Volume 18, 2 (2009)


Volume 18, 2 (2009)


The British Gestalt Journal 2009, Volume 18, 2


Editorial - Christine Stevens 

A Gestalt therapy perspective on psychopathology and diagnosis - Gianni Francesetti and Michela Gecele 

Philosophy with tears: Gestalt 'study buddies' visit Dachau - Carol Swanson, Lillian Norton, Malcolm Parlett, Lynne Jacobs, Sally Denham-Vaughan, Jim Denham-Vaughan, Frank-M. Staemmler 
What does it mean to bear witness? A response to 'Philosophy with tears' - Ralph Goldstein

Letter to a young Gestalt therapist for a Gestalt therapy approach to family therapy - Giovanni Salonia 

An excess of certainty: the Gospel, the Church, the Gestalt therapist and homosexuality - Des Kennedy 

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This late autumn issue of the BGJ has a sombre note running through it, although the articles published are all quite different in style and content. The website image posted for this issue is a photograph taken in Slovenia from the First World War front in the Socha Valley outside Bovec. Now a valley of stunning beauty, old trenches remain marking the site of some of the bloodiest mountain fighting there has ever been. The image is for me an icon of human violence and conflict that transcends the specificity of place. 

This 1914-18 war in Europe, which Woodrow Wilson called 'the war to end all wars', has been marked every year in Britain by an act of remembrance on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time when the Armistice was signed and the guns fell silent on the Western Front. This year has seen the passing of the last men still living in Britain who fought in that war, and even those who fought in the Second World War, which started seventy years ago, are now few in number. For some years, Remembrance Day began to fall out of favour, but as we have moved from the twentieth century, which Eric Hobsbawm has called `the most murderous in recorded history' into the next, we find ourselves again at war, and the remembrance services this year took on a new poignancy as in increasing numbers the shattered bodies of young soldiers are being sent home from Afghanistan to their grieving families in Britain, America, and other countries in Europe. Meanwhile a major inquiry has opened in London into Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. We live in an age when inducing insecurity is being used as a political weapon, and the challenge to find ways of managing conflict non-violently and to co-exist with difference and diversity in creative collaboration has never been greater. 

Those of us who study and practise Gestalt therapy spend a lot of our time engaged in the dynamics of relational processes, whether we are working with organisations, smaller groups or with individuals. The struggles we encounter in our therapy rooms are microcosmic fractals of the conflicts being played out at higher levels of magnitude and complexity within our social and political groupings and between nations. It is important, therefore, that we are able to be flexible in our focus, not to be so engaged in immediately presenting concerns that we fail to make connections with the bigger picture, however overwhelmingly difficult or complicated this might appear to be. Our field - theoretical, situationally-informed awareness helps us in this, and we can support each other in having difficult conversations, engaging with difference and diversity, and saying clearly what we see and hear and feel. 

`Philosophy with tears' in this issue is an example of a group of Gestalt colleagues (Carol Swanson, Lillian Norton, Malcolm Parlett, Lynne Jacobs, Sally and Jim Denham-Vaughan and Frank-M. Staemmler) courageously engaging in this process. Supporting themselves through reading and discussion, they visited Dachau, the first of the Nazi concentration camps set up in 1933. In their essays they grapple with their responses to this experience, and with the complexities of engaging with suffering and evil. Ralph Goldstein, a Jungian-orientated psychologist, comments on the essays and encourages us all to be involved through our work and with our voices in shaping the kind of world we want to live in. 

Although his subject matter and style is very different, Des Kennedy's article also relates clearly to the theme we have been discussing. Some readers may find the material difficult or controversial, but it has been written as the author's response to participating in discussion days on diversity issues which have been held recently within the Gestalt community in England. Kennedy builds on Gestalt philosophical principles to negotiate his way through a minefield of often explosively polarised positions to establish a ground for dialogue based on openness to the other rather than fixed dogma. This is a brave undertaking and we would be pleased to publish readers' responses to this and other articles in this issue. 

We are delighted to publish two important articles by Italian authors, each of which in terms of theory and practice contribute to the breadth and depth of the high order of relational understanding needed for the work we as Gestalt therapists are engaged in. In a seminal article on psychopathology and diagnosis from a Gestalt perspective, Gianni Francesetti and Michela Gecele move away from an individualistic approach. They show how by taking a relational-situational perspective, `the suffering of the contact boundary', we are able to work with both extrinsic and intrinsic concepts of diagnosis in a way which overcomes the problems of fixed and limiting labels. 

Giovanni Salonia's article is based on many years of experience of working with families and provides a comprehensive account of his model of Gestalt Family Therapy. He discusses how the Gestalt theory of self is intrinsic to his approach and uses case material to illustrate this way of working. Of particular interest is Salonia's attention to the embodied aspects of family relationships and how he attends to this in his work. 

In her Opinion piece, Sarah Fallon reflects on aspects of the Gestalt theory of the relational self which emerged for her from a recent workshop with Georges Wollants. As usual, we have reviewed some important new books which we think will be of interest to our readers. 

Once again I would like to express our thanks to our peer reviewers and all those who have been involved in the preparation of the material in this issue and without whom we would not be able to produce this Journal. The next issue, due out in spring 2010, will have a special focus on Gestalt in Education, and in a new departure for the Journal, will be guest-edited by Belinda Harris, who has a special interest in this field. 

Christine Stevens

1. Hobsbawm, E., The Guardian, 23 February 2002. http:// www.guardian.co.uk/education/2002/feb/23/artsandhumanities. highereducation Accessed 29/11/09. 


Book reviews: 

Gestalt therapy research. A review of Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice in Gestalt Therapy edited by Philip Brownell - Simon Du Plock 

Phenomenology, neuroscience and complexity. A review of The Emergent Self: an Existential-Gestalt Approach by Peter Philippson - Rob Tyson 

Working with the body in psychotherapy. A review of Contemporary Body Psychotherapy edited by Linda Hartley - Belinda Harris 


Therapy of the situation: the id, the it and the all. A response to a 64 workshop with Georges Wollants - Sarah Fallon