Susan Hinze, Ph.D., attributes her enhanced effectiveness as teacher and mentor to doctoral students at Case Western Reserve University to an eye-opening course she herself took only a block away, at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. It's given her a new slant on her personal and workplace lives as well, she says. And a set of new tools for dealing with a host of situations.
Hinze says her experience in the Gestalt Training Program was transformational:
"I came to feel more at home in my body." As a member of the small, informal class known by the shorthand moniker of GTP XII that met for an extended weekend 10 times over an 18-month period, she found she was experiencing herself differently than she did in faculty meetings, and that was refreshing. Re-grounding.
"In my Gestalt community nobody cared about your degrees, your worldly accomplishments--you could just be, and take off the face you have to wear at work. There are so few places in the world like that. Even with your family, people are often hiding things from one another, playing games. At GIC, you have to work at it but gradually you learn to really experience each other, really see each other. And you know that other people are seeing you as you really are."
Another thing she says was special about her Gestalt experience: Outside, in the Big World, says Sue, we tend to spend our one-on-one time with people as much like us as possible. At GIC, the people in your group may come from very different walks of life, have very different worldviews. "You learn to communicate with, even to be close to, somebody who's outside of your usual world. It's like, anything is possible."
You come to see yourself with fresh eyes too. "Every single weekend there was something that made you say: Wow! I had no idea this is what I do. But you could look--even at the difficult or unsettling realizations about yourself--because you felt safe and supported there. That doesn't even happen in a lot of families. Somebody may use what you say or do against you later."
And you bring this new way of seeing yourself, and others, back out into your daily world. "I find I am much more present with students," says Sue, who recently was honored with Case Western Reserve University's prestigious John S. Diekhoff Award for her exceptional mentoring of Case students working on their doctorates. "You have so much more to draw from, see so much more. If a student says something that triggers something in me, I know how to set that aside so I can stay with them and what they need.
"As a sociologist I knew how to probe and listen in an interview, but now I can do that in a much deeper way with an anxious student, even do a little modeling [of a different way of looking at a situation]. Gestalt training has made me more aware of what I'm doing, how it supports--or undermines--what I want to happen, so I can decide whether I might want to modify my style of interacting with certain people."
And her Gestalt community? "We really bonded, became very close. It was hard when it ended." Some of the members of GTP XII, which finished up in May, have already come together for a reunion! "But just knowing that they're out there--it makes you feel supported, you know? And you can always hang out on line, even with the people who live far away."
Sue's already enrolled in a Gestalt workshop since her GTP graduated. "It's nice to know the Institute is still there, and that you can come back, and learn some more."