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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.
The simplicity and beauty of gestalt therapy continues to inspire me. I love how it engages us in the creative process of shifting from inhibiting to inhabiting our bodies, and then, to a cohabitating which leads us into a collaborating. It is here that we bring a refreshed and refined emphasis on field theory and a deepening of our understanding of the intricate interweaving of all things.
We begin by stepping into the simplicity of slowing down, and perhaps, even pausing. We rest here in the bodily experience of the present moment, opening to our sensual wisdom. A plethora of sensations may lead us to a land of discovery as we awaken new ways of being.
We learn to stay faithful to the practice of attuning and attending to our moment-to-moment experiencing, and trusting what is so. We experiment with simple activities such as breathing, walking, sitting, etc. The eloquence of simplicity offers the potential to ignite our interest, and requests our presence in the lingering with the experience long enough to inhabit it more fully. Slowly, step by breath, simply and boldly, we grow more deeply into ourselves.
A co-emergent, collaborative spirit invites us to shift into an embodied, relational mindfulness. The simple activity becomes a relational practice. We bring an intentional awareness to developing a partnership with everything – allowing deep respect for the sacred presence of air we breathe, the earth we walk on, the chair we sit on and so on. We explore the sumptuous dance of giving and taking, of offering and receiving while deepening into its extraordinary complexity as well as its simplicity. Our openness to otherness blossoms into an alive meeting. In this mutually engaged process, we cultivate the potential for residing in the world and all our moments in a deeply intimate way. Here we are offered the creative possibility of waking up to a sense of mutual belonging and our common humanity.
We arrive at living our lives deeply rooted, from moment-to-moment and from day-to-day, as if our lives really mattered-as if we really matter. We show up intentionally, fulfilling the calling forth of a sensually alive and embodied presence.
The nature of this basic, simple work – utterly familiar yet strangely new at the same time – continues to transform into advanced and profound depths of possibility.
Gail Feinstein, LCSW is proud to be a member of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy for over 37 years. She is honored and privileged to have been mentored by Laura Perls and Richard Kitzler. She trains internationally and currently practices in New York City and the Catskill Mountains where she supervises, leads groups and retreats. Gail is immediate past president of the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy – An International Community. She is committed to grounding her work in a co-creative, collaborative process, coming fresh to each moment and weaving the values of deep relatedness into the world.