Publication details

Beauty and Uncertainty as Transformative Factors : A Free Energy Principle Account of Aesthetic Diagnosis and Intervention in Gestalt Psychotherapy



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords neuroaesthetics; gestalt therapy; predictive coding; field theory; psychopathology
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Description Drawing from field theory, Gestalt therapy conceives psychological suffering and psychotherapy as two intentional field phenomena, where unprocessed and chaotic experiences seek the opportunity to emerge and be assimilated through the contact between the patient and the therapist (i.e., the intentionality of contacting). This therapeutic approach is based on the therapist’s aesthetic experience of his/her embodied presence in the flow of the healing process because (1) the perception of beauty can provide the therapist with feedback on the assimilation of unprocessed experiences; (2) the therapist’s attentional focus on intrinsic aesthetic diagnostic criteria can facilitate the modification of rigid psychopathological fields by supporting the openness to novel experiences. The aim of the present manuscript is to review recent evidence from psychophysiology, neuroaesthetic research, and neurocomputational models of cognition, such as the free energy principle (FEP), which support the notion of the therapeutic potential of aesthetic sensibility in Gestalt psychotherapy. Drawing from neuroimaging data, psychophysiology and recent neurocognitive accounts of aesthetic perception, we propose a novel interpretation of the sense of beauty as a self-generated reward motivating us to assimilate an ever-greater spectrum of sensory and affective states in our predictive representation of ourselves and the world and supporting the intentionality of contact. Expecting beauty, in the psychotherapeutic encounter, can help therapists tolerate uncertainty avoiding impulsive behaviours and to stay tuned to the process of change.

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