This essay will show the application of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Gestalt Counselling (GC) to a client, and will consider what possible outcomes could be achieved.
For the purpose of this essay I will be using a current client, so to hide his identity he will be called Mr. A. Mr. A is a young male who is currently having difficulties in being able to partake in long term relationships with females. He finds it difficult to commit because he is afraid of getting hurt. He therefore just sleeps with many different women keeping his emotions at bay. Mr. A however does want to have a relationship and “stop messing with girls, and treat them in the same way that I want to be treated”. Mr. A says he has been hurt in the past by a female he was in love with. He idolised her in every way and thought she was perfect. She left him with no explanation or reason and never spoke to him again, and Mr. A has not been able to move on from this since.
TA is the theory of the personality and helps understand and explain personal growth and personal change. It looks at the interaction between people and our internal interactions between our different selves. TA philosophy consists of three assumptions about people and life. •People are ok: All people have worth. This not related to their accomplishments, but just accepting that I am me and you are you and we both have worth even if we do not like what the other do. •Everyone has the capacity to think: All people (par those who are severely brain damaged) can think. For that reason it is all our individual responsibility to decided what it is we want from life. Each person will live with what he or she decides. •People decide their own destiny, and these decisions can be changed: People use strategies to help them in life which were first used in their childhood.
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These strategies were used as a way for the child to survive and get what they want, however as a grown up these strategies may not work in the way they used to. Linking in to this is also the idea that no one or thing can make an individual feel a certain way. It is up to the person if they choose to feel the way their surrounding environment is pressuring them to do so. We are always responsible for our own feelings and behaviours, but decisions that we do make can be changed. This means that all people can change. They learn not to use faulty strategies from childhood and break the pattern. How not to yield to outside pressures and feel and behave the way they want to. We will also briefly look at some of the theory used in this essay. •Ego State model (PAC)
These are various different states of “I” that have a flow of dialogue between them related to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. “It is the way in which we manifest a part of our personality at any given time.”(Stewart, I and Joines, V 1987).
It is made of three parts the Parent, Adult, and Child. •The Parent (P) is a person’s morals. These are traits that have been copied from parents or parental figures and can either be nurturing and caring or controlling and critical depending on individual experiences. •The adult (A) is the part of us that deals with the here and now and is aware of the present situation. •The child (C) is the part that is replayed from our child hood. It is the part of us that feels, is creative and intimate or can be anxious and scared or rebellious and defensive again depending on individual experiences.
This is a process that has taken place during our childhood in which we create for our self’s a life story. It is the way in which we give life a meaning, and understand ourselves and the general outside world. It determines our attitudes and beliefs in life, but is something that can be changed when made aware of the current script we are living. Life scripts can either be winning; fulfilling goals, losing or banal; never making any big wins or losses.
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Applying Transactional Analysis
The first place to begin the application of TA to Mr. A’s case would be to take the three assumptions and see how they fit. When thinking about “people are ok”, does he feel like this about the girl who broke his heart? What his is present thoughts and feelings of other woman? It is clear that when he was in love with her, he had put her in a position much higher than himself, making him less valuable than her. Maybe she felt this hierarchal position that he had created in the relationship putting a lot of pressure on to her to be the perfect partner he wants. Maybe she took advantage of Mr. A’s adoration of her and used this to her advantage until she had, had enough. This assumption of “people are ok” can also be used to look at the way he is treating females in the present time. That he is ok and is of worth and value and deserves to have someone love him, but also that these girls around him also are of worth and value and deserve love to.
He should not think that these women are beneath him because they are not as good as his ex, but that everyone is equal. “People can think” will give Mr. A the responsibility of deciding for himself what he wants from life. Only he can choose if he finds someone to love. It is not up to the past, that surrounds him with doubt about getting hurt, or the current females he surrounds himself with, but his own choice to engage with one female at a time and give himself and her a chance to try. The “decision model” will help Mr. A understand and realise that he can change his behaviour and achieve the things that he wants in life. By looking at the strategies he has been using to help him cope, we can create new ones in place of the old ones and try to help him find a new path, but only he can create this change. Using the above can help begin to bring to light Mr. A’s own outlook on life and his current situation. It can provide the beginnings of where work needs to be done using the TA theory, but a deeper knowledge is needed to understand where it is we’re starting from.
