Gestalt Psychology

Deflection In Gestalt

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The resistance between action and contact in the needs satisfaction cycle has been called a few different names. We prefer deflection because the word captures the spirit of the experience the best. Deflection occurs when at the last moment we avoid direct contact in favor of a more partial, less satisfying encounter with the gestalt we have been working towards.

The fire seems too hot, the water too cold, the experience too intense, the movie too scary, the eye contact too direct, the feelings too real, so we deflect the full impact and pretend to be satisfied with a shadow.

People who spend most of their time deflecting can be difficult to be around because they don’t really know what they want and they are never satisfied with what they get. They always want more. A good example is those who endlessly amass wealth or power. No matter how much they have it’s not enough. Greediness is probably the most visible symptom for deflectors. They have not made contact with what they really want in an authentic way so they frantically try to fill up the ever expanding void.

Deflection forces us to make contact with our gestalt in a subdued, dampened down way and so we always leave an experience with the vague feeling that we were cheated, or that there has to be something more. Since you unconsciously lie to yourself about the reason that your contact was unfulfilling you are likely to project this feeling and blame family, friends, or work colleagues for a problem that really belongs to you.

An abusive family situation where the environment was hostile and the child could not predict whether his needs would be met with approval or punishment is fertile soil for deflection. The full impact of contact was often negative so a defense mechanism was built to provide protection. If you get burned enough times you will stop putting your hand in the fire.

Like all the resistances, deflection can also serve a vital function for the individual. Some experiences are too painful, some realities too unacceptable, and deflection allows a person to not have to fully inhabit these difficult moments in life.