The Gestalt Prayer by Fritz Perls

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, 1969)

This is the “Gestalt Prayer” stated by Fritz Perls and it is often argued as statement of independence in  a persons social life.

We humans are  all actively, changing organized phenomenons… or “gestalts“.
We, individually are in a fluid state of both independence and interdependence with our  physical surroundings and people in our lives.
Thus the Gestalt prayer is  philosophical statement of self- autonomy in ones personal relationships.

I have my own needs  and goals to  live up to… and not the expectations imposed on me by others, or the expectations I think others have of me.
Just the same, other people  do not live their lives to meet my expectations.

I have never cared for the “Gestalt Prayer” as a philosophy. We are in fact expected to meet commitments we make. We make commitments to take care of children or family members. Our Governments have expectations of us that we must meet.  So this “prayer” is  a bit misleading or a bit to rigid.

However,  our own self expectations and living to our own needs are most important.

So its good to say the Gestalt prayer out loud , every so often….Just to remind of us of our self autonomy.


About chris
I write because I'm not good at it. I share because, writing without sharing seems empty. Thus, I write and share what I think is meaningful.

17 Responses to The Gestalt Prayer by Fritz Perls

  1. Pingback: Apologies and other hang ups « Pennsylvania Echoes

  2. Peggy says:

    The prayer has always been a favorite. Despite F. Perl’s arrogance I have never believed that the prayer was intended to avoid or deny our commitments to others. Contact was a mighty important concept to F. Perls and he tried hard to sweep away all the garbage in our daily interactions with others. When I’m in trouble with another. i.e., attempting to control or avoid being controlled I find the prayer very helpful.


    • chris says:

      I have heard and read a lot of opinions of Fritz Perls personality and personal relationships.
      Fritz Perls would not be so controversial if he did not have brought great ideas as exploring “Contact”, which is where most gestalt therapy takes place.

      The “Gestalt prayer” is best remembered, (or recited), when I am attempting to control or avoiding being controlled…
      or giving up some control of myself to others, as well.
      Thanks for your input, Peggy.

  3. claire read says:

    I met him i Topanga, the santa monic mountain eselon site. I was with a friend whom he had met before and his approach was questionable at best. he greeted her with delight, smiles and both hands cupped over her breasts. Whe knew enugh to laugh, but I really wondered about all this.
    I read In Amd Out of the Garbage Pail, simply attracted by the title and then waded through gestalt therapy.

    I like his ideas and in fact use one in particular. Amontra, not the prayer but a way to aanalyse parts of me it goes like this.
    dreaming of a train going bye at night whistleing at crossings I would say t myself “If I were that train I would be . . .
    powerful, strong and careful to warn of my approaching danger to others at crossings or meetings. In other words I am strong and open but must treat others with considerations. Now that isn’t like the prayer is it although I like it too.

    • chris says:

      Thanks for sharing claire.
      for me,
      if their was one idea that fritz Perls to Gestalt Therapy that I found most useful, it is the “Open Chair”… I use it in journaling and writing.

  4. Chris says:

    i’ve experienced gestalt through regular group therapy
    on and off for the last 5 years
    and it has made a huge difference to my life
    and looking around as far as i can tell
    there are very few other therapeutic approaches
    that have that kind of impact
    i am now training as gestalt practitioner
    so i can be skeptical about fritz perls as a person or individual therapist
    but the approach he has co-initiated
    is just hugely life-giving in my books

  5. Amy says:

    If we don’t live up to our own expectations of ourself first and do our own thing, how can we every hope to live up to anyone elses.

  6. peggy says:

    He’s still the best as far as I’m concerned when it comes to reminding us to be “authentic”. We can be that without being harsh. Best thing that ever happened to me was my intro to Gestalt.
    I’m a practicing therapist, and after many years he still gets my #1 vote.

  7. chris says:

    I am glad to see that there are those who are as enthusiastic about gestalt as I am.
    Thanks for your comments.

  8. Pingback: The Gestalt Prayer | Papaloteando

  9. Carollyne says:

    contrary to popular belief this prayer originated in 1923 a poem written by Kahlil Gibran…

    • chris says:

      All I can say for certainty is that the so-called “Gestalt Prayer” was NOT originally coined by Bruce Lee – as it is often suggested in Facebook Memes.

      Fritz Perls included an early version oft his “poem”, without the last two lines, in one of his publications in the 1950s.
      When I can remember and find which one it was I will post a link.

      I think its a cool poem… good for provocative discussion.
      It would be interesting to find an even earlier version,
      If you can find a source that has an earlier version by, Kahlil Gibran or anyone else…
      please share…

  10. Not an earlier version, but a later one – published in the student newspaper of the State University of New York at Buffalo during the 1979-80 school year.

    Gestalt Prayer- Revised Version

    I am I, and you are you.
    You do your thing, and I do my 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.
    If by chance we find each other sexy and available,
    It’s fun to fool around.
    And if you then spend the night with someone else
    And I’m intensely lonely and jealous
    I can’t complain.
    I agreed to this.
    I’m equally free.
    I only wish I were as bold and charming as you
    And had already found somebody else to screw.

    Broadway Dave

    • Peggy Toney says:

      You sound jaded. Always loved this prayer, very freeing. Peg

      Sent from my iPad


      • My affect when I wrote the “revised version” was primarily anger at myself for my possessiveness, and resentment of the woman – expressed in my crude language in the last line.

        Now, in the 21st century, my favorite prayer is the so-called “Prayer of St. Francis” – named in honor of him, written originally in French about a century ago. I have slightly edited it to be non-theistic. I am struck by how much it parallels the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen.

        My goal is to be an instrument of peace.
        Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
        Where there is injury, pardon;
        Where there is doubt, faith;
        Where there is despair, hope;
        Where there is darkness, light;
        Where there is sadness, joy.

        I seek not so much to be consoled, as to console;
        to be understood, as to understand;
        to be loved, as to love.

        For it is in giving that we receive,
        It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
        and it is in letting go of a smaller self that we are able to recognize our wider identity.

      • Peggy Toney says:

        Also really like the st. Francis. We all do eventually grow up.😋

        Sent from my iPad


  11. chris says:

    Thank you both for your comments, Mistah Charley and Peggy.

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