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Dr. Sonia Nevis, 90; Gestalt psychologist founded center in Wellfleet

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Written by By J.M. Lawrence, Originally published 

When a course of therapy with psychologist Dr. Sonia Nevis ended and a client struggled with goodbye, she would ask her patient to pick up one of the many glass figurines in her office — a little glass horse, perhaps, or a cat. Then she would tell her client to break it.

“They are often surprised and may physically pull back. They will sometimes say, ‘Don’t you care about it?’ I might answer, ‘Yes, very much.’ They will say, ‘So why do you want me to break it?’ ” Dr. Nevis said in an upcoming book.

MATTHEW A. KAMHOLTZ

“I’ll say because the sensation of loss is one that most of us avoid, even though it is so ordinary,” she added. “We all have to learn to experience it in the moment. If we are lucky, we can do it with another.”

Over the past few decades, Dr. Nevis taught and mentored thousands of psychology professionals, managers, and business leaders in the concepts of Gestalt psychotherapy at the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet, which she founded in the late 1970s with her husband, Edwin. Unlike the Freudian focus on mining the past, Gestalt psychology focuses on living in the present and teaches that the whole of relationships is greater than the sum of its parts — with the parts deriving character from the whole.

Dr. Nevis was masterful at living in the present and helped develop the center’s core training programs, colleagues said. She was 90 when she died Sept. 10 in a Brighton nursing home, where she had lived for several years and led sessions on finding happiness.

“She had this marvelous way of connecting with people,” said Mary Anne Walk, a former student who now coaches executives and formerly was executive director of the Gestalt center. “She didn’t believe in using your energy to be negative. She believed in using your energy to find the best in herself and in others.”

No one could predict what Dr. Nevis might say, said Stuart Simon, a Gestalt practitioner who teaches at the center and formerly was her student. “Usually it was creative, brilliant, and rarely without some commitment to the heart,” he said.

He said he used to joke with her that she was “a mutant” — she had a difficult childhood, but emerged optimistic, strong, and full of kindness.

She was 5 when her mother died while giving birth. Her father was mostly absent in her life, and she was shuttled among relatives who paid little attention to her. She had no one to say, “I love you,” and no one to say, “I hate you,” one colleague observed.

Dr. Nevis “never conveyed the sense she had to overcome something,” said her daughter Amy, of Brookline. “She was such an expert at living in the moment. She was an incredible observer. She saw things and heard people in a way I think was really beyond what most people can do.”

“When you were in her presence, you just felt better,” said psychologist Joseph Melnick, a longtime friend of Dr. Nevis who had been her student and then taught with her for many years. A collection of their conversations are included in their book, “The Evolution of the Cape Cod Model, Gestalt Conversations and Practice,” which will be published next year.

Dr. Nevis, who stood a little over 5 feet tall, could scribble a few sentences on an envelope in preparation for a lecture and command an audience. “You couldn’t say anything to shake her,” Melnick said.

When a male therapist she was supervising blurted out that he would like to sleep with her, Dr. Nevis’s comeback became famous among her friends.

According to an anecdote in her book, Dr. Nevis sat back and said, “Let me think about it.” Then she stretched her hands about a foot apart and said, “This much of me would like to sleep with you.” Then she stretched her hands out to more than a foot and said, “This much of me wouldn’t.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Nevis was the daughter of Kelman March and the former Ruth Kwitko. She graduated from Brooklyn College and met Edwin Nevis in New York while socializing with friends at the movies, according to her family.

They married in 1948 and moved to Cleveland, where she graduated with a doctorate in psychology from what was then Western Reserve University. In 1956, they helped found the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland with a mission of training couples and family therapists.

Edwin, who also taught at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, died in 2011.

While Dr. Nevis was raising her two daughters in the 1950s, she became a student of Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. Friends invited her to attend a Gestalt workshop in Cleveland with Perls, and Dr. Nevis experienced a transformative moment.

“Suddenly I could see what was happening between myself and other people,” she said. “I could name some of the feelings I was having. I realized what was happening between myself and other people. It was the first time I felt seen, and the first time I could see . . . the fog was lifting.”

In addition to her daughter Amy, Dr. Nevis leaves another daughter, Melanie, of Brooklyn; a brother, Ronald March, of Wyckoff, N.J.; two grandsons; and a great-grandson.

