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Michiel van den Heuvel


I’m going to start with a poem by Rutger Kopland

 

My darling

now is the time to lay yourself

 in the garden

the empty spaces in the high grass,

 I have always wanted that to be me,

 an empty space for someone,

 to stay.

 

Harm and Gestalt go hand in hand. For me the following five concepts connect his personality and the Gestalt approach:

 

            being present; sensitivity;  supporting; connecting and loving.

 

Being present:

One of Harm’s reoccurring sayings was: “It is enough just to be there”. Today those words have a sad connotation: because Harm is not here anymore. He has been my big example and teacher in terms of being present, first and foremost by constantly applying it himself. Being present in the sense of “working while using all aspects of who you are”.  In doing so Harm mastered the art of adjusting his being present to the strength and needs of the client. He represented something solid and created peace that enabled him to be fully available in the contact. Contact as the base for growth.

 

Sensitivity

Harm was the master of awareness. Like few others he had the ability to use his own body and that of others as a compass for contact. I have never known him to get sucked into the content of the words, but he always saw, heard and felt the pain and the desire behind what was being said. During our trainings he used his sensitivity to let us experience that this is a subtle process, millimetre by millimetre, step by step, sometimes using silk gloves, to help hurt and vulnerable people develop the ability to support themselves while developing new awareness.

 

Supporting

Harm was extremely good at understanding what it felt like to be facing many things you can’t (yet) do or you don’t dare to. He knew how difficult it can be to develop self-support and self-confidence.

He had many simple quotes that provided a guide line for a therapist who is aiming to do a job that meets the client’s needs. Here are just a few:

 

“Don’t be harsh on your/clients, life has already given them a hard enough time”

 

“(As a therapist) don’t go faster than your patient/client can handle; and don’t try to have too much of an influence.”

 

“No matter what your/client does, approach it as a safety operation that the client has developed during a prolonged difficult situation. It is healthy behaviour in an unhealthy environment.”

 

In his book he describes how Ariadne gives a map and a long thread to Theseus to help him find his way in the dark labyrinth. Often clients also feel like they are walking in the dark, searching for a way out. The thread of contact gives them confidence. Close to the client, the therapist helps him in discovering the map of awareness.

Harm gave me a map. And sometimes during my work as therapist I ask myself: “how would Harm have dealt with this?” And the funny thing is, this enables me to unroll my thread towards my clients.

 

 

Connecting:

The world is full of differences. Personality clashes, conflicts of interest. In the gestalt-world this is no different. Being a therapist and educator means that in addition to that you have to deal with projections and transferences from clients and students. As my experience grows over the years I realise more and more how well Harm achieved in this area. I admire how often he managed to ensure that a difference didn’t turn into a dispute. Without dismissing his own pain and efforts, or those of others, he used his generosity and compassion to enable him to get on with most people, and to be a connecting factor at the same time. And all of us present today know how good it felt to be close to him.

 

Loving:

“It is love that heals”. You cannot have a therapeutic relation without love. “Love” is not often mentioned in the theory of Gestalt. Neither can I remember Harm using the word often.  But he radiated love to the maximum. Beautiful, the boyish smile that regularly appeared on his face. With a twinkle in his eye you could see him enjoy the warmth that had grown between him and others. I will never forget the gentleness in his voice when he spoke about his mother who used to sit at home waiting for him with a cup of tea. And what it comes down to is that Harm was always there for you with a cup of tea, but without the tea.

 

 

 

Amsterdam, 18-02-2010

Michiel van den Heuvel


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