This is the first part in a series. The theoretical background for it is Gestalt Psychotherapy. Still the best book on this is the original – Perls, Hefferline and Goodman’s Gestalt Therapy, Excitement & Growth in the Human Personality. It is not an easy read but it will reward you many times over for any time you spend working with it.

So, onto the first way we stuff up our relationships. This is by confusing our own motivation with that of the other person. We feel something and so presume this is the other person’s motivation as well. When I haven’t had enough sleep the world is populated by angry people! In psychotherapy language this is called ‘projection’.

Perhaps you have had the experience of people talking about your reason for doing something and thinking,

“But that wasn’t the reason I did it at all”.

It may be that they have thought that your motivation was the same as theirs. (It may also be that they are right and it is worth asking if they can give examples. This can be embarrassing, eg. “Well, I think you are a miser because the last ten times in a row when you have offered to shout us a meal you have happened to leave your wallet at home”.) Relationships are a tricky business.

Sorting out the projection can take a lot of thought on our part as well as respectful talking and listening to the other person.

It is easy to spot when someone is doing it to me. It is harder to know when I am doing it to someone else. Here are some suggestions:

  • When you find yourself saying that, “All [these sorts of people] are like this”.
  • When you can’t think of examples of the person’s behaviour that your opinion is based on.
  • Asking yourself, “Am I the pot calling the kettle black?”
  • What if they said, “Takes one to know one”, would they be right?

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