Topics: Gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, Therapy Pages: 8 (3484 words) Published: March 12, 2015


Fritz Perls(1969) in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim identified three zones of awreness: Inner, Outer and Middle.

Describe with examples, your own understanding of the three zones.

Explore the movement between these zones paying attention to the role of ‘aggressive destructiveness and reconstructiveness’ (Perls, Hefferline and Goodman Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and growth in the Human Personality,’ 1951:67).

Post Graduate Certificate Module Number Formative Essay

Gestalt Centre London and
Metropolitan University



In this essay, I will examine the three zones of awareness, inner, outer and middle, as identified by Perls (1969) and look at how we move between these zones in a way which breaks down our understanding in order that it may be reintegrated (the ‘aggressive destructiveness and reconstructiveness’ of which Perls spoke in Gestalt Therapy: excitement and Growh in the Human Personality, (1951). I hope to demonstrate that we should see the three zones as part of one whole. A holistic view of awareness allows us to appreciate how all parts of awareness work together to make a brighter and clearer whole and I believe this is what Perls intended.

Gary Yontef, in Gestalt Therapy History Theory and Practice (Woldt and Toman 2005) says ‘I think that the cognitive reflection and the ‘glowing light’ awareness are parts or phases of an overall awareness process and are best considered as part of one whole. That would emphasise the importance of being aware of the various kinds of awareness and would assert that they are incomplete without a more holistic awareness.’ So while it is important that I explain and we understand each concept within Perls’ three levels of awareness, I believe that it is vital that we see these concepts as part of a larger whole, one that we can approach through the de-struction and reconstruction described by Perls and one which embraces the whole of our organism, our visceral senses, our reflections on those senses and our contact with the outside world.

What is Awareness?

For Perls the ‘promotion and encouragement of full free flowing awareness’ ( Joyce and Sills ( 2010) is the key element in all Gestalt therapy. In Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality he explains his thesis that humans must be in close touch with our surrounding environment if we are to live, grow and thrive: ‘the organism and its supporting world must be in intimate contact for growth, development and life.’

Perls goes on to differentiate awareness from introspection. For him awareness was spontaneous and authentic, a sensing of what we are feeling, seeing, doing. Introspection he sees as a deliberate evaluative act, which controls, corrects and interferes with what we are seeing, feeling and doing:

‘Awareness is like the glow of a coal which comes from its own combustion; what is given by introspection is like the light reflected from an object when a flashlight is turned on it. In awareness a process is taking place in the coal (the total organism) in introspection the process occurs in the director of the flashlight (a split off and highly opinionated part of the organism which we shall call the deliberate ego).’

Erving and Miriam Polster(1974) explain this as being similar to the experience of a bedridden patient who will be deliberately self-conscious of every step when he first rises from his sick bed. Only when he returns to healthy function can he forget about testing each movement and learn to walk naturally again: ‘so too, for the individual who is trying to grow psychologically. At first the awareness to which he is accustomed -and concerning which he may well feel apprehensive- bring on a deliberateness and caution which limit authenticity’. It is only when we become free in our awareness that we can get in touch with our authentic and spontaneous selves. Young children often...

References: 1. Joyce P. and Sills C. (2010) Skills in gestalt Counselling and Psychotherapy (2nd Ed) London, Sage
2. Latner J. (1986) The Gestalt Therapy Book (2nd Ed), The United States, The Center for Gestalt Development
3. Mann D. (2010) Gestalt Therapy 100 Key Points and Techniques, Hove, Routledge
4. Perls F., Hefferline R.F. and Goodman P. (1951) Gestalt Therapy, Excitement and Growth n the Human Personality, London , Souvenir Press
5. Perls F.(1969) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, Gouldsborouigh, The Gestalt Journal Press
6. Pollatos O. and Schandry R. (2008) Emotional processing and emotional memory are modulated by interoceptive awareness in Cogniton and Emotion 22(2), 272-287
7. Polster E. and Polster M. (1974) Gestalt Therapy Integrated New York, Vintage Books
8. Van Bergen P. and Salmon K. (2010) Emotion-oriented reminiscing and children’s recall of a novel event in Cognition and Emotion 24(6), 991-1007
9. Yontef G.M. (1993) Awareness Dialogue and Process, Essays on Gestalt Therapy, Gouldsborough ME, The Gestalt Journal Press
10. Woldt A. L. and Toman S.M. (2005) Gestalt Therapy, History, Theory and Practice, Thousand Oaks, California, Sage
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