Volume 12, 2 (2003)


Volume 12, 2 (2003)


The British Gestalt Journal 2003, Volume 12, 2


Editorial - Malcolm Parlett 

The Phenomenal Field: The Homeground of Gestalt Therapy - Des Kennedy

Ethics of Context and Field: The Practices of Care, Inclusion and Openness to Dialogue - Lynne Jacobs 

The Impassioned Body: Erotic Vitality and Disturbance in Psychotherapy - William F.Cornell

Reflection on Cornell: The Erotic Field - Leanne O’Shea 

Reflection on Cornell: The Aesthetics of Sexual Love - Michael Vincent Miller

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The British Gestalt Journal has a reputation for high quality, innovative writing at the cutting edge. The present issue lives up to this reputation. You are in for some enjoyable reading.

We begin with Des Kennedy, writing with his distinctive depth and passion. The article draws on Kennedy's ground-breaking Ph.D. dissertation, in which he argues that field ideas need to be grounded in the phenomenology of lived body experience. Kennedy draws inspiration from the French philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and weaves some different-from-usual patterns for Gestalt therapy. Those unfamiliar with Merleau-Ponty's work will discover how Gestalt-friendly is the thinking of this noted phenomenologist, who arguably deserves to be 'our' (that is Gestalt's) philosopher of choice. This article raises profound questions for Gestalt therapy and its direction, for instance in the non-use of 'perception’ as a concept; and the notion of 'primordial contact'.

We are delighted to be publishing a new article from Lynne Jacobs, whose contributions have been much appreciated by readers in the past. This one tackles ethics in the context and the field. It draws upon a vivid and recognisable clinical vignette. Once again, Lynne Jacobs is very open about her process - which makes her writing, theoretically sophisticated as it is, also very human and approachable.

Next is an article by Bill Cornell, titled 'The Impassioned Body'. He spoke at the UKCP Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy Section Conference in London last year and a reader of the BGJ, Christine Uden (to whom 'thank you'!), sent us a copy of his paper. We were so impressed by it that we did two unusual things: we set aside one of our usual criteria that would have excluded Cornell - in general, our policy is to publish only those writers with a background in Gestalt; and, second, we invited Leanne O'Shea and Michael Vincent Miller to 'reflect aloud' regarding Cornell’s argument - that contemporary therapy writing seems to bypass, gloss over, or render innocuous the dangerous, all-involving, bodily reality of sexual loving, passion, desire, and lust. The subject gets hedged around and treated in a less and less embodied fashion.

The three articles together make for very refreshing reading. I suspect they will be read and referred to many times. The writing is alive and pungent and Cornell's thesis is provocative and welcome. O'Shea and Miller do not disagree with it, but add other dimensions and insights.

As I have said, this is the first time that the BGJ has included a structure where others' reflections are published alongside an article. We may do this again, but have no intention of giving up Letters to the Editor as the primary vehicle for responses and debate. We issue a particular invitation for readers to join in the discussion started by Cornell and his respondents by writing a Letter with your own views and vignettes.

In the present issue, there are five interesting letters - from Jon Frew, Bud Feder, Katy Wakelin, Pat Levitsky, and an extended one from Kathleen Höll. This last is a response to the Opinion by Peter Schulthess in the last issue, on ‘Gestalt and Politics' in which Kathleen Höll writes about the contemporary global scene, democracy, anarchism, and the need for therapists to acknowledge the socio-economic-political forces that are at work in the global field. All the letters deserve attention.

A review follows, by John Kirti Wheway, of Peter Philippson's recently published book, Self in Relation. Peter Philippson has been a strong supporter of the BGJ and frequent contributor. We are glad to honour his writing and thinking with a review of his new book which matches Peter's own provocative and intelligent standards.

Christine Shearman, a German speaker, reviews (in English!) a major German publication that has not been translated but constitutes one of the most ambitious Gestalt books to be published in recent years. This kind of review is a new venture, and one that fulfils the policy of making the best non-English Gestalt writing available, at least in some form, to our readership.

Finally, Gaie Houston offers an Opinion, based on a recent talk to the Gestalt Association UK, where in characteristically lively and feisty fashion she questions certain Gestalt trends and fashionable assumptions that she considers have weakened rather than strengthened the approach. It is a good and timely read.