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Mr. A has already disclosed that when he meets up with these women that he has found in a bar or a club, that right from the start he has no intention of being serious with them, so why does he choose these women? Using the ego-state model we can see that maybe Mr. A is in a negative/ rebellious child state when he approaches these women. Choosing women, who display characteristics that to him imply, are not wife material, “not the type of woman I’d ever take home to meet the family.” This way he is able to get his physical needs met without becoming too attached, because it is made easy by his critical parent who makes judgment to leave. A strategy Mr. A has learnt maybe from a past experience to help him get a part of what he wants. So Mr. A maybe feels he is protecting himself, by behaving in this pattern. He only takes a part of what he wants (in this case the physical aspects) and denies himself any emotional connection, but why does this happen in this way? Why not just isolate himself off from women altogether?
The one woman who he feels he only ever really loved met his parent’s expectations. This meant that his parental state could make a positive judgment over the relationship and give her a positive value. He had found a partner that fitted his critical parents internally and externally adapting to their rules and pleasing them. Maybe this is why to him she was so perfect. However she broke his heart, and Mr. A was hurt deeply. He had adapted to his parents needs and found what was thought to be the perfect woman, but still ended up unhappy and his parent’s dissapointed. Now Mr. A rebels against what his parents want for him as all this achieved was heartache. He wants to have a relationship, but doesn’t because he says he is scared , but by not settling down, and by sleeping with women that he knows his parents would abstain from he also rebels against them, and claims a mini indirect form of revenge on them.
He followed their rules and expectations and got hurt, so now he “protect myself” whilst hurting them back. Mr. A’s life script seems to for the moment very banal. He makes no big wins or losses by taking no major risks. This of course was not the case when he was with his ex, because before they broke up he probably felt like he was living out a winning life script. But the idea that he adored so much may show that he always thought it too good to be true maybe? His life script was obviously influenced by his parents, but as explained within the assumptions all actions taken are decisional by him. Not only is important to look at Mr. A now in the present context and how is past got him there, but where it is he plans (possibly unconsciously) to be in the future, and what his life script pay off is?
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The main focus of GC is to look at the clients present. It has no focus on the past or future. It takes the client as a whole, and focuses around their here and now. It helps them become aware of how they are experiencing their present moment, guiding them towards having a direct emotional understanding of how they feel. GC believes that people are proactive and can decide their own responses to the world. They can become aware of these responses, and are capable of choice, making them responsible for their own behaviour. GC also believes that all people are neither fundamentally good nor bad. The healthy cycle of Gestalt formation and destruction (See Appendix A) is a way of showing a healthy uninterrupted flow of experience. It is an essential tool within the Gestalt theory, used to understand the diverse models facilitated when looking at healthy and dysfunctional behaviour. “Unfinished business” is a core idea when considering clients dysfunctional behaviour.
It focuses on where and how energy becomes blocked or interrupted around the cycle. This means the events experiences and the cycle are left unfinished, leaving the person incomplete in some physical or mental way. Individuals use many different techniques to help cope and maintain them self in the present time in regards to these past incomplete events. These can be referred to as boundary disturbances, and are fixations within the past or a point within the cycle which hinders a healthy efficient self. It includes actions which self-regulate behaviour and includes defensive functions. The main interruptions to contact are, Confluence, Introjections, Projection, Retroflection, Egotism, Deflections and Desensitisation (Perls 1969b) (See Appendix B).
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•Desensitisation is when the individual avoids feeling apart of their environment, by neglecting, diluting or disregarding what they are feeling. •Deflection means to turn away from a person and avoid having a rich and vivid connection with them.
It keeps out the involvement of any emotions or feelings around the thing being talked about. •Introjection is a mechanism where people unknowing take in to themselves all that their culture and surrounding tells them to. It is an acceptance of other beliefs with no critical thinking about it. It causes a lack of self regulation in regards to their own needs and wants. •Projection puts in to the outer environment what a person does not want to see within them self, and attributes it usually on to another person, race or group. It essentially is a tool used to avoid responsibility and put us in a position where we are unable to change. •Retroflection can be split in to two parts. The first being the individual does to them self what they want to do to another person or with another.
They internalise what it is they want to do externally and turn it back on them self. The second is doing to yourself what you want to have done to you. I.e. giving oneself the comfort that they wanted from their parents or partner. •Egotism is a mechanism that prevents a person from experiencing a situation. They step out of their own life and speak about it like an observer. They will never feel the full satisfaction of living and feeling within a moment, because they are too involved within them self during the process. • Confluence is a blurred distinction between the self and another. Two individuals become merged in regards to their values, judgment and attitudes forgetting their differences. It is a tool used to help cope with feelings of loneliness and separation. Unending merging leads to a loss of self.
