In the mid 80's Beth Protho, who founded the Gestalt Institute of the Rockies transitioned from being the Director of the Institute to move to Florida. After she left, the Institute struggled and waned for a bit. I decided to put effort into rekindling the Institute and often would refer to myself as the re-founder of the Gestalt Institute of the Rockies (GIR). Over time with the help of many we became vibrant, teaching many students, creating a place for people to deepen their skills as a therapist as well as deepen their lives. We hold the ideal that Gestalt is a lifestyle, not just a set of therapeutic techniques. We like any other institute have had our challenges, however, I am proud of the work we have done. I believe we have contributed significantly to the field of Gestalt Therapy and to students who have graduated from GIR. I feel most satisfied when former students express that GIR is where they learned to really become a therapist.
Now is the time for another transition. I have decided to transition out of the leadership and teaching full time at GIR at the end of this coming trimester. (If you have desire to experience my teaching at GIR please join us for the spring). I will continue to co-lead and teach at GEIR as well as continue my private practice. My desire have more flexibly in my schedule to travel, teach and mentor. I also desire time to write, relax, be with my horses, nature and those I love.
The Gestalt Institute of the Rockies will continue under the very capable guidance of Joan Rieger as director with Stephanie Joseph as faculty. I have the utmost respect, confidence and love for both Joan and Steph and know they will continue (as each have for a number of years) to bring exciting creative energy to the classes and intensives. I am grateful to them, all the students that have been a part of the institute and all the faculty that we have been blessed to have as teachers and mentors along this path the last 30 plus years.
GESTALT and Befriending Grief
Here at the Gestalt Institute of the Rockies we observe and define Gestalt thus: How we perceive, organize, and make meaning of our experiences in an I-Thou relationship.
Perception is seeing the world and the other with one’s eyes, one’s senses (felt-sense), one’s heart and one’s mind. Perception is a verb. Perception is not only seeing but receiving what is seen and having an internal experience of what is seen. We not only see the tears on the face of a grieving person, but also, feel the pain of loss in our own internal processing system.
We organize what we see and feel, so grief becomes our reality also. It is so important to value that we have our own experience of grief while the other has theirs. We empathize with the other by being able to integrate a visible grief process through our own perceived experience.
HOW we perceive and organize our experiences helps us to make sense and/or find meaning in the “grief event.” We are meaning making human beings. We will take time to observe and integrate an external experience if it makes sense to us. There are many things in life that are very important to another but are dismissed by us because we may not be open and/or ready to find purpose, value, meaning in that external event.
AND, as gestalt practitioners, we are relational and believe in the inter-dependence of all human beings and all creation; therefore, the I-Thou. The “other” is treated as a person and not an “it.” The “I” is experienced as subject, not object, and is present as an equal in an I-Thou encounter.
The theory of Gestalt Therapy takes a back seat to the organic personal experiences that come from embracing the fullness of our daily lives, by living life and not interpreting, explaining, or analyzing.
The above definition of Gestalt supports an understanding of the process of grief. We can be certain that the experience of grief will accompany us through our life span. The rhythm of “hello/goodbye” is a most natural phenomena. We leave one developmental stage and move to another quite organically. We say goodbye to the loss of a loved one and meet the full impact and meaning of that person’s life for us. Thus, how we perceive, organize, and find meaning in our losses will set a pattern (a gestalt) in how we prepare for a life of surprise or a life of fear. We begin to embody our losses by opening doors and opportunities never experienced prior; or we remain entrapped and fearful of moving forward. I suggest that the task of “grieving well” is to befriend our grief.
It is easy to acknowledge that change is a part of life. The reality seems to be that most of us kick and scream when loss disrupts our familiar routines and patterns of living. To grieve is to be “heavily burdened.” Grief will overwhelm our daily schedule. Grief has its own narrative and will invade every cell in our body.
I believe that most of us plan to control our life vs living from a place of uncertainty; of surprise. I believe the acknowledgment, acceptance, and expectation of grief as a part of life may be easier to process than the ongoing denial of grief. Grief presents in each experience of loss with its own profile, intensity, and time-line. Our challenge is to LISTEN to the requirements of grief. The paradox of grief is that the more I intend to control the process of grief and/or avoid my grief (it’s been 3 months, I should be done with this); the stronger the sensations of my grief and the longer that grief will occupy my daily life; moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day, year to year. I believe grief asks of me respect, patience, surrender and a listening mindful attitude. As the quote below states, grief has its own course and wisdom.
