John was having difficulties in feeling solidly committed to his girlfriend. He wasn’t sure about the relationship.
He had a dream. He and his girlfriend were making love. His father and mother were behind him. His father was a young man, confident, strong.
He was uncertain, he didn't want to make her pregnant. His father came forward, and he felt relief.
You could have a field day with this if you were a Freudian, but we operate differently with Gestalt. Gestalt is about integration and ownership, so we identify as all parts of the dream. They give us access to our own polarities and selves.
So I asked him to ‘be’ each of the other parts of the dream.
As himself, he was hesitant, holding back.
As girlfriend, he was wanting with all his heart, no weight.
As father he was open, clear, healthy.
As mother he was deceptive, shadowy, not wanting to be seen, hiding self.
There was an alignment:father with girlfriend, both confident, solid, and himself with mother, both uncertain, not solid, hiding out.
This made sense, as his mother was very cold towards him as he was growing up.
So we explored this coldness, and specifically, how he himself was cold in relationship in a range of ways. We looked at how this coldness manifested in his ‘cold feet’ with his girlfriend, and his difficulty committing.
We explored the coldness, what he called “emotional blankness”, his unfeeling side. He connected this to his experiences of depression and especially meaninglessness.
Stepping into awareness of his coldness was empowering, as he could see it was about something fundamental he brought into the relationship. To have a different experience, he would need to find ways to ‘warm’ himself up, without needing to get that from an external source (girlfriend).
This is based on the principles of awareness, Gestalt notions of responsibility, and being with ‘what is’. His coldness is not something that is going to change - it’s embedded in how he brings himself to relationship. But he can increase his awareness, and choicefulness, and understand how it manifests in relationship.