The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


11 January 2021| Personal

Stop carrying someone else’s burden

Last week I gave a short online session about Fate.

‘Fate’ can sound and feel so heavy and inescapable. While Fate really is just a burdensome word for “reality”. Therefore my fate is nothing more or less than my personal situation, my reality. It is how life unfolds for me, with exactly the lessons that are meant for me.

And yes, those can be tough lessons and it can take a lot of your lifetime to accept your reality and take the lessons out.

  • If everyone could and would bear his / her own fate, many (systemic) coaches and counselors would not have a job. Which in itself is great news in my opinion.
  • If no one would (partially) bear the fate of another, there would be no burnout and who knows what other complaints there would be no more.

And yet, how easy we do that, carrying for others. Being compassionate, wanting to (unconsciously) take over the burden, making it easier and better for each other. At our own expense. And even at the expense of the other! Because we deprive the other person of the right to her / his own life lessons! Moreover, we distract ourselves from our own pain and life lessons.

After a short introduction as described above, the participants went in groups of three into Break Out Rooms, where each was given their own speaking time, to be able to tell about his or her own fate (reality). The other two participants were strongly discouraged from humming, nodding or asking questions. Just being present in the here & now for the narrator was enough. And the most important rule: it was forbidden to feel sorry, to show commiseration, to let any of the other person’s story stick to yourself.

The reflections afterwards generally testified to good experiences, for both narrator and listener. It helped to gain or stay in one’s own strength.

What Bert Hellinger taught us became clear again: “Carrying what is yours, strengthens”.

And now, a week later, it only occurred to me that Hellinger also always said: “Pity is an indictment against God.”

For we as human beings are not at all capable of taking away the suffering of another person; that’s how I always translated his statement.

And I believe I understand it now in a different way: commiseration. Co-misery. Being in the misery of the other. When you co-suffer with another’s fate, you are not only creating an illusion, you are even taking something away. Then you deprive the other of the right to his or her own life lessons. And you deprive yourself from yours.

So, don’t commiserate. Then what? Be willing to accept your own reality. Be available for the other in full presence, give yourself, without losing or giving yourself away. Be next to each other. From person to person, heart to heart, in dignity.


Barbara Hoogenboom

11 januari 2021

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