About 100 friends and colleagues gathered at the center last Sunday to celebrate her life.

Dr. Nevis enjoyed playing bridge and poker. She also loved listening to the great female jazz artists of bygone eras and going to a Wellfleet theater for live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Her book includes a paragraph that contains a few guiding principles for navigating intimacy while remaining authentic and human.

“Be generous; it’s good for your heart,” she wrote. “Disappoint people with regret, but do disappoint them. Be curious; you’ll learn continuously. Talk directly to people, not about them to others. Enjoy differences; we need others’ perspectives. Think optimistically, so that you see what’s working. Look for the humor in your life.”

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at jmlawrence@me.com.

What’s mud got to do with it?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

It’s overcast today.  The snow and ice from multiple storms has finally melted leaving the ground exposed once again.  Mary, our office manager, prefers the ice on her driveway this time of year, “It looks nicer than the wet dirt and gravel.”  If I wasn’t so worried about slipping on the ice, I’d agree with Mary, but I’ll take the mud for now along with the inconvenience it brings, sticking to my shoes and tracking after me whether wet or dry.

It wasn’t always this way.  When I was seven, mud was a projectile.  Easily shaped into balls that fit my small hands and launched over the six-foot stockade fence into the neighbors yard where kids we weren’t allowed to play with lived and launched their counterattack.

When I was twenty-seven, mud was a serious matter.  I was working on a 25,000-acre cattle ranch on the Crow Indian reservation in southeast Montana.  Dryhead was a fitting name for the ranch, except after heavy rains when the dirt turned a slick rusty brown at least three inches deep.  My job as a ranch hand included vacuuming the carpeted dining area in the cookhouse before and after each meal and cleaning the bathrooms where the linoleum floors invited a mud slide, even with paper laid down to absorb the wet dirt.

Now, I live on the marsh where the mud is black and you can sink to your knees if you stand in the wrong spot.  Mostly, it’s my dog who gets covered in the thick smelly stuff of the marsh.

But what’s mud got to do with it anyway?  As a leader in transition, as a coach and as a human being, there’s so much that I can’t see.  So I lean into the unknown, the uncertainty, and much like stepping on the soft wet earth — boundaries become blurred when my feet merge with the mud.

Mud demands that I pay attention to the ground, not just the figure I’ve decided to move towards.  In this way, the ground acts on me and my experience literally, not “only” in a Gestalt sense of the word “ground.”  

Last week, I asked a CCTP colleague in the UK what I should be reading in light of my new position, she responded:  “Poetry.  The answers to your leadership challenges won’t be found in a book.”

I know she’s right because I already have a poem posted on my office wall that captured my attention in the first few weeks on the job.  It’s called “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron” by William Stafford and the last line reads “…feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.”

Luckily though, for all you can’t see, mud is really good at leaving tracks.  And if it’s Meetinghouse mud that means that you’re lucky enough to be at GISC and you’ll probably be tracking it in with the rest of us….

 

 

Viewing GISC as a Network Through a Gestalt Lens

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

By Barry Camson

Introduction

I recently completed a study that looked at GISC as a network. The thesis of this study was that the community aspect of GISC which we have long been familiar with and appreciated really constitutes a network. Perhaps, the best way to describe it is as a latent network which in order to actualize its potential as a network requires our naming it, developing some language that enables us to speak about it as a network and recognizing the network characteristics that it possesses. All of this facilitates our intentional interventions to strengthen GISC as a network.

There are a variety of network attributes about which we could speak. I have previously written about many of these.[1] On this occasion, I would like to view GISC as a network through a Gestalt lens.

 

Levels of system – the network level of system.

I have expanded common Gestalt categories of levels of system to include the network level of system which I believe is qualitatively different from the other levels. Though it is not always the case, I posit the network level of system as a type of the “largest present system” (LPS). Though a group could be a network, more often I suggest we would find a network as existing across organizational boundaries or extending into a regional, national or global community.

 

Well-developed and less-developed.

Networks commonly reflect what is well-developed and less developed. Network aspects that are well-developed or over-developed often involve a cost reflected in what is less developed. For example, when specific people in a network are over utilized as resources, it often means that other people are under-utilized. Network theory explains that without conscious intervention the adage that the “rich get richer” can often be the case. The consequences of this could be bottlenecks around the over-utilized person and isolation and lost input from the under-utilized person. Focusing on what is well-developed or less-developed is useful as a point of diagnosis and change. It allows us to “re-balance” the network.

