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On the last track, we discussed two aspects of bipolarities. These two aspects are, the topdog and underdog, and opposites.
On this track, we will discuss four important factors to consider in addressing avoidance in Gestalt therapy. These four factors are, contrasting avoidance and expression, avoidance is an ongoing self-regulatory process, avoidance is not a sign of weakness, and a vast majority of clients will engage in avoidance at some time. We will also discuss the Rule Book technique.
Four Important Factors in Addressing Avoidance
Factor #1 - Contrasting Avoidance and Expression
I have found that a common description of the difference is that "expression is something the client has to do, while avoidance keeps the client from doing what has to be done." However, I feel that avoidance should be regarded as an active process. A client who is avoiding a feeling is operationalizing an adjustment he or she believes is necessary. This can be seen as a manifestation of self; the client is doing what he or she truly believes is the best for him or herself at the moment. Would you agree?
Factor #2 - Avoidance if Ongoing Self-Regulatory Process
Factor #3 - Not a Sign of Weakness
Factor #4 - Vast Majority of Clients Engage in Avoidance
This, in turn, can lead to experimenting with experiencing and owning the feeling. This is, in my experience, a necessary process in reintegrating the avoided feeling within the client’s personality.
My client Zach, age 15, frequently displayed glimpses of feelings that he avoided letting himself experience. In one of our first sessions, Zach stated, "Sometimes I feel a little jealous of my friends, but then I feel upset. I know I’m not supposed to feel that way about my friends!" I asked Zach who told him he was not supposed to feel jealousy.
Zach stated, "Well, everybody. It’s not a nice feeling. My parent’s have always told me it’s not nice." When I asked Zach who told him now that he was not allowed to feel jealousy, Zach stated, "I guess I do." Clearly, Zach’s statements were full of rule stems indicating avoidance, such as "I’m not allowed to feel, because." To help increase Zach’s awareness of his avoidance, I introduced the Rule Book technique.
Technique: Rule Book
In this technique, the therapist walks the client through writing down his or her personal rules on paper. This can increase the client’s awareness of these rules, and can help the client recognize feelings he or she avoids as a reflex due to these rules.
Think of your Zach. Would he or she benefit from the Rule Book technique?
On this track, we have discussed four important factors to consider in addressing avoidance in Gestalt therapy. These four factors are, contrasting avoidance and expression, avoidance is an ongoing self-regulatory process, avoidance is not a sign of weakness, and a vast majority of clients will engage in avoidance at some time. We also discussed the Rule Book technique.
On the next track, we will discuss we will discuss four concepts regarding acceptance of feelings. These four concepts are, avoided feelings can be a source of difficulty, problems with beginning to accept feelings, building confidence, and confronting the idea of acceptance.
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