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Enhancing Your Therapy with Gestalt Approaches
Gestalt Therapy continuing education psychology CEUs

Section 11
Increasing Awareness of Feelings

CEU Question 11 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Gestalt
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed three strategies for helping a client "presentize", or facilitating the client's bringing him or herself into the "now". The three strategies we discussed were presentizing the past, reclaiming, and presentizing 'when'.

On this track, we will discuss three Gestalt strategies for helping clients increase their awareness of their responsibility for their feelings. These three strategies are the "I Give You the Power" technique, the "Now I Feel" technique, and creating feelings.

As you have experienced, two common statements made by clients are, "HE makes me feel angry" or "All of a sudden I felt my temper rising".  Clearly, these and similar statements remove the responsibility of these feelings from the client.  Do you have a client who is not aware who is creating his or her feelings?  I have found that there are three primary problematic impacts of this lack of awareness on a client. 

-- 1. First, the client feels 'at the mercy of' his or her feelings, rather than being the creator or master of them. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
--2. Second, because the client is unaware he or she has choices regarding  how he or she feels, the client will be unable to dismiss or substitute an alternate feeling for a destructive feeling. 
-- 3. In addition to feeling powerless and being unaware of choices, a third problem is that because the client does not know how he or she brings about pleasant feelings, and therefore does not have ready access to these pleasant feelings. 
Would you agree?

Three Strategies for Increasing Awareness of Feelings

Remember Tommy from the last track?  In a recent session, Tommy stated, "I don’t like it when my brother Bill comes home from college for the weekend!  He's always on the Dean's list, and he pokes fun at my grades because I only get Cs in most things!  He makes me feel dumb." 

Strategy #1 - 'I Give You the Power' Technique
To help increase Tommy's awareness of how he was giving his brother the power to influence his feelings, I used the first strategy for helping clients accept responsibility for their feelings.  This first strategy is the brief I Give You the Power technique. 

1. First, I stated, "Imagine that your brother Bill is sitting in this chair.  Tell him what you just said about how he affects you."  Tommy stated, "You make me feel dumb."
2. Second, I asked Tommy to tell Bill, 'I give you the power to make me feel this way."  Tommy stated, "I give you the power to make me feel this way."
3. I then asked Tommy how making this statement to Bill regarding home made him feel.  Tommy stated, "I don't like it!"
4.  I stated, "I believe you.  When you let people make you feel things, it can be uncomfortable.  Let's try this experiment with a few other people."

As Tommy's awareness of how he gave others the power to change his feeling increased, he became more motivated to change these relationships, and became more ready to accept responsibility for his own feelings.  Are you treating a Tommy who would benefit from the "I Give You the Power" technique?

Strategy #2 - Now I Feel Technique
A second strategy for helping clients accept responsibility for their feelings is the Now I Feel technique.  My client Sam, age 27, had difficulty understanding the concept of being responsible for his feelings.  Sam struggled with sudden feelings of anger and sadness, and stated that these feelings would just suddenly appear out of nowhere. 

I stated to Sam, "what I believe is that these feelings come from inside you.  You are the source of these feelings, and you are responsible for them."  Sam stated, "You mean I should blame myself for them?"  To respond to Sam's conversion of responsibility into blame, I stated, "I don't think in terms of blaming.  Just responsibility, that it is you who makes you feel the way you do."

 Sam still felt that the concept was strange, so I introduced the Now I Feel technique.  I stated, "Let's try an experiment.  Take the sentence, 'Now I feel, and I'm responsible for that' and state whatever you are feeling."  Sam stated, "Now I feel confused, and I'm responsible for that."  I told Sam that he was on the right track, and encouraged him to keep going.  Sam stated, "Now I feel this is silly, and I'm responsible for that.  Now I don't know what to say, and I'm responsible for that."  I stated, "Good, you're getting the idea." 

Clearly, this parroting technique did not result in Sam's fully experiencing responsibility for his feelings.  However, I feel that the Now I Feel technique gives a client like Sam a chance to become oriented to the idea of responsibility for feelings.

Strategy #3 - Creating Feelings
In addition to the "I Give You the Power" technique, the "Now I Feel" technique, a third strategy for helping clients increase their awareness of responsibility for feelings is creating feelings.  Once a client has accepted the idea of being responsible for feelings, he or she can begin to work on creating feelings.  I have found that one way to start enhancing awareness in the creation of feelings is to have the client take the role of the teacher. 

Operationally, this means that the client is asked to teach the therapist what to do to make him or herself feel the same way the client does.  For example, when Sam stated, "Sometimes I get a very good feeling about myself and I feel how well I can do things," I invited him to walk me step-by-step through making himself feel the same good feelings.  Would your Sam benefit from taking the role of the teacher?

On this track, we have discussed three strategies for helping clients increase their awareness of their responsibility for their feelings.  These three strategies were the "I Give You the Power" technique, the "Now I Feel" technique, and creating feelings.

On the next track, we will discuss two aspects of bipolarities.  These two aspects are, the top-dog and underdog, and opposites.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Carsky, M., & Rand, S. N. (2018). Conflict between fantasy and reality: A patient and therapist talk about psychotherapy and schizophrenia. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 35(4), 401–409.

Cavaleri, P. A. (2020). A gestalt therapy reading of the pandemic. The Humanistic Psychologist, 48(4), 347–352.

Cramer, P. (2020). Externalizing/projection; internalizing/identification: An examination. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 37(3), 207–211. 

Kahn, D., & Hobson, A. (2005). Theory of Mind in Dreaming: Awareness of Feelings and Thoughts of Others in Dreams. Dreaming, 15(1), 48–57. 

Tønnesvang, J., Sommer, U., Hammink, J., & Sonne, M. (2010). Gestalt therapy and cognitive therapy—Contrasts or complementarities? Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 47(4), 586–602. 

Tsai, M., Callaghan, G. M., & Kohlenberg, R. J. (2013). The use of awareness, courage, therapeutic love, and behavioral interpretation in functional analytic psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 50(3), 366–370.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 11
What are three Gestalt strategies for helping clients increase their awareness of their responsibility for their feelings? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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