The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


22 April 2022| Persoonlijk


Actually, I am quite proud of how the Hellinger Institute, and therefore the systemic work in the spirit of Bert Hellinger, are turning out after the passing on and handing over to the next generation.

‘Actually’, ‘quite’ – because I don’t tend to boast about my and our achievements. But inside, I am very proud.

 In Germany, I saw and still see how facilitators and institutes do very little to make systemic work, which is transgenerational after all, transgenerational to ensure its continued existence.

 When Bibi and I started the Hellinger Institute, we thought that we would simply close up shop when we would be 65 or thereabouts. Done! But around 2005, it already became clear to me that systemic work has so much life force that it can go on for generations. The search for a successor began. It took me at least five years before that search for a successor bore fruit.

 But as soon as I saw Barbara, I knew she would be my, our successor. How do you know something like that? It’s a gut feeling. And you then start thinking up the arguments to justify that feeling. Barbara was the lynch pin when it came to passing on the institute to the next generation. And she did her job really well.

 Energy needs structure. What helped tremendously in the process of passing it on, was the virtual construction. A truly beautiful model, which did justice to both the plannable future and the emerging future. We would say, for instance: “It feels is good that Barbara is a 10% co-owner now.” And then we would start a new year, without any legal agreements yet, but living and working in a situation with Bar as the co-owner. That type of commitment worked incredibly well. If something worked, we would formalize it retroactively. If it didn’t, we would try something else.

 Handing over the directorship to Barbara was an important moment. An on that mountaintop in Slovenia, we did not only have a glass of Champagne, but also shed a tear or two. As we shed more tears in the process of the transfer. 

I left in the summer of 2020. Partly, it was me wanting to leave and go my own way, partly it was necessary to make room. I felt that if I had stayed on longer, I would have become subversive. Even though I was applauding the direction Barbara was going.

It feels as if now, with the arrival of multiple owners in the Hellinger Institute, the transfer to the next generation is fulfilling the conditions to reach maturity. The whole process was like an hourglass: the leadership gradually merged into the person of Barbara, and it is now widening again to include others.

 The Hellinger Institute was born in deep connection with Bert, while also being allowed to do things differently than Bert. Bert always gave us that trust. I am grateful for all those courses, those hundreds of exercises, those dozens of concepts that were allowed to arise and emerge through me, from involvement and rebellion. I am grateful that all these elements apparently can and do exist longer than its founder. I am grateful for how lovingly Barbara has handled all those achievements. Sometimes, of course, I think: “Grrr, how can you be so stupid…” But then I smile a little to myself. That is part of being a founding leader. And, as Bert said: “Die Liebe bleibt.”

I wish you well, dear Hellinger Institute!

Jan Jacob

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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.