Those who come after. An autobiography by the daughter of Fritz and Laura Perls


Renate Perls & Eileen J. Ain


Gestalt Institute Press




«Because esoteric, perennial thinking teaches that with every seventh generation we reincarnate into the same family, at first, l wanted only to see how l learned to be who l am through my parents' teachings. After writing the first draft of this book, l found it necessary to go beyond my parents’ generation in order to let my background, feelings, emotions, and family history re-emerge from the rewriting and revisions. As l continued to write, the ebb and flow of the character of each family member and their part in my life added dimension to my memories.» ...

«When l was a young girl living in South Africa, my parents, Frederick «Fritz» Perls and Laura Posner Perls, began to formulate what would later become the school of Gestalt Therapy. They had the freedom to do this because of their isolation from the mainstream psychoanalytic community, most of whom had left Europe during the ravages of World War ll. During this time, l was too young to understand how my parents affected my life. At that time l believed l was a changeling, for there was no way Fritz and Laura could be my parents. l didn’t belong with them. l now understand parents are there and exist one way or another in the child’s world for the spiritual evolution of that child.

During my adolescence, the focus of my world changed and began to revolve around boys. This is what teenage girls thought about, talked about, and dreamt about – never approaching the profound relevance of how our parents and ancestors affect each move we make. Only in mature adulthood is this occasionally recognized. Our scholars conceptualize the power of DNA coding, yet they can miss noticing that the impact of emotional behaviors, when left unconscious, can split us from who we are.

l would like to describe what happened in my life and to describe the influences l did not realize were always there. Therefore, my text intertwines my family’s teachings so that l may seem to be simultaneously exploring family imprinting from generation to generation.

In this way, the effects of family members’ characteristics are amplified, revealing that life sequences are not linear and that life does not happen in a progression that makes sense at a given moment. Our psychic patterns are inherited through genetic structures and the child absorbs and emulates parental behavior and cultural phenomenon as a complex genetic imprinting.

If the history of my family supports the journey of finding who l am and illustrates how you may come to know who you are, my dear reader, then l am pleased to share my experiences and my work. It is timely in this stage of our evolution to know how we learned to be who we are and how we affect others. For obvious reasons, some names have been changed or omitted.

Psychology and psychoanalysis were good beginning steps for the journey into our inner being. These methodologies, however, did not go far enough and often left us with the impression that our parents were to blame for our difficulties and for our inability to function in an ever-changing society. Until recently, no one told us that we are spiritual participators in the relationship with our parents. Nor were we told that we had chosen these parents for the very positive and negative lessons they would give us, lessons that, in turn, would usher us through our lives. Least of all were we informed that we not only learn from our parents, but that the teachings are from generation to generation and that we therefore still carry the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of our ancestors within ourselves. These learned patterns guide our evolution.

In this time of our evolution, most human beings are becoming aware of enormous changes occurring throughout the universe. However, until one changes oneself, one cannot completely assimilate whatever else there is to confront. In this book, as l examine and explore myself and my life, l delve into how l learned to be the person l am from the unconscious behavior of my parents. Further, l address how they learned to be who they were through the unconscious behavior of their parents.

All the way back to our ancestors, we learned the same things from generation to generation. These lessons supported us or failed us throughout our own lives. The unconscious behaviors and habits of the familial generations who came before us are, therefore, unconscious teachings.

It is now high time that we began consciously paying attention to these unconscious generational habits of conduct and living. We, each of us, must confront these teachings. change, and transform our lives. As children we do not recognize this ongoing system. Later, when we begin to see how each individual family member has lived out his or her life, whether personally or interconnected with others, we have the choice to go on with the same old and often outdated habits learned throughout the ages: learned habits, lessons, teachings – many of which paralyze us or motivate us to transform our being. We have choices: to change, to find courage, and to learn new ways of thinking and being that are completely alien and uncomfortable to ourselves and to others. This can be most frightening or very, very exciting.

l have chosen to look at the teachings of my ancestors and to look at how my family has inherited traits down through the generations. l have dealt with how my family, what we nowadays call our «first support system,» nearly killed me and how l finally decided to take courage in hand and change. l also had to face up to the fact that l also nearly killed myself just by unconsciously recreating contexts in which l might re­ experience familiar feelings and emotions. l had to look closely at the relationship l had with a man l am now many years divorced from and at the connections l had with lovers. When l realized l had choices, l started to look at alternate realities and discovered a whole new world of thought. It wasn’t an easy choice. It still isn’t and often l find myself stuck in the family cycle in unexpected ways.

Here is my life. These are my lessons, and l choose to share my evolution with the intention that you, my reader, will choose to go on your own adventure of growth and change. My mother always said, «Those who come atter must go further.»

So come with me now… »

(tekst fra Renate Perls prolog i den trykte boka, s. ix-xi)