Gestalt therapy was initially developed by Frederick Perls (1893-1970), who also served as its founder. The goal of gestalt therapy is to help you become an emotionally integrated person by focusing on filling any emotional gaps that may exist. According to Perls, repressed or disowned aspects of one’s identity can be found in one’s dreams. A dream contains many characters and objects, and each one stands for a different facet of the dreamer’s personality. You are the storm, you are the aggressor, you are the vehicle that has broken down, you are the bridge, and you are the old book. The idea that dreams are part of a universal symbolic language is one that Perls does not subscribe to. He is of the opinion that every single dream is specific to the person who is dreaming it.
According to Perls, there are three different levels of awareness present in the mind: awareness of the self, awareness of the world, and an intermediate level of fantasy. If you spend too much time at this intermediate level, you risk becoming disconnected from both yourself and the rest of the world. Freud was the one who discovered this intermediate zone of illusion; Freud believed that a person who was stuck in this zone was suffering from a psychological complex if they were unable to move out of it.
Perls believed that the best way to avoid becoming mired in a realm of fantasy was to integrate one’s view of themselves with their view of the world. Freud, on the other hand, was of the opinion that a direct confrontation with a psychological complex was required.
According to Perls, anxiety can be traced back to a failure to fully engage in the present moment. When you neglect to concentrate on the here and now in favour of dwelling on the past or the future, you are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety. Your issues will be resolved if you are able to keep your attention on the here and now.
According to Perls, the only way to comprehend who you are and discover your place in the world is to acknowledge what is real and reject what is irrational. You have to free yourself from the false beliefs that you have constructed for yourself.
Perls believed that when a person let go of all the illusions and fantasies that they had constructed over the course of their life, it could feel like the person was emerging from a nightmare. This is comparable to the idea of Satori, which is found in Zen Buddhism and refers to a sudden moment of enlightenment.
The transition from a world of illusions that you have created for yourself into a world of truth, as described by Perls, is analogous to the process that takes place when a person awakens from a dream.
When you are in the midst of a dream, you are willing to acknowledge everything that occurs within the dream as genuine. It is not until after you wake up that you realise the dream was not real and that it is something that only has meaning in relation to the world into which you awaken. This realisation comes only after you have fully integrated yourself into the waking world.
According to Perls’ theory, when you dream, you are able to inject a little bit of yourself into each and every image that you see. Each component of a dream can be interpreted as a different aspect of the dreamer’s character. You need to integrate all of these pieces into who you are in order to develop into a complete and unified person. Putting together the pieces of the dream is a metaphor for doing the same thing with the pieces of your personality that are scattered around.
According to Perls, analysing your dreams is a method for finding problems that you have not been addressing because you have been denying certain aspects of your personality. This can be a way of discovering problems that you have been avoiding.
Perls was not a believer in the conventional methods of dream interpretation, which involve deciphering the hidden meanings behind the symbols that appear in one’s sleep. Instead, he suggested that in order to get a better understanding of who you are, you should put on a performance in which you play the role of every person and thing in the dream. If you had a dream about a man climbing stairs, for instance, you would play both the part of the man and the part of the stairs in your waking life (pretending that stairs can talk).
If you approach your dream in this manner, you will first be able to integrate seemingly incompatible aspects of your personality, and then you will be able to rid yourself of the illusions you have created. If you let go of these false beliefs, you will be able to solve the issues that have been plaguing your life.
Perls also held the belief that thinking about your dreams in this manner could help you be more creative and spontaneous in your waking life.
Perls believes that it is important to retell your dream in the present tense and act it out accordingly in order to discover what aspect of yourself is being disowned. In order to do this, it is necessary to act out the dream. It is essential to put into words how everything, including inanimate objects, in your dream felt in order to fully understand it. Act out the dream while assuming the identities of the various people and things you encountered in it. Engage the dream object in conversation and tell it how you felt about each other throughout the dream. You may be able to acknowledge and realise feelings that you may have overlooked or buried if you take on a different role within your dream and reenact it. This can be done by taking on a different role within your dream. Your imagination brings your dream to life.
As an illustration, Hall was told about a dream in which the dreamer was attempting, albeit unsuccessfully, to solve a mathematical problem when he was approached by a seductive girl who wanted to dance with him. In this dream, the dreamer was having trouble completing the problem. The dreamer gives up trying to solve the math problem, dances with the girl, and even gets into the shower with the girl; however, they do not take their clothes off nor do they engage in sexual activity.
In a later part of the dream, the dreamer has an image of himself walking by a building that is hosting an orgy, but he is unable to enter the building for some reason. Concurrently, he is aware of the sound of church bells tolling.
According to Hall, the dream reflects a conflict between the dreamer’s conception of himself as a sensual, sexual being and his conception of himself as an intelligent, hardworking, moral person.
The importance of recording one’s dreams in detail was emphasised throughout both of Hall’s books, The Meaning of Dreams and The Individual and His Dreams.
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