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Presenter: Michael Vincent Miller
The main themes I want to explore in this presentation are related to the importance of form-making in Gestalt therapy as a central principle in the thought of Paul Goodman and what his work continues to teach us. Goodman was a master maker of form. He applied his gift for shaping and reshaping experience and giving it expression in an astonishing number of different artistic, psychological, social, cultural, and political areas, from writing poetry and novels to writing utopian city planning, from his powerful social and political criticism to the radically innovative psychology he brought forth in his collaboration with Perls.
One of Goodman’s most important messages to us as Gestalt therapists is that experience is never merely given to anyone; it is always being made by the forms we give it. And in our ongoing forming of experience reside both the moral and aesthetic dimensions of the lives we live, from our intimacies to our politics. One could say that for Goodman, the moral and aesthetic were integrated, and in that integration resides the radical human-centered message that pervades everything he wrote and taught.
I hope we’ll have an opportunity to open and delve into this question of form in our thinking and practice, as well as to examine its place in Goodman’s work.
Michael Vincent Miller, PhD, is the current president of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy. He was trained by Frederick Perls, Erving and Miriam Polster, and Isadore From. He has been practicing, teaching, and writing about Gestalt therapy since 1973. Before that, he taught literature and poetry writing at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poems have been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Metamorphosis, and Occident. He is the author of numerous articles, chapters, book reviews, and introductions to books, along with five books: Revolution at Berkeley (Delacorte, 1965); Intimate Terrorism: The Crisis of Love in an Age of Disillusion (Norton, 1996), which has been published in eight languages; La Poétique de la Gestalt-thérapie (l’Exprimerie, 2002); Teaching a Paranoid to Flirt (Gestalt Journal Press, 2011), a collection of his writings on Gestalt therapy; and A Gestalt Therapy Testament (Casaperlarte, Milan, 2014), published in English and Italian. New expanded editions of the last book in English and French under the titles Paths of Curiosity and L’itinéraire d’un curieux will be published by l’Exprimerie in September 2022. Michael also wrote the introduction to the collection of Paul Goodman’s psychological writings, Nature Heals.