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The Secret Longing

A Relational Compass in a Field Perspective

This article is the English version of a first French paper:
Béja, V. & Belasco, F. (2020). L’attente secrète: Une boussole relationnelle dans une perspective de champ. Cahiers de Gestalt-thérapie, 1(1), 82-99. https://doi.org/10.3917/cges.043.0082

From the perspective of relational and field Gestalt therapy, the authors shed light on the phenomenology of clinical intervention by showing that the therapist’s main activity consists in adjusting his or her own resonance to the movement towards contact - to the impulse - which informs the therapeutic encounter itself. The therapist “positions” himself in order to “hear” better.
And it is this change in the therapist that leads towards change in the patient.

A clinical example illustrates the different moments in this process. By designating the intentionality at work in the encounter as a “Secret Longing”, the authors introduce a new concept, offering practitioners a sensitive compass that allows them to orientate themselves and to persevere in their effort to adjust to the patient and maintain their aim to reach him or her.

=> English article available on request

Introduction (Excerpt)

-Concerned about the effectiveness of the therapies we conduct, we wanted to examine how our desire for change and our attitude of listening could be articulated both theoretically and practically.
Because yes, gestalt psychotherapy does have a goal: to work in such a way that the patient’s view of the world is changed, and so that their relationship with the environment evolves to make their experience less painful.
And yet, inspired as it is by the phenomenological attitude of observing, listening and welcoming, the practice of Gestalt therapy does not aim for change directly. It teaches us to get through times of meaninglessness, or uncertain or uncomfortable situations.
The acceptance of what is happening, the waiting patiently for a figure to emerge, the concern not to impose premature differentiation - these are the hallmarks of a posture that respects the experience of the other. But such a disposition towards listening, welcoming and waiting can also paralyse the therapist if he becomes merged with it, and may end up engaging the relational dynamics of the therapeutic dyad in an endless loop.
It is towards the formulation and the exploration of this place, where change and an attitude of phenomenological listening must be combined, that we wish to contribute through this article. Can this articulation be coherent with Gestalt therapy? We think so, and put forward the concept of a Secret Longing that we use as a compass that can orientate us in the zones of uncertainty and wandering that we inevitably have to go through in any therapy.


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