Gene Ruyle's Reviews > In and Out the Garbage Pail

In and Out the Garbage Pail by Frederick Salomon Perls
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Jun 20, 2012

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bookshelves: psychology, autobiography

Gestalt Therapy Disrobed– As Seen Through The Eyes Of Its Principal Founder And Most Flamboyant Practitioner.

(A review of In and Out the Garbage Pail by Fredrick S. Perls)

This is Fritz Perls in his own words, as if come across in the baths at Esalen Institute in 1968, holding forth there in this deceptively "simple" but brashly blunt account given late in his life of just how his work and thinking took shape over time.
He sketches in broad-strokes the portrait of his life, from his childhood in Berlin, Bar Mitzvah and puberty crisis ("I am a very bad boy and cause my parents plenty of trouble"), on through his military service in World War I, into the period that followed in Frankfurt during the time when the Institute for Social Research was being founded (sharing the same intellectual ethos of the neurological clinic in which Gestalt psychology was begun in earnest), up to his break in both theory and method with Freud's traditional psychoanalytic circle, followed by his own subsequent individual development of Gestalt Therapy, starting in South Africa and then later carrying it to the United States, eventually landing him at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California -- which became the closest thing to a spiritual home he ever found.

Part autobiography, part theoretical elaboration and summing up, part off-the-cuff philosophizing and qualifying commentary; part painful admission, true confession, and a clearing of the air; part personal pontificating and the pleasurable peacock parading of an iconic figure and public paragon. This work is woefully misconstrued and seriously distorted if it is either taken too lightly or made too much of. To be rightly received and taken in, it must be viewed in the much larger context of the rest of his writings and serious work with clients, along with the workshops he led and lectures he gave, and all of that added to the ever-animated and at times slightly brutish encounters (and he would be the first to admit this whenever it was the case (as, indeed, he does in some of these pages) with the host of personal acquaintances, close friends, and yes, his entrenched enemies too that made up the unusually rambunctious life of the creatively gifted and all too human man that he was.

* * *

(A member of my doctoral committee, Dr. Vincent F. O'Connell, then on the Psychiatric Faculty of the Medical School at the University of Florida, heard Perls deliver the very first lecture on Gestalt Therapy given in the United States (attended by three people!). The two became close friends and collaborating professional colleagues from that point on until Perls's eventual death, March 14, 1970. "Vinnie" is mentioned by Perls in some places in this book. Among the many elaborations he shared with me about Perls's views on many things -- which were always original, provocative, and off-the-cuff -- was a most intriguing one about Perls's having written a whole paper on the topic: "Interpretation is a hostile act.") He was a man given to making such remarks. Those who have had occasion to see Perls at work with clients or relating to people in general are likely to have seen this upstart aspect of his individual style and personal inclinations as a human being.)?

(Cover painting: One of Perls's own entitled "Eyeglass in Gaza")
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Nate (new) - added it

Nate Mischief that his first lecture on Gestalt Therapy in the US was heard by three people just struck me. Wow. hahaha

Gene Ruyle Right you are, Nate. It's bound to have struck both Perls and Vinnie too -- though under the circumstances, with it all being so new here in the States, they couldn't have expected much. It obviously didn't stop their ongoing interest in getting Gestalt therapy off the ground and going on these shores. Best to you, -G.R.

message 3: by Nate (new) - added it

Nate Mischief I figured. It was something new then, and how I much (including me) would just want to hear Perls now, even just in words. Best regards to you as well.

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