The Aesthetics of Commitment: What Gestalt Therapists Can Learn from Cézanne and Miles Davis

  • Michael Vincent Miller


This essay is a meditation on a common Gestalt idiom - the expression “staying with” in the sense of staying with the truth of one’s present experience, whether it feels positive or negative. This is such a common intervention from Gestalt therapists that it is almost a cliché. If you are a Gestalt therapist, it is hard to imagine a day of private practice going by without your suggesting to this or that client, “Stay with this angry feeling” or “with this fantasy of killing your mother” or “with this sensation in your chest” or “with the way you are perched on the edge of your chair”. Like every idiomatic intervention in every school of psychotherapy, telling your client to stay with what is going on can harden into an empty and stereotyped technique when you can’t think of anything else to do. But it has its roots in an important, original principle of Gestalt therapy - the replacement of the therapist’s control of the client’s experience, through such methods as interpretation or conditioning programs, with a basic respect for the client’s subjectivity as a touchstone of psychotherapy.


Delirium Tremens Original Principle Conditioning Program Angry Feeling Interesting Figure 
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© Springer-Verlag Wien 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Vincent Miller

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