Gestalt Contact and Boundary Disturbances

According to  Gestalt Therapy Theory, Contact is the awareness of the meeting of differences. From a first person point of view, contact is the venue of the meeting of  “Subject” and “Other“;  Organism and  Environment, where the conceptual “Self” arises. as the subject.
Contact is “What- and- Who- I- am” (the subject self) and  “What -and- Who- I-am-not” ( Other in the field or present environment)   meeting  , interacting ,exciting, and influencing as interplay with each other.  Neither  takes  control of the other , instead   the subjects  (and in many cases two or more subjects in an intersubjective meeting )  decide what they assimilate or reject from the contact encounter, regarding new  ideas, values, outlooks, novelties, etc.

Previously I posted on Cognitive Behavioral Therapies  “Thought Errors or Thinking Errors“.   I thought I would take the time and list some of  Gestalt Therapy ‘s
Contact Boundary   Disturbances:

Introjection -“Swallowing whole”. One important process of Gestalt Therapy is the client  constructively learning to assimilate and reject, new ideas and novelties of his experiences as he is in contact with his changing  surroundings. Introject ion is fully assimilating and absorbing all without discretion,
Introjection maybe include the way take in our cultural values and norms when we are young, or identification and mimicking the behavior of celebrities or role models, for example.

Confluence – Consciously: the boundary-less sensation of singularity or one-ness, connectedness to surroundings, God,etc.
Confluence is the loss of distinction Self and Other and loss awareness of contact boundary.another case would be: the loss of boundary between “You” and “I” to become “We” for example. the unconsciously loss of self into surroundings, such as in mob mentality is also Confluence.

Projection – the confusion of “Other” (surrounding and environment) for what should be the “Self“; Placing feelings  of onto “Other” instead of the “Self”.
Examples: Artist may project themselves into their Art. Someone who had a bad day and is angry with themselves, may shift blame to another, or project there anger onto someone or something else. Someone attributing ones feelings onto a “sentimental” object.
As with the case with contact disturbances, they can be healthy, unhealthy or neutral, depending on the circumstances.

Retroflection – Holding back responses or emotions intended for the “other”, surroundings, or other people in surroundings and substitutes a response for himself.
Examples: If one is becomes angry with the boss, and holding his anger back at work, retroflecting may be a good thing, in this case.
Some people hold in Anger a lot the time, without channeling it later, the result maybe feeling of depression or shame for towards themselves.

Egotism -Between the  two sides, there  is no interaction or interplay… . only an exchange that goes one way. Example  a person is so into himself and talking about only himself at a meeting, without listening or  noticing anyone else.

Deflection is moving the contact boundary or more easily understood, changing the subject in a conversation.

Defense Mechanisms – Defense mechanisms are not actually contact disturbances like the  previous listed. Instead of manipulation of boundaries, they are patterns of action and thought  that the subject uses to cope with his surroundings, when feeling stressed or anxious. The appear during contact and I think they are worth noting here though.Example would be “Intellectualizing” and “Compartmentalizing”.

In  C. B. T , a client learns to catch and correct Thought Errors, and change unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior .  In contrast,  in  the  Gestalt Therapy setting , a client learns to become  mindful  of what happens in the interactions, including contact disturbances and mechanisms, non judgmentally. This in part of a larger awareness so that a client may understand himself, needs, drives, interactions, and  so he may ultimately  become who he is.  Just as well,  mindfulness of contact will aid one in understanding his relationships to others.


In Gestalt therapy the self arises in contact, and consists of what ever is integrated into “What and Who I am”, and is not experienced as Other. This is a technical definition of self different than an everyday definition. It is a constantly changing process and needs contact with “Other” (surroundings, environment, other people,etc.) to be experienced. The healthy regulation of self happens at the contact boundary with “other” where the subject (Client, organism, family,etc.) maintains relative control of the “metabolism”. The other or environment, surroundings, may change quickly… the self or subject is usually more stable, but is a process in change none the less.

Metabolism And Self Regulation.

