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ALL PRESENTATIONS ARE WITHOUT CHARGE.
There is an existential unease, an anxiety closely related to doubt—doubt about our safety under the gaze or at the hands of another—in almost every encounter with someone else of our own species. It can range from meetings with strangers to relations with parents, from dealing with authority figures to lovers and spouses. This phenomenon often leads to defensive measures of psychological self-protection that can close off our capacities for curiosity and intimacy, for alliance and collaboration. In general, attempts to keep ourselves safe from the other can prevent us from being and expressing our full selves in relationships of all kinds.
Such issues seem endemic to the human condition and its developmental trajectory. True, fears appear and clashes occur between members of the same species among other animals. These tend to be rather well-defined so far as we can tell: territorial disputes, sexual rivalries, power and status struggles. But there is no evidence of anything so pervasive and far-reaching as the difficulties that arise between humans. Are they necessary and inevitable? Or have certain basic evolutionary survival instincts gone off the track in human societies? These are questions of importance to psychotherapy. To what extent can Gestalt therapy in particular, with its emphasis on the ratio between the security of self-support and the risk in contacting the next unknown, help people enter the world of relationships more fully?
My presentation involves revision, amplification, and a broadening of scope around themes I have been concerned with for a long time, although these had a more specialized focus in the past: namely, the difficulties in long-term intimate relationships as portrayed in my book of twenty years ago, Intimate Terrorism. Now I am taking up a wider focus that I hope will apply fruitfully to all our relationships, including that of therapist and patient.
Michael Vincent Miller, Ph.D. has practiced and taught Gestalt therapy for thirty-nine years, currently in New York City. His own training was chiefly with Fritz Perls, the Polsters, and for many years with Isadore From. After ten years of teaching at Stanford University and M.I.T., he co-founded the Boston Gestalt Institute, where he directed training. He has also trained psychotherapists in Gestalt therapy in a dozen countries. He was on the editorial board of the Gestalt Journal and was Consulting Editor to the International Gestalt Journal. Besides contributing numerous articles to many journals and magazines, he reviewed books on psychology and related areas for the New York Times Book Review from 1985 to 1994. He is the author of four books: Intimate Terrorism: The Crisis of love in an Age of Disillusion (Norton, 1996), which has been published in eight languages; La Poetique de la Gestalt-therapie (Exprimerie, 2002), which was published in France; Teaching a Paranoid to Flirt (Gestalt Journal Press, 2011), a collection of his writings over thirty years on Gestalt therapy; and A Gestalt Therapy Testament (Casaperlarte, Milan, 2014), published in English and Italian.
Gestalt therapy’s emphasis on process often deemphasizes narrative and story. As we grow older and need to come to terms with our life experience, losses and history, we become more preoccupied with our stories and their meaning. There is a tradition for a narrative approach to Gestalt therapy (E. Polster “Every person’s life is worth a novel”). Drawing on my own experience in memoir writing I will present some of the techniques honed from experiential memoir writing workshops. In the experiential segment we will use theme-based techniques to do some memoir writing about meaningful life experiences. We will read some of the writing in the group. I will also discuss how to integrate experiential writing into therapeutic work with clients.
Iris Fodor, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University and a Gestalt therapist in New York City working with many clients in the arts. She received her certification in Gestalt Therapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles (GTILA) and has been an Associate Editor of Gestalt Review. She has done workshops and written about the integration of Gestalt and Cognitive Therapy, mindfulness and Gestalt Therapy, women’s body image and feminist therapy. Iris is also a photographer whose work has focused on digital storytelling and narrative process. Recent work focuses on memoir, experiential writing and life story.