The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


7 April 2020| Theme: Corona Virus

Knowing and Not Knowing (Corona April 7th, 2020)

Knowing and Not Knowing
A short history of a birth

Fear is about the future. You cannot fear the past. Fear is about images of what could happen, as if this is going to happen for sure. Therefore, fear is a form of plannable future in the face of the upcoming uncertain future. As strange as it may sound, and it may feel even stranger, fear is trying to grasp something and control it.

Bert Hellinger said: “He who has no hope, has everything.” Hope is fear’s little sister. Hope also tries to capture something in the uncertain future coming towards us. What Bert means, is that if you do not have any images of how the future can or should be, you no longer ‘’suffer’’ from fear or hope. But especially, as soon as you no longer want to grasp the future, you can be very much present in the here and now. And when you are very present in the here and now, you can act from the upcoming future, in the here and now. Do what needs to be done. In your actions, you are being ‘’acted’’ more than you intentionally plan your actions. The price of all this is enduring the Not Knowing.

Not Knowing is not in the least giving up. It is just Not Knowing. A large part of our lives, and even a larger part of our work and profession is based on Knowing. In times of crisis, we like to turn to people and organizations who Know. The good part of Knowing is that it gives something to hold on to. And on top of that; direction, most of the time. Not Knowing is often unbearable. For people and organizations who are supposed to Know, it takes at least three seconds of shameless courage to say, while looking you in the eye: “I Don’t Know.”

It is a peculiar sensation to suddenly be past fear and past hope. It feels like a birth. After all the violence and pressure that is being exerted on you from the outside, via the birth channel, suddenly you arrive in a place with space and light. And even though at first you have to squeeze your eyes against the bright light, suddenly you can take deep breaths. You have taken on a type of new shape, innocent and pure. Like a of three- or four-year-old child, you are ready to discover the world afresh, free of patterns and norms. And especially free of wanting to fix the mistakes of past generations.

Of course, you do not know if you are just in the eye of the storm, and if the rain and the wind will be back soon, lashing down on you. The upcoming future remains unknown.

Not Knowing offers opportunities. But this only works when Not Knowing is allowed to really take possession of you. ‘’I don’t know just now”, is still in service of Knowing. Not Knowing also means: “Yesterday I knew. But from now on, I don’t know.” Not Knowing offers the possibility that now is not a repeat of yesterday. With this, Not Knowing makes it possible for new patterns to emerge and sometimes even enables a reset. When it is just one person who embraces Not Knowing, the Knowing around him is probably too strong for anything new to emerge. When there are larger groups, in a profession or a sector, that can embrace Not Knowing, there is a bigger chance of a new pattern emerging.

How many people in the building sector, for example, need to embrace Not Knowing in order to make circular building possible? And how many people, who are looking for a house, or who are ordering the construction of a commercial building, need to embrace Not Knowing in order to make circular building possible?

How much Not Knowing needs be embraced in healthcare for new patterns to emerge? And how many patients or potential patients need to embrace Not Knowing in healthcare for new paradigms to emerge? And let us be clear: Alternative Knowing is a variation of Knowing, and sometimes even of the big Knowing, the Knowing Better.

Does Not Knowing mean that all our education and tons of experience have become worthless? Not in the least! This experience is and will stay highly important. The difference is in the way we deal with this experience. It contains important and valuable information, but it does not prescribe our actions.

Information that is being used to prescribe, takes away the freedom to see and act . Information that describes, acts as a stage for the art of birthing the new. New Knowing.

How do we get there?
By making containers for Not Knowing. In deep acknowledgement of Knowing.

Where does it start?
With the three seconds of shameless courage, looking each other in the eye, and saying, in full presence, with or without words: “In the face of Knowing, I Don’t Know.” Knowing ánd Not Knowing will then be the parents of New Knowing.


Jan Jacob Stam

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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.

For up-and-coming and established leaders. An initiative of the Bert Hellinger Institute.