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Psychotherapies Without Feeling. Arthur Janov. I heard a story about Fritz Perls when Abraham Maslow was giving a presentation about the ten steps to self actualization. I heard Fritz Perls didn't do or say very much about things, that in essence, he was the thing-in-itself that Sartre stated was missing in most.
Fritz Perls' response to Maslow and an audience of was to crawl on his belly up the aisle making the sounds of a seal -- confronting Maslow with his actual lack of presence or lack of being there. Gestalt Therapy is one of the "new wave" non-traditional therapies that sprung up in the "human potential" decade of the Sixties. It was developed by Fritz Perls, a German-born psychoanalyst who broke with Freudian theory in the s to create his own "gestalt" view of man.
Not until the ferment of the s, however, did Perls' views gain widespread recognition. But with recognition came controversy, for Perls was his new therapy, and Perls was at best unconventional, more often provocative, and always controversial.
To some he was nothing more than an "undisciplined, cantankerous, and lecherous old man" strutting about leading weird encounter groups and advocating complete sexual freedom. To others he was a "bearded, brilliant, unpredictable, rascally old marvel [who] offered the hope of nirvana, of cure, of coming to Lourdes on a stretcher and being able to leave by foot. On one hand it is difficult to assess Gestalt Therapy apart from Perls as the driving force behind it, while it seems unfair to draw conclusions about the therapy based on the personal eccentricities of its founder.
That he had a potent influence on those whom trained with him is fairly clear. The criticism most commonly leveled at Gestalt Therapy is its confrontational approach. Perls' style of therapy centered on provoking and confronting, and his trainees also used provoking and confronting -- often to an undesirable degree.