The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


Barbara Hoogenboom

Is mede-eigenaar van en opleider bij het Bert Hellinger instituut Nederland.

15 October 2019| Organizational Constellations, Transformation

Latvia: Transformation starts with the courage to look at the past…

Two and a half years after the first training on System Dynamics in Organizations, we decide that it is time to offer a continuation, a master training in organizational constellations.

A few weeks before the training is to start, 20% of the participants unexpectedly withdraw one by one. What does this tell us? That it is too exciting or scary even to take part in this training?

We decide to let the training go ahead as planned, and to allow ourselves room to ‘move outside our comfort zones’. Apparently, this is what is asked of the participants, and of us as well.

We start the first day with the 10 women (!) who responded to the call and who had the courage to come, and we invite them to go on an adventure with us instead of attending a training…

The group consists of a mix of professionals who work as consultants as well as directors, leaders or HR experts within organizations. They share what they sense that organizations are asking of them when doing systemic work of any kind, what they come across in organizations and where they feel their limits are. In general, their answers to these questions can be described as follows: organizations want us to take all the responsibility, want us to create solutions, and it feels like a mission impossible. Organizations (and their leaders and employees) in general seem not to be able to allow room for emotions; the focus is on results, efficiency and control, there is little trust and sharing. Organizations seem to have a forward-facing energy, and yet they are stuck.

The question now is: How can these professionals be of value to organizations without losing themselves or finding themselves in a situation where they, as leaders or consultants, are taking too much of the burden? It feels like serving an organization requires that you have to sign away your freedom. In a country where freedom has been taken away and has been fought for in the most unthinkable ways several times in our history, it seems as if freedom is still an unconscious topic in organizational lives nowadays, in different forms.

We decide on a new focus and contract for this training: We want to deepen the skills of systemic facilitation in organizations and look at what is asked of us as facilitators and instruments of systemic work.

The introductions, constellations and exercises around potential and transformation all start to allow us to feel and understand it: When you want to be an instrument and use the full potential of what systemic work has to offer, if organizations want to get unstuck, there are no quick tools or fixes. It seems no longer possible to protect ourselves by shutting ourselves off from what lays in the background of that situation of impasse and moving forward at the same time, from the origins and history of many of today’s organizational systemic issues – the events in the period 1941-1991 and later.

This leads us to conversations about how the history of Latvia and the circumstances around the origin of organizations affect the symptoms and patterns in organizations today. For public and governmental organizations, the freedom movement in Latvia and proclamation of independence meant switching to a completely new regime in/after 1991. Private organizations simply did not exist before 1991; all new business organizations had to start from scratch. It seems that they were born from a breakdown of one system and freedom-fighting energy, from disbalance, to compensate for the repressive years, where property, lives and human potential was taken away. How could the period in which it was impossible for anyone working in organizations and living in this society in general to question hierarchy or express own opinion, affect the organizational systems and people in them today?

This open conversation demands the utmost from everyone in the group. This is the survival mechanism of the personal/unit conscience in action!

Two and a half years ago, I (Barbara) learned that the ‘glass ceiling’ for women that we know so well in the Netherlands, works differently in Latvia. Women are strong, both in their families and as leaders in organizations. Most likely this has its roots in WWII, which saw a lot of male casualties. This forced the women to be strong and take the place of the men.

And then, on the last afternoon of this first training module, unexpectedly, we all of a sudden find ourselves in a constellation on the loss of these men, these soldiers. There are tears, stored energy is released, potential that was left behind with these men is retrieved and unconscious promises to wanting to give these men a place are revived.

All the hard work was worth it.

Barbara Hoogenboom
Iveta Apine

October 13, 2019.

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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.