How Gestalt helped Oliver (not his real name):
“I began looking at pornography when I was about four years into my relationship. At first it was taking place at home, then it spread to my looking at it at work. The shame and level of self-loathing was indescribable. And at the same time the fear of being caught, well that was just paralysing.”
There is a saying – which I have to confess is one of my favourites – that the antidote to shame is sharing. So, when Oliver was able to come along and actually attend a session, and so talk about his own toxic shame, it was actually a huge, huge moment. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often summarised under the philosophy of trying to get our thoughts to shape our reality.
We agreed that while this approach was interesting, we needed to go much deeper, because the shame was buried deep in his past, and only by visiting that past could we endeavour to finish whatever feelings he had from back then.
Gestalt Psychotherapy is perfectly suited to deeper therapy, as it encourages us to become more aware of ourselves and our processes. We will frequently swallow old beliefs without examining them and being curious about whether they are truly helpful.
What Oliver did very successfully in his therapy was to visit shameful episodes in the past and in exploring them finish them so that they were no longer part of his present. From this he was able to develop a much stronger sense of self, and self-compassion, and as a consequence his inner critic lost much of its power. His use of pornography ended.