Toxic Workplaces and Pretend Employees from a Gestalt Perspective

I’m here with Bob McGannon discussing pretend employees. Pretend employees hide themselves and contribute to creating a toxic workplace. Pretend employees can be workers, leaders, bosses, CEOs and customers.

In this video we talk about the Blind Victim. From a gestalt perspective this is an employee who is characteristically a “Projector”. In the gestalt cycle, they are unable to take action for their feelings and exert themselves into the world – so they attribute parts of themselves externally. It usually manifests as blaming others for things inside themselves and not seeing themselves clearly.

Gestalt Cycle of Experience for Organizations (With Competing Commitments) Continued…

I want to expand on the cycle of experience. Sometimes referred to as the change curve, it illustrates how people, groups or organizations navigate through change. Sometimes the flow is straightforward; other times there might be disturbances that get in the way.

In the diagram, you see where disturbances often happen. In gestalt, these are referred to as ‘contact boundary disturbances’. It means there is an interruption in the cycle of change. Looking at the cycle of change, a straightforward change would follow in this way:

  • Noticing what is going on, feeling the sensations. eg. unsettled feeling
  • Becoming aware of what is going on, naming it. eg. mouth feeling dry, “I feel thirsty”
  • Starting to move and use your energy to do something about the awareness, making a choice and acting on it. eg. standing up and going to drink water
  • Contact, growth and change, a result occurring from the choice. eg. mouth feeling moist and satisfied
  • Withdrawal, acceptance and moving forward to the next gestalt or change cycle eg. some new awareness that starts the cycle again

Humans have multiple gestalts occurring simultaneously. Additionally our upbringing and temperament has patterned a conditioned way of responding to change. Some of us freeze in the sensation phase, not being able to feel our body and notice what is happening. Usually this presents itself as anxiety, panic and fear. For others, we might be aware, but we might stay stuck in other ways.

In this post I will explain how we remain stuck in the change cycle with our introjects. Introjects are the “shoulds”, “ought to” and blindly swallowed rules. When stuck here, the Introjector “does as others would like them to” without conscious choices of their own.

What does this look like in an organization or change setting? Nice to your face, but stabs you in the back; saying ‘yes’ to work but actively resisting (“deliberate resistance”) and a general passive aggressiveness.

What might be going on underneath? Often what might be occurring is trying to hide what is inside:overwhelm, fear, uncertainty, discomfort. The unfortunate impact and result is that it creates a toxic environment and disrespect between people. In an organization it is grossly inefficient.

How can we deal with it?

Scan environment and become aware of what is going on around you. Notice what is happening. Ask yourself: what should I be like here? is this how I really want to be?

We need to pause and feel the overwhelm and fear, asking “whats the gap between here and where we have to go? What do I need to feel supported to move forward? Sometimes we need help with this. The beauty of gestalt, is that its a humanistic approach, that is relational. We have the support of community, and relationship to navigate forward. It may not always feel good, or easy, but we don’t have to do it alone.

Want to find out more? Contact me!

Paradoxical Theory of Change

A tool used to describe change is often referred to as the “change curve”. In psychology this is sometimes referred to as the Kubler-Ross cycle, after the psychiatrist who studied death, dying and grief. She came up with this depiction to illustrate how people adapt to loss. It’s widely used among many disciples to help people understand that there is a process of adapting, and growing through a big change. This curve is essentially, the process of living life. Any experience in life, can transpose this process to it – be it an organizational change, a change in relationships, an addition to a family, a new team member, the loss of a loved one, an injury. This process helps us understand how we adapt through something new.

How do we go through this process? Most people struggle going through the process. Often people’s reactions to change aren’t to the change itself, but the process of change. We resist, we deny, we get stuck in emotion. However, the only way out, is through. This is what is often referred to as the “paradoxical theory of change”.

Change occurs when one becomes what s/he is, not when s/he tries to become what s/he is not.

Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change them, but it takes place if one takes the time and effort to be what they are – to be fully invested in their current position. In this way change occurs by surrender. Again the paradox is that change doesn’t occur by “trying”, coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation or any other active means.  Rather, change can occur when you abandon, at least for the moment, what you would like to become and attempts to be what you are. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.

Resilience is…

building capacity to stay with the process of change; a skill you have to practice, and in every moment of change you are called to practice.

#Corona #covid19 #Quarantine How do you cope? Paradoxically…

How do you deal with quarantine for another 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks? Perspective. You may want to be productive and work, school your children: take action to feel in control. This is what we have all been taught in our world. Yet, this time calls for building some different muscles. This situation calls for inaction, rest, peace, and not-doing. When we push the river where it doesn’t flow, we create resistance. The paradox is when we flow with what is, change naturally occurs.

Transformation amidst COVID19

Now more than ever, humans are being called to a state of transformation. Greatness comes from deliberate discomfort when we breathe through the process of change. Whether you’re a professional working from home, laid off and looking for work, or a stay at home parent, or all three; this time is calling all humans to move forward in new ways.

The definition of insanity is doing the same things you’ve always done, expecting different results. However, pausing to ask yourself these key questions can alter your perceptions, emotions, and experience:

What am I learning from this experience?

What are my beliefs that are making this more challenging?

How will this experience lead me to greater strength?

What is gestalt?

Gestalt is a present centred approach to increase awareness. By increasing awareness regarding a situation, circumstance, problem, or business issue, a person can increase their choices in changing the outcome. We work together to tap into this infinite power by expanding perspective and using gestalt processes, framework and tools.

Integrated Well Street Art @ Nuit Blanche

This street performance art was début at Nuit Blanche, in collaboration with INNERST8. A cultural exploration called “Body is in the eye of the beholder”, Kristina Djokic invited participants to provocatively explore their relationship with themselves through their body. University of Toronto newspaper, The Varisity  featured this work:


A rebel art project materialized at the corner of Bloor and St. George. In a moving performance art piece, brave volunteers stood outside wearing nothing but skin-tight, skin-coloured clothing; onlookers were encouraged to participate by painting negative words or phrases regarding body image onto the volunteers. Kristina Djokic, a Hart House fitness instructor and the creative force behind the piece, envisioned the release of “names they have called themselves in their heads; names they have called others; words they have used to judge and punish the vessels that carry their souls.” To add to the emotionally charged experience, the painters were encouraged to look the human canvasses in the eye as they painted insults onto their bodies. Physically transposing the abuses we use against our friends’, enemies’, and our own bodies onto a stranger threw into sharp relief how cruelly we often treat such a vital part of ourselves.

Tags: #rebelart #bodyimage #artischange

— Heather Eason