of “character” and “pollutants” is both striking and
illuminating. Some ecologists define “pollutants” as “resources out
of place.” There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about the pollutant.
What makes it “bad” is that it is out of place or balance.
Even arsenic, a highly poisonous substance, has been found to be
useful in the treatment of cancer and syphilis. Similarly, character,
useful perceptually organizing the world and responding to it in one’s
initial context, can prevent self-regulation when invoked in another
context without awareness. For instance, an Inuit dressed in furs for
a Siberian winter would be wearing a “resource out of place”
in Karachi in July. It would probably kill him.
Body and Voice
From Wilhelm Reich to Fritz Perls and from Elsa Gindler to
Laura Perls, the body has always been an important dimension of
Gestalt therapy— especially breathing and voice.
Fritz Perls maintained that the voice was the single best
diagnostic cue of how a person is in the world
(e.g., tight, breathless, soft, sharp, relaxed, supported by
breathing or not).
Techniques are the least important part of Gestalt therapy.
However, some therapists still erroneously believe that Gestalt therapy
is a bag of techniques that define the therapy—a leftover from a
few loud, charismatic, misled, and self-appointed practitioners
from the 1960s who copied some of Fritz Perls’s experiments and codified
them into cliché techniques separated from their origins.
When the client and the therapist are stuck and one of them
does something different and useful information is generated,
this is creativity. When that same transaction with the world is
used again in a similar situation, perhaps with a different client,
this is technique. The creativity is born of the ground from
which Gestalt therapy emerges and not from fitting the client into the
therapist’s procrustean assortment of techniques.
What makes Gestalt therapy is the field, phenomenological,
and dialogic stance of the therapist in the service of awareness
and the restoration of the client’s [p. 461 ↓] self-regulation.
With this in mind, a number of ideas underlie how at least
some Gestalt therapists conduct therapy, including using
experiments, making contact with clients, dialogue, examining
figure formation and destruction, and being connected and
maintaining self. This section concludes with a discussion of
some typical techniques that have been used over the years.
The purpose of the use of experiments in Gestalt therapy is
fundamentally based on the experiment yielding new and
different experiential data, which allows awareness. It is
the difference that is crucial, whether arrived at by an experiment
or by any other means (dialogue, movement, breathing, psychoeducation, etc.).
Contact is the meeting between one person and another,
or a person and his or her environment. One cannot
“make” contact with another person. A person can optimize
the possibility of contact happening by sharing his or her primary
experience of the moment, regardless of the content.
If the other person is receptive and even willing to share his
or her primary experience at that moment, contact can happen
in the “inbetween.” Of course, such authenticity must be
modulated by the context, the degree of connection already
established with the other, and “common” sense.
Laura Perls maintained that “mental health” might be defined
as contact and withdrawal, both with support.
Figure Formation and Destruction
How people form and dissolve figures helps Gestalt therapy
track where on the cycle of experience the interruption to a
smooth flow occurs. This may in the future lead to a complete
process system of “diagnosis.”
Incomplete Gestalten (“unfinished business”)
are frequently considered to be interruptions to self-regulation.
Being Connected and Maintaining Self Although not
original to Gestalt therapy, the basic human dilemma
is seen as how to be connected to another and maintain a self.
This is not a problem searching for a resolution but rather a
living process in the endless dance of connection and separation
—one not unlike breathing.
Use of Techniques
Although therapists are warned to avoid using specific “techniques”
as a goal in and of itself, there have been a number of techniques
that have become known over the years to have originated with Gestalt therapy.
These approaches are sometimes used by Gestalt therapists,
and others, in an effort to help the client become more aware of self,
gain insight, and understand how he or she has become cut off from parts of self.
A few of the more prominent approaches are as follows:
(a) using “now” language,
(b) I–Thou communication,
(c) experiencing the present,
(d) making statements out of questions,
(e) the dialogue game,
(f) the empty chair technique,
(g) I take responsibility for that,
(h) playing the projection,
(i) exaggeration technique, and
(j) making the rounds.
