Alfred Korzybski and Gestalt Therapy

Alfred Korzybski

Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski

Perhaps the most overlooked theoretical influence on Frederick Perls and Paul Goodman, who originally articulated Gestalt therapy theory, was Alfred Korzybski, the primary thinker behind the general semantics movement. Gestalt therapy's "principle of the now" and it's focus on experience and the precision of language can be directly traced to these "principles of general semantics:"

1. A map is not the territory.
2. A map does not represent all of a territory.
3. A map is self-reflexive in the sense that an 'ideal' map would include a map of the map, etc., indefinitely.

Applied to daily life and language:

1. A word is not what it represents.
2. A word does not represent all of the 'facts', etc.
3. Language is self-reflexive in the sense that in language we can speak about language.

Erving Polster, in "A Contemporary Psychotherapy" (Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 1966), identifies the general semantics movement as one of the distinct movements that made the here-and-now experience important in psychotherapy before it was given crucial emphasis by the existentialists.

"Korzybski's published works, including Science and Sanity, Manhood of Humanity, and Collected Writings, are available on the web through the Institute of General Semantics , or contact them via email .Here, through the courtesy of the Institute of General Semantics, is an excellent overview of his work and an article from Collected Writings."

Joe Wysong
The Gestalt Journal

General Semantics:  Toward a new general system of evaluation and predictability in solving human problems.

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