I began learning about Gestalt in 1966 just after graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Back then I was in big emotional and spiritual trouble. I had become increasingly depressed and angry when I discovered that even though ordination of women had been official policy for ten years, the Methodist Church did not, in actual practice, welcome women clergy. I wondered if I had just wasted three years on a difficult graduate degree, or if l had some big flaw that made me unfit for ministry. For a while Gestalt was my personal lifeline as I dealt with my confusion over what I believed was a true calling, my anger at God and especially at the church, and my irrational guilt that beat me up with the accusation that joblessness was entirely my fault.
Gestalt dreamwork played an important role in my healing process. As I became more whole, I began to see just how beautifully Gestalt fits with good spiritual direction, the ministry of healing, and pastoral care—despite Perls's opinions about religion. Praying my own dreams, I came to believe that prayerful dreamwork could be a gift not only to church folk but also to those outside the church who hunger for a new way to open to God.
I must make clear that while GPC dreamwork is not psycho therapy, you may encounter some feelings that surprise or scare you. Actually, it's okay to be a bit anxious sometimes. Growth often involves fear, because change itself can be scary. Remember that you can take the dreamwork process slowly or stop altogether. Also rememberthat your dreams usually don't flood you with material you are not strong enough to face. Keep in mind, though, that you may discover you need some outside help. Don't hesitate to see a professional—a psychotherapist, pastoral counselor, or spiritual director—just as you would see a doctor if your nasty cold seems to be veering off toward pneumonia. Asking for appropriate help is just another way your dreams can prompt you to become more whole.
When doing dreamwork by yourself, you may find it handy to know how to shut the door deliberately on an emotion or memory you don't want to experience right now. Don't worry; your feelings won't vanish just because you shut them down for a while. You can always come back to them later. Shutting down with awareness can actually be a wonderfully positive step in your growth; you can learn as much from a clear no as you can from a yes.