MY BACKGROUND IN
Cyndy Sheldon, MSW, Gestalt Therapist
I have been teaching Gestalt Therapy and doing it since 1967 when colleagues and I started the 3rd Gestalt Institute in San Francisco. Fritz Perls, Gestalt co-founder, was deemed an honorary member.
TRAINING IN GESTALT: While I was in graduate school I went into therapy with the only Gestalt therapist in Northern California at the time—Eugene Sagen PhD. He co-led a group with Paul Baum PHD, so by the time I met Fritz at the dream seminar in 1961, I’d already had a year or two of Gestalt experience. While watching Fritz work with one of the group members, I heard a voice telling me “You will be doing this work for the rest of your life”. I
attended many workshops in Big Sur and San Francisco over the next few years.
BACKGROUND: At this time, mid 1960s, the San Francisco Bay Area was alive and active with many new movements. The free speech movement, the feminist movement, the black panther movement, the flower children, the psychedelic movement, the east Indian guru and Buddhist movements, as well as the Human Potential movement all flooded California and then the rest of the country. Gestalt Therapy was a large part of this movement
which is now world wide.
BIG SUR/SAN FRANCISCO: Then came many workshops and trainings in Big Sur at Esalen Institute and in the Bay Area. Our first center was in the Haight Ashbury area, where the hippies and flower children congregated. It was a colorful beginning!
FRITZ PERLS stayed in California until 1969, then left us for Vancouver Island BC. He had run away from two authoritarian regimes: Germany and South Africa, and now was afraid of Nixon developing into an authoritarian leader. He bought an old motel and set up a Gestalt community where trainees from all over could attend seminars….and spread the new way of working to communities all over the world. For over 70 years Gestalt centers have been opening, even on Mainland China I recently found out.
Besides being a medical doctor psychiatrist, Fritz flew planes, was an actor, ice skated, painted, and was an intellectual seeker. Existentialism, Zen Buddhism, Field theory, Gestalt Psychology, Wilhelm Reich’s work, Charlotte Selver’s Sensory Awareness & others influenced him a great deal as he strove to create ways for his students to experience themselves and their lives.
During all of the time I was in training with Fritz and Jim Simkin, and teaching and working with others in the Gestalt Institute of San Francisco, I slowly realized there was an unacknowledged theme running in much of Gestalt therapy training—a theme I call the Egalitarian Influence . (Posted separately)
I started my Gestalt Experience in 1961 and it is now 2021, 60 years later—at age 85.