Many of these well-known Gestalt techniques came from
Fritz Perls’s experiments at increasing awareness at different
times in his career. They neither define Gestalt therapy, nor are
they necessary to do Gestalt therapy.
The therapeutic process in Gestalt therapy emerges out of
the therapist meeting the client from a dialogic, horizontal, and supportive stance.
Therapy can be short-term or protracted, depending on
the needs and desires of the client in consultation with the therapist.
The goals of Gestalt therapy are awareness and choice at three levels—
(1) awareness of content,
(2) awareness of process, and
(3) awareness of awareness
(learning how to become aware—deutero learning)—so that therapy can become selfsustaining
and self-regulation can be restored and maintained.
See alsoHorney, Karen; Humanistic Psychoanalysis of Erich Fromm; Mindfulness
Techniques; Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy; Reich, Wilhelm; Sullivan, Harry
May 31, 2015
So many thoughts are running through my mind as
I awaken in Narragansett the morning after leaving
my new “home” in Wellfleet. I find myself pondering
the questions coming from several of you who asked
about culture and power. I would like to attempt to
offer here a better reply, in the form of “afterthoughts”
on the place of culture and power in the study of empathy.
In the foundational literature on the phenomenology of
empathy, including that of Edith Stein (1913) – whose
dissertation On the Problem of Empathy was completed
under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl (whose own
phenomenology she enhanced) – questions of culture and
power appear to us now as blind spots, perhaps because
it is the work of each succeeding generation of thinkers to
point out the blind spots of those who came before them.
The phenomenon of empathy, for instance, can be
framed as a blind spot for those in the Cartesian tradition,
who were trapped within their own “first person” perspective.
I believe it was the contribution of the phenomenologists to
move us from the Cartesian first person singular to the
post-Cartesian first person plural:
Husserl’s “intersubjectivity,” Heidegger’s “relationality”
and “Being-with-one-another,” Schutz’s “We-experience,”
and Levinas’ “face of the other who calls me to respond.”
It has been indeed within this “we-experience” that I have
spent the last decade or so thematizing the “second person”
perspective, within which I am focusing not on my own
constituting acts (which would include political and cultural “horizons”),
but rather on the experience of the other as it is “given” to me in my
experience, mediated by my bodily presence to the other.
Following the social phenomenologist Erving Goffman
(Gender Advertisements, 1978), I have been studying empathy from
within the “micro-ecological” unit of analysis, which means the “dyad”
or “unit of two.” For phenomenologists, culture and political structures
constitute the “outer horizons” of a phenomenon, which can be focused
upon for their own sake, or moved “through” and “beyond” when focusing
upon a more “transcendental” phenomenon like empathy.
The term “transcendental” means that we potentially bring a particular
mode of presence (e.g., the empathic attitude) with us into every encounter
– that it “transcends” individual cultural or political contexts.
It is thus not so much a question of culture and power being actively
“bracketed” or ignored, as it is a question of what constitutes one’s
primary research interest.
Today, we find academics raising questions of culture and power, and
making this a primary focus of investigation.
To focus directly on culture and power is to turn away from the
kinds of transcendental questions that have interested philosophers
like Kant and Husserl.
Husserl in 1910-1911 thematized empathy as a constitutive
(transcendental) attitude that makes possible the apprehension
of the experience of others.
This is perhaps why the development of empathy as an investigatory
posture has been accomplished primarily at the micro-ecological
level, i.e., two individuals “face to face” – rather than at the macro-ecological
levels of culture and gender politics.
Simone de Beauvoir was the first to teach me about power issues
within gender relations.
I have marveled at her magnum opus The Second Sex ever since
I first was given a copy in the early 1970s by a female classmate –
and have included it in all of my “foundations of psychology”
classes at the undergraduate level, as well as in several of my
Beauvoir’s reflective analyses of woman’s existence in this work
– as well as the existence of aging adults in her Coming of Age
– reveal the power structures found buried within society that frame
our experiences as individuals living with others.
