The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


9 September 2020| Organizational Constellations, Other

Pains of succession

Succession is inevitable. And painful.

The Bert Hellinger Institute Netherlands was founded in 2000. I felt the first pang of pain after about eight years, when the institute slowly began to expand. A phone call came in at the office. I answered carelessly with my name: “Jan Jacob Stam speaking…”. I heard the silence of disappointment on the other end of the line, followed by the words: “…I thought I had called the Hellinger Institute.” For a moment it flashed through me: “Yes, but… I am the Hellinger Institute”. Later that evening, I realized that Jan Jacob was no longer equated with the Hellinger Institute.

Painful, but also good news: the Institute now stands on its own two feet!

For a long time, I was unconsciously searching for a successor. When I met Barbara Hoogenboom, somewhere in 2013 I think, something in me knew it was her. The next pang of pain came when I handed over the directorship to Barbara in October 2018, on a mountaintop here in Slovenia, a kilometer away from where I’m writing this now. On the one hand, it was a tremendous relief, on the other, it was painful, when I saw Barbara presented in the media as director of the BHIN for the first time. A feeling of: Ouch!, I am no longer needed.

I knew it would happen, that pain. I also knew how important it would be to hand over the systemic work in the form of the Bert Hellinger Institute Netherlands to the next generation in time. I am incredibly happy and grateful that we managed to do that.

And then the departure. I literally let go of the reigns three weeks ago. Ouch again! Three days ago, my wife (and current owner) Bibi and I drove out of a village in Slovakia. “Dovidenia”, a sign read. Farewell. Again the pain cut through my heart and soul.

For years I prayed that someone or something would tell me in time when it’s time to let go. Nothing as embarrassing and sour as sticking around past your expiration date, especially if no one dares to draw your attention to it.


Freedom has its price.

Pain apparently is part of succession.

I knew that, but to actually feel it is a different story.


I will continue to do systemic work in two new companies. I very much hope that someone or something will let me know when it is time to go there too.

August 7, 2020
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.