image that upsets you (although it is probably based on some external
reality). And this conflict exists inside you; it's of your own making; it's
yours to deal with.
As long as you believe, however, that the trouble lies with
someone or something else--your family, the stupid school, society,
"men"/"women," not having enough money, your awful job--you will
do very little to change. You just complain and feel frustrated.
Someone else is seen are responsible for solving your problem. As
Fritz Perls would say, "That's crap! Assume responsibility for your own
difficulties, own them, explore them--all sides, feel them to the fullest,
then make choices and find your way out of your own messes."
The Gestaltists (Stevens, 1973) point out that we are usually
identified with only one side of an internal conflict. If we can get in
touch with both sides--own both views--the difficulty can be resolved
without force, the solution just unfolds naturally. Some examples may
help: As mentioned before, in self-improvement what you want to be
often conflicts with what you are. Forcing yourself to improve involves
becoming preoccupied with changing and/or with failing. You are
unable to fully experience and accept what you are here and now. If,
instead, you were able to experience all your feelings and conflicting
wants, then reasonable choices will supposedly be made to meet your
needs without "force," "will power," or "determination." I doubt that
awareness always results in effortless resolution of conflicts and
growth, as Gestalt therapists claim, but certainly it is more helpful to
be aware then ignorant.
Another common conflict frequently emerges if you imagine
yourself in the empty chair and try to describe yourself. Try it... Notice
if your description became critical. Gestaltists refer to a part of our
personality called our "top dog" and another called our "under dog."
The top dog is critical, demanding, controlling, pushing for change; the
under dog feels whipped, pushed around, weak, resentful, tense and
undermines top dog by playing helpless, "I can't do that. Can you help
me?" It is important to know both parts well. You are responsible for
both. Their differences can be worked out; both are trying to help you.
Few Gestalt methods have been evaluated but a small recent study
suggested that the empty chair technique is effective (Paivio &
Greenberg, 1995). We need hundreds of more studies of specific self-
help or therapeutic methods.
STEP FOUR: Accept responsibility for the choices you make.
Begin this experience by completing these sentences with several
I had to ________________, ________________,