Who am I?
A student of Gestalt psychotherapy; a professional sales person; a qualified trainer; a wife; a dutiful daughter-in-law; or the author of this essay? Am I all of these and more? Or can I only be one without the others? How do I know which of these I am at any one time, and how do I know what effects each have on who I really am? Am I always me?
Such musings have occupied the thoughts of many a psychologist, philosopher and religious theorist over the centuries. A quick flick through the ages reveals that there are many theories of what 'Self' means (Gaarder,1996). This paper does not attempt to answer these opening questions categorically. Instead, it offers an analysis of what Gestalt theorists and practitioners mean by the term 'self', and how this influences the clinical practice of a Gestalt psychotherapist. In order to arrive at a definition of 'self' from the Gestalt perspective, it is first necessary to define what is meant by the terms 'contact' and 'contact boundary'.
By examining the interconnectedness of these major concepts in Gestalt theory, we will be able to assess whether 'Self is discovered at the contact boundary'.
So what is me and what is not-me? How do I know what is part of me rather than that which is separate from me?
"contacting occurs at the surface-boundary in
the field of the organism/environment....
The definition of an organism is the definition of the
(Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, 1977:303)
This implies that it is in the contact boundary that a clearer sense of self as an organism emerges. The contact boundary both 'contains and separates the person from his environment while at the same time being his contact with the environment' (Clarkson and Mackewn, 2002:54). Latner...