Vol 24.1 Editorial
Reflecting on the last six months since our last issue as I come to write this editorial, I feel excited and energised by all that has been happening with regard to the BGJ. We have been working intensively with Gestalt writers on some interesting articles; the results have been announced of the first BGJ student essay prize; and the new website is putting us in touch with more of the international Gestalt community than ever before. Next year we are celebrating twenty-five years of the British Gestalt Journal, and planning is underway for this, of which more later.
The website supports and extends what is offered to readers through the twice-yearly Journal, and provides a platform for visual material and for different genres of writing, with some authors now writing pieces specifically for the website. It gives us a great opportunity to reach out beyond the Gestalt community itself, as keywords and headlines are picked up by Internet search engines. Since it went live in September 2014, the website has been visited by nearly 6,000 different audience members, with 24,000 page views between them! In keeping with our international standing, we are publishing material in Polish and Spanish, with other languages to follow, and this is proving popular, with significant numbers of viewers. We have added an International Events Calendar, and free listings to this can be submitted via a form which is available on the website. We published our first newsletter in February, the sign-up for which is on the website, and this will come out twice a year in between journal issues, highlighting trends and giving news and updates on issues of interest.
The most popular area of the website has been the back issues section, with the new digital download facility proving to be a really valuable resource. Most days one or more digital downloads are being purchased by readers from all over the world. Printed back copies are also available and are being ordered through the website, although this is a finite resource and some years are no longer in print. If you wanted to fill in the gaps in your library collection of BGJ issues, now would be a good time to do it!
This issue of the British Gestalt Journal is truly international in terms of its contributors who are Italian, Spanish, American and Polish as well as British. We are delighted to see some first-time authors published here as well as some who are more experienced writers. It is not a deliberately themed issue, but one theme emerging out of the range of articles in this issue is the attention paid, from different perspectives, to embodiment.
This is the third major paper we have published by Gianni Francesetti, which adds to his important contribution of developing a distinctly Gestalt approach to a ‘radically relational perspective of psychopathology’. Firmly rooting his approach in the original formulation of Gestalt therapy, he explores how the therapist focusses not on the self, but on the co-created field between therapist and client, modulating his or her own presence and absence in an embodied way at the contact boundary. Francesetti uses case examples to illustrate his discussion.
Pedro Diaz is our Student Essay Prize winner, and we are delighted to publish his paper on shyness, which he explores and conceptualises from a Gestalt perspective as creative adjustment. He roots his understanding in observations from his clinical work. Shyness is a ubiquitous but often overlooked aspect of human experience, common in therapy practice, and this concise study makes a thoughtful contribution.
Isabel Fernandez Hearn and Sinesio Madrona Rodenas write about the impact of culture on life experience. They argue that cultural identity becomes embodied through language and early influences and that this is largely out of awareness until challenged by a different cultural situation or personal relationship. The challenge is then to engage with the polarities of alienation or integration in the process of holistic growth. They explore how Gestalt training can impact on this, and point out that Gestalt therapy itself has implicit cultural characteristics. These authors are Spanish, one has recently relocated to England, and their commitment to the process of writing, translating and editing their paper has been a fascinating embodiment of what they are writing about. They have reflected on this and written more about their experiences in a letter which we have published in this issue because it raises profound questions about the taken-for-grantedness of the ground between us in the Gestalt community when we communicate through English as a common language.
With Will Adams’ paper, we continue with the theme of looking at the deep dissociative splits which can occur between the way we engage with mind, body, and the external world. He explores influences from the work of Levinas, and through examples challenges us from an ethical position to consider the importance of being consciously embodied in reciprocal contact with our eco-system.
In her paper, Susan Gregory argues that working with the body has been an integral part of a Gestalt approach to therapy from the outset, and regards this as a fundamental part of therapy practice. She draws on her clinical experience and theory to describe a taxonomy of five distinct styles of working with the body: awareness, directed movement, expressive movement, metaphor and touch. This provides a useful framework and point of reference for students and practitioners alike.
Adam Kincel’s contribution to this issue is in the form of a single case study of his autoethnographic experience as a participant in large groups during his Gestalt therapy training. He reviews literature on large therapy groups and discusses various dynamics and approaches, but what is unique and compelling about this paper is the view of the insider as a group member. He movingly weaves in his personal experience with theory and practice in an accomplished debut in writing for this Journal.
Aluette Merenda builds on earlier work by Spagnuolo Lobb and Salonia in looking at the parent-child relationship as essentially triadic rather than dyadic. She argues that Gestalt therapy theory supports this work by focussing on the embodied experience of the relationship between each parent and the child as well as each parent with each other. She draws on practice examples and theory to explore this and also examines how this approach can be adapted for work with childless couples.
With such a full line-up of articles, we only have room for one book review, but it is a significant one, in which Katy Wakelin critiques a major new work on attachment theory in practice from Bowlby to the present, which will be of interest to therapists working with clients of all ages.
Finally, more about the 2016 Silver Jubilee celebrations of the BGJ mentioned at the beginning. We are planning a conference from 30 June to 3 July 2016 to be held in Nottingham, UK, which for the first time ever will be jointly organised by GPTI, UKAGP and the BGJ. In this sense it will be a truly integrated UK Gestalt community event, to which we welcome international readers and friends. We are excited about possibilities of integrating conference presentations with papers published in both issues of BGJ Volume 25, but this is still in the planning stage, so more on this in the next newsletter. If any of our readers would like to help as part of the Conference Organising Group for this event, please email the editor. While we are talking about jobs, there is a vacancy on the Board of Gestalt Publications Ltd., which publishes the BGJ, for someone with specific skills and experience in marketing. If you could make a contribution in this way, we would be delighted to hear from you.
As always, our thanks go to all who have reviewed and assisted in the process of making this issue a reality. Please keep reading and writing and visiting the website as we continue to build our Gestalt community together.
Christine Stevens, PhD