Although there is no special focus to this issue, there are interweaving themes and synchronicities. 'Field' is a central term; the dead hand of playing safe is a theme; and last issue's focus on 'Embodying' is continued…

Retirement of the Deputy Editor

Sadly, Judith Hemming has retired as deputy editor of the British Gestalt Journal. Judith became an assistant editor after the first issue, and has since played a central and influential part in the life of the Journal. Her departure is a great loss to the Editor Team, yet no one can begrudge her retirement: she has contributed time, thought, skill, and energy in abundance, for twelve years.

Judith came to the BGJ well prepared. Both her parents once edited journals, and so does her husband. She understood what was required, shared in articulating editorial policy and direction, and insisted that we did not compromise quality. She has been a stalwart editing colleague and friend, after the retirement of Pat Levitsky (in 1997) and before the formation of the present Editor Team.

I think of the many different kinds of contribution Judith has made. Her international Gestalt connections have been invaluable. Her eye for page design led to early changes that became standard layouts. She has contributed high quality interviews, reviews, and sometimes editorials. She has cast a shrewd eye over countless manuscripts, assisted writers struggling to get their writing up to BGJ standards, shown finely tuned editorial judgement at key choice points, and spent (in total) many days in the last frenzy of proof-reading, pagination, final checking etc. Most of all we shall miss her often unconventional wisdom.

I thank you, Judith, not just for what you have given me personally by way of support, encouragement, and insight, but also on behalf of readers, who may not realise how much they have been benefiting from your efforts behind the scenes. Since you are not retiring from working and teaching, the usual retirement messages are inappropriate. We can, however, wish you many years of enjoyable reading of the BGJ in the future, this time just for pleasure. Finally, I am glad that you have agreed to stay as a consultant to the editor, albeit with the understanding that the consultations will be infrequent. 

BGJ Developments, Including a Search for a New Deputy Editor

A notice appears below regarding the vacant position of deputy editor, following Judith Hemming's retirement.

That we are advertising internationally as well as within Britain is a sign of several things. First, it underlines that though published in Britain, the BGJ has readers and writers world-wide. Second, in the global village, it is now practicable that most of the editing can be done at a distance. Third, it underlines the possible signficance of the appointment: the person who becomes deputy editor could become joint editor or editor when it comes for me to retire. So we are looking for a first rate candidate in a genuinely open competition. We are also open to third party suggestions of those who might be invited to apply.

Appointment of individuals to leadership positions does not eclipse the need for teamwork. We now have in place a flourishing team of associate editors, and there is more sharing of editorial responsibility. Within the last two years the Board of Editorial Advisers has been streamlined and is more effectively used than before. The board of directors of Gestalt Publications Ltd. has revived under the leadership of Gaie Houston. And the financial position of the BGJ has improved significantly, thanks to the Friends of the British Gestalt Journal.

On the subject of finances, I would like to make it clear that while the financial picture is favourable, we still need the Friends - to pay for capital expenses and to build a contingency fund. Readers are reminded of the benefits - including participation in an ambitious Friends' Day in 2004, following an excellent day with Joseph Melnick last month for the 2003 Friends.

Sale of Back Copies - Drastic Reductions!

We like to hold previous issues in stock, not least to enable new students to build collections. However, often they cannot afford to buy them. We have therefore decided to reduce prices drastically, for a limited period. Please bring this to the attention of those who may wish to take advantage of the offer. The details appear at the end of the Journal and also, in more detail on the website (www.britishgestaltjournal.com).

Malcolm Parlett 

Letters to the Editor: 

Gestalt in a Cognitive Behavioural World - Still Here at Least for Now - Jon Frew 

International Gestalt - Bud Feder

Embodiment and Language: A Response to James Kepner - Katy Wakelin 

Martin Buber and Bi-Nationalism in Palestine: A Response to Peter Shulthess - Pat Levitsky 

The Society We Live Within: A Response to Peter Schulthess - Kathleen Höll 

Book Reviews:

Self in Relation by Peter Philippson - John Kirti Wheway 

Handbuch der Gestalttherapie, edited by Reinhard Fuhr, Milan Sreckovic and Martina Gremmler-Fuhr - Christine Shearman 


Orthodoxy or Integration - or Both? - Gaie Houston