The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


8 October 2020| Organizational Constellations, Societal, Other

Flow… cool or a prison?

Flow, what is that?

Most definitions describe a temporary condition, lasting a few hours or so. Something like: flow is about a state of consciousness in which you are completely absorbed in your activities. You can describe flow as the perfect harmony. Often when you do something in a flow, you are surprised when you look at your phone or watch after a while and discover how much time has passed in the meantime.

You are super focused and very productive at work for hours. Everything is going well. You have no sense of time and feel invincible. As if you just got your energy kick from exercising. Then you have a very good flow.

Flow has also been described as `Being fully immersed in a sense of energetic focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.’ Much more has been written about it, concrete helpful things to understand more about this type of flow and even there are many tips to help activate that fine state of flow.

This kind of flow certainly falls into the ‘cool’ category.

I want to talk about a different kind of flow. The flow that you can sometimes feel in your life for a longer period of time, as if you are on the right track with how things are going at that moment in terms of relationships, family and / or work & income. And in this kind of flow it is not the case that all days are or should be perfect, you can have off days and unproductive days, but in the main you do feel something that you could describe as being in Flow. In general, things are going well for you, of course there is something here and there that could be better or that would make you even more satisfied, but in fact you have very little to complain about. That kind of flow is what I want to talk about today.

That kind of flow is what I am writing about in this article from the perspective of the three survival mechanics and in which I share about my experience this year. By the way: as far as I am concerned this is systemic research in progress, so your questions, doubts and additions are welcome.

First, briefly my starting point when it comes to the survival mechanisms and how they together can form a long-term experience of flow.

The unity or group conscience is a mechanism from which we can act consciously. It is the domain of the will and the plans. It is the domain of setting goals, having ambitions and knowing what you want from life. Incidentally, this is also the domain of opinions and judgments, so from this conscience you would “judge” whether the flow is ‘cool’ or ‘a prison’.

The system conscience is an unconscious mechanism and could be referred to as the domain of the patterns. From the ‘that’s how we do it here’. Often unconsciously, this mechanism has shaped us all, from our family history and from our youth, into who we are. Whether we liked it or not, we learned all kinds of patterns that helped us get to where we are today. So this is also the domain of “this is what I am good at”. It is also the domain where unconscious promises and tasks come from. For example, doing the study that your father or mother did not have access to, making sure that a child no longer has to suffer because you have seen children suffer too often in your environment, or were such a child yourself.

The evolutionary mechanism, Hellinger called this Geist or Spirit mind, is the domain of the greater whole, of life on earth, of the life that continues to develop recklessly. It is the domain of what life wants from you. From your destination, your purpose, your life path. People can sometimes feel that they are in the service of the next generations. As if you are being called upon from future potential in the here and now.

It is also the domain from which major events and wake-up calls can come your way, which are an immediate game changer. That confronts you with that, how it went so far, what you did until now, or how you did it, is over or is passing. That something else may be expected of you in the future than what you give / do now.

And when you dare to face that, dare to acknowledge that, it will take you to a temporary no man’s land. Where the old can increasingly be let go and where the new can arise. Only nobody tells you how long it will take for it to take shape. You are in the hands of Not Knowing.

You can also ask yourself, for example, from which mechanism something like “my mission” comes. Is that from 1: the will / plans, from 2: system / systems that unconsciously put and keep me on that mission or from 3: from future generations or from something like the felt life mission? Or from the combination of those three…?

My guess is that when the ingredients in your life match with what you want and find important, with what you are good at and perhaps what is expected from your background and what your destination is, THAT gives the feeling of FLOW. That it is just right as it is. (and again, that does not mean that you cheer with happiness every day, but overall you have it right and you are in good shape).

And I think it feels even more like flow when that interaction is active and not static. That you both feel that you can use your potential freely, and that you are just a bit over-demanded, so that you grow and develop and it does not become monotonous.

Now, let me take you into my experience to illustrate my point of ‘cool’ or ‘prison’. If you asked me how I was doing in February of this year (2020), the answer was something like: very good. I am very busy, but I do really great things and I am happy to do them. I learn and develop a lot. I also have enough time for my husband and children. And I’ve also learned to have some mindful moments for myself every day. I am happy to be able to do my sports regularly. Actually all is very good.

Oh and the Bert Hellinger Institute is doing well too. Too good perhaps, the whole of 2020 is fully booked, but yes, you cannot complain about that as an entrepreneur 😉

So: don’t change a thing Bar, you’ve got it all done!

And Then Came Corona. And after the first few weeks of “crisis management,” it came, the STOP. Those big concrete blocks that are used to completely close off a road, they were put in front of me. It wasn’t feeling bad, I didn’t have to cry, it wasn’t feeling well, also not in the mood to laugh, I just didn’t know how I was doing. That turned out to be the start of a period of reconsideration. What does life really want from me?

Exploring what that resistance was related to, brought me into the system conscience and to clarify some of my deepest patterns.

And after having regained peace and solidity, all kinds of questions arose from the personal conscience. How hard do I actually want to work? How much do I want to be available for my husband and our children? If I later want to look back on a ‘good’ life, what will it look like? Of all the activities that are part of ‘my work’, which ones make me shine most? That led to a number of decisions such as working ‘part-time’, having the nanny come one day less per week, musing about playing golf with my husband or walking with a girlfriend on Friday, etc.

And when I spoke about this with my colleague Sandra, our office manager, out of my mouth popped: ‘To be honest that beautiful flow from before Corona was a prison!’

And then out of her mouth popped: ‘The same was the case for the BHI and for us at the office! We were really in a nice flow, mutual clarity about our roles, who was responsible for what. Work hard and laughed hard. But now I realize that because of the constant growth and demand for certain training courses, we were steered in such a way that we stopped doing other things that are important.’

So also at an organizational level, flow (say a state of “effortless success”) can be a prison …

And you may have experienced something similar as a result of the lockdown. The lockdown is one example of the evolutionary mechanism, which can have the effect of a wakeup call or game changer for you. Many other developments and events can have the effect of STOP and bring you into a period of reflection. Incidentally, the STOP can also come from the personal conscience. That you realize yourself that you no longer want it the way it is, or that your surroundings hold up a mirror to you. It doesn’t always have to be something “big” to enter reflection time.

By the way, if you want to investigate how your flow is along the three mechanisms, then you can go to Bibi Schreuder’s online workshop on October 31, 2020.


Barbara Hoogenboom
October 2020

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