“I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)
I first came across the Gestalt Prayer back when I was in high school in a book that I was reading at the time. The moment I did, it completely resonated with me and stuck with me throughout every milestone of my life. Years later, it’s the one thing that continues to hold me together every single day whenever I’m feeling lost or confused about my place in the world. One of the biggest mysteries of humankind is knowing whether or not our lives have any meaning, value, or purpose. I had an existential crisis several years ago, and I found my answer through this prayer.
The definition of a gestalt is “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts”. It’s when something that is made of many parts is seen as more than just each of its individual pieces. It’s what I believe about soulmates, that when two people are so deeply and utterly in love, they become two halves of one being. In a way they are people who are more significant together than as individuals. This goes back to what some people believe about the universe, the belief that everything that happens in our lives is meant to happen for a reason. We are meant to suffer, we are meant to lose people, we are meant to be happy but we are ultimately meant to die. It’s what makes us human. We should be celebrating our individuality, but at the same time, we should also take every relationship and milestone in our lives and cherish it, especially because very few things in life are permanent.
To live is to meet new people and have their influences in our lives. Not every person who you come across in your life is meant to stay in your life, and that’s simply the way it is. What matters is what you take from that interaction, whether it’s a family member, a relationship or a random encounter with a stranger, and how you learn and grow from it. Maturity comes from age, and wisdom comes from experiences. If by chance you meet someone who has completely changed your perspective or loves you for your unique weirdness, then that is a beautiful thing. Your mind has expanded and you are much wiser from that interaction. Some people are meant to come and go, and if they go, then so be it.
In an effort to understand the prayer in the way that it was intended to be understood, I delved into my own research into the psychology of this school of thought. The Gestalt prayer is used in a form of therapy which is very client-centered. You focus more on the present and try to understand why you form your negative thoughts and patterns. The therapy is a step towards discovering self-awareness. There is research that indicates that self-awareness is the path to true happiness. When you focus on your own behaviour and compare it to your personal standards, you will be able to realize that your biggest critic is yourself, not your parents or your friends or whoever else is in your life. No one else will understand you the way that you understand yourself. This leads to learning about your own internal thoughts and preferences, leading to a higher emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is not only recognizing this, but also seeing how your perception of yourself changes over time. Oftentimes this is hard to control as we are so heavily influenced by external factors, such as the media and ever-changing standards placed on us by the public. A large and unfortunate part of modern day culture is worrying about what other people want, when you should be realizing that your life is your own to live by. Our society dictates that you live according to what the stereotype expects of you, which goes against what it means to be human.
Going back to the Gestalt therapy practise, the notion of self-awareness can help people who are suffering from relationship issues, self-esteem problems, and other matters that plague us day to day. We all have a role to play in our own unhappiness, the Gestalt prayer helps with bringing us out of it. Think back to what I mentioned about the definition of a gestalt being something that is “whole”. This applies to the thought that humans are a whole entity of the mind, body, and soul. We should be addressing each part of ourselves and heal not only our bodies, but also the mind and soul.
It’s the final line of the prayer, “if not, it can’t be helped”, that constantly echoes in my thoughts. This line means that if something doesn’t happen in the way that you meant for it to, then why be bothered about it? You take control of your life and move on from it, aiming for bigger and better. As the year of 2017 draws to a close, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection of my life over the past year. My self-reflecting has made me realize how meaningfully I have lived over the past year. Just like anyone else, I’ve had people come and go out of my life and I’ve made some incredible friendships along the way. Some of these friendships are no longer in my life and I have made peace with that. These were the connections that I learned the most from, they were the ones who showed me who I am and how to live my life to the fullest. The worst thing that you could do to yourself is live a life full of regrets, and that’s why I made sure that my 2017 was a year full of experiences that I’m proud of.
What I have come to realize is that we are all in this world to be ourselves. We are constantly changing. Humankind is both independent and interdependent. We rely on others as creatures of habit, but we also value our autonomy and self-sufficiency. The Gestalt prayer taught me to live in harmony with my whole self and to be okay with attending to my own needs before others’. It means that once we are self-fulfilled, then we will be able to help others in the same way, thus creating beautiful connections. Once you are able to truly be at peace with yourself and who you are as a person, then maybe you will be ready to be completely selfless and help others achieve the same. That is the basic definition of the Gestalt prayer, that you fulfill your own needs so that you can create the space for genuine relationships.
If I were to write about all the lessons that I’ve learned from the universe, then I would be writing forever, for we never stop learning.