Dr Fritz Perls coined the phrase topdog vs. underdog. The topdog describes the part of an individual that makes demands based on the idea that the individual should adhere to certain inner or societal norms and standards. These demands are often characterised by "shoulds" and "oughts." The underdog describes the part of an individual that makes excuses explaining why these demands should not or could not be met. It is often the case that these excuses act as internal sabotage to ensure that the demands are never met. Exploring and consciously experiencing these fundamental parts of an inner dynamics paradoxically may reveal unexpected insights into the self and reality.

Fritz Perls was born in Berlin in 1893. He was expected to go into law like his distinguished uncle but instead studied medicine. After a time spent in the German Army in the World War I trenches, he graduated as a doctor. Perls gravitated to psychiatry and the work of Freud and the early Wilhelm Reich. In 1933, soon after the Hitler regime came into power, Fritz Perls, Laura and their eldest child Renate fled to the Netherlands, and one year later they emigrated to South Africa. They moved to New York in 1946. Fritz Perls moved to California in 1960, where he offered his workshops as a member of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. He left the USA in 1969 to start a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Canada. Fritz Perls died almost a year later on 14th March 1970 in Chicago of heart failure after surgery.

Fritz Perls

“Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.”

Long-term effects of psychotherapeutic interventions


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