Applying Gestalt Counselling
Mr. A needs to become aware of his personal issues, and how they relate in to his feelings of being unable to have a relationship. By becoming aware and whole, he can begin to have a much healthier and better understanding of romantic relationships. Mr. A also needs to understand that there is no instant joy, instant awareness, or instant cure. The growth process takes time, and he must be willing to do some self challenging and painful work to become fully aware in each moment. Kimball (2007) says the goal for Gestalt Therapy is to “unlock the subconscious beliefs, desires, and patterns of relating to each other.” By doing this Mr. A will learn healthier communication, , how to get his real needs met, rebuilding of trust and mutual respect. Mr. A truly needs to understand himself unlock his own beliefs, desires, patterns and needs within himself before he can truly relate to others.
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The beginning point for applying GC would be too determine as to where Mr. A finds himself starting from. His unfinished business is his unsatisfactory past relationship, but why did this happen? Kimball (2007) stated that conflict occurs because individuals mirror each other’s unfinished business, “projecting their own personal issues onto their partner. This usually continues on until most couples break up”, like Mr. A. So if Mr. A and his ex were not aware of their own personal issues, they would of projected them onto each other. As it is only Mr. A being dealt with it is only his issues that can be looked at and understood, but this may give insight in to the other. Fow (1998) says that in GC “emphasis is placed on the individual. Each partner is treated as an individual with choices, which are better informed when the partner’s perspective is understood without undue defensive encumbrance.” This means that Mr. A should attempt to understand his ex and any future partner without any defensiveness. He should consider all the reasons his ex did leave and try and understand.
He could also think about how all the woman he has been with since feel about him. A good exercise that could be used with Mr. A to help achieve this would be the empty chair technique. Mr. A would be able to bring his past conflict of his ex leaving him in to the present and re-experience those feelings. Instead of just talking to me about how it felt when she left, he would sit opposite an empty chair and imagine her sitting there, and speak to her about how it feels. This way his feelings around what happened could be in complete awareness. Mr. A could then move forward with this and place himself in her chair and try and embody her emotions and feelings and try and gain an different perspective on what happened and why. He may be able to give himself some clarification and would enable him to feel some empathy towards her instead of anger and hate. Mr. A could be in a boundary disturbance where his interactions are fixed and rigid, as the victim and he is caught in a ritual playing out of this role.
Prior experiences of falling in love got him hurt, and by repeating the old pattern and responses of just sleeping with woman he has no real interest in protects him. This means any opportunities for change in these relationships is limited and pointless, if he really does want to change and be in a relationship. Mr. A needs to be encouraged in to making contact with women that is meaningful. The goal of increasing meaningful contact is to experience reaching out and to recognize or rediscover how it feels to make contact and feel human. Mr. A can experience a coming together of a fresh understanding, and shared ideas and thoughts about feelings, opinions and life. He can ensure that he has made good contact by checking that he is understood the other and vice versa. This should encourage Mr. A to change his behaviour pattern, move on his unfinished cycle and start a new experience.
Due to the word count I feel that both theories were only covered briefly, and many other techniques and aspects have been over looked. For example within TA a deeper understanding of the ego states was over looked and how they transact with each other and the transactions between individuals within their ego states. As for GC a more in depth look at the healthy cycle of Gestalt formation and destruction, and the links between the boundary disturbances would bring about a better understanding of the mechanisms Mr. A is using to cope. Both theories have been widely used and have a good success rate, but personally I would prefer to use TA. I found it easier to understand and relate to. I have a preference for the psychodynamic approach, and could see the similarities between both. In regards to Mr. A I feel that both theories would have a positive impact on Mr. A. Though they are both different approaches they both focus on taking responsibility for one’s own actions and being in control of their own life.
Fow, N.R. (1998).
Partner-focused reversal in couples therapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 35(2), 231-237.
Kimball, S.P. (2007).
What is Gestalt therapy? Retrieved July 6, 2008, http://www.susankimball.net/what-is-gestalt-therapy.shtml
Perls, F.S. (1969) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Moab, UT: Real People Press. Stewart, I and Joines, V (1987).
Ta Today A new introduction to Transactional Analysis . 16th ed. Nottingham: Lifespace Publishing. 7.