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Do as much as you can with the time you have

In the next two weeks I will be helping to edit an anthology of articles that appeared over the course of about ten or 11 years in an electronic journal I started when I was still in my doctoral programme. That was when the internet was still in diapers, people were saying outrageously aggressive things to one another, experimenting in virtual communities, and playing games with one another (not video games) pretending to be characters they just made up, like alter egos. They called them avatars.

It’s hard to write that word now without thinking of the movie. A lot has changed, and the internet is no longer as free as it used to be. It’s gone commercial. I can’t watch YouTube, or any video from a news source without having to endure some annoying advertisement. Then again, back then there was no YouTube, and so I guess the commercials pay for the service. I can watch all kind of things on YouTube these days.

For instance, something I often suggest to my clients struggling with anxiety or depression is to watch the lectures given by Jon Kabat-Zinn on YouTube. You can watch full-length lectures of between 60 and 90 minutes in which he lectures to places like Harvard and people like the staff at Google.

Kabat-Zinn extracted principles from Buddhism to put together a programme of stress reduction, and that programme was very successful. Psychologists noted how successful it was and started using it for their clients suffering from anxiety and depression, and then cognitive-behavioural therapists began using it so much that a whole new form of CBT came to be known — Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or MCBT.

Over the extended weekend Charlie Bowman, a friend of mine and gestalt colleague, sent in a Foreword for the anthology, and while reading it I was brought back to those early days of the internet and my life in the field of gestalt therapy. In part, he wrote:

“In 1995, the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt therapy (AAGT) launched an ambitious campaign to subscribe members to an “internet Mailbox”. The Spring, 1995 AAGT Newsletter offered complicated instructions for subscribing to aagt@indy.net and coaxed subscriptions by identifying members who were communicating online ‘from as far away as Australia and Capetown, South Africa’.

“Brian O’Hara accepted the newly created position “internet Coordinator” and he, Phil Brownell and I spent a lot of time back and forth trying to coax AAGT members to connect online. Growth was agonisingly slow.

Gestalt therapists have preferred face-to-face contact to electronic media since these early days of teleconferencing and electronic mailboxes.

“Early discussions about the nature of contact and electronic communication were at times heated, with the jury out on whether or not electronic communications, let alone electronic communities, were valid means of contacting. Such growing pains make little sense today (particularly for a therapy that holds novelty with such centrality).

“Nonetheless, AAGT and the gestalt community forged ahead in the tradition established in the 1960s by Fritz Perls for using cutting-edge technology. His early equipment — tape recorders, and video staging equipment — can still be found at the Frederick and Laura Perls’ Special Collections at the Kent State University Library Archives in Kent, Ohio.

“The growth of gestalt therapy through electronic media has been remarkable and well documented elsewhere. The lion’s share of responsibility for this growth belongs with Gestalt Global Corporation. The brainchild of Phil Brownell, this non-profit organisation was dedicated to facilitating the growth and development of gestalt therapy by building a global community, publishing, and research.

“In 1997, Gestalt Global launched Gestalt!, the first electronic gestalt journal. Gestalt! experimented with different writing techniques and supported the expression and development of ideas much more than adherence to publication style. After publishing ten volumes of the journal, many of which were dedicated to AAGT conferences and member interests, Phil offered editorship to AAGT.

“At the 2010 membership meeting and conference AAGT members expressed their support and consensus for adopting the online journal as the official journal of AAGT. Phil, Dan Bloom and I offered to co-edit the journal and welcomed the opportunity for creative collaboration.

“AAGT embraced the journal, touting it as a publication interested in developing new writing in the field and offering support to less experienced writers in their projects — goals Phil had promoted from the start. AAGT’s stewardship of Gestalt! was short lived and the journal was put quietly to rest in 2012. Emerson said it neatly: “There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish; the thing is to do as much as you can in the time that you have.” While AAGT ultimately laid Gestalt! to rest as a result of never having enough time, Brian Mistler and Phil Brownell have done yeoman work bringing us Gestalt! in the time that they have made to preserve the best of the best.”

The book will be edited largely by Brian Mistler, PhD, Associate Dean of Students and the Director of Health Services, Ringling College of Art and Design (this is a private, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering the Bachelor’s degree in 14 disciplines: Advertising Design, Business of Art & Design, Computer Animation, Digital Filmmaking, Fine Arts, Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interior Design, Motion Design, Painting, Photography & Digital Imaging, Printmaking and Sculpture), and it will be published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

I like Charlie’s quote of Emerson, that there’s never enough time to do everything one might want or even that needs to be done, but that the goal is to do as much as one can with the time that one actually has. I know that that has been one of my own values, and it’s guided me in the projects that continually come to mind. I push on their doors, and the ones that open I go through and give them my time and energy, while the ones that push back and remain closed, that resist me, I eventually stop pushing on. I have gotten good at letting them go and saving myself the frustration of dealing with their negativism. Life is too short to put up with it. Life is more fun doing what one can with the time one has and with the opportunities that welcome with open arms. That was the way it was when I started an online journal in the early days of the internet, and that’s the way it is today.