I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)
I didn’t like this ‘prayer’ when I first heard it nearly 30 years ago. It seemed cold and uncaring, as if it was OK that people needn’t bother, needn’t make the effort to find each other, and to love and appreciate each other.
As time went on, the Gestalt Prayer became a source of strength and comfort. I stopped expecting myself to save the world and make everyone better or blaming myself for other people’s unhappiness.
I discovered the relief in letting go of my expectations of others: I even let go of needing people to ‘find’ me, to see, appreciate, recognize me. I am grateful, of course, that I did receive this in my therapy and in close relationships and I am equally grateful (now) that others did not take time or make effort to find me, and clearly had other things to do. This was a gift, as in grieving, I discovered I can thrive without.
As I continue my training in Zero Balancing there are two precious pieces of learning for me at the moment, ‘interface’ and ‘clean disconnect’. These are both held within a safe and non-judgmental and usually silent space within a session and are essential to allow the person to allow themselves to allow.
What do they allow? Well I’m still a student, but I would say the session allows the body and energy of a person to do what it does. As the Zero Balancer, I’m not there to ‘fix’ or ‘treat’ so my contact and my connection is not streaming me into the other person, it is ‘interface’ connection, a respectful, contact that you can feel in your very bones, that allows you to become more fully functioning, not to do as directed. Your inner wisdom will do its thing. For those of you person-centered trained, you will understand the big appeal of this to me.
I think we need contact to grow but not interference. There’s a little mantra in ZB work, ‘go in, do the work and come out again’ – which I’m sure any competent gardener will recognise. The ‘coming out again’ is respectful to both parties and minimises any capacity to interfere, to correct, to adjust another. I can’t help but wonder how personal relationships would improve if we practiced this clean disconnect and interface contact in our lives as well as in ZB sessions. Imagine if we could be separate, make contact that feels good and then disconnect, rather than holding on?
Now into my third decade of the Gestalt Prayer, and experience working within therapeutic relationships as well as personal ones, it seems to me that the Gestalt Prayer is maybe fixed and could move on with me? As I enjoy my separateness more, and have taken on the detachment of the Gestalt Prayer, I am also surrendering more to connection, when I have it, with others, less afraid now that I need that connection or can be destroyed by it, or loss of it.
We cannot lose ourselves until we find ourselves. Or put psychologically, we cannot experience the surrendering of our ego until we have found, got to know and strengthened our ego.
For me, for many, by this point in the therapy journey, the ego is less precious; defensive living and defensive practice less desirable; the mystery of love and connection, of solitude and contact more appealing.
Experiencing a deeper sense of ‘oneness’ the more I am able to detach, getting closer by stepping back, I woke up one morning and rewrote the Gestalt Prayer for where I am today.
Miriam’s Gestalt Prayer for now
I don’t really know who I am
and I wonder who you are?
I see you, we are separate and unique
and in meeting, I see something of you
that I recognize is also something of me.
When I dislike parts of me and you,
that is a gift.
When I love parts of me and you,
that is a gift.
The wonder of our meeting is beautiful
and disturbing, stirring up every question,
who is it I reject, who is it I long for?
I wonder if I am you and you are me for a moment.
When we part, we are irrevocably changed
by our meeting.
I am I,
but not who I was or who I will be.