Illustration: The Dialogical Self and Contact Cycle

Polster and Polster (1973, p. 176) in their book Gestalt therapy integrated explains the syntax of the contact episode as moving through eight stages:

  1. the emergence of a need;
  2. the attempt to play out the need;
  3. the mobilization of the internal struggle;
  4. statement of theme incorporating the need and the resistance;
  5. the arrival at the impasse;
  6. the climatic experience;
  7. the illumination;
  8. the acknowledgment.

This cycle may last for only a minute, or it may play out for months and years. When the circle is not complete, there exists an incomplete gestalt, or unfinished business. In therapy the client is supported to complete pressing needs that are open. The closure of the cycle can bring about catharsis.

This sketch describes the dialogical self in contact with the environment and the resistances that denies the self from experiencing the environment, thus denying the needs of the self. Included are also the introjects that arise from past traumatic experiences and creative adjustments that ensues when these resistances are in play.

Dissociation   is known to be another contact interruption strategy. The person who is dissociated avoids contact with the stimuli, by retreating in his/her mind. This is a strategy of children who feel trapped in a situation,  but it  can also be something we do, like daydreaming  while pretending to be attentive in school..

contact cycle, gestalt therapy
The dialogical self in Gestalt Therapy, Contact Cycle illustrated

Adapted from :
Clarkson, P., & Cavicchia, S. (2013). Gestalt counselling in action. Sage.

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