Fifth, after using this procedure several times (in a couple of
weeks), ask yourself if there is a pattern to your garbage. Examples:
Does anger usually follow my feeling guilty? Do I resent
submissiveness like I saw in my mother? Do I feel like I should rescue
all men who use drugs like my favorite brother? Do I usually cry
instead of getting mad? Do I turn "cold" instead of dealing with the
problem? Do I frequently displace my anger? Do I deny the same
emotion over and over again?
Once aware of your "unfinished business," you can make use of
this information to control your unreasonable reactions. The next time
you over-respond emotionally, remind yourself of the emotional
garbage you bring to the situation. Say to yourself, "it's not the orders
from the boss that are bugging me, it is my resentment of my dad's
criticism" or "I'm responding to that woman as if she were my mother"
or "just because I was dumped by _____ doesn't mean _____ will
Opening our minds to many hidden experiences and feelings--
developing a new experiential world--is time consuming, surely weeks
or maybe months. Some of the techniques, like the empty chair used
in a specific situation, may take only 10 to 30 minutes, but several
techniques will need to be applied to scores of different emotions and
upsetting situations before great new awareness characterizes much of
your life. Attending to the "here and now" and working through
"unfinished business" is never ending. So, get started.
It would be foolish to assume that painful experiences repressed
because they hurt a lot could be easily uncovered doing a playful
exercise for fun. To "work through a conflict you probably need to be
quite frustrated with a part of your life and determined to understand
what is going on. Even then, insights may not come easy or ever.
Some people do not have the psychological mindedness or imagery
necessary to explore the unconscious for hidden feelings. Also, Gestalt
therapists are directive--they tell the patient what to do to gain
awareness. The techniques may not work as well when they are book-
or self-directed. On the other hand, Gestaltists emphasize being self-
responsible. But no one is in complete control of his/her repressed
emotional life. Don't demand or expect too much from these methods.
Lastly, there are two problems with the notion that awareness is
curative: (1) there is no scientific proof that knowing all the feelings
inside you will automatically lead to superior adjustment and (2) if
awareness does not necessarily improve adjustment, some people
may become absorbed with just uncovering hidden feelings, sort of
perpetual psychological wallowing in emotional garbage, and neglect
making actual self-improvements. So, the other psychological self-help
techniques might be needed after all.