Metabolism is a term coined by Fritz Perls, one of the co founders of Gestalt Therapy. Metabolism takes place at the Contact boundary, its the subjects (organism, self, group, etc.) process of assessing novelties and new experiences in “small bites”, for assimilation or rejection. Metabolism  and Contact are important concepts of self regulation in Gestalt therapy theory.
It is the gained ability to regulate what will become part of oneself and what will not, including new beliefs, attitudes, actions, etc.,  that reflects an organism’s “autonomy” .  All though, all things influence each other, a subject (organism, person, family, etc.)  has the ability to relatively self regulate, to become who  he , she or it  is.


Everyone is different and different therapies, methods, and  paradigms  work better for some than others. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is more popular right now , possibly due to its strict method for practitioners and scientific data that puts in on par with the medical science. Gestalt Therapy  asks for creativity from the therapist and the client, is based on more philosophical thinking, and is often measured in personal growth.
I think it is beneficial to have as many tools around as possible,  I hope Gestalt Therapy is here to stay for a long time.

for  further reading:


Cognitive behavioral Thought Errors

“Thought Errors” definition: irrational and self defeating thoughts that lead one to feel bad or that  lead to intrusions in ones life.
Thought Errors”,aka “Thinking Errors“, “cognitive distortions”… from a Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (or C.B.T) point of view, are not meant to be a judgment of ones intelligence. Rather they are intrusive behavior-like forms of thought to be aware of ,and from the the C.B.T. View point, to be worked through rationally.

For people who manage disorders, Such as Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders: “thought errors” can build and snowball into more harmful or intrusive thoughts, feelings or behaviors, so learning to catch them (and eventually correct them) is a useful tool in staying well.

Personally I prefer the Gestalt therapy way of managing my mental wellness, (holistic awareness of mind/body/behavior and processes ), However every Mental Wellness manager is different. Plus, the awareness of ; and working through of ….Thought Errors is a useful tool of any management.

Common Thought or Thinking Errors:

Emotional reasoning – rationalizing a fact out of feeling.

. “I feel bad, therefore I am a bad person.

  • I feel bad right now, but everyone feels bad, sad , ugly, or angry sometimes. “Feeling bad Is not a reason to judge myself as a bad person.”

Catastrophizing – concluding the worst possible outcome of a potential situation, no matter how likey the possibility.

My son is out with the car and is late. He’s been in an accident!

  • There are many possibilities why my son is late. He could be held up in traffic, which is more likely”.

Personalizing. self – judgment : Blaming one self for something that isn’t their fault.

My Son failed his exam at school. This is my fault.

  • I am responsible for myself, and can only control so many things.

Black / White Rigid Thinking – One divides everything into good and bad, right or wrong, all or nothing.

I wish I could work at that place, its the perfect dream job

  • Everyone and Every situation(including jobs) has qualities and difficulties. Thinking A place or person job or situation, will be entirely perfect or entirely dismal will lead to disappointment.

Should statements: self -judgment and top dogging oneself.

I should be doing more with my life, right now.”

  • Although its important to wish, and to hope: Saying what I should be doing is self judging, and takes me away from who I am and can lead to resentments.

Over-Labeling: Applying an adjective or a descriptive trait of someone or something and assuming it is the whole of it.

he is a conservative…. he is a Liberal…. she is an academic

  • Someone may be conservative or liberal, etc, or have some values as such. But believing that some traits make the whole of something may lead me to the wrong overall conclusions or prejudgments.

Some other Thought or “Thinking Errors”:
Leaping (to conclusions) – assuming the outcomes of events without evidence or information.
Mind reading – assuming what another person is thinking or feeling, without asking.
Magnifying– 1.blowing out of proportion your error, or another persons success 2 overstating a situation.
Minimizing – 1. denying ones own success and qualities. 2 denying the consequences of an action.

Thought Errors (aka cognitive distortions)  are difficult to “catch” or be mindful of, at first. They are common to everyone, can be long standing thought behaviors and often come with a lot of emotion connect to them.
Catching them, or being mindful of them, can be improved by journaling, Mental Health Work books, or asking a therapist to help design plans.