Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Hello everyone. Molweni, and welcome back to another episode of Fresh Perspective where we’ll be taking another look at life. And today with me, a very special guest and friend, Lianca Fourie. Lianca, welcome, thank you for being on our little show that goes out to millions and millions of people around the world, and gets listened to by tons of people.
Okay, okay, no pressure. (Laughs)
So, I’d like to start the session with a very easy question. And it’s kind of the way that you introduce yourself as well. So what is it that you do, Lianca?
I am a play therapist. So I literally studied seven years to learn how to play.
(Laughs) I love it. And is that specifically for kids?
Yes. Okay. So I do play therapy, it’s usually for children between the ages of 3 and 18, obviously. But the theory that we use in play therapy is called Gestalt therapy. It is almost more like a life philosophy and a mindset. So you can actually use the principles thereof on any age. So, yeah, it’s actually more a way of living than it is a way of therapy, I want to say.
Oh wow, I’m very curious now. So what do you mean by, it’s a way of thinking, or way of living? Maybe you can explain to us what Gestalt is in a few sentences. What do you do, how do you do Gestalt therapy?
Gestalt is a Dutch word. It means that the parts of the whole are more than the whole itself. So a person – you’re not just Francois the Imago therapist and relationship specialist, you are a father, you are a brother, you are a son. There are different parts of you that make up the whole. So when we approach life, we should think about all our different sides and selves, to be present within it. Gestalt is a lot about being present in the moment. Because we believe that power lies in the present. You can only change if you are really present in the moment. That’s where the power is. And it’s a lot about taking responsibility for your own life and your own emotions. So Gestalt is about being yourself, being in the moment, being present. And we can’t, like, within play therapy, it will entail that a child comes to you with a problem, and you can’t change the circumstances of the child, but you can work with the emotions the child is feeling now. You can’t reverse trauma that happened, but you can work with the results of that trauma in the present moment and you can try to strengthen the child to go back into the same circumstances, but with a self that is strengthened. So the child is more equipped to actually deal with what’s happening in their lives.
Oh wow. I’ve got many questions already. So how do you define being present? And maybe, link to that in the whole Gestalt mindset – being present and being yourself, what does that mean?
Being present starts with awareness. Awareness of yourself. And awareness – the way to open the door to awareness, emotional awareness and what’s happening around you, how you’re feeling, is through the senses. So sensory work is actually the first step of emotional work, and to become aware. A typical Gestalt approach would be to say, close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing, how your heart is pounding. If you are sitting, become aware of where your body touches the chair. So, to use your senses to open the door to emotions.
In the brain, the sensory part of your brain sits next to the emotions. So we use senses to open up emotions. In therapy, we will do Smarties work, to say – okay, close your eyes and pick a colour Smartie with your eyes closed. Ah, it’s the blue one. Tell me, what does the colour blue remind you of? The ocean? Wow. How do you feel when you see the ocean? Can you smell the ocean? Is the ocean hot or cold? And then, what does that remind you of? So, through the senses, you open up the emotions, and then the emotions flow.
Cool; interesting. In the light of that, what does it means to be yourself? So being present means really connecting to the present moment through the senses. But also, then, connecting to the emotions, either from the past or related to the past or the present through that sensory experience.
Did I get all of that?
What does it mean to be yourself, then?
To be yourself is to accept yourself with all your parts. So it is about taking responsibility for what has happened in your life, for your own feelings, for your own actions. And actually, to say, I can’t maybe change the things that happened in my life, but I do have the power to choose how I’m going to react on it, how I’m gonna deal with this. So it’s actually about taking responsibility. And a very easy or basic way to start doing that is to use I-language. And to use I-sentences. Instead of saying, you are making me mad, it’s like, I feel mad when that happens. So that’s the basic principle of taking responsibility, being present, and being aware of your own self, and your whole self.
So the whole self, being yourself, means – taking responsibility for all the different parts in your life. So would another way to say that be, you take responsibility for all the different roles you play for different people in your life?
Definitely. You are more than just one self. We always have a core self, that is, in all the selves there will be a fundamental Francois that is – there’s stuff about you that just makes you unique in who you are. But you’re different as a parent to when you’re a relationship specialist. Like, I studied seven years to play, but when I’m in my mother role, I totally forget what’s the right thing to do. How to stay calm.
When your child is pushing your buttons, you know. So usually my husband will ask, what do we do now when Elizabeth does this? And I’m like, I don’t know! I really don’t know.
I understand exactly what you mean.
But I’m aware that my mother-self is not as good to react in the correct way like my therapist self will do and will know. So I’m aware of that, and it’s okay. Sometimes we should just say, it’s okay to be like that.
I like that a lot. It makes a lot of sense, Lianca, because when you work with other children, you’re not as emotionally invested. So it’s easier for you to be present and remember what the right thing or the right way is to approach something, and not allow your emotions to interfere. But with your own children, and in my case my children and my wife, being a relationship specialist as you call it (I like that – I’m gonna use it. Relationship specialist), it’s harder. Because you’re emotionally invested. So the perspective you have is kind of cluttered within that context.
Yes. And it’s much easier to desensitise ourselves at work than it is to not feel emotions at home. We do feel a lot of feelings at home.
Yes, because I’m guessing – I’d like to hear your view on it – we’ve got more expectations at home.
And expect things in return.
They say, being a parent is nothing else than managing your own anxieties. (Laughs) And anxieties usually appear when there are expectations not being met. So it’s exactly what you are saying.
Okay cool. But how do you help kids that are so small? You said, from age 3 to 18?
Wow. How do you help small kids to realise, I need to take responsibility? How does that work?
I first want to say that I LOVE working with children. I think it’s a lot less co