Gestalt Psychology

In this article, we provide a brief introduction to Gestalt Psychology, as a starting point to explore its applications in improving Self Awareness & driving Behavioural Change.

Gestalt psychology or Gestaltism is a psychological perspective entered around the idea that our understanding of human nature must take into account the macroscopic view, rather than dividing the view into atomistic elements for simplicity of analysis. The Gestalt school of thought originated in Austria & Germany though the works of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler & Kurt Koffka etc amongst others.


A core idea behind Gestaltism is that our perception changes when we take into account the whole picture. Which implies there is more to any phenomenon than the sum of its individual parts. Thus, Perception is at the core of Gestalt Psychology.

Their are four principle concepts of Gestalt Psychology.

  1. Principle of Totality, which as the name implies, states that the aggregate must be taken into account, rather than the sum of its parts.
  2. Principle of psychophysical isomorphism, which implies that there exists a correlation between an individual’s conscious experience & his / her cerebral activity.
  3. Phenomenon experimental analysis which implies that one needs to analyze a total phenomenon, rather than a subset of it such as sensory responses.
  4. Biotic experiment which establishes the requirement to conduct real experiments, rather than lab tests in order to get the true understanding of any issue.

Gestalt Experiences

A Gestalt Experience is an experimental experience driven with the goal of generating therapeutic effects. The Gestalt Experience method that can be applied for behaviour or attitude change based on an individual’s ability to self regulate & self adjust based on a given situation. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls & Paul Goodman. It goes beyond talking & analysis. It focus on the experience in real time, i.e. trying to understand what is happening, rather than focussing on content i.e what one talks about – in many other forms of therapy.

A Gestalt Experience has the following four fundamental components.

  1. Phenomenological exploration for awareness. It requires one to set aside all biases & give up any expectations. No explanations are required, one only focuses on descriptions, and every part of the description is equally important.
  2. The coach allows the client to enter in their space, thus participating equally in the experience, rather than trying to control it.
  3. Both the phenomenological dimensions (such as our mental process, our feelings) as well as the ontological dimensions (objective reality such as the nature of space around you) are taken into account.
  4. Experimental freedom is the final core concept in this experience. As some examples, a Gestalt experience may include role play or a field trip – in order to generate an experience, rather than just talk about one’s past perception of it.

Self Awareness Questions

  • Identify at least one experience in your life that has significantly changed you as a person?
  • Describe the nature of that change.