Husserl’s own work was devoted to the thematization of how
the “natural attitude” of everyday life keeps us buried within
our own blind spots.
“Power” may have been a blind spot in the early representations
of the phenomenological literature, even though it was Husserl who –
while the storm troopers were marching through the streets outside
his hotel room where he was saying goodbye to Erwin Straus – implored
Straus to remember to bring the phenomenological attitude to America,
because Husserl believed that if people could learn to transcend the
limits of their own limited frames of references, we might begin to build a world
– a community – where we would not have world wars.
(Husserl had lost two sons in World War I, and he never fully recovered
from this loss.
From then on, he devoted himself the development of a philosophy that
might ultimately change the world, i.e., change our culture.)
Jean-Paul Sartre took up the challenge of developing a phenomenology
of contemporary power relations in his final work The Critique of
Dialectical Reason, which was a trenchant critique of contemporary culture –
and its social injustices – from within a Marxist framework.
He himself disavowed the relevance of his earlier magnum opus,
Being and Nothingness, because he came to believe that it was
“obscene” to talk about metaphysical freedom in a world where there
was social and economic inequality.
Sartre refused the Nobel Prize in literature in 1964 because he did
not feel that the committee had considered the contributions of
unprivileged writers throughout the world.
If we talk about “privilege” today as a central theme within the
post-structuralist critique of the existing “order of things” (Foucault),
we can thank Sartre and Beauvoir for having been among the first to get the ball rolling.
I am certainly aware that every time I walk away from the bonobo
exhibit at a zoo, I can walk freely through the gates to wherever it is
I wish to go, while the bonobos remain in captivity.
And while I was enjoying the privilege of flying out of
Chiang Mai to the next destination on my sabbatical, I was aware that
the Karen tribe mother whom I had encountered in the jungle was
probably still dreaming of a better life for her daughter.
On the question of culture, I would point you in the direction of
Alphonso Lingis, who was the translator of both Emmanuel Levinas’
Totality and Infinity and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible.
He has written many books of his own, almost all rooted in his travels to
third world countries in which his encounters with people from radically
different cultures has inspired him to write about his experiences, and to
write with enormous sympathy and compassion about the suffering of others
(see especially his book Abuses).
I suppose he was inspired here much by Levinas, whose own radical ethics
came out of his experience in the concentration camps.
The “face of the other, which calls me to respond” became the ultimate
imperative in Lingis’ encounterings with people from all over the world,
as well as with the world of animals and the elements
(see his books Excesses and The Imperative).
One of his most moving works is entitled The Community of Those Who
Have Nothing in Common, which culminates in a chapter in which he
describes his experiences in the hospices of India.
He was asked when he returned to his home at Penn State, “why would you do that?
Why would you spend hours, days, sitting at the side of these dying people
– people with whom you have nothing in common?”
I found myself moved to tears just now, recalling the profound irony of his title.
Indeed, Lingis invites us to reflect and to consider:
what constitutes the community that we have with each other,
even if it might at first seem that we have “nothing in common”?
Part of the answer he gives is that we all will die; and, if nothing else, it is this that we share in common.
For Husserl, empathy was also something very fundamental that we all share.
In fostering a sense of empathy in our relations with each other –
the ability to place oneself in the other’s shoes, to “feel” one’s way into
the living presence of the other – we can come to learn more about the
other, as well as ourselves.
In placing myself into the shoes of the many new colleagues who presented
at this conference and who engaged in dialogue, I came away with a better
understanding of Gestalt Therapy – as well as a better understanding of
my own blind spots.
Thank you for inviting me into your community.
 Schutz’s work served as the foundation for that of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann,
in The Social Construction of Reality (1966) – which, in turn, is one of the founding texts
for the contemporary movement of “social constructionism”
(Kenneth Gergen), where issues of culture and power come front and center.
