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Human Interaction and Emotional Awareness in Gestalt Therapy: Exploring the Phenomenology of Contacting and Feeling | Gestalt Therapy Book Series
Peter H. Dreitzel
Routledge / Softcover / Mar 2021
9780367644543 (ISBN-10: 0367644541)
Gestalt Therapy
reg price: $60.95 our price: $ 57.90 (may be subject to change)
344 pages
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In Human Interaction and Emotional Awareness in Gestalt Therapy H. Peter Dreitzel explores a model of the contacting processes between human beings and their environments and presents a phenomenological exploration of the emotions guiding such contacts.

The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the role of psychotherapy in the modern world, especially in the context of change and crisis. Dreitzel sets out a new perspective of how we interact with each other, how we frame our encounters and differentiate them from one another, how we give them meaning, and how they are related to our needs and wants. This is followed by a unique phenomenological exploration of the emotions guiding such contacts, the first time the world of human feelings has been explored in depth and systematically analysed in Gestalt thought. These innovative explorations are framed first by a discussion of the historical development of Western conventions regarding everyday behaviour, and secondly by an examination of perspectives on climate change. Dreitzel analyses the mental and emotional states of potential clients as they are affected by these global processes and the book also includes an epilogue which evaluates how to work with climate anxiety.

Dreitzel’s conception of social change, with Gestalt therapy at its core, is relevant to all aspects of humanistic psychology. It elevates empathy, emotional development and the prevention of suffering at all levels of society, filling important gaps in Gestalt therapy theory and expanding it into exciting new territory. Human Interaction and Emotional Awareness in Gestalt Therapy also contains an insightful foreword by Michael Vincent Miller, PhD, and will be essential reading for Gestalt therapists, other professionals with an interest in Gestalt approaches and readers interested in social interaction, climate change and the role of psychotherapy in a changing world.


"For all his continuing sociological interest, Dreitzel’s concerns are those of a practicing therapist who is interested in expanding the context and role of psychotherapy... This feature is what makes Human Interaction and Emotional Awareness a particularly valuable book for Gestalt therapists — for any psychotherapist, in fact. No matter how far ranging his social interests take him, Dreitzel brings them to bear on the character and quality of individual life, particularly in his detailed examination from the standpoint of Gestalt therapy of the ways in which we suffer physical and psychological pain and how we distinctively make use of our emotions in episodes of contact." - Michael Vincent Miller, PhD, from the foreword

"Based on his unique sociological expertise and longstanding psychotherapeutic practice, H. Peter Dreitzel presents a provocative call for simultaneous interpersonal and ecological awareness. Human individuality requires respectful co-evolution with the others and with nature, both being inseparable environments. This highly recommended book provides a close look at the complexity of our continuous 'contacts'. It encourages emotionally charged, self-reflexive and collective actions, which may maturely face, tackle and change the many man-made social and climate destructions, which are already endangering our survival as a species." - Professor Helmut Milz, MD, psychosomatic medicine; psychotherapist; former in-house consultant, WHO; author, The Self-Sensing Human

Table of Contents


Translator’s Note, by Michaela von Britzke

Foreword, by Michael Vincent Miller, PhD

I. Introduction

II. Historical Context

The Fate of the Body and the Senses in the Civilizing Process

III. The satisfying Experience

The Contacting Process in the Interaction between Humans and their Environments

1. Figure and Ground

The process of gestalt formation in the contacting situation

2. The Phases of the Contacting Process

The unfolding of the self

3. The Instincts

Needing and desiring

4. Sensori-motor Functions

Perceiving and acting

5. Consciousness and Awareness

Accepting and rejecting

6. Aggression

Destroying and annihilating

7. Integration

Surrender and enjoyment

8. Post Contact

Enjoying the afterglow of an experience and affirming

9. Assimilation

Remembering and forgetting

10. Self-Identification and social Anchoring

Identifying oneself and taking responsibility

IV. Emotional Orientation in the Phases of the Contacting Process

Considering the Significance of Emotions in the Contacting Process

The Relationship between the Senses and the Emotions.

On physical Pain and the Nature of Suffering
Emotional Expression and emotional Experience
On the anthropology of emotions

3. The fore-contact Emotions

Aversion and attraction

4. Aggression

The differences between aggression and assertiveness

6. Smiling, Laughing and Crying

Emotional gestures and emotional expressions

7. Beyond the Moment

Timeless emotions

8. Post-contact

Appreciative emotions

9. The inhibiting Emotions

Being anxious and feeling ashamed

V. The Impact of Emotions on Personality and Society

On the many Ways our Civilization depends on the refinement of our feelings

1. The Problem of Violence

The limits of emotional freedom

2. Un-integrated Affects and emotional Habits

Emotional attitudes and character

3. Forms of Sympathy

Contagious emotions and shared emotions

4. Forms of Empathy

To be emotionally sensitive to others and to identify with them

5. Catharsis and Therapy

On the relationship between involvement and distance in emotional experience

6. Aliveness and the Joy of Life:

General goals of Gestalt Therapy

VI. Cultural Context

Man´s Transformations in the Age of Environmental Destruction

1. Looking down from the Moon or End and Eternity of Nature

2. Anxiety and Civilization in everyday Life on Earth

3. Pressure of Time and the Fragility of Hope

4. The Uncertainty of the Future and the Certainty of Death

5. Flight into the trans-human Realm and the Misery of Power

VII. Epilogue:

Gestalt Therapy of Environmental Destruction



About the Author:

H. Peter Dreitzel, PhD, was born in Berlin in 1935. Between 1960 and 1970 he was Assistent Professor of Sociology, University of Göttingen, Germany, and Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, New York, USA. From 1970 to 2000 he was Professor of Sociology at the Free University of Berlin, and in 1973 he co-founded the Berlin Gestalt Center (GZB). Inspired by his most significant teacher in the field, Isadore From, Dreitzel has been a Gestalt therapy practitioner since 1975 and has been a trainer and supervisor at several training institutes in Germany and other European countries. He is the author of several publications on Gestalt therapy.

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