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contact boundary


by Lori Adragna e Valeria Valenza


The term “contact boundary” appeared for the first time in 1951 in “Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality” by Fritz Perls. It identifies the contact point between the man and the environment, the constantly evolving and transforming border where the relation me-you in the here and now takes place.

The individual and the social group are not stand-alone-entities but separated parts of the same unity in mutual interaction*. The tension that can exist between them is not an expression of a conflict but the necessary movement of a field, which strives for integration and growth. The contact boundary is the place where interaction takes place, where to stay with your open senses because it is where life must be looked for, in the organicistic experience of entering in – and of retiring from – the contact. On contact boundary, place of shared experience, the figure breaks off the background, takes shape and differentiates, sustained by a vital force, which allows to deconstruct and reconstruct the reality in an absolute creative and unique way. So, a full presence in the contact boundary is the basic condition to solve the concrete problems in human relations and the basic instrument of knowledge between organism and environment. 


The need of experiencing then becomes creative adaptation, which allows every being to adapt to reality and at the same time to transform it developing an ability/skill to be with the new, the unexpected, with what is dynamic and changing on the contact boundary. To this end, the boundaries between the human being and all that he/she perceives as foreign aim at resulting arbitrary because they are the result of the discriminatory will of the subject, prepared - or not - to have a contact or to retire from the other, on the base of the consciousness of him/herself. 


Therefore, the boundary also reproduces that limit beyond which, perceiving the invasion of Our Inner Self, we feel threatened. The more our identity is weak, fragmented, dominated by insecurity, prejudice and fear, the more it feels its boundary as feeble and permeable and, in order to defend itself, it retires in a metaphorical fortress, built on stereotypes, hostility, exclusion. The boundaries, then, are geopolitical and concrete as the borders, the walls, the ditches, but also interior, personal and collective.


The South-East of Sicily, the most southern part of Europe – border between two continents, a land of conquest for centuries, which keeps under every step hidden treasures and relics of disappeared civilizations, where botanical and animal species mix generating unique life forms, yet today place of landing of the most important Western migratory flows  –  offers itself physically and metaphysically as a contact boundary, occasion, with its complexity and seriousness, of new adaptive strategies, where the assumption of responsibilities by every individual becomes essential in order to create his/her life project in the world.

It is an opportunity to have a different look on future, the invitation to a positive revision of the traità (the relationship between beings), trust in a surprising overturning of the figure-ground perspective.


*Margherita Spagnolo Lobb, “The now for next in psychotherapy”, Ed. Franco Angeli




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