Our conference theme for 2016 is: Diversity, Difference and Dialogue.
In Uncommon ground: Harmonizing psychotherapy and community to enhance everyday living, Erv Polster wrote:
Each of us has an undercurrent originality, more lively than we are aware of, imbedded in an unformed set of experiences. Societal pressures often cloak these primal beginnings with insistent norms of connectedness. Premature understandings pre-empt the deeper meanings that come to those who can reach into the jumbled interior and either find a place for the discordant experience or just enjoy it for its own sake. … [artists and others’] work promises new comprehension by those who are open to reconnecting the dissonant relationships of parts into a revealed whole. (2006, pp. 98, 99)
Previous GANZ conferences have demonstrated the diversity of influences on our community’s members such as the various training centres and their particular orientation to Gestalt theory and practice; experiences with related modalities and practices; expertise with specific clinical issues; attitudes to research; and career aspirations. Presenters have demonstrated their originality in our exploration of aspects of this diversity. This conference incorporates an engagement with diversity and dissonance regarding the future of GANZ, the place of Gestalt therapy in the wider field, and the potential nature of an emergent community.
Diversity is championed in ecological circles where the richer the varieties of life, the greater the opportunity for discoveries, development, and adaptive responses to new challenges. Our phenomenological approach honours diversity, seeded by the founders’ rebellion against mono-cultures and their deadening effect on the vitality of life. As a key figure in the formation of the eco-psychology movement, Theodore Roszak concluded in 1992, after reviewing many psychologies, that only the Gestalt school has introduced a larger, more fully biological context for therapy that seeks to unite figure with ground, organism with environment, noting it was the only school that uses the concept of ecology in its theories. Roszak was an admirer of Paul Goodman a fellow campaigner for a more tolerant and freer society, and who encouraged the creation of belongingness in a community.
Inevitably, along with diversity, comes difference. The contacting process itself requires difference, and we routinely work with difference in many areas: the intra-psychic dissonance so familiar in the issues our clients bring along with the clinical interpersonal difference which inevitably arises in the therapeutic relationship. Intimate systems offer an increasing complexity of difference where issues of domestic violence and child protection emerge. The ground also includes currently figural cultural differences around religious beliefs, and attitudes to asylum seekers; same sex marriage; and First Nation relationships. As a society we also encounter ecological difference: climate change; protection of natural resources and habitats; and renewable versus non- renewable energy.
Our challenge in responding to difference, is choosing whether to accept, reject, fight, or engage with it to create something new. At the very heart of gestalt methodology is our key to engaging with difference: existential dialogue. Dialogical process supports change, potentially moving from conflict and agression to a mutual acknowledgement of differing needs, and through a balance of will and grace, creating a new configuration.
We invite you to join us in Canberra, Australia’s national capital. Where better to explore the challenges of difference and diversity and the unique offerings of Gestalt?!
Polster, E. (2006). Uncommon ground: Harmonizing psychotherapy & community to enhance everyday living. Arizona: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.
Roszak, T. (1992). The Voice of the Earth. New York: Simon and Schuster