I had the opportunity this summer to attend a series of workshops presenting Gestalt Theory that was supervised by the faculty at the Pacific Gestalt Institute. It was there that I was introduced to a short article by Arnold Beisser, M.D. entitled The Paradoxical Theory of Change. You can find the full text of the article here on the PGI website.
In a nutshell, the paradoxical theory of change is this; “…that change occurs when one becomes what s/he is, not when s/he trys to become what s/he is not.” This is a theory of profound self-acceptance, indeed it is saying that self-acceptance is the only true path to moving forward. So all of the parts of ourselves that we, or others, have rejected need to be re-claimed and re-connected – a seat at the table provided for everyone. It is often exactly those parts of ourselves that make us the most uncomfortable or have been associated with the most embarrassment that also hold the most energy and potential for an integrated, grounded and nourishing experience of life.
What does this acceptance look like? In the therapy setting it means that the client and therapist meet each other as equals. This helps to create a moment to moment space where the client can explore becoming fully invested in whichever aspect of the self is presenting itself at that moment. In this way, the compartmentalization of our selves and of our lives can move step by step towards integration and a more holistic experience of life.
The article further goes on to explore the ramifications of this change theory when applied to society as a whole. In our world of increasing specialization and fragmentation it seems more relevant than ever. Integrated harmonious societies that acknowledge the whole person can only come from the sum of integrated individuals that make them up in the first place. It all starts with us.
Again, the link to this short, clearly written article is here.