Anxiety in gestalt therapy: the ways of working and coping with it

Working with anxiety in the context of gestalt therapy is indispensable, because it is the most
widespread symptom. Let us study how to behave with an anxious person and how to help
him.

Gestalt therapists and psychologists of all types and practices often meet with some
disorders of emotional balance. Anxiety disorder (or simply anxiety) also refers to this kind
of disorders. However, this syndrome requires systematic and well-thought doctor’s work.


Definition and symptoms of anxiety


Before talking about anxiety and the support of anxious patients, it is necessary to
understand the concept of anxiety in Gestalt psychology. Therefore, anxiety is a negative
emotional state, characterized by an increased sense of alarm and fear from a potential, but
inexplicable danger.

How is it possible to determine that anxiety is a depressing state instead of a fleeting
emotion or a stable character trait? Psychological symptoms of anxiety (according to Anna
Mikhailovna Prikhozhan, the Doctor of Psychology) are an irresistible feeling of
helplessness, low self-esteem and powerlessness over the slightest obstacles. Physical
symptoms include blood pressure surges, increased excitement, feeling of tightness in the
chest, cardiac arrhythmia. Side signals are fussiness, insomnia, dizziness, intense facial
expressions and tremor.

Anxiety Forms

The reasons of anxiety haven-t been determined yet. However, scientists assume that it is a
matter of factors from traumatic life experience to genetics. Most often, the reason is
imbalance of the hormones serotonin and noradrenaline. Anxiety can be manifested in
different ways.

● Confluence is the state of psyche when the boundaries of different phenomena or people are not distinguished. In this case, the person demonstrates anxiety when he meets any boundaries, especially the boundaries of his own personality. Anxiety-blocked feelings are joy and surprise, and anxiety manifests itself through scorn, anger, and disgust;

● Projection is the phenomenon when the person attributes his own behavior not to himself, but to other people or external circumstances. In this case, any feeling can provoke anxiety, and the energy of anxiety is expressed in aggression or states close to rage;

● Retroflection of behavior is the transfer of actions and doings (usually negative), directed at other people or at the person’s own “Self”. Anxiety is caused by minimal interactions with others, for example, by requests or demands. Anxiety can be expressed in the forms of shame, disgust, or hatred;

● Egotism is the fear of losing control over the situation, over the patient’s own “Self” and his personal reality. Anxiety is caused by spontaneous and uncontrollable events. The person unconsciously blocks joy; negative energy is released by means of fears and notorious anxiety;

In deflection, anxiety disorder is provoked by empathy with other people, close contact and reception of feedback in any form. Anxiety is formed when the person approaches an object that is blocked by his negative feelings. Anxiety is expressed by means of contempt or anger.

Dealing with anxiety disorder according to the rules of gestalt therapy


In a gestalt teaching, anxiety is not something that can be altered or eliminated. It should not
be comforted or repressed. The patient must become aware of his anxiety. Textbooks of
Gestalt psychology suggest that in order to overcome anxiety and its unpleasant
consequences, it is necessary to return anxiety to the state of agitation. Leading questions
asked by the specialist will help to do it. It is important to find out the person or the object
that is the cause of the patient’s anxiety. In addition, it is important to find out the influence of
anxiety on the patient’s inner world and his real life. The final stage is manifestation of
anxiety and dialogue on its behalf. Maybe, the doctor and the patient will have to repeat it
regularly.

If anxiety appears during a therapy session with the Gestalt psychologist, it signals the
incompleteness of some topics that have already been raised during conversations. Anxiety
can also signal about interruption of a trusting contact with the gestalt therapist. In this case,
the main goal of a specialist is to recognize newly awakened anxiety disorder and to
mobilize it in time. Of course, only therapeutic sessions will not be enough for the patient, in
order to fully accept his anxiety. The patient should also work on his own.

The main and the most efficient method is so-called “creative adaptation”. It is the search for
a convenient form of contact with others and with the outside world. It is necessary to find
the form that will allow to meet social and other needs and, at the same time, to maintain
harmony with the inner world and with the “Self”. Possible ways of overcoming the problems
should be discussed with a psychologist. It will protect the patient from errors that will have
to be corrected already during additional sessions. Moreover, a huge volume of energy that
is spent on anxiety and side symptoms can be directed to more useful and constructive
areas. .

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