Self-Mastery in 7 Steps, Creating Conscious Communication with Gestalt Relational Awareness
I’ve lived and worked in many community settings with diverse people from many different backgrounds. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone speaks a different language. Even if two people are speaking English together, each speaker speaks their own language. Each speaker comes to the conversation with years of unique life experience that no one else will ever experience in exactly the same way they did. Even if they use the same words as another person, the constellation of meanings and associations they have with one word could be completely different than the meanings and associations aroused in someone else when the same word is presented. For example, to someone who lived and worked on a banana farm, the word “banana” can carry an entirely different constellation of meanings and associations than someone who is allergic to bananas.
This creates an interesting dynamic in communication between diverse groups of people. Misunderstanding is the primary source of all conflict. And misunderstanding is largely caused by miscommunication. Therefore, it seems that in order to exist more harmoniously with others, we need to learn how to fully communicate the meaning of what we’re saying. Add to the mix that we are often communicating emotions and experiences from the vast realm of the “unsaid” – the opportunity for misunderstanding and miscommunication becomes even greater. So as conscious community members, we not only need to understand what we mean when we say it, but we also need to be able to communicate that in a way that leads to mutual understanding.
So what could that look like?
For years, community facilitators, conflict-resolution specialists, and counseling professionals have been trying to understand this question. The subject of effective communication has been a huge source of interest, research, and study across many fields and in many professions. From Ury & Fischer’s “Getting to Yes” to Non-Violent Communication, to Gestalt Relational Awareness, there are many tools people have experimented with to try and create spaces for clear communication.
I’ve tried many practices, and the one that has helped, challenged, and intrigued me the most has been Gestalt Relational Awareness. I learned about this practice through Jummee Park, founder of JUMMEE Method®, who studied Gestalt Relational Awareness at Esalen, where it is taught and practiced by all community members who live there. Since we are working together to launch JUMMEE Method®, we decided to use tools from Gestalt Relational Awareness to help us be the most effective communicators we can be.
In just the 2 months that I’ve been using the practice I’ve noticed some incredible transformation. I’ve witnessed myself not only become a more effective communicator with others, but I’m also noticing how the practice helps me become a more effective communicator of my own feelings and have clearer, more conscious “inner dialogues”.
There are seven basic principles with Gestalt Relational Awareness:
Live in the Here
Live in the Now
Accept yourself as you are
See your environment and interact with it as it is, not as you wish it to be
Be honest with yourself
Express yourself in terms of what you want, think, and free rather than manipulate self and others through rationalizations, expectations, judgments, and distortions.
Experience fully, the complete range of emotions, the pleasant as well as the unpleasant
This structure allows each person to speak from the present moment with statements like, “I feel…” or “I’m noticing…” or “I’m aware of…” which brings their awareness to the present moment, creating a grounding stability that holds the conversation in the here-and-now. The process is built from acknowledging what’s coming up for you. This means that you give yourself permission to feel the full spectrum of emotions and feelings without judgment. It creates a safe space where you and the person you are in “relation” to, can express their feelings about the present moment without argument, blame, or judgment. Even if those feelings come up, they can still be communicated within the container.
The purpose of the practice is awareness. Arguments begin when someone is trying to be right and make someone wrong, and a stake is created in “winning” a discussion, automatically creating a “loser” to the discussion. This dynamic does not create harmony, co-existence, or understanding. Rather it creates feelings of frustration and resentment that are often “stuffed”, or unexpressed. If harbored long enough, these unexpressed feelings can manifest as personal, interpersonal, or communal disease; whether it’s hypertension from stress, a divorce or breakup, or a business or community failure and breakdown.
Gestalt Relational Awareness practice is all about exploration; becoming more aware of your feelings in relation to someone else, creating space for self-reflection and clearing. Rather than having a goal of “being right”, with Gestalt the goal is awareness and understanding. It creates a space where both people can examine what the underlying misunderstanding or miscommunication of a conflict is by taking full responsibility for their process, their actions, their reactions, and their feelings.
Rather than encouraging the stuffing or repressing of feelings from built up frustration from not feeling heard or expressed, Gestalt encourages the clearing and releasing of these feelings in a safe, non-violent way, that creates greater understanding and intimacy between people relating.
I feel so supported by this practice. I even started to use it with my family and experienced major breakthroughs with our ability to effectively communicate. I used Gestalt in a conversation with my parents and through the process we were able to reframe and clear one of the longest standing triggers in our relationship. Through the process I became aware of a limiting belief that I had held onto for a long time that was preventing me from fully hearing my mother’s feedback. I was able to see, in real time, how something I said triggered her, how this trigger ignited a reaction in me, and sparked another response from my father. I became aware that I had been misinterpreting a story she had repeatedly told me because I asked her to pause, and communicated that I was feeling triggered because the story she told landed to me like she was saying I wasn’t doing enough. This gave her the opportunity to clear and say that her intention was to be supportive, and she clarified the purpose of sharing this story with me.
In that moment I became aware that the feelings of “not being enough” were my own. I realized that I had filtered her support through that filter for most of my life, which prevented me from fully receiving her love and support. This in turn, created a dynamic where she felt unheard, unseen, and acknowledged. And because I got triggered when she was trying to be supportive, my father would enter the entanglement as the ‘hero’, adding to the dynamic of my mother feeling like she was the ‘bad cop’ in our relationship.
By using Gestalt Relational Awareness, all three of us were able to see the “villian-victim-hero” entanglements that were being created through our co-created misunderstanding. We were able to acknowledge our own reactions and triggers, and even though the emotions of the conversation were highly charged, we were able to navigate them and come to a deeper place of understanding.
This practice helped me cultivate a bravery to express my feelings – so if you’re someone who finds it difficult to express your feelings, Gestalt is an amazing tool to explore your inner world and be able to share that experience with others.
My experience with Gestalt has deepened my inner journey of self-mastery and exploration. It’s given me a safe space to explore my own “triggers” or emotional reactions based on past experiences. The principles of living here and now and accepting myself as I am have helped me become more compassionate and loving with myself and others. It’s helped me to reframe my experience of disharmony or “conflict” as an opportunity to get to know myself more. This has helped me find the courage to speak my truth, no matter what it is, for myself. When I speak my truth without self-judgment, I allow myself to be expressed. When I fully express myself, I’m not holding emotions or feelings in my body, and I experience “flow” rather than stagnation.
Gestalt Relational Awareness has helped me become more unconditionally loving and accepting of myself and others.
If you live in the Santa Monica/LA area and are interested in learning more about this practice and how you can apply it and benefit from it in your daily life, join us every Wednesday at Wisdom Wednesday. We practice Gestalt tools to help you become more aware and deepen your self-mastery in a safe, loving container.
Have any experience using Gestalt Relational Awareness or other communication tools? What worked for you? What challenges came up? What benefits were revealed? Feel free to comment below and share your personal experience navigating the path of self-masterty through effective communication.