Fritz Perls (Friedrich Salomon Perls) (July 8, 1893 – March 14, 1970) was a noted German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist was the founder of Gestalt therapy.
Perls coined the term ‘Gestalt therapy’ to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife Laura Perls in the 1940s and 1950s.
Gestalt Therapy by Fritz Perls, Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman is the seminal text setting forth the theoretical foundations of Gestalt therapy.
Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute in 1964, and he lived there until 1969.
His approach to psychotherapy is related but not identical to Gestalt psychology, and it is different from Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.
The core of the Gestalt Therapy process is enhanced awareness of sensation, perception, bodily feelings, emotion and behavior, in the present moment. Relationship is emphasized, along with contact between the self, its environment, and the other.
Perls has been widely cited outside the realm of psychotherapy for a quotation often described as the “Gestalt prayer”. This was especially true in the 1960s, when the version of individualism it expresses was prevalent.
The Gestalt prayer
The “Gestalt prayer” is a 56-word statement by psychotherapist Fritz Perls that is taken as a classic expression of Gestalt therapy as way of life model of which Dr. Perls was a founder.
The key idea of the statement is the focus on living in response to one’s own needs, without projecting onto or taking introjects from others. It also expresses the idea that it is by fulfilling their own needs that people can help others do the same and create space for genuine contact; that is, when they “find each other, it’s beautiful.”
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)