Gestalt Therapy and Evolutionary Psychology

A five-day residential workshop at Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California, USA

October 12th – 17th, 2003


Since 1964, Gestalt Therapy has been the seminal theory and technique in support of Esalen's quest to discover “the limits of human ability, the boundaries of human experience, and what it means to be a human being”. Gestalt proved an exciting way of implementing an experimental approach to discover what was possible.


Through nearly four decades we have learned a lot. But what now?


New doors have been opened by research in neuroscience, motivation, cross-species comparison, and especially, modern psychological applications of evolutionary biology. The revelations are startling. Familiar Gestalt techniques remain essential: group process, dialogic encounter, empty chair and hot seat, figure/ground, and the central role of awareness. An approach informed by evolutionary psychology, however, demands more skill in awareness techniques, offering challenging perspectives concerning the dynamism, bumpiness, and vastness of the awareness continuum. It re-examines implications of phenomenology, extends "Ground" back to the Stone Age, understands Self in relation to brain research, and experiments with new ways of viewing “authentic” “honest” behavior.

We shall grapple experientially and intellectually with questions such as: Is our way of understanding the human mind in relation to others inhabiting nature merely anthropomorphic romanticism, or can important things be learned from cross-species psychological comparisons? Why do people often seem to be doing something different than what they say and feel they are doing? Why have humans evolved to encounter each other so radically intersubjectively? Can we make contact differently? What would be the point?

Together, we shall take seriously the ancient pan-cultural Gnostic mandate: “Know Thyself.” We shall see how biology and evolutionary theory can potentiate a sincere inward quest, and discover more about the function of self-disillusionment by facing our inner processes with bold informed curiosity; this will bring us closer to ourselves, and one another, by revealing and dispelling tenacious illusions.


Workshop Leaders

John D. Wymore, MA, LPCC

v     has a BA in Anthropology from California State University, Northridge, and an MA in Counseling from Webster University, Albuquerque;

v     has trained in psychotherapy at Gestalt Institute of New England and consultation skills at National Training Laboratories (NTL);

v     is an experienced trainer of Gestalt therapists and Founder / Director of The Gestalt Institute of New Mexico;

v     was an organizational consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation for 10 years, where he led 5-day residential workshops, designed and facilitated large change and transition projects, and taught counseling skills to managers and supervisors;

v     is a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists;

v     has led groups at McLean Hospital, Belmont Massachusetts (Harvard Medical School) and Heights Psychiatric Hospital, Albuquerque;

v     has presented workshops in the application of Evolutionary Theory to: The Association for Advancement of Gestalt Therapy, The International Gestalt Conference, and The National Association of Sports Counselors;

v     is in private practice in Albuquerque.

v     Wymore’s Web site: , and his Full Resumé

Dr. Paul J. Watson

v     earned his Ph.D. in Biology from Cornell University's Section of Neurobiology and Behavior;

v     has done National Science Foundation sponsored research in behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology at The University of Oxford, U.K., The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and The University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station;

v     is a member of the Research Faculty at the University of New Mexico and a Faculty Adjunct of The University of Montana;

v     has graduate and undergraduate mentoring duties in behavioral biology at the University of New Mexico and the University of Montana;

v     studies human behavior both from an evolutionary psychological perspective and from the point of view of the esoteric traditions of several major religions;

v     published recently on the evolutionary psychology of unipolar depression in the Journal of Affective Disorders (Watson & Andrews. 2002. JAD 72, 1-14).

v     Watson’s Web site:

In recent years, John and Paul have thrice led the Esalen workshop,

“Evolutionary Psychology and Spiritual Practice.”


Click here for Esalen Institute’s web site


This page last updated 30 December 2002