 My guides have been primarily the original phenomenologists, who have served as my
own mentors (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas) – supplemented by
the works of other authors I teach in my classes:
Simone de Beauvoir, Anna Freud, Karen Horney, Melanie Klein, Joan Riviere, Erik and
Joan Erikson, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Carol Gilligan, Judith Butler, and
others like Wolfgang Koehler and Jacob von Uexkuell. Husserl began speaking about
“intersubjectivity” in a lecture course in 1910-1911;
Heidegger introduced the term “relationality” in 1921-1922; Merleau-Ponty coined
“the reversibilities of the flesh” in 1960, and Levinas “the face of the other” in 1962.
 I must confess that the foundational literature speaks little about “culture” or “power”
when discussing die Einfuehlung [empathy].
The primary philosophical works on empathy can be traced to 1902-1913, just prior to World War I.
Simone de Beauvoir’s “classic feminist manifesto” came much later (1949).
Perhaps one of our own blind spots is to presume that everyone before us should
have been thinking about the issues that concern us today.
It tends to be our own ego-centrism, after all, that undermines a truly empathic
embrace of others (in this case, including the embrace of our intellectual forbearers).
Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy | PO Box 42221 | Portland, Oregon 97242 | United States
Relationship and companion are two subjects that
I am thinking over and over through years back,
in the hope that I could find reason or so-called
logic behind it.
Yet before finding any answer, then series of
questions plays in my mind in which I
still digesting those.
Story goes back in time when desire developed
as result of environmental influences based
on need to produce mankind.
This was purely based on economical and tribes
political view of their extension and developments.
These two elements still exist, as strong it was
in some perspective.
As human evolved, the way of thinking,
believing and acting is also evolving according
to existing time, space and place.
I call this tree elements psychology of human
in which we strive to understand logical functions
behind those elements.
As we go further and grow more we define our
core belief system, according to our language,
religion, contact environment, political view,
culture, family upbringing, media and list go on
as we modify our living condition and behviour
in a constant and rapid way.
However my main focus here is the relationship
and companion. How we desire to have relationship
beside the facts that I mentioned before?
Certainly intimacy would play an important
rule yet, not stable one.
People most often looking for relationship and
companion as they are doing business, they
look for common ideas, share views and so on
while wanting to choose and involve in relationship
then question arise:
How we could define relationship without any conflict?
As if there is no conflict in any given relationship
then I perceive there is no relationship at all.
It might be a strong agreement for the sake of social
requirement or just not being alone.
Then again what possibly individual could gain
or give in such relationship?
In a categorical and definable relationship
by individual confluence is very important and
as if the cycle of confluence disturbed by any
environmental condition or individual behaviour
then generated conflict that would bring
anxiety and fear that would be unbearable.
Having said that, what is underneath of our desire
Is it our egoistic mind, or just feeling and sense
of objectifying our partner?
Or it is just our low self-esteem that requires us
to feel complete or compatible with other human being
in order to survive or just continuing so-called purposeful life.
I am not talking or thinking at this point from different
cultural view or religious view into this subject matter.
So far every organizational religion, conservative
politics or religion itself are banking on family structure
in which relationship outside of marriage is out of question.
Then again when we reach into point that conflict will
arise in our relationship we start looking back to see
what we could learn from it, rather than for
re-discovery of ourselves.
You as reader might have so many answers to my questions
in which all of them most possibly are correct with knowing
that there is no possible wrong answers to my questions yet,
there are so many different approach and understanding of
this discussion and it would continue as long human exists.
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani
Most often we stuck through and within cultural literature
and this always amazes me how so we stuck within such past
that we ignore the present and our surroundings that could
enable us to see present within recent culture of just being.
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani
In this last lecture I wish to do two things. First, to repeat
brief the conclusions reached in earlier lectures; second, to
relate social and political doctrines to the individual ethics
by which a man should guide his personal life, and after the evils
we have recognized and the dangers that we have acknowledged,
to hold out nevertheless, as resulting from our survey, certain
high hopes for the not too distant future of mankind, which I,
for my part, believe to be justified on a sober
estimate of possibilities.
