The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


Barbara Hoogenboom

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

9 April 2020| Other, Theme: Corona Virus

#strongertogether or #keepingittogether

It is heart-warming and touching to see how people support and encourage each other in these disruptive times. How people working in healthcare are serenaded and appreciation is shown by flying flags, how beautiful videos are shared to morally support each other. We are rediscovering each other, our abilities to connect and to be there for each other.
Very often, I see the hashtag #strongertogether being used.
Stronger together – that sounds and feels very nice and connecting. It also touches and moves me.

However, there is a big catch here.

Strong together– whether or not subconsciously –also says: we will not give up, we will keep going, we can fight this, we can help each other, we can be strong, ignore fatigue and emotions, we simply go on!

Dear people, this is not realistic. We cannot save everyone, we have to make heart-breaking decisions, we have suffered (and we will suffer even more) losses. And this does not only apply to people in healthcare, this applies to everyone. We are all affected, in many different ways.

Being strong together, and continuing until you drop, comes at a high price, in both the short and long term. As a person, in order to go on, you have to let go of important things, often subconsciously and without even realizing it. For example, the ability to notice that you are tired, or the ability to show your vulnerability, or even the ability to feel, or to take care of yourself.

Several reports and warnings already appeared in the media: how many people will suffer from various forms of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion, after all this?

How can we use the beautiful, connecting aspects of “stronger together”, without enduring the shadow sides of it? I would argue in favour of a revised connecting ‘mantra’, namely: “Keeping it together.”

Keeping it together means: facing reality together, feeling the pain of it together, sharing together, experiencing strong moments together, daring to be vulnerable together, feeling that you are in the same boat together. And it also means taking the time to do that. If you’re in a meeting with your team, be it in person or online, take the time to check in with them. Look each other in the eye (okay, that is a bit difficult during video meetings), and briefly share how you are doing. What reality am I looking at? What is the reality for our team? It certainly gives as much peace and strength to realize and to voice what is NOT possible, as it does to say what is possible. And in the face of all that, start the shift, the task, the assignment together.

This also means: taking care of yourself, taking your rest on time, doing something to recharge your battery. Even if it is just listening to music, staring at a candle, taking a nice long shower (sorry environment), closing your eyes and observing your breathing for a few minutes. Simply know: you don’t – only – do that for yourself, you do that to keep it together as a whole.

You are not alone, we are not alone, we are all part of a larger whole. That larger whole can be your family, your team, your community, your place of work. And that larger whole is also our society. You contribute to the bigger picture, also – or perhaps mainly – by taking care of yourself.

Let’s keep it together.


Barbara Hoogenboom

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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.

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