Staying congruent with the Gestalt principle of embracing our polarities; grief involves loss and gain. How can there be a “gain” in grief?
I am struck by how grief and love emanate from the heart chakra. The depth of grief is generally reflective of the depth of love for our subject of grief. I suggest that both love and grief have their own course. Grief renders us broken hearted. I’m also aware that a broken heart is an open heart. Might grief and love be 2 sides of the same coin? Can one exist without the other? Might love become the motivation and driving force inviting us to “stay with” our grief?
Befriending our grief gives credence to the presence of love.
“Think not that you can guide the course of love (grief); for if love (grief) finds you worthy; it will guide you” From the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
The perception of non-duality and wholeness invites me to experience love and grief as an enriching and fulfilling experience throughout life. From this perspective, love and grief are not two separate experiences associated with two separate events. Love and grief are embraced as a rhythmic dance of contact and withdrawal. In love we connect; in grief we isolate and withdraw. Grief is an inward process of self-regulation and organization. Love is the outward expression of connection. Grief may even invite a deeper understanding of love as love may invite a deeper understanding of grief. The task of befriending our grief may shepherd a new perception of living life from surprise as opposed to fear.
By Duane Mullner LPC
Faculty Gestalt Institute of the Rockies
I want to thank you all of you who have worked, studied, learned, grown, laughed and played with us over the past years. We have been around for many years in a number of different forms and creations. This institute was originally established in 1969 as an experimental and teaching Institute that was originally called the Gestalt Institute of Denver. Over that time period many came, learned and went about their lives, most hopefully changed for the good. In the 70’s there was a transition and Beth Protho along with George Dovenmuehle established the current Institute, the “Gestalt Institute of the Rockies”. After a few years Beth and George moved out of state, the Institute waned a bit and eventually I picked up the pieces and re-established the Institute under the same name in the mid 80’s. Since that time the main people involved in teaching have been Duane Mullner, Victoria Story, and myself. A few years ago Duane took a year sabbatical and Victoria retired from teaching at the Institute. We asked Joan Rieger to join us as a co-director and teacher and more recently we asked Stephanie Wolff to join us as faculty. We have been through many transitions, wonderful people have come through our doors and we are now in another transition.
As I sit here and write this brief history I am touched in many ways. I am touched by the length of time we have been around in one form or another, I am touched by the other faculty that I have been privileged to work with, I am touched by the students who have come through our training and the level of skill that they have left with, the incredible level of skill they have developed way beyond what they learned here. I am touched knowing we have changed peoples lives in so many ways and touched by the community we have been a part of for so many years. I am touched by the memories of certain people as they sat in the circle, sometimes smiling, sometimes in awe and sometimes with eyes full of tears. I am touched by people sharing that this Institute changed and in some ways saved there lives. One of the things that has effected me the most has been the frequent statement that the training here is what has helped them become a truly competent therapist. I am touched by the transitions we have made through the years to keep pace with the changing world of therapy
This past year has brought a change and transition once again. In November we began the process of examining our direction and format. As we examined we determined we wanted to make some changes. Some of these changes are based on our own growth as people and professionals, some based on what we want to offer in training. On the personal level I am moving away from the everyday running of the institute and will be focus on the teaching aspect, writing, The Coming Home Project, deepening my equine work and integrating nature based work into my personal work. As an institute we are creating a new structure, a new website, new marketing, a new location, new monthly blogs and most importantly new energy to move forward with bringing this work to the world.
As I have traveled and taught throughout the US and parts of the world including the Middle East, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia I am deeply aware that what we offer is substantially different that what is being offered in other trainings and modalities of therapy. We offer something unique, expansive and creative. We ask that you delve into your own process as a person and therapist. We ask you to experience relationship not just talk about relationship as a thing to attain. If you were to ask any therapist if they are relational with their clients they would say, of course. I believe that how we promote this level of contact and work with healing relationship is qualitatively different than what is expected in most training programs, most therapies and in fact, most relationships in general. We ask you to be affected as much as your client, we ask you to create openings for the other to step into, we ask you to be the “I” or the “Thou” in all relational interactions of your life. Substantially there is no real separation between therapy and life. We only really have one “hat” to wear and that “hat” is ourselves.
We invite you to share in this transition, growth, and creative process with us as offer something that is beyond the tools in a toolbox approach to learning, therapy and living in this ever evolving world of therapy and life itself.
Duey Freeman, MA, LPC