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Behind the Breath

March 8, 2021

‘Fear is excitement without breath’ is a famous quote by one of the founders of Gestalt Therapy, Fritz Perls. His partner, Laura Perls, arguably, had a major influence on the birth and development of this therapeutic modality, particularly in its focus on embodied work. This wasn’t a free association process, with a patient talking away uninterrupted, their head spinning from a sparking unconscious, whilst their body sinks into a sofa, dead to the world. This was about being in relation (or in contact) with our world (inner and outer), building an awareness of ourselves in the here-and-now, as well as out in-the-world, and how to meet at the boundary between you and me. Laura Perls’ thinking was ahead of its time, and her partner, the male, maverick, showman, fell into an all too common historic pattern, where the wife/ the mother/ the woman/ the female contributor is missed.

Her ‘breath work’ invited clients to ground themselves, to tune in, be aware of their breath, in order to really be present, with themselves first, then with the other. She spoke of the importance of self-support, and that the work of therapy, or even the work of living, cannot fully take place if the client has not found their own ability to support and resource themselves. She spoke of ‘living on the boundary, one must have access and use of one’s excitement, and if you get anxious instead of excited, it means that you don’t allow yourself to support the development of excitement with the increase intake of breath.’ This all feels like the root of the famous Fritz quote, and I wonder of the intimate conversations, the thinking aloud and the influences that fed the mouthpiece, the script that played the actor.

Real creativeness, in my experience, is inextricably linked with the awareness of mortality. The sharper this awareness, the greater the urge to bring forth something new, to participate in the infinitely continuing creativeness in nature, This is what makes out of sex, love; out of the herd, society; out of wheat and fruit, bread and wine; and out of sound, music. This is what makes life livable and incidentally makes therapy possible.

Quotes compiled by Anne Leibig, and full article can be found here.

For this international women’s day, I am thinking of the unsung intellectual women, the creative conceptualisers, the lateral thinkers, the rational brains that were held in the form of the female sex, who as a result were silenced, and if we are lucky, some have since found their voice back to us, to sing a tune from beyond.

From → Therapeutic

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