Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips once wrote: “The aim of the analysis is to restore the loose ends – and the looser beginnings of the story.” I’d like to bring this idea into alignment with my own Gestalt approach to effective facilitation.

Phillips is suggesting that the past may indeed be the repository of all the experiences that have made us who we are; but it’s not stored in our memories like an unchanging video sequence in a digital camera. The personal past is alive and we can revise its meaning without falsifying it. In so doing, we can prevent ourselves from automatically interpreting the here-and-now in terms of the experiential templates we’ve acquired from the there-and-then.

In the Gestalt approach to effective facilitation, much emphasis is placed on the consultant’s presence: I’m not a passive observer peering at some inert specimen but an observing and experiencing participant in a field of other actively experiencing participants, changing that field by my very presence.

Facilitation refers to the facilitation of change, which involves deconstructing the old to free up those loose beginnings. This is one way in which new perceptions, new thoughts and new actions can be fashioned: old figures (beliefs, perceptions, assumptions) morph into new figures as figure and ground (the parts of the environment we tend not to notice) come into new interplay through the presence of the consultant.

I aim to remain attuned to the emotions, words and behaviours circulating in the room while I facilitate, feeding back my perceptions as food for thought and bringing into sensory awareness elements of the (back)ground that are no longer perceived. When new elements enter awareness, they generate internal energy as a prelude to action and contact – engaging with the new figure (belief, idea, concept) that’s just emerged to understand it, learn about it, and integrate it into a new, reformed whole.

I’ll return to the theme of effective facilitation over the coming few weeks.

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