Change to and from

Change to and from :   The Paradoxical Theory of Change

What was tolerable then, may have no usefulness now. Growth is a collision of an every changing now . Growth is both erosion and assimilation. With relative autonomy , ( a slow developing set of behaviors in itself ) one may , as an agent of change , accelerate or stall the natural erosion and assimilation of:
people and things important ones life lilly-pad-blooming

  • values and meaning
  • experience
  • environment

As one reacts to pressures and novelties in contact with him and his internal health.

This is my summary of Arnold Beisser’s of Paradoxical Theory of Change.

Arnold Beisser wrote this as a preface for a Book by Fritz Perls , who developed a conceptual mix of humanistic psychology , experiential practice (or rather existentialism) and a graphical context into his so called “ Gestalt therapy ”. Fritz Perls did so with his wife , Laura and the help of numerous colleagues.

the purpose of Beisser’s “Paradoxical theory of Change ” was  introduce tthe humanistic psychology work by another.
However , there are important and brilliant observations in its rhetoric.

Change is seldom what a person thinks wants change  — at least initially and often do to desperation or boredom. change is a slow process.

that change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions.

Beisser is actually describing a specific nature of change, with autonomy and agents in mind , more than postulating a science theory.

The Nature of Change may apply to integrated group than just a single person. and the Nature of change may describe a community , a social group or social movement.

But it is proposed that the same principles are relevant to social change, that the individual change process is but a microcosm of the social change process. Disparate, unintegrated, warring elements present a major threat to society, just as they do to the individual.

The Nature of Change can be compared in study by comparing what “is” to what it “is not ” , as they meet and mobilize .

First, there is an awareness within the system that an alienated fragment exists; next that fragment is accepted as a legitimate outgrowth of a functional need that is then explicitly and deliberately mobilized and given power to operate as an explicit force. This, in turn. leads to communication with other subsystems and facilitates an integrated, harmonious development of the whole system.

the construct or object or gestalt: “is” and “is not“.
Contact” is a graphical boundary of definition between what something is and what something is not — this is a fundamental point of gestalt therapy, where focus lies at the interplay of the two — the awareness of difference and similarity, cooperation , conflict, withdraw and assimilation.

A somewhat abstract social example:

How do we describe the feminist movement of the last 100 years ?
We’d define “what is feminism and “what is not feminism”
furthermore, we would need to create context for both.
“What happened when and where: ” What is Feminism ” met or meets “What is Not Feminism
As far as the changes is Feminism , Beisser would have us expect the pressures and agents of change, erosion and withdraws along novelties.
the social collision of what is and what is not Feminism.

The personal example :

A person may describe himself as
What I am ” meeting “What I am not
The observation of change of “I “and “I am not” is the erosion, the letting go of old tenants and the assimilation of new tenants. Beissers point in his essay, that person must come to realize all facets of this if he is to change “I” and “I am not ” in a healthy manner. the person must become aware of differences, past hindrances or resolve past parts of what he is , in the contrast , interplay , coercion and cooperation of what he is not.
Beisser extends this advise beyond the single person , so that groups community and movements can change in a healthy manner.

Paradoxical Arnold Beisser

Further more…

What happens at boundary of contact is more complex than a Boolean value of this or that. With that said, it is important to become aware of distinction of what two are compared.

Another important characteristic of perception is the tendency toward closure–that is, toward making meaning about a figure. Presented with a circle of unconnected dots, for example, the perceiver instinctively fills in the gaps mentally to create a complete, bounded image.

A description of the natural tendency of “far perception” to further relationships.

reification triangle image


What could be inferred is the desire to make connection between broken or non-wholes.
an autonomous body may seek beyond its boundary as much as take what it was minutes ago.

Today the ( growingly) controlled media outlets, especially the internet and pundits is full of standoffs and bullies, both in groups and as people.
Its almost like someone is teaching a foolish irrational ways of “change” or defense.
Whats at risk ? An integrated way of being , for single person , environment, and community.

The compartmentalization of old people, young people, rich people, poor people, black people, white people, academic people, service people, etc., each separated from the others by generational, geographical, or social gaps, is a threat to the survival of mankind. We must find ways of relating these compartmentalized fragments to one another as levels of a participating, integrated system of systems.

Arnold Beisser – Paradoxical Theory of Change

I wrote you a poem…

a one draft poem inspired by Beisser. I wrote this years ago:

All things are shaped by friction
Growth by by erosion,
the crash of objects against environment
water against rock, man against circumstance,
two crashing into one and other
I am no different,
except for the engine within that propels me
forward, fueled with past experience
with the gift of mind, sensation, and memory
and the awareness of the sparks
created between me,
and the who and the what
that I crash into.

titled by me “Self indulgence”. thanks Arnie.

Metabolizing ~ k.i.s.s.

