The Magic of Simple Gestalt Concepts – Projecting
The German word “gestalt” cannot be translated into an equivalent single English term. It encompasses such a wide variety of concepts: a shape, a pattern, a whole form, and a configuration. Gestalt therapy draws on all of these meanings with equal emphasis on the organized whole and on the notion of pattern.
Gestalt therapy is a holistic, process-oriented, dialogical, phenomenological, existential, and field theoretical approach to human change with the centrality of contact, awareness, and personal responsiveness and responsibility. Primacy is given to the uniqueness of the individual. The person is never reduced to parts and structural entities but viewed as an integrated whole with innate potential of growth and mature self-expression. Of crucial importance is the interplay between biological maturation, environmental influences, interaction of the individual and the environment, and creative adjustment (Yontef, 1933). Gestalt therapy is about aliveness and excitement, the awareness of choice everyone has in creating their lives.
The Gestalt that Fritz Perls created, as the official founder of Gestalt therapy (he preferred to be called the finder or re-finder), is predominantly a synthesis of many existing elements and concepts interrelated into a meaningful new whole. He wove the new Gestalt out of different bodies of knowledge and disciplines and was particularly influenced by existential philosophy, phenomenology, holism, humanism, Gestalt psychology, bio-energetics, orthodox and interpersonal psychoanalysis, and Eastern philosophies (Clarkson & Mackewn, 1993). The Zeitgeist, the historical and cultural situation that prevailed during his lifetime, in combination with numerous political upheavals and his exposure to different cultures left clear marks on this revolutionary new theory.
From: Gestalt Therapy Theory: An Overview, by Maria Kirchner
Okay, that’s nice to know, but what does all this psychological theory have to do with powerful teams?
Quite a lot. Self-disclosure is a fundamental concept within Gestalt therapy; using “I” instead of “WE” is another. The third secret is the Gestalt concepts of introjecting, retroflecting and projecting. Hey, don’t stop reading now…
You might have heard of projection, which is a highly known psychological Freudian concept. Gestalt, however, refers to an active process; therefore, all the above-mentioned concepts are active things that occur between individuals and are extremely noticeable in team behaviors.
Let’s put these concepts into action. I will be using simple explanations and not psychological theoretical ones.
Projecting is an active process by which one person assigns his beliefs, ideas, concepts, thoughts, and feelings to another individual. For example, the parent might be hungry during a family road trip but instead of saying, “I am hungry, let’s stop for a burger,” he will say, “The kids are hungry, let’s stop at McDonald’s.”
Does this happen in team interactions? Sure, and quite often!
Remember the case study:
And so it continues for ten more minutes when Ashley says, “I think that the team can use a break now.”
The above statement is a very common projecting statement where a person takes his wants and needs and puts them in the mouth of someone else.
The result? Masked interactions.
Projecting occurs often when team members and leaders are afraid to speak out, communicating their individual wants and needs and masking them by using “YOU” or “WE.”