Gestalt Processes Simplified  gestfritz

Introjection,  Projection, Confluence and Retroflection.



An individual must learn to balance and adjust to fitting his/her boundaries into a socially acceptable gestalt.  Many

med1disturbances in individuals arise from the inability to find and maintain the proper balance between self and the rest of the world, boundaries are the way in which discernment is allowed to protect him/her against the threat of being overcrowded with unnecessary stimulation from the rest of the world.  We have a great need to form these boundaries and a structure.  Many side effects occur when improper boundaries are not set:  addictions, disease, aches and pains, antisocial behaviors, codependency, and many more which I am sure you can identify without my help.




INTROJECTION—-Introjections are undigested attitudes, ways of acting, feeling and evaluating,  that we swallowed whole, usually from our primary caretakers, however anyone who was a main character in our early lives would be a person to whom we looked as a “rule giver”.  Introjects are undiscerned pieces of the whole which we  never analyzed before we took them into our psychological system; they often form the SHOULDS and OUGHT TO’s in our make-up.  To be REAL and in touch with our own integrity and morality we must digest and master what is truly our own, truly a part of the personality.  Bit if we simply accept these rules and beliefs whole-hog and gestparentuncritically, on someone else’s say so, or because they are fashionable or safe or traditional or unfashionable or dangerous or revolutionary—they lie heavily on us—introjects become undigested materials. They are still foreign bodies even though they may have taken up residence in our minds.  Many times, one can see blocks of energy around the stomach area (unusual protection of the undigested material).  The dangers of introjections are two fold; first of all, the man who introjects never gets a chance to develop his own personality, because he is so busy holding down the foreign bodies he has swallowed whole.  The more introjects he has saddled himself with, the less room there is for him to express or even discover what he himself is.  And in the second place, introjections contributes concepts, you may find yourself torn to bits in the process of trying to reconcile them.  And this is a fairly common experience today.  We end up incorporating into ourselves standards, attitudes, ways of acting and thinking, possibly coming from mother and father, which are not truly ours.  Introjection moves the boundary between ourselves and the rest of the world so far inside ourselves that there is almost nothing of us left.  I look at clients whose  language reflects many shoulds, trying to get permission, etc.  Or one who is very angry and does not have anyway of expressing that anger, so it lies in the stomach area.  Women introject many shoulds around how you are suppose to be a mother/wife…SHOULD, SHOULD,. Until they have had all they can take and develop a physical ailment in the female parts of the body, breasts, uterus, etc.  The extrication of these introjects and the examining and discernment process need to take place in order for healing to occur.  Identifying the Shoulds, and Ought to Bee’s in our lives is one great step to solving the extrication.



Projection —– Reverse of introjection.


As introjection is the tendency to make the self responsible for what actually is part of the environment, so projection is the tendency to make the environment responsible for what originates in the self.  Clinically, we recognize that the disease of paranoia, which is characterized by the development of highly organized system of delusions, is the extreme case of projection…..that is not what we are talking about. Here…this is the projections of which we are all guilty, like the highly aggressive personality who, unable to bear the responsibility for his own wishes, feelings, and gestprojdesires, attaches them to objects or people in the environment who will hold the projection and fit the pattern beautifully.  A person who feels he is being persecuted unfairly, in fact may be making the statement that he would like to persecute others.  That which you have tremendous energy to unload on others, is often very true of SELF….In projection, then, we shift the BOUNDARY between ourselves and the rest of the world a little too much in our own favor—in a manner that makes it possible for us to disavow and disown those aspects of our personalities which we find difficult or offensive or unattractive.  And this is very important….IT IS OUR INTROJECTS THAT LEAD US TO THE FEELINGS OF SELF-CONTEMPT AND SELF-ALIENATION THAT PRODUCE PROJECION.   The over-wary, over-cautious person, who tells you he wants friends and wants to be loved, but who tells you at the same time that “you can’t trust anyone, they’re all out for what they can get,” is a projector par excellence.


When working with people listen to how many times they talk about someone else, either positive or negative, (positive projections are as important to own, as are negative ones), they will use You…much of the time, second person in their verbalizations.  Gossip is something that Fritz Perls never allowed in the Gestalt Community…as it was about someone to someone else. instead of face to face,  projections run rampant in gossip.


Gestalt work is a very hard-nosed therapy, but, it really stresses honesty with self . If we clean up our own psychology, then, it makes the world a better and more ethical place to be, because we are essentially not going around messing on other people with our projections.  Ask yourself before you are making a judgment of another, are you sure that it is not you, you are talking about?




Boundaries are very diffused when we are confluent, as confluence indicates that the individual feels no boundary at all between himself and his environment, when he feels that he and it are one…he is in CONFLUENCE…Parts and whole are indistinguishable from one another…..The person in whom confluence is a severe state cannot tell what he gestboundariess or feels and cannot tell what other people are or feel….He feels all of the feelings and all of the emotions and identity, without boundaries.  As he is unaware of the boundary between himself and others, he cannot make good contact with them.  Nor can he withdraw from them.  Indeed, he cannot even make contact with himself….This has serious social consequences too.  In confluence, ONE DEMANDS LIKENESS AND REFUSES TO TOLERATE ANY DIFFERENCES. We find this in parents whose children become merely extensions of themselves.  Such parents lack the appreciation that their children are bound to be unlike them in at least some respects.  Grammatically, you can pick up confluence to a degree, by the person’s over usage of the word  “we”, speaking for all instead of speaking for SELF.  When one is counseling or listening to another, often there are tears on both sides…or even when tears flow, it is a state of confluence.  Confluence is necessary for a counselor to feel compassion, but also the counselor must have the ability to attach.  The healer can feel and see into the body…but, must become removed from the body to objectify the knowledge. and do what is necessary to heal…






RETROFLECTION   the last of the Gestalt defense mechanisms…we use to set boundaries…


Retroflection, literally means “turning back sharply against.”  The retroflection knows how to draw a boundary line between him and the environment,  and he draws a neat and clean one right down the middle–but he draws it down the middle of himself.  THE INTROJECTOR DOES AS OTHERS WOULD LIKE HIM TO DO, THE PROJECTOR DOES UNTO OTHERS WHAT HE ACCUSES THEM OF DOING TO HIM, THE CONFLUENT PERSON DOESN’T gestaltretrofKNOW WHO IS DOING WHAT TO WHOM, AND THE RETROFLECTOR DOES TO HIMSELF WHAT HE WOULD LIKE TO DO TO OTHERS. When a person retroflex behavior, he treats himself as he originally wanted to treat other persons or objects.  He stops directing his energies outward in attempts to manipulate and bring about changes in the environment that will satisfy his needs; instead, he redirects his activity inwards and substitutes himself in place of the environment as the target for behavior.  To the extent that he does this, he splits his personality into doer and done to.  He literally becomes his own worse energy.



Again the grammatical usage of the client can reveal which of the processes is working at any given moment…As introjection displays itself in the use of the pronoun “I” when the real meaning is “they;” as projection displays itself in the use of the pronouns,  “you”, “it”, or “they,”  when the real meaning is “I”  as confluence displays itself in the use of the pronoun “we” when the real meaning is in question;  so retroflection displays itself in the use of the reflective, “myself”. The retroflection says, “I am ashamed of myself,” or “I have to force myself to do this job.”   He makes an almost endless series of statements of this sort, all of them based on the surprising conception that he and himself are two different people.






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