Keeping Me Healthy

The process involving a set of chemical reactions that modifies a molecule into another for storage, or for immediate use in another reaction or as a by product.

metabolism is used as a metaphor for psychological functioning. People grow through biting off an appropriate-sized piece (be this food or ideas or relationships), chewing it (considering), and discovering whether it is nourishing or toxic

As one discovers each moment that he experiences…
conscious gestalts(stimuli, senses far & close, emotional response  that together form temporal “phenomena”)  form out of the unconscious  background.
Assessing  these moments, is a matter of deciding what bits and pieces are “swallowed” (and nourishing) and what rejected
This happens at a metaphorical boundary between differences known as Contact“.  In this case Contact is between the subject -and- what-he-is-not,  at that moment.

Metabolism at contact boundary is holistic  body/mind/environment experiential adventure.

Keeping Me Healthy.








Zone Mapping with Gestalt Perspective

I was on my way to a gardening class this weekend, when I got to thinking about “Zone Maps”.
Zone Mapping is a graphical method in permaculture design that is used to organize and compare systems (most often ecosystems, landscaping, sustainable gardens, and conservatory area regeneration,etc).
After intensive observation of a system, One drafts a zone map with concentric circles. The simplest zone map would start with something like this
Zone 0 – basic necessities of people and dwelling areas.
Zone 1 – areas of ecosystem designated as support of basic necessities
Zone 2 – semi-wild. this is areas with lots of edges.. where system meet (i.e Ecotone)
Zone 3 – the wild. untamed or unknown areas or areas not of use.

Zone maps can be applied to more than just landscape or conservatory projects. A designer can use them to graphically map out communities, business models and just about anythings. This is an application to aid the study and comparison of things and concepts as systems.

Which lead me to thinking about the Gestalt perspective, which includes the study and comparison of “wholes
So I experimented with some zone-mapping with Gestalt:


Gestalt Contact Awareness

o basic necessities basic needs
basic responsibilities
1  support of  basic necessities “nourishment”
cultivation of skills
growth, learning
2  semi-wild
interaction of systems
new interpersonal activity
interacting with environment
3 wild
unused or unknown
expulsion  ideas and activity
that is either “toxic” or
“no longer fits”
letting go


This is what a ‘zone map on gestalt perspective’ might look like:

My zone map is a comparison and between: a simplified organization of a ecological design ;
and an organization of developing awareness from Gestalt therapy perspective. Note these are just my conjectures just for zone mapping practice.
I am starting to learn how to use zone maps, so this one is rough… missing a few components.
I hope to post improved experiments later as I learn.

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:


White Cloud, Blue Mountain, and Zen

“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without becoming dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”

Tozan, translated by Shunryu Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginners mind.)

While Western thinkers debated through the centuries about  free will and determinism. the Zen mind found in him self  a fluid process, a relatively self autonomous being yet still interconnected to and affect by the otherness around him, embedded in his present circumstance. Always influencing and being influenced by ‘otherness” of  his world  still He is He.
A subject is a subject and his/her otherness is otherness, Yet they interconnected while being neither completely independent or dependent.

The organism and the field
breather and air
the teacher and the student
The husband and Wife.
Figure and Ground
“Heaven” and “Earth”

In a moment of  Zazen meditation one may  experience a sense of complete independence and dependence… a sense of freedom and singularity. Alluding to a metaphor of  Zusuki: one’s breathing is the swinging door between.

When one is  himself, he is at the center of is world, moment to moment he lives both relatively independent and dependent of the world. When living his active daily life that “swinging door” is often described as “Contact“.
Contact is the meeting of differences, a permeable boundary between two, a doorway to be mindful of.  Contact is also interdependence and difference, where two influence each other. From the first person point of  view, Contact is the swinging door between self (as subject) and other. When we meditate contact happens with  breathing.

In  Zen thought, one may be mindful of circumstances of when two are in opposition or when when two move together in the advantage of their harmony. One witness his  influence on his world and his worlds influence on him.  One recognize his autonomy and the world that is its own means.

video posted by Emptymindfilms.

We live in a series of “nows” one immediately after the other. Circumstances always change. The white cloud is always changing.The white cloud is always the white cloud. The Blue Mountain is always the Blue Mountain.

breath, existing, and contact

According to one thread of existential thinking, a person exists by separating “self” from “other”; and connecting and integrating ‘self “and “other” in his environment.
The meetings of difference of self and other is called contact and its process is where living takes in the present centered moment.

I ask myself:
What better method is there developing awareness of “contact ”boundary interactions between “self and “other”, than Zazen or Zen meditating?.

In meditation: one begins sitting, breathing naturally, and simply being whole,
Letting go of the the “shoulds”, “should have” and “might have beens” which are imaginary places in ones mind,
and become what is …in the here and now ; mind and physics together as one.

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