Volume 3, 1 (1994)


Volume 3, 1 (1994)


The British Gestalt Journal 1994, Volume 3, 1


Editorial - Judith Hemming 

Transcendence, Truth and Spirituality in the Gestalt Way - (A lesson from Nicolai Berdyaev) - D.J Kennedy

Gestalt Therapy and the Culture of Narcissism - Peter Philippson 

Compulsion and Curiosity: A Gestalt Approach to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Gordon Wheeler  

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The British Gestalt Journal continues to develop and change. As you will see from the new editorial line-up on the inside cover we have created new structures, distributing the many functions taken by the original team, and seeking always to work more efficiently and professionally. We are pleased to be drawing on the advice and support of an Editorial Consultative Group with whom we will now be meeting at intervals. We have also expanded the Editorial Advisory Board, helping to extend our connections and sources of goodwill both nationally and internationally.

The Nevis Prize and the British Gestalt Journal

There is now an annual Nevis Prize awarded for outstanding writing in the field of Gestalt. In fact there are two, each carrying a stipend of $500: one for a full length book and one for writing of chapter or article length. The recently endowed fund which honours the work of Ed Nevis, a key figure in the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, is awarded by an independent panel of judges and administered by the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.

We are delighted to announce that the 1993 Nevis Prize for writing of article length has been awarded to Hunter Beaumont for his article in The British Gestalt Journal Vol 2. No 2, 'Martin Buber's “I-Thou" and Fragile Self Organisation: Gestalt Couples Therapy.' Further, there were two runners-up receiving honourable mention by the judges, both of which are also from Volume 2 of this Journal; namely Malcolm Parlett's article on field theory, 'Towards a More Lewinian Gestalt Therapy' and Lee McLeod's exposition on the 'Self in Gestalt Therapy Theory’. We join in our congratulations to these writers and take pleasure in the way the Journal has played its part in bringing these pieces to a wider audience than they had originally reached when they were first conceived. Hunter Beaumont’s article was a reworked version of an earlier paper published in German in 1987, Lee McLeod recast his MA thesis into article length especially for the Journal, and Malcolm Parlett originally wrote his paper as a plenary talk for the European Gestalt Conference in 1992.

All three papers attested to the importance in Gestalt of what Buber named 'the space between' - 'beyond individual egos, our separate selves; reflecting our awesome interconnectedness. Hunter Beaumont stressed how it is in the speaking of the ‘I-Thou' that healing can occur, Lee McLeod returned us to the fundamental Gestalt vision of self as contact, and the elaboration of field theory in Malcolm Parlett’s paper made it clear that holism as understood through the vision of Lewin is part of what could resource the massive paradigm shift needed to relate to our planetary crisis. The value and range of these ideas goes much further than the clinical consulting room; they also connect the spiritual dimension to the heart of Gestalt theory. We continue to develop the theme of the spiritual dimension of Gestalt even more explicitly in this issue with Des Kennedy's inspiring paper 'Transcendence, Truth and Spirituality in the Gestalt Way (A Lesson from Nicolai Berdyaev).’ That an American foundation can honour a British, a Canadian and a German based American writer in a British journal is testimony to the internationalism and interconnectedness of the Gestalt Community in 1994. It is the fruit born of the British Gestalt community's willingness to re-immerse itself in a similar quality of intellectual excitement to that which originally fired the early years when Gestalt therapy was being created in the 1940's and 1950's.

When I began my Gestalt training in England in 1981 there was nothing I could read that related Gestalt to the context in which I lived and practised. Gestalt is now coming of age in Britain by articulating its relationship to the field as it exists here, to the soil in which it now grows, as well as to its American and international context and inheritance.

Fresh Writing

Quite apart from this Journal the past few years have brought a dramatic shift in what is available in print. There is a spate of significant new publishing in Gestalt, both here and in the States. The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press is launching a raft of new books this year. Already in print is one we have singled out for detailed attention in this issue. That book is 'Gestalt Therapy, Perspectives and Applications’ edited by Ed Nevis, a collection of papers from a range of distinguished American practitioners and theoreticians.

As Malcolm Parlett describes in his Introduction to the Special Book Review, we have chosen to respond to this book in a particularly thorough way, in part to develop this tradition of making a more 'indigenous' Gestalt. The reviewers of the separate chapters are all British based and all have re-embedded the themes of the chapters into their own contexts and experiences.

We have also been considering how to widen the range of frameworks and formats in which dialogue can take place in the BGJ. We are arranging, for example, to abridge papers as well as continue to encourage translations from the European Gestalt community. We are pleased in this issue to have a more extended letters section, including a dialogue between Hunter Beaumont and Gary Yontev that extends and clarifies some of the issues raised in Hunter Beaumont’s previous article.

With Gordon Wheeler's paper ‘Compulsion and Curiosity: A Gestalt Approach to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder' comes our first case study, a sensitive combining of theory and practice that brings the freshness of lived contact to the printed word. This freshness is precious. It is a challenge to convey the sense of wonder at the uniqueness of the experience of a Gestalt-informed encounter. Sometimes trainees - and those encountering Gestalt for the first time - may be able to convey a sense of awe and passion more powerfully than those who, while more knowledgeable, may have their edge dulled by longer exposure to this kind of magic. Trainees now regularly write papers as an established part of their learning process. Often this writing successfully relates lived experience to the concepts of Gestalt. There exists therefore a body of this kind of uncirculated but often very high quality writing. Some of these pieces describe the personal experience of being a learner in Gestalt therapy or training, where a familiar concept has suddenly 'lit up' and is understood in its potency and deeply felt for the first time.

Accordingly we have decided we should like to open up the Journal to include samples of such 'experience based' writing so that these vital first encounters with Gestalt ideas - when everything 'gels' at somatic, phenomenological and conceptual levels simultaneously - can be communicated more widely. We therefore invite submissions and are willing to offer editorial help, either to convert such writing to the style and standards of the Journal or even perhaps to alter our notions of what formats we can use.

We do not wish to become the British Fixed Gestalt Journal. Instead we want to remain open to and welcoming of all suggestions, ideas, and feedback concerning what kind of material should be included in this, your professional journal.

Judith Hemming 

Letters to the Editor:

A Memoir in Mourning for Laura Perls - Daniel Rosenblatt

Empathy in the Person-Centred and Gestalt Approaches - Bud Feder

Exploring the Relationship in the Middle Ground between Jewish/Israeli and German Culture - Talia Levine Bar-Yoseph

Dialogue, Self and Therapy: A Reply to Hunter Beaumont - Gary Yontef

A Reply to Yontef’s Reply - Hunter Beaumont 

Special Book Review:

Introduction and Overview to Gestalt Therapy: Perspectives and Applications, Edited by Edwin C. Nevis - Malcolm Parlett 
Chapter 2 ‘Diagnosis: The Struggle for a Meaningful Paradigm’ - Ken Evans
Chapter 4 ‘Gestalt Ethics’ - Anne Kearns 
Chapter 8 ‘The Alcoholic: A Gestalt View’ - Flora Meadows 
Chapter 9 ‘Gestalt Work with Psychotics’ - Gill Caradoc-Davies
Chapter 10 ‘Gestalt Work with Children: Working with Anger and Introjects’ - Andy Sluckin
Chapter 11 ‘The Gestalt Approach to Couple Therapy’ - Judith Hemming
Chapter 12 ‘An Overview of the Theory and Practice of Gestalt Group Practice’ - John Whitley

Book Review:

The Good Mood Guide: By Ros and Jeremy Holmes - Karen Rookwood