The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


16 November 2017| Systemic Coaching


Report of a trainer:

I arrive at Cairo Airport at night. When I walk outside, to the sound of people calling “taxi, taxi” through the hedge, all of a sudden I hear: “Bibi!”. And a bouquet of sweet smelling roses moves towards me, with behind it the faces of Iman and Bashar. They had been participants in our international trainings in Groningen and have come to the airport to welcome me and to give me a bag full of fruit from their garden!

I step into the car with Afaf (also a participant of all our international trainings in Groningen), the organiser of the first international version of our training Systemic Coaching without constellations. The next morning, we have breakfast together: for me it looks like a complete diner, with meat, beans and all kinds of falafels and sauces.

We drive from one part of New Cairo through a piece of desert to the other part. In these cities, there is a lot of green, and attached to every palm tree I see a tube with a water sprinkler, to water them. It is hard to believe that twenty years ago, there was only a sandy desert here. The training is in a huge five-star hotel, with a beautiful garden with swimming pool.

I am worried beforehand about how to dress. Are my summer dresses not too “naked” for this culture? I decide to put on trousers and a blouse with long sleeves. Most of the nine participants are wearing jeans with holes on the legs and fancy Nikes. One lady is in a long dress and hijab. And Afaf, the organiser, is always wearing a modern hat that covers his hair. One Egyptian man, seven Egyptian ladies – one from whom is originally from Syria, who fled from Lebanon to France, and is now married to an Egyptian man – , one lady from Holland, and me. There are coaches, two HR managers, a youth coach, a women’s rights lawyer, a manager/owner of a retreat centre and a mother/housewife.

On the first day, there are a lot of questions to find out “in which box” they can place this systemic way of looking. These highly-educated academically thinking women have difficulties opening up to another way of thinking. And they are shocked when they realize how much they are influenced by the systemic forces, when I explain and demonstrate how patterns try to bring back the “torn out pages of our history”. All of a sudden, they talk about abortions, about losing a child, about divorce and about having to flee the civil war in Lebanon as a child. They realize how the systemic conscience tries to make space for all these painful events, and how the pain also wants to have a place. The man is a bit silent, he is afraid that his English is not good enough. I see in his notebook that he is drawing the systems which the women are talking about. At the end of the day, he shows me his drawings and tells me that he found out today how the system of his children and him, and the system of his ex-wife and their children, are still overlapping in a way that does not allow them to be free.

The next day, he shows me another drawing and tells me he had a new insight: the drawing of the system of his family of origin and his current system where repeating the same pattern.

On the third day, we practiced with the first steps of the systemic coaching process: Which systems are involved and what is the position of the coachee in these systems? I got a big smile on my face when I saw these small groups of people sitting on the floor, daring to take long silences before asking the next question, so in tune with the systems of the coachee… “They got it!”

Every time I start a new training, I am amazed at how fast “strangers” become a group. I had probably unconsciously been afraid that it would be complete different to give a training in the Arab culture. But also here, as wherever we do this systemic work, everyone has the tendency to relate and to be curious. We all are human.


Bibi Schreuder
Bert Hellinger Institute, The Netherlands

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About the Bert Hellinger Institute

People are constantly evolving. With each other, without each other. In families, in teams, in organizations. Systemic thinking makes us aware of the “why” of our being and doing. Organizational and family constellations create room for movement. The BHI provides courses, workshops and training programs in the field of systemic work, constellations, leadership and coaching. This is how we contribute to the development of people, organizations and society.

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