Stefan offered a litle of his own background and how his work had evolved to include an interest in Two and Four Chair Work underpinned by, what he sees as, the four main Archetypes: the Warrior, Sovereign, Lover and Magician and informed by the four key emotions, joy, fear, anger and sadness. (The Warrior is linked to anger – an energy often needed to motivate and move forward; the Sovereign to joy; the Lover to sadness and the Magician to fear). It is realised that there may be many archetypes and Cultures who use different metaphors, words or symbols for this purpose. Stefan said, however, these were the ones he had chosen to work with and are the ones used in his work with The ManKind Project. He stressed the importance of ‘taking care of ourselves’ during the day because occasionally workshops can touch our own issues. Stefan explained that he would present the day, perhaps a little like a buffet, some of the elements we may like and others not and so it would be our choice to take only what we felt resonnates or intrigues and leave behind others.
An informative handout supported the day. This was particularly helpful in what would be a full and sometimes intense few hours during which we explored subjects that perhaps were new to some and left others with a desire to understand Gestalt theory in more depth. Stefan explained how he worked with the Cycle of Experience having first agreed the contract and boundary of work with his clients:
The Cycle can begin at any stage although often it does so with a ‘sensation’.
Sensation: a feeling or disquiet about something. Awareness: identify and engage with the need
Energy or mobilisation: excitement/desire phase: Action: choice of what is to be done
Full Contact: action identified is taken Completion: A feeling of Satisfaction.
Withdrawal It is done.
The Cycle will continue in connection with subsequent, evolving or different issues. If a client is able to integrate this into his/her way of being there is hope that a more grounded, fully aware life be lived.
Importance is paid to sensations, especially if they begin quietly, slowly and be ‘out there’ as if watching a film about others. To stay in the here and now and to ‘fuss’ around the subject, as Stefan would say, helps to unscramble the issues and emotions a little. All is relevant in the client’s experience and field of vision and we need to listen without judgement and so ‘why’ questions are not helpful as they may encourage the client to deflect or withdraw. We need to support the client to seek the ‘gold’ in any situation in order for each to find his or her own healthy solutions once awareness is ‘internalised and owned’.
It is understood that each small event or cycle is echoed in larger ones. So when a client fails to complete a simple cycle it is often indicative of larger issues in his or her lifestyle and/or relationships. The cycle can be interrupted or blocked through introjects, from the client’s conscious or unconscious process, through life patterns, thoughts or behaviours. A desensitisation occurs and awareness is not achieved when clients deflect, project, become stuck or completely lack the energy needed to move forward. Stefan reminded us of potential issues of transference and counter-transference and that it would be virtually impossible to support some-one to find their own healthy cycle of experience if we have not worked on our own within therapy, supervision and CPD. Stefan’s use of the analogy of the pearl divers was thought provoking.
There was some discussion in pairs. We were asked to draw a circle and divide it into four to illustrate how much ‘fear, sadness, joy and anger’ we experienced in our lives and to talk to our partner about the core emotion we then felt with the listener staying silent (a revealing exercise).
There were two sessions of Four Chair Work in which Stefan invited one person for each session to join him. Stefan explained, it is not always about four actual chairs – it is often just two, his and the client’s, using pieces of paper (or other objects) to represent the missing chairs. In one of the sessions, working in the ‘here and now’, Stefan gave the client a piece of paper which he said held all the self-esteem they had ever had or needed and then asked them to tear this piece into the size that would illustrate the amount of self esteem they still had.The rest was then torn into pieces showing who or what in their life was currently/or historically holding the balance. The ‘pieces’ were seen as taking, or being given, the client’s power.
Stefan then asked the client to take another piece of paper and to think of the person or event that stood out the most and to cover it with this new piece. He asked: What do you now feel is your core emotion? What might you want to say to ..? What might you want to happen to this covering piece of paper? He echoed the client’s own words and offered a safe place to be or think creatively. It is only possible to have one emotion at a time and so we need to clarify whether or not a client’s has changed in any way. The process continued with Stefan encouraging the client to own the core emotion and to say what they wished to the paper/object and to endeavour to take power back, always checking how they then felt. Both sessions were moving and informative and the clients generous in their taking part.
This is only a small snapshot of what was an interesting and challenging day.
Thank you Stefan.
Moore R. & Gillette D., 1992 ‘King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine’. Harper Collings, New York.
Clarkson P (updated by Cavicchia S) 2013 ‘Gestalt Counselling in Action’ 4th Edition. Sage, London.