♦ LAST UPDATED ON January 14, 2021 ♦
Gestalt psychology, that is. Can love be explained in the context of Gestalt psychology? Gestalt is the German word for “pattern” or “configuration”.
No, I am not referring to Fritz Perls’ Gestalt therapy, but Gestalt psychology.
In the post ‘What is Love,’ I have tried to outline a general view about love, including to elude to the many different perspectives with which thinkers and writers have spoken about aspects of love.
Gestalt psychologists emphasize that people perceive entire patterns or configurations, not merely individual components. The view is sometimes generalized by the adage, attributed to ancient philosopher Aristotle, that ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts.’
A more refined view is that ‘the whole is something else than the sum of its parts, because summing is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful.’
For example, while a melody consists of individual sounds, it is considerably more than the sum of these notes. The individual notes would be able to join themselves for completely different melodies, while the melody would remain the same if transposed into another key and containing single tones.
I would like to suggest that love, as a phenomenon, is such a whole — that is, love is a new quality apart from the sum of its component elements whatever they may be. It seems that a perceptual whole, such as love, is also different from what one would predict based on only its easier-to-conceive individual aspects.
Given Gestalt psychology’s focus on the whole, it was natural for Gestalt psychologists to study problem-solving from the perspective of insight, seeking to understand the process by which people sometimes suddenly transition from having no idea how to solve a problem to instantly understanding the whole problem and its solution.
Is the phenomenon of ‘falling in love’ an attempt at such an advance? Is what we may call love the gestalt of a new belonging that unproblems the existential absurdities of life which are subconsciously experienced by many?
A lot more can and needs to be said about love in the context of Gestalt psychology. Please bear with me as I still work on it…