To begin with recapitulation. Broadly speaking, we have distinguished
two main purposes of social activities: on the one hand, security and
justice require centralized governmental control, which must extend to
the creation of a world government if it is to be effective. Progress,
on the contrary, requires the utmost scope for personal initiative that
is compatible with social order.
The method of securing as much as possible of both these aims is
devolution. The world government must leave national governments
free in everything not involved in the prevention of war; national
governments, in their turn, must leave as much scope as possible to
In industry, it must not be thought that all problems are solved
when there is nationalization. A large industry–e.g. rail ways-
should have a large measure of self government; the relation of
employees to the State in a nationalized industry should not be a
mere reproduction of their former relation to private employers.
Everything concerned with opinion, such as newspapers, books, and
political propaganda, must be left to genuine competition, and
carefully safeguarded from governmental control, as well as from
every other form of monopoly.
But the competition must be cultural and intellectual, not economic,
and still less military or by means of criminal law.
In cultural matters, diversity is a condition of progress. Bodies
that have a certain independence of the State, such as universities
and learned societies, have great value in this respect.
It is deplorable to see, as in present-day Russia, men of science
compelled to subscribe to obscurantist nonsense at the behest of
scientifically ignorant politicians who are able and willing to enforce
their ridiculous decisions by the use of economic and police power.
Such pitiful spectacles can only be prevented by limiting the activities
of politicians to the sphere in which they may be supposed competent.
They should not presume to decide what is good music, or good biology,
or good philosophy.
I should not wish such matters to be decided in this country by the
personal taste of any Prime Minister, past, present, or future, even
if, by good luck, his taste were impeccable.
I come now to the question of personal ethics, as opposed to the
question of social and political institutions.
No man is wholly free, and no man is wholly a slave. To the extent
to which a man has freedom.
he needs a personal morality to guide his conduct. There are some
who would say that a man need only obey the accepted moral code of
his community. But I do not think any student of anthropology could
be content with this answer.
Such practices as cannibalism, human sacrifice, and head hunting
have died out as a result of moral protests against conventional
If a man seriously desires to live the best life that is open to
him, he must learn to be critical of the tribal customs and tribal
beliefs that are generally accepted among his neighbours.
But in regard to departures, on conscientious grounds, from what
is thought right by the society to which a man belongs, we must
distinguish between the authority of custom and the authority of law.
Very much stronger grounds are needed to justify an action which
is illegal than to justify one which only contravenes conventional
The reason is that respect for law is an indispensable condition
for the existence of any tolerable social order.
Perhaps we could find ourselves and our way of lives
with and within experiences and developed logic that
we all striving for it. Then again how we could define
logic for ourselves is more important than mathematics
and physics behind logic. So we may use our emotions
and feelings to replace logic yet, not denying it.
We also are striving for knowledge to understand
ourselves, our surroundings by embedding technology
in our lives that is introducing new complexity to
ife as whole.
As we implicitly viewing our lives we may get comfort
and satisfaction of our knowledge for some degree in
which could be relevant to the situation. On the other
hand explicit review of our lives might bring us uncertainty.
Perhaps differences lay on the perception
that we develop through our life time.
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani
When we talk or write about philosophy perhaps
the assumption behind it is talking about ideas
of leading people in this field.
With knowing that people such as: Carl Jung,
Nietzsche, Freud and some others in this field has
own unique perception and theory generated as result
of unique perception about life.
Therefore philosophy is not about one way of looking
or searching life. On the other hand people most often
disregard own philosophy of life. It is important to
know how define philosophy for yourselves.
It is also important to understand that philosophy and
psychological wellbeing have direct relation with each
other. This might be in regard to individual’s core belief
system or depending on social norms and systematic belief
Any individual’s life style and belief system is based on
philosophy of the individual. Example of that are shown on
religious, spiritual and atheist people that their life
style is based on their belief system. Therefore, such
philosophy will transmit into functional behaviour of
individual in which will have serious effect in all
perspective of life.
Razi Ghaemmagham Farahani