In 1931, between two World Wars, a group of skilled German Psychologists became fascinated with the role that perception plays in our behaviors. The first principle they turned up is that human beings take in the visual data of the world in patterns. As you look around, some objects are foreground, and by shifting your attention, these objects may become back ground. The word for completing a pattern in German is Gestalt, so this group became known as Gestaltists and their discipline, Gestalt Psychology. This first principle is obvious and unarguable, but then their second principle could be argued. The second idea this group proclaimed is that our internal needs, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, determined what was fore ground and what was back ground. In other words, you notice what you need. Also, your internal needs are reflected in what you notice. The third idea that arose from this group is that neurosis and psychosis arose when our basic needs could not be satisfied by 1. awareness of a need 2. perceiving the fulfillment 3. then gaining it from our environment. Blocking the satisfaction of filling a basic need causes neuroses is a key principle of Gestalt.

The most famous of these Gestalt Psychologists, Frederick S. Perls, MD, left Germany for South Africa then moved to the US and practiced his Gestalt therapy with huge successes at Esalen Institute in California. Early video tapes of Fritz Perls at work were dissected and discussed among Psychologists and Psychiatrists around the world. People changed in a positive direction while working with him in sessions but his methods were difficult to organize and to teach. Which interventions were key and which were fluff?

Around the same time, Milton Erickson, MD was also making a name for himself in the therapeutic world, using hypnosis and, but not the stage kind. The same questions arose. Which of his moves were the essential ones, and which were simply long, boring stories he told? People changed, but what did Dr. Erickson do that caused this change? What caused their anxieties to lesson and their outlooks to brighten?


A little later, a Linguist and a student at University of California Santa Cruz, experimented with the techniques of Perls and Erickson, added a few of their own insights and began teaching another discipline, Neuro-Linguistics, based on the histories and mysteries of those first two. The same questions arose, “Which of these interventions causes what?” Once trained in Neuro-Linguistics, rank amateurs were curing phobias, correcting neuroses, and proclaiming miracles of change work among their peers. Gestalt and Hypnosis had become a series of specific moves that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Most of the amateurs did not understand the basic psychological principles at work well enough to know for sure whether any long term cures actually happened. If the whatever series of moves solved the problem, fine. If not, fine, too. Probably the most amazing thing is that many of the strategies taught in these, often, very short trainings, worked just fine to correct plaguing problems of patterned thought. Linguistics contributed Alfred Korzybski’s “the map is not the territory” concept at this point. Also from Linguistics was Noam Chomsky’s theory that our perceptual and thinking processes are not perfect therefore, what we believe is reality may be true, and may not be.


The strategies for success in dealing with people from these divergent disciplines, have recently been augmented by the discoveries of Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph. D. Dr. Taylor is a neuroanatomist, whose job it was to slice up brains for research at Harvard University. When she suffered a stoke in her Left Brain, she lived for 4 hours using mostly her Right Brain before she called for help. Her insights into the attributes of the Right Brain are recounted in her book, "My Stroke of Insight". She notes that peace, joy, ectasy are all present in the Right Brain. Fear is only present in the Left Brain. This discovery has important ramifications for mental health and understanding yourself and others so that mutually satisfying agreements can be completed in business and in your personal life. Your Right Brain contains the ingredients for success.

Author's Bio: 

Genie Z. Laborde, Ph. D. is an internationally known seminar leader, author, and produces her own videos for her trainings. Her Business Communication/Sales/Negotiation/Leadership skills seminar series have been taught to more than 50,000 people in 16 countries. The Founder and CEO of I. D. E. A. inc.,she is also the author of 16 books, including "Influencing with Integrity" which has sold 151,000 copies in 6 languages. Her seminar clients include IBM, Chase Bank, SBC, Intel, HP, Dell, Stanford University, the United Nations and 97 other major corporations and institutions.