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Ella Mulders

In memoriam Harm

It was September the 14th  1994, I was a new student in a new Getalt training group and it felt like I was in the second grade in high school entering a whole new class. Harm looks at me and asks: how old are you now Ella? 

While practicing as a therapist with a fellow student, the student explained exhaustively why he did something a certain way. Ask him, Harm whispered in my ear; What is he so afraid of? This gave the session a decisive turn. 

Once, I was under pressure, rather I became irritated, when a group member wanted to stop at a time when the process was just getting exciting. I refrained myself from saying something. Say it out loud, Ella said Harm. 

Harm was the master of the phenomenology;  he could be present like nobody else and had that particularly sensitive quality that he intuitively sensed the undercurrent of the other person. 

We students were always in transference with Harm, he was the father that we all longed for. By the way, he complained later on that he was sometimes perceived as a grandfather. Well he said, that is too much. 

I was a junior trainer at the institute. I spoke about the work with Harm at first in supervision, later on in many conversations about my work. I was not easily satisfied with myself. From Harm I learned to look at myself with mildness and to see the questions ‘What did I do too much?’ and ‘What did I do too little?’ as a positive learning process instead of losing myself in feelings of guilt or shame. I feel nostalgic when I look back to these conversations after work in Mennorode. 

Harm and I have a history in our common project, along with Joppie Bakker, in editing his book. He could not wait until it was finished. He was vain enough to say, enjoying, with a broad smile, that the work has already many pages doesn’t it? That his book was translated into Russian satisfied him enormously.

Harm could enjoy attention and compliments. He liked to hear, perhaps preferably via somebody else that people were talking about him or were impressed by a workshop or a speech. I discovered only later, for a longtime in transference as I was, that Harm was also shy. When we as the foundation ‘Friends of the gestalt’ organized a party to celebrate his book launch and put Harm in the spotlights, he could hardly receive this. Being in the center of attention he said later on, was too much for him. 

Within the Gestalt training staff, Harm was a great inspiration to us. He was, with a great sense of the students and colleagues, always thinking about the future of the institute, how the program could be improved, how we could organize new workshops. An example was the famous opening sentence of Harm: Isn’t it a good idea if you ...? (bringing up something you hardly dared to think of)

Of course, the day came that Harm retired from the staff, it was inevitable and we saw it coming. And yet, how can you be prepared for the empty space at the head of the table. How do we deal with the loss of the helmsman, his directions, our inspiration, the person Harm, his loving gaze, his attention to all of us? My heart is with Dick, who is going to miss him so much. In everything it was clear how much he loved you Dick.

Harm, thank you for being there for me, you had a special meaning in my life. You were there when my father was buried, and I was comforted by the feeling that I still held a kind of father. I feel your absence, I’m on my own now. Rest in peace. 

Ella Mulders

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