 

Creative tensions: connection and production.

Networks have purposes and to be effective should have clearly acknowledged purposes. Networks vary in terms of what might be the purposes of the network. One schema of categorization views networks as having purposes of connection, alignment and production. These are evolutionary stages of a network in which the network first establishes connection, then may choose to build on this by aligning around a common ideology or language. Then a network may choose to add production as a purpose.[2] Often purposes co-exist.

GISC has a purpose of connection supported by a culture of connection and values around interpersonal competency. At the same time, GISC has a purpose around the production of training, workshops, consulting and writing. Members vary in terms of their valence towards the purpose of connection or production. There is a creative tension within GISC on a network level of system between connection and production.

The Paradoxical Theory of Change can be applied here. Following this approach, the GISC network as a whole could be made aware of the existence of each polarity within the network. The practice of network mapping is an intervention that would increase awareness by visualizing these two creative tensions in operation within GISC. It could dramatize the network energy devoted to each. The role and value of each polarity within the GISC network can be acknowledged. This could in turn lead to explicit conversations about the role of both qualities.

 

Value propositions as structures of ground

Purposes are translated into value for members, customers and the public. This can be reflected in value propositions that cover each of these groups. The value proposition becomes an organizing and orienting mechanism for the network. Possible value propositions for GISC could be:

  • Improve professional competencies and effectiveness.
  • Transfer skills and theory.
  • Build interpersonal competencies.
  • Create good relationships.
  • Build a better world.

A value proposition acts as structured ground[3] in the network which then continues to influence future figure formation.

 

Integration of strategic and intimate.

This tension between production and connection can also be seen as a tension between the “strategic” and “intimate.” Another way of looking at this tension at GISC is arguably between the world of OD, leadership and organizations and the world of therapy. In the first, the effective completion of tasks is primary. In the second, relationships and intimacy are primary.

GISC constantly strives to integrate these two worlds. In the past, a major way that GISC ensured the integration of these two was through Edwin and Sonia [Nevis]. They represented, as founders and as husband and wife, the real and symbolic effort to maintain this integration. This integration remains an inherent challenge of the 21st century Gestalt enterprise.

 

The network cluster as a manifestation of figure formation.

A network competency is the ability to form fluid figures throughout the system in response to new internal and external challenges. Members join in new and different relationships with one another in responding to these challenges. Both the Healthcare and Education Initiatives at GISC are good examples of how GISC organized itself to respond to these challenges. When people have been energized to come together in pursuit of new knowledge or action, the result is what has been called a cluster or community of practice or simply a new initiative.

 

Creation of a fresh figure as a path to innovation.

For GISC to be sustainable, it needs to exist as a fluid overall figure composed of other fluid figures. This fluidity results in ongoing fresh and rich figures. In this regard innovation becomes key. This includes innovation in programs and services, in governance and in the underlying content and process theories of the GISC network. Innovation needs to flow into action and into contact that changes GISC members, organizations and the world.

Innovation requires a diversity of members. It requires a movement of members into and out of the GISC system in order to keep the system fresh and fully in tune with its environment. It requires contact among members of GISC that is rich and in keeping with system values around connection. It requires a flow of knowledge from outside in, from inside out and throughout the system. Innovation requires clear goals from the core governance mechanism and ample space for new ideas to emerge that furthers GISC system purposes. Innovation requires an appropriate degree of support for these points of collaboration.

In essence, innovation arises from the integration of planfulness and emergence just as it does from the intimate with the strategic. Innovation requires sufficient goal directed behavior to make good contact with the surrounding business community as well as serendipity that makes contact with the hearts, minds and souls of its members.

 

Awareness as an intervention

I believe that networks are qualitatively different from traditional organizations and that interventions need to be adjusted to this new reality. The practitioner community is in an early stage of doing this. At this point, I want to posit one intervention for the network level of system that has strong continuity with Gestalt practice. This is the critical role of awareness as a guiding intervention. Though the concept is familiar, its application is more challenging at this level of system.

