The foundation of systemic phenomenological work


2 February 2022| Personal

The first, but not the only one

It was May 2014, and I was still feeling like a systemic rookie, although I had completed almost all of the courses at the Bert Hellinger Institute in the two years before and had been doing constellation workshops with Yvonne Lonis for a year. We were in Bad Reichenhall and enjoying a drink in the sun: me, Yvonne Lonis and Siets Bakker. 

We were there for a training week with Bert and Sophie Hellinger, and Jan Jacob Stam was there as well. He joined us at our table. Earlier on, he had hinted that I could work for the Hellinger Institute, but I felt too green to take it seriously. He nodded at me and said to Yvonne and Siets: “That’s my successor right there.” I don’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I guess I nearly choked on my beer…

When Yvonne and Siets shared their high praises of me later, I still felt incredulous. I said: “I want to be the first, but not the only one.” 

Just over six months later it happened, I took the big step and became co-owner, along with Jan Jacob and Bibi. Those words have remained my mantra. Thanks to those words, I was able to handle what I felt was a great responsibility. Thank goodness Yvonne also soon joined the Institute, as a trainer, and I was able to continue learning about and practicing work as a systemic trainer and facilitator with her. 

Once, in that first year, I sighed and said to Jan Jacob: “Pff, you’re the bar for me, and it’s so high; I’ll be happy if I manage to reach it.” His answer was quite deadpan: “And what if you set that bar much higher!” 

This typifies the way in which Jan Jacob prepared me to become his successor. He taught me the tricks of the trade, and what it takes to lead the institute. He invited me to look beyond what I considered to be the limits of my ability. When he left in 2020, I led the Hellinger Institute, along with Bibi. A wonderful time, after which Bibi and I simultaneously made a discovery of our own: Bibi discovered that she preferred to focus only on the systemic work itself, and not (or no longer) on the entrepreneurship that the institute also demands. 

I discovered that it was high time for a different way of working with a number of trainers, who had already shown they were so much more than trainers alone. Many of them were often willing to act in the interest of the whole, giving it priority above their own interests. They would think along with me, empathise and provide developmental input. And our office manager Sandra would occasionally say: “I feel like this is my office.” This was followed by a period of discussions and conversations, of soul searching, of examining which form would do justice to what was already there. And the result is that my words from back then have now become reality. I am the first (successor) and always will be, and: I am no longer the only one. And that gives me a wonderful feeling of gratitude!

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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.