and feeling very emotional inside, it frequently sounds like I'm
describing a patient. This distancing--called intellectualization--is
another way of avoiding intense emotions, and maybe a way of
gaining some control over threatening feelings, such as crying. Notice
the difference between saying, "I feel really angry--my arms are
tense, my stomach has a knot in it, I'm perspiring and thinking 'What
an SOB _____ is'" and saying, "Most people would find _____ quite
irritating." If I or any person denied and intellectualized all the time,
never directly experiencing or seldom admitting the feelings, it would
surely reflect "unfinished business" and reduce awareness and coping
skills in certain situations. Keep in touch with all your parts.
Beyond attending to body language, feelings, and wants,
Gestaltists prescribe learning experiences or homework, such as
having a group hold, comfort and feed an inhibited, aloof, unemotional
man (to get him in touch with childish dependency again), having a
dependent woman with a weak, whiny voice to talk like a little girl (to
recognize how her helplessness is used), having a shy, self-
depreciating person walk around the room like he/she had just gotten
an A in a tough course (to recognize and accept feeling proud), having
group members imagine being an animal (to see if the choice reflects
personal traits or wishes), having a shy person gradually explore being
more sociable, and so on (Gilliland, et al., 1989). Gestaltists also make
use of dreams (see method #6), imagination (next step), guided
fantasy (method #5c), looking for the opposites (next step), the
empty chair (see step 3), and many other techniques for finding parts
of ourselves. Most of these things you can do yourself.
Being aware is not just noting the details of what is happening for
a few minutes; it is a continuous way of life. It is an openness to
everything around you and within you. It takes practice. Explore your
worlds--all three of them--and observe details: "stop and smell the
roses;" see the lines and movement of a familiar face; analyze the
pain of rejection into fear, sadness, remembered joy, anger, hope,
etc.; when you are attracted or annoyed by someone ask who or what
he/she reminds you of, and on and on.
After this exercise, some people report feeling as though they had
never fully experienced themselves before, saying, "I never realized
there were so many feelings and sensations inside my body--heart
beating, muscles tensing and twitching, myself touching and
scratching, eyes blinking, breathing, eyes tiring, pants tightening,
body relaxing, all intermingling with a constant stream of emotions."
STEP TWO: Looking for the opposites. Thinking more freely.
This experience is based on the assumption that everything has an
opposite. In order to know happiness, one must have known sadness.
In order to recognize greed, one must know there is another way--
generosity. The Gestaltists believe that we are often aware of one
feeling or wish or urge to respond a certain way, but unaware of other
feelings, wishes or urges, including the opposite of what is on our