The thesis of this article is that we help to further the network potential of GISC by being more aware of its nature as a network. One can ask, is there a phenomenology of networks? We can observe and point out aspects of network governance, inclusion, interaction, funding, facilitation and knowledge sharing. We can also reflect back who talks to whom, about what, with what frequency, in what groupings. We can also point out how the flow of work overlaps with these groupings.

The challenge at the network level of system is how to cultivate this awareness at a network level of system.

It is my hope that the insights set out in this article will help everyone involved in GISC continue to make it a vibrant and giving network.

 

Barry Camson is an organization development consultant and trainer and professor of management (www.barrycamson.com). He has been a Gestalt practitioner for many years. A current focus of his work is on using networks effectively to connect, do business and support innovation. He can be reached at bcamson@aol.com.



[2] “Net Gains,” Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, v.1, Pg. 33.

[3] “Gestalt Reconsidered,” Gordon Wheeler, 1991.

Weekly Newsflash – March 3, 2012

Monday, March 5th, 2012

By David Tunney, Executive Director

Welcome to the GISC Weekly Newsflash, a headline summary of what’s planned or recently happened at GISC.

GISC will be well represented at the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy (AAGT) 2012 Conference in Puebla, Mexico, May 17-20. Sharona Halpern and Joe Melnick are leading a  workshop on the Cape Cod Model, Zeynep Tozum and Stuart Simon are leading a workshop on Applying the Cape Cod Model to Coaching, and Susan Fischer and Joe Melnick are leading a writing workshop.

Organizational Change: A Gestalt Perspective will be taught at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia by Debra Brosan and Mark Magerman this week-end. Enrollment is full based on the great success of last year’s program.

As part of the Education Initiative, Trish Perry, Bob Ross, and Mike Gradone will facilitate a leadership development program for principals and teachers of the Dennis-Yarmouth school system on March 15th.

If you are interested in discussing ways GISC might get involved with online-learning, please contact Donna Dennis and learn more about what MIT is doing by reading this article.

Unfortunately, two programs were cancelled due to lack of enrollment including Applying Cape Cod Model to Coaching scheduled for March 1-3 and Women’s Wisdom scheduled for March 16-18.

“Look for the humor in your life.” Sonia March Nevis

Welcome & Remembrance from Cape Cod, 2012

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

By David Tunney, Executive Director

In 2011, GISC co-founder Edwin C. Nevis, PhD, passed away on his 85th birthday. The memorial service held at the Center included an outpouring of condolences and support and occurred between the launch of Professional Associates and the first annual Community Gathering. A fine tribute indeed to Edwin’s life and legacy. Many fond remembrances of Edwin also appeared in the last issue of the 2011 Gestalt Review, GISC’s academic journal co-founded by Edwin. One reflection in particular seems appropriate here: “He was huge in the ways in which he touched and impacted so many lives through his friendships, consulting, teaching, writing, and especially his mentoring of so, so many people.”

A founding father of process consulting, Edwin taught at MIT’s Sloan School of Management for 17 years and served as director of the school’s program for senior executives. He also launched dozens of study groups, conferences, and programs at GISC. Edwin had a passion for lifelong learning and leading, and so does GISC. Though Edwin is gone, his legacy continues as strong as ever, evidenced by upcoming programs and successful initiatives. In 2012, we are pleased to offer Roots V: Gestalt Organizational Development in honor of Edwin. The conference will be held in Stockholm with co-sponsors Gestalt Academy of Scandinavia and Perlan Dialogue and Leadership.

The Education Initiative is one of many undertakings inspired and fostered by Edwin. GISC faculty are now working with school systems from Cape Cod to Maine, ranging from elementary grades to colleges; and in 2012 there will be two programs at GISC specifically designed for educators.

The Healthcare Initiative is going strong after the successful design and delivery of a customized leadership and mentoring program for physicians and their teams at an Alaskan native, relation-based, healthcare organization. We are also honored to have two healthcare industry experts as co-faculty in one of the leadership programs.
This 2012 program catalogue reflects the extraordinary efforts and capabilities of GISC Professional Associates, faculty, and guest faculty in transforming the way we live and work in the world. Whether for leaders, practitioners, or individuals, all program tracks have many new exciting offerings and faculty.

For Leaders, we offer a new series of Executive Forums starting in January with Setting Up New Worlds:  Organizing Our Futures. The outcome of the January program will help shape the agenda of the May and September Forums. In addition, we now offer a program that will integrate Gestalt-based leadership principles with proven methods for creating a continuous improvement culture. Another new program will help leaders improve virtual work team effectiveness. This year we also welcome two new co-faculty for the popular cornerstone program for senior executives, Leadership in the 21st Century. Three other highly successful programs will be offered including Leadership Transitions which will be conducted in New York City.

For Practitioners including consultants, coaches, change agents, psychotherapists, lawyers, healthcare providers, and other service professionals, the Cape Cod Model programs continue to be successful, well-attended anchors for GISC. Most of our programs are eligible for continuing education credits by the American Psychological Associate (APA) and/or the International Coach Federation (ICF).

In 2012, the renowned Cape Cod Training Program will be offered in Stockholm, Sweden, in association with the Gestalt Academy of Scandinavia, as well as in Wellfleet. For organization development professionals, we continue to offer a series of programs for fulfillment of the Advanced Practice OD Consulting Certificate. And for existing and prospective coaches seeking new skills and ICF certification, we now offer the Competency Development Program for Coaching Certification, with accreditation expected in 2012.

For Individuals, we will continue to offer the popular Next Phase program along with Women’s Wisdom and several other programs. In addition, we are excited to offer a new Summer Series 2012 of workshops for personal growth and exploration on diverse topics for mind, heart, and body. We will also be hosting our second annual Community Gathering in June, an event where newcomers and old-timers attend free workshops to explore the latest research and theory development, new program offerings, and GISC initiatives.

Nestled in the woods of Wellfleet, a short distance from the world-famous Cape Cod National Seashore, GISC offers a retreat-like training facility in an ideal location. Many participants return year after year not only for the programs but to reconnect with a world-wide community dedicated to lifelong learning, teaching, consulting, writing, coaching and mentoring.

And when you become a member of GISC, you will receive an annual subscription to the Gestalt Review. Please contact us if you have any questions. See you on Cape Cod!

Edwin Nevis’ Lifetime of Innovation

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

By Bob Eason

Editor’s note: The following article was written to celebrate Edwin Nevis, his life, and the Lifetime Achievement Award he was recently awarded by the Organization Development Network at its 2010 Conference in New Orleans. Sadly, Edwin passed away before the article could be published in our newsletter. We have decided to go ahead and run the article in its original entirety. It is a salute to a man who spent his entire life helping others reach their full potential.


Edwin Nevis Recognized for Lifetime of Innovation

The amazing thing about Edwin Nevis is that his passion for making the world a better place still burns bright after nearly 60 years at the forefront of the organization development movement. In recognition of that fire, and his pioneering work with organizational consulting, the Organization Development Network recognized Edwin with its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s a real honor,” the co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) responded when asked what the award means. “It’s a reward for years of work. As recognition from my peers, it’s the culmination of my career.” And what a career it has been.

After spending over a half century in the organizational consulting field, Edwin Nevis has introduced literally thousands of consultants, coaches, therapists and leaders to an approach which has become the very foundation upon which GISC and its core programs have been built. “I’ve been involved with leadership since 1955 and training people from all over the world, the organizational practitioner explains. “The work is truly global in scope. My colleagues and I have worked with management from South Africa to Sweden, even the U.S. Presidency.”

What attracts so many OD consultants to Edwin and Gestalt International Study Center? Unlike most Gestalt institutions, who deal only with therapy, GISC works with couples, groups and organizations. It is an approach that is experiential rather than theoretical. “Our approach is hands-on,” Edwin says. “The goal is to create tools that will enrich our participants’ lives with greater self awareness, interpersonal and professional skills.”

Edwin’s approach is built on a set of principles that begin with self awareness. “It’s a question of how one interacts with the world,” he explains. How you are perceived by others. The impact your behavior has on others. Then there is what we call skillful dialogue. It’s how you interact with others in a skillful way. For example, dealing with difficult conversations such as performance reviews. And then there’s the ability to receive information from others. You need to receive information from others and hear what they saying … not just shout them out. It all leads to the ability to influence others.”

These principles are part of a body of work that is rooted in years of experience dating back to 1956 when Edwin co-founded the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. While serving as president and a member of the faculty, he also co-created the well known Organization and System Development Program and the OSD International Program. But his fascination with Gestalt psychology and group dynamics actually dates back to his early college studies in New York City.

It was while there that he was first introduced to Gestalt by a legendary group of expatriate German teachers who had migrated to New York City at the dawn of World War II. Today, Edwin is the second oldest living practitioner who studied under the originators of the movement. These included such legendary pioneers as Fritz and Laura Perls, Isadore From and Paul Goodman. “We were out to change the world,” he remembers. “There were lots of free flowing ideas being bounced around. I guess it was just a question of being in the right place at the right time.”

The right place for Edwin soon became the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Heading back East, he taught courses in organizational change and consulting for 17 years. He also served as a core faculty member and Director of the MIT Program for Senior Executives. It was also during this time, the early 60’s, that Edwin and his wife Sonia March Nevis, pioneered a new vision of what enriches relationships. Edwin’s focus was on organizations and consulting.

Eventually tiring of constantly being on the road consulting, and in search of yet another challenge, Edwin and Sonia co-founded the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) in 1979. Located in Wellfleet, MA, GISC is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to leadership, professional and organizational development. It offers advanced training for leaders, practitioners and individuals. GISC’s mission is to encourage advances in the application of Gestalt to the fields of family therapy, leadership, coaching and organizational consulting. Edwin continues to teach there and sits on the Board of Directors.

Over the years, Edwin has also been the author of numerous articles and several books including Organizational Consulting: A Gestalt Approach; International Revolutions (with Lancort and Vassallo); How Organizations Learn (with DiBella) and recently released by GISC, Mending the World: Social Healing Interventions by Gestalt Practitioners Worldwide (co-edited by Joseph Melnick).

Teaching. Publishing. Consulting. Some 60 years after he first started, Edwin Nevis’ passion to make the world a better place is still a driving force in his life. Today, at an age when most of his peers have long ago settled into retirement, Edwin is still going strong. He has career goals and unfinished business. In fact, even now; he is working to introduce his organizational approach to America’s educational system through a demonstration project at a community college in Connecticut and at a Cape Cod school system.

When asked what he’s the most proud of after all these years, Edwin quickly ticks off the accomplishments without skipping a beat. “First, my marriage and family, then doing good work and the influence I’ve had on people, he proudly states. “Over the years it has led to work with organizations based on a growing recognition of the skills you need in life and your professional world.”

But Edwin doesn’t stop there. “You know, I’m a 100% living embodiment of the American dream. I was the first to go to college from my family. And because of that I’m rooted in a certain set of values,” he says. “ I’m not a crusader … or a utopian … I simply believe in the working man. The dignity of work,” It’s something I inherited from my father and that I’ll always carry with me.”

Which might explain why after all these years, Edwin Nevis is still trying to make the workplace, and the world, a better place.

From a mean winter moving toward a gentle spring…

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

By Sonia Nevis

I’m not sure why I used the word “mean.” Probably closer to my experience is that the winter weather was restless and I was surprised by it. I was restless and I had many reasons to blame the winter, but I still didn’t know what got me so stirred up. It was as if the fierce winds and the cold blasts were echoing some long ago experiences I have had. I decided to write this to figure some things out.

Usually I would have ignored my restlessness with some certainty that it would pass. And, I’m fairly certain that it would have passed. But I know that I am racing toward my 84th birthday and it is time for me stop and note what I pay attention to and what I ignore. It’s time for me to know more about myself.

My early life was pure confusion -strange homes and mysterious caretakers and above all, the shower of differing advice.

How to brush my teeth, whether a wet towel is to be hung up or tossed on the floor, when to start eating and when to wait for someone else to start, was I to wear my clothes for only one day or to wear them for several days, to speak or to wait until spoken to. Nothing was ever the same, and each bit of advice was different than the last one I was given.

I realize, as I write, how much I learned from those early experiences. I also realize that when I lecture, I often say listen to me “lightly,” since whatever I say on Tuesday will probably be different than what I say on Thursday. Only this minute do I realize where I learned to believe that and to say it.

My good fortune was having the experience I had with Fritz Perls and with Gestalt theory. Once a month in Cleveland, Fritz taught a group the essence of Gestalt principles.

This was in the 50s, when I was experiencing complete confusion, and Fritz was working to articulate his principles. His ease with teaching one principle and, then, the next month announcing that what he taught the last month was not important since he has now figured what he wanted to say was exactly what I needed to hear from someone that I trusted. And I did trust him. I learned to trust myself and to have the courage to step into the unknown without my knowing what will happen.

I read an article written by Jonah Lehrer in the December 13, 2010, New Yorker called “The Truth Wears Off.” The article is about the scientific experiments that are conducted in the search of “truth,” that when replicated a year later prove to be wrong. He cites many such experiments.

“But now,” he says, “confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts are losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable.”

“We like to pretend that our experiments define truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it is true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.”

I hope this makes your life easier as it did my life.

Warmly, Sonia

Many Great Reasons to Give

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For GISC, 2010 has been a year of transitions, awards, successes, new opportunities—and challenges. Like you, perhaps, I believe there is an enormous need in the world today for the programs and services offered by GISC. Fortunately, we are well positioned to expand into new areas; however, we need your financial support. Therefore, this year’s annual campaign is about Funds for Growth!

In the years since Edwin and Sonia founded GISC in 1979 for study and research, GISC has grown to serve individuals and organizations worldwide. Our current momentum is exciting and puts us at a crossroads familiar to many organizations: the need for funds to ensure our ability to keep up with increased demand and opportunity. This year especially, we need your donations to support our growth. Here’s what we’re doing and how you can help.

This year’s biggest story is the extent to which GISC is expanding its base of operation from Wellfleet. We have a substantial new venture at a healthcare organization in Alaska and momentum to fulfill 2011 growth goals elsewhere in the US, Canada, and Europe as well. We are – as our name states – a truly international organization.

In Alaska, the GISC Healthcare Initiative is working to transform a major healthcare organization into a team-based, collaborative medical practice. An on-site, GISC-trained consultant is working with other GISC practitioners to provide a better model for medical care for Native Alaskans.

On the educational front, we have two new ventures. We will begin teaching GISC courses in the Leadership and Organization Development MS Program at

St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. This strategic education initiative gives GISC greater impact and visibility and will position us to extend our programs into other colleges.

Second, the GISC Education Initiative – and its extraordinary team – is preparing to launch a “demo project” in 2011. The goal is to teach teachers GISC methods and demonstrate the results: improved skills and reduced dropout rates. This exciting project could be replicated and make a major impact on education.

In leadership – where GISC already has a well-established reputation for quality – we are preparing to offer programs in Toronto and/or Ottawa. Because our Leadership Consortium members have been so pleased, several members now want us to bring our proven, successful programs to their employees.

In Europe we have been asked to develop a strategic alliance with a leading Gestalt center and with Gestalt-based consulting firms. We expect to offer several courses – including the Cape Cod Training Program – throughout 2011 and beyond in many different European countries.

As you may be aware, the core history of GISC is based on the creation of new methods and theories, so in 2010 we honored our roots and launched the Leadership and Organizational Development Initiative (LODI). This effort will analyze GISC’s unique approach to leadership and result in a new Gestalt-based offering that will help us work even more effectively with large and small systems.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that this year also saw one of GISC’s own founders and leaders, Edwin Nevis, receive the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization Development (OD) Network! This award honors an individual whose commitment to the field of OD and achievements over the course of a lifetime have made a significant contribution to the OD profession. Please join us in congratulating Edwin on his many and remarkable achievements, now formally acknowledged by the professional community.

The remarkable history and past success of GISC combined with our current growth opportunities offers exciting expansion prospects for 2011. However, we need your financial support and ask that you donate to position GISC for sustainable growth. Here are a few examples of donation needs and dollars at work:

· The Nevis Scholarship Fund: provides financial support for participants to any program.

· Program-Specific Scholarships: provides financial support for a program of your choice, such as Leadership in the 21st Century; Nonprofit Leadership; or Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.

· Education Initiative: supports development and delivery of GISC courses and methods in education.

· Donor’s Choice: Is there something particular you would like to fund? Last year, a donor provided funding for a survey to understand the impact of our programs in the lives of participants.

“Be generous, it’s good for the heart.” Sonia March Nevis

If you donate $125 or more, you will receive your annual GISC Membership benefits. If you donate $500 or more, you can allocate that money to a specific program or initiative mentioned above. If you donate $1,000 or more, you are invited to attend a special event with Edwin and Sonia next spring.

Please give today according to your means and intention to sustain and grow the impact of GISC in Wellfleet and throughout the world.

David Tunney